by Joshua B. Hoe Earlier this week I wrote an Open Letter to Independent Record Labels talking about errors that I thought they were making in their approach to social media marketing.
Today I am going to try to start a similar discussion with bands because, as we all know, in this brave new world of music, bands do most of their own marketing (and many bands don't have labels).
1. Have a Positive Social Philosophy
Don't hate social media (in this case Twitter).
Have a pro-social philosophy.
This might not seem like practical advice, but so often, artists seem to see fans (and social) as a hindrance rather than as help.
Social media marketing can be annoying, and each platform has its own particular "rules" of best behaviors to enhance your "brand" performance.
Music is one of the areas where every lifetime fan can translate into real value for your band.
In other words, there can be real value created by turning a "fan" into a "lifetime fan."
Yes, you have followers, and probably more followers than any independent commentator or music blogger. Maybe you hate this new era of internet "trolls." Or rebel against having to pay attention to what the "idiots" on the internet have to say.
This is pretty short-sighted. Virtually all of your fans and potential fans are on social networks (and mobile phones).
It is in your interest to engage.
Yes, you do your daily tweets about your band.
Yes, you have your followers.
But, are you actually getting full value by not rewarding the people who mention you?
Before we even consider networking effects, just think about one fan buying every album, attending every concert, and purchasing secondary products (T-shirts, posters, stickers).
Now consider how much effort it takes to convert a one-time fan into an energized evangelist for your band using social media. Just think of how much money each evangelist puts in personally over a lifetime of being a fan.
I can't even imagine how much I have spent on the bands I love in my life.
It is obviously not just about money, you care about your music, your fans keep your music alive.
And, sometimes just by giving someones post a retweet from your official site or (if they said something you like) an actual response can turn someone from a new fan into an evangelist for your music.
It can make them feel like you actually care about them and your fans and make them feel like they are part of something larger.
Kind of like your music is to you (I suspect).
Think about it like this, I am doing free marketing work for the bands I like. I write about them, I review their new work, I post links to stories about them, and I often include their work in playlist.
I try to get people to go see them.
To me it is a labor of love, but for you it is also free marketing.
Every single person you create a connection with can become an evangelist for your band.
Even if they don't have a big internet following, odds are good they have friends who they will expose to your music etc.
Every one of those evangelists and friends of evangelists help you.
How can a few seconds of paying attention to them hurt you?
"Maybe you're perfect right now...."
2. STOP using "LIKES" as your main method of communicating with your fans and/or other parties.
Okay, I am kind of telling you to dance (sigh).
Likes are essentially "farts" on Twitter (you can read my open letter post to get a fuller understanding of why "likes" = bad marketing).
Short version - you don't help yourself, your fan, or anyone else with a like.
I know we got trained by Facebook to think "likes" were the be all of social media, they are a terrible stand-alone policy on Twitter (fine when accompanied by a RT).
STOP liking content that can help you. Help your fans work for you by using RT's.
If a blogger reviews your album or embeds your bandcamp RT, if someone says they love you RT etc.
Which brings me to what should have been number one.
3. Monitor your social
We all have moments where we hate social media.
Yes, I know you don't want to do this.
But, believe it or not, just putting your music out there won't get people to listen to it.
People have a million things competing for their time and in the current music environment, even if you have a label, they probably are not much better at social than you are.
The good news, it is really not very hard to do good social media marketing for your band.
Tweetdeck is free - as in 100% free - set it up with a column for "notifications" a column for "home" (activity) and a column for "messages" (direct messages).
You will be alerted of every single person that mentions your twitter address in a message (notifications), all of your messages in general, and any direct messages (when people directly write you).
As much as it might suck, answer ALL of them.
Marketing experts say that success is 80% marketing to 20% producing and deploying content.
I can't attest to the ratio, but I spend a good deal of every day interacting with the people who follow me.
I send every single person who follows me a personal message back, and I try to include some point of interest from their profile (so they know I am not a bot or algorithm).
If you have the means, you can hire someone (like me) to do this for you, but you should absolutely 100% do it every single day. And you really don't need to hire anyone, you will actually grow to like being engaged with your fans.
Being successful in this music environment requires more than music, you have to be willing to connect. You have to hustle.
I started this blog three months ago, by being connected and paying attention I am building a real community of readers and friends. And because of these connections, my writing gets promoted by others because I have generated good will.
Probably the best example of this, Lady Gaga was one of the most authentic artists on social ever, and she went from a fringe cabaret performer to a global megastar by building real connections to her fans.
I am certainly not suggesting everyone can be Gaga, but we all could learn from what she did (no matter what you think of her music, it was an impressive feat - she was a very alternative artist before her fame).
Every fan you make by paying attention can become not only a fan but also an evangelist for you.
You should also consider going a level deeper, do Twitter searches for your band name every day, Google searches for your band name every day, and Facebook searches for your band name every day.
When there is a nice article, blog article, or other mention you like - post a link from your site using bit.ly give credit and thank them for taking the time to review your show or album.
If people are taking the time to promote you, promote them, it becomes a virtuous circle. They are more likely to continue to promote you and you can energize both sets of followers by sharing social proof.
This should be a must for any artist of band, if you are not doing this, you absolutely should be.
4. Make A Real Effort To Connect
She has no reason at all to verify the answer to a trivia question asked by some jackass small time blogger (me).
But here is our exchange from earlier this week:
— Belinda Carlisle (@belindaofficial) February 4, 2016
That is great social media marketing by Belinda.
She has no business paying attention to an idiotic music blogger like me. Yet about every two weeks, she RT a bunch of my posts to her 90k followers (@KimletGordon).
Why do these successful people waste time on me? I suspect the following reasons:
A) Content is king - connecting to things written about you or about things you support keeps you circulating and keeps your own followers engaged and energized.
If my followers don't hear anything from me - they forget about me - if they get reminders of what I am up to - they stay engaged.
My question to Belinda helps promote us both, and because I am asking a serious question, there is no harm in answering it. It creates another virtuous circle. I am mentioning her and she is connecting with me.
It gives people on both of our lists reasons to delve more deeply into both of us.
B) Support Creates Virtuous Circles - I am virtually 100% certain Kim Gordon RT's my stuff because I am promoting artists she likes.
When I write something promoting Kim she doesn't RT.
When I write something about Carrie Brownstein, Sarah Marcus, or bands she likes - she RT"s.
She wants to add her credibility and support to projects she likes and endorses.
That is classy and cool.
It also builds community. It is good social media marketing.
I am part of a group of bloggers who all genuinely work hard to help each other out. We endorse each other all the time. We are building a core of people with similar music world views - and we promote each other.
It started because we promote each other.
By helping others, you help yourself.
When my friend Ilya (@Iheartnoise) RT's my latest blog post, it helps him too. When I RT Ilya it helps us both.
You can do that too - when you see a band you like or a band you know mentioned, RT. Guess what, they will see it and start looking for you too.
You can monitor them too, if you want.
But, whatever you do, support the people who support you. Take the time to connect. Build community!
5. Plan New Content + Socially Schedule
Okay, every week you have a certain amount of band/artist information you can transmit to your followers.
Playing a gig, should Tweet where and when.
Releasing a single, should Tweet when and where your fans can hear it.
Writing a song, consider giving your fans a taste via social platforms.
What I am saying, plan out your social messaging by the day.
Post the results every day.
Get a program like Buffer (what I use) or Hoot Suite and load each day with the posts you want to send out across your social media platforms.
You can send similar posts out several times a day (especially on Twitter where people can miss posts easily). But, make sure you offer enough unique content to keep it interesting.
Best practices suggest that you should have a clear headline (statement), a link to the content you want them to explore (use bit.ly to shorten the link), and attach a picture (gain attention).
You only have to schedule this once a day, you can even work a week in advance (if you have enough content planned out).
I do mine on a daily basis, here is how it works for me:
I know I have at least four posts a week
On Mondays, I have an issue post - something I think is important.
On Tuesdays, I do my digital bin - I post collections of new music.
On Wednesday, I highlight an "All-Time" album (for me).
On Thursday, I post a Spotify playlist.
So, when I set up my calendar, I try to alternate between pushing my own content and pushing content that might be interesting to my followers.
I go to Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, The Alternative Press, and some other sources, and I curate articles and post the links.
So, I set an hourly posting schedule up on Buffer so it works something like this:
10:00 am - My post 11:00 am - Curated post 12:00 pm - My post again 1:00 pm - Curated post 2:00 pm - A different post of mine
etc. etc. etc.
Once I set the day up, I close up Buffer and start answering my notifications.
When someone adds me, I add them back and write them a note.
When someone RT's me, I try to always thank them for the RT (maybe excessive but I value connections).
When someone RT or Likes me - I Like or RT them in some way. I usually will find a way to show social support of whatever they are promoting.
I also spend time just enjoying following my friends on Twitter and engaging in discussions with them (usually about music).
I don't find it to be a chore at all. I usually have a great time.
Having a positive mindset about it can make a HUGE difference.
If you are in a band, you should set up a basic schedule and if possible rotate social responsibilities so nobody has to do it all the time.
If you are in a band where that is not possible, do it yourself.
But do it for sure, hustle makes a HUGE difference.
To close, let me share some thoughts about good social networking so you get more of an idea of why this is all important for you.
Consider the network effects of social networking.
I am a music blogger, I have about 2000 Twitter fans, I post four times a week regularly and my audience bounces between 20 and 200 people a day (depending on the topic).
I fully recognize that I am not a big deal.
But, say I tweet something out about your band - that message hits 2000 accounts + each of those accounts has followers. If a few people in that chain Retweet my message, the reach expands.
Maybe not many pay attention, but some will.
So, a message from me can activate others, who can activate others, who can activate others. Maybe it doesn't happen, but what do I have to lose?
Now consider what happens when you interact with what I post - when you RT my tweet, your RT adds credibility to my original message, which makes it even more likely people will use it to pass the message along the line.
Imagine you are a fan of Hillary or Bernie, and you write a little article about them on your personal blog. Are your followers more or less likely to read it if Hillary or Bernie RT the link to your story?
People look for social proof that they should act in any particular direction.
When you see an @ mention, some person somewhere in the world thought enough of your music that they took time out of their busy day to mention you.
Why not reward them with some social proof?
1) It can only help you - how could it possibly hurt you? We already mentioned the benefits of creating an evangelist and the potential network effects, what is the downside?
And there is possibly great upside, say 10,000 people found you on their own. It doesn't take a genius to see that more mentions = more people find and follow you. More evangelists, more mentions, more reach.
2) It is free content for you - I take the time to thank every person who mentions my blog personally. I try to create connections. Not only does this create positive effects, it is someone else talking about me at the times when I am not posting.
In my case, it is not at all cynical, I write about music because I love talking about it and sharing it with others. But I also understand the value of having my blogs name out there.
I can't have new content published at all times, every second, 24 hours a day. But when someone sees someone else mention me, it fills the spaces in my own publishing schedule.
So simply by monitoring your @ messages on Tweetdeck (or Hootsuite or whatever app you use) you RT the bloggers or fans that mention your band, new album, or news you create the potential for new evangelists, for network effects beyond your actual followers, and for messaging when you have none of your own.
Traditional Media Approaches
IMHO you should have an "all of the above" strategy.
Yes, it is good to have press packets in every market you visit and have a label pushing your albums through the traditional methods.
But, unless you are playing The Grammy's, most people don't get music news through traditional sources. Traditional sources care very little about music really, just the broadest possible audience.
Most people are lazy about music now, they tend to listen to whatever is curated for them.
It takes effort to get new music into the ears of most people.
Your evangelists work at getting that music to peoples ears for you.
If you have some of the big curators working for you on Apple, well maybe you can ignore the grassroots. But, again, what is the disadvantage to paying attention again? How hard is it to actually pay attention to people who care enough to do work for you?
Sometimes, take the time and respond personally to people who say stuff online that you like.
Sometimes, give bloggers you like short interviews (you can even do it through Twitter or email).
Get a good program for pushing content and occasionally tweet out the content your fans write for you.
Don't be hostile to people who mention you, don't brush by them with "likes" - help them help you!
What are things that have worked for you, please add your own experiences as comments! Or, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me here or on Twitter @OnPirateSat, leave a comment!