Secrets of Social Networking for Bands
By Christopher Harding (www.passionategenius.com)
“So what are the secrets of social networking for bands?” I asked her. “You know, how would you recommend that a band generate some great buzz?”
She, by the way, is Ghennipher Weeks, a social media maven who possesses a quiet and genuine charm. (You can follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/Ghennipher or access her company site at http://www.ghennipher.net/welcome-twitter/).
I realized, just after asking, that my question was about the equivalent of, “how does one become popular in high school?” But Ghen was gracious and, after smiling ever so slightly, she put her finger to her head as if to figure out how she was going to answer this less than elegant question in a way that would be genuinely helpful.
“Perhaps the best way to do this,” she suggested. “Is to break it down by media types.”
“Sounds good,” I said, nodding my head, as if I knew exactly what she meant. And I did… well, mostly.
So, in an effort to learn it together, let’s take it one step at a time. And, because you are almost assuredly familiar with all of the categories that I’ll share, I’ll focus on Ghennipher’s recommendations about each one and not bore you with definitions like “what is Facebook?” I'll also add in a few thoughts from my own experience of having worked with bands and artists on their promotional plans. (And, just in case you aren’t familiar with the tools that are mentioned, I’ve hyperlinked the names of sites so you can check them out for yourself.)
Oh, but first… it is worth making mention of a couple of business definitions:
Strategy—an overarching, longer term plan (for instance a band might have a two-year strategy that involves developing a national following that will support their next album).
Tactics—the more immediate, bite-size steps we’ll take to gradually accomplish the larger strategy. Say, for example, since we have a strong local following, we’ll go after six nearby college towns as phase one, because we know our current fan base has friends or family there. First step toward accomplishing that phase is to work on opening for bands already popular in those areas and to also invite those bands to open for us in our town (win-win). We'll start an email campaign about a month before the gigs, via Facebook and traditional email (from our mailing list), inviting our current fans to encourage their out-of-town friends to the shows in those new towns. We spread the word via twitter, that if our local fans travel to those other cities, we'll put the first 20 on the guest list. Then, a day or two before the gig, we invite our fans to start tweeting about the upcoming show. Because we will have also sent our new potential fans to our MySpace page, they'll be familiar with our music and be able to generate additional buzz.
As you can see, the process of accomplishing each tactical step (going after nearby college towns, for example) becomes a mini-strategy and involves other tactical steps.
Now, while it’s important to understand the distinctions between strategic and tactial, it’s even more important to have an actual strategy and tactics in place—because utilizing social media without a well-laid plan of attack is… well, it’s not very effective (I was going to say, it was dumb, but that sounded so, you know, dumb).
Anyway, assuming that you do have a strategy, let’s talk about how social media can play into that strategy and provide you with tactical approaches you can implement along the way.
The six basic elements we’ll talk about are your band website, your MySpace site, your Facebook site, twitter, YouTube, and Amazon/CD Baby/iTunes. In this installment of the series we’ll cover the first two. Ready?
1. Your artist or band website: This is really your home base, the hub around which all of the other social media tools can revolve. If we were in the brick and mortar world, your own website might be the equivalent of your company’s main office. Some points you may want to consider for your site include:
The site should be, among other things, user-friendly, creative in a way that is reflective of your band image, yet still as clear and uncluttered as possible.
You want people who come to your site to easily find all of the vital information about your act (i.e. your bio, electronic press kit, show/tour schedule, email list sign-up, booking info, management contact, music, and merchandise, etc.). It needs to be a place for fans, yes, but also for the professionals to come for information access (for example, the press, booking agents, club and venue owners, labels, etc.).
While you might create a blog or a conversation corner where fans can comment about your shows or whatever artist-related topic they’re up for, you might also direct them to your MySpace site instead and invite them to participate in your blog there. This will help create differentiation between those two sites.
Your website can also be a great location for your band store. It can enable you to make your highest margins on your merchandise (T-shirts, posters, caps, etc.) and your CDs (you may want to consider having a third party handle the actual fulfillment of your CDs and merchandise, unless you have friends or fans who will handle that in a professional manner for you).
On your site, you naturally want to provide links to your other media locations such as Facebook, MySpace, twitter, Amazon, CD Baby, YouTube, and so on (remember this is the hub and so spokes should lead out from this site to all other media points and all other media points should point back to your website and to the other points as well).
Regularly update your site, so that you give fans a reason to keep coming back. Photos of gigs and of the audience at and after the gig are great and will encourage people to drive others to your site. You may also want to consider posting some photos or videos on your site that are exclusive to your website.
Keeping your schedule up to date is also critical, as well, so that your fans and others following you can always know where you’ll be playing or appearing or doing a signing, etc.
If you’re not great at creating or managing a website, you have several choices—learn how to do it or find a friend or fan who’ll do it with you (don’t leave it entirely up to others, however, because the more you have your personal stamp on what’s said and how the site develops, the more it will reflect your personality and personal brand).
2. Myspace.com: While this social networking site sometimes becomes a substitute for a band’s own website, it functions best when it serves as what it was designed for—an interactive billboard/radio station/backstage lounge for fans. When properly utilized, MySpace can play well into an overall band strategy as a fan gathering place and overall buzz generator.
A few things to keep in mind about the site:
The more you can keep things current, fun, and friendly, the more your fans will want to keep dropping by. Personal updates, links to band member’s own MySpace pages, blogs about your latest shows, tour schedules, bios, new videos, photos, diaries, etc. are essential. The more you give people a sense of having the inside scoop about you or your band, the more they have a vested interest in your success.
MySpace is definitely a place for a band to feature their music and to allow the viral machinery of the web to assist them in gathering more “friends” and getting more people to listen in, while providing an on-going internet billboard for the artist. It's like your personal radio station.
While some users do download music from MySpace, the vast majority of music purchases are taking place at iTunes, with 87% of purchasers using that mode, or from Amazon, where 16% of music buyers make their download purchases. Let your MySpace visitors know, therefore, if your music is available at those locations. (Read more at CNET’s article, Amazon finds niche in iTunes dominated market). If you’re not sure how to get your music on these sites, visit CD Baby for details on their distribution program.
MySpace is also a great place for fans to share their enthusiasm about your last gig, so encourage them from the stage to visit your site and add their comments. Nothing improves a band’s buzz than regular feedback from ardent fans.
Remember, Radio Program Directors and A & R reps from labels also utilize an artist’s MySpace site as a research tool to see how many fans they are accumulating, what people are saying, how many plays their music is generating, and which songs are garnering the most play. With that in mind, make sure your music is up to date and encourage your fans to visit MySpace to listen in.
In terms of demographics, MySpace is primarily frequented by people 13 to 30 years-old. While its image is a bit more cluttered and the site isn’t designed to cleanly convey a lot of organized information, bands should work to capture the MySpace audience and then drive them to additional locations like the artist’s website or their Facebook site for more detail.
As with your website, if you’re not great at graphics, find a friend or fan who can help give your MySpace site the look and feel that reflects who you are as an artist.
While you may have some content that is exclusive to your MySpace site, remember to also point to other exclusive content that may only available on your own website or on Facebook.
Your own website and your MySpace site both serve valuable and, ideally, different functions when designed to deliver on your overall strategy. Learn to make them each unique landing places for fans and professionals and you’ll be on your way to utilizing social media to your advantage.