This article has been adapted from a piece posted in The Developing Artist about 18 months ago, and gives some common-sense tips for DIY musicians regarding social networking. Because social media is a constantly changing landscape, I purposefully avoided too many specifics regarding specific best practices, because what works now might not work a month from now. But the flip side is that these tips I give below are still relevant today. Enjoy.
Let’s face it–unless your target audience is the age 55-80 crowd, if you are a DIY musician who is not using social networking to connect to your fans, you are cutting yourself off at the knees. Our culture has become so inundated by mass media messages that we have become numb to it at best, and hostile to it at worst. To put it plainly: mass media is fading out, and social networking is in. If you want to reach your audience, you have to go where they are–and like I said, unless you’re aimed directly at an older generation, your audience IS on social media somewhere.
At the same time, social media itself has exploded to the point there are now literally thousands of places to have a social experience on the Internet, and businesses are hiring people to work full-time on social networking for their respective companies. It has become such a wide-open field that as a musician or band, it is easy to get completely lost in cyberspace, where you’re spending all your time trying to get attention on the networks and little time doing anything else. Like anything else in life, some basic common sense is in order. You can use social networking to effectively connect with your fans, and still maintain a sense of balance and sanity. So here are a few common-sense tips to help you navigate the waters of social networking without falling overboard.
BE AN ARTIST FIRST
Indie musicians walk a fine line, because they have to handle everything surrounding their career, from the creative to the administrative. My point is that you could easily get so involved with promoting your music with social networking and other things that you lose the spark that makes your music attractive in the first place. DIY musicians must prioritize in order to survive, and your first priority is to be an artist. You are not a social networker, or a publicist, or a mogul. YOU ARE AN ARTIST. No amount of self-promotion is worth losing yourself in the process. Social networking might bring some more fans out to your shows, but they won’t stick around if you get them there, and you suck because you didn’t practice. Sometimes it’s just time to close the laptop (or turn off the iPhone) and pick up the guitar. Always remember to keep your creative time sacred.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
With all the social networking platforms now available, including a whole array of music/band-related sites, you might be tempted to try and hook up with all of them. That is almost certain to waste your time and energy. Avoid the presumption that more is better in this case. To narrow it down a bit, try doing the following:
- Try to find out where your current fans hang out on the web. If there’s a particular social network that comes up a lot in conversations, add it to your list; chances are other potential fans are hanging out there, also.
- Rather than trying to maintain a dozen music-related social network profiles, try focusing on 1-3 sites that have features you like, upload your songs there, and try to steer your fans to those sites.
- Currently, Facebook and Twitter are pretty much a given; if you do nothing else with social networking, make sure you have a presence on those two sites.
- Avoid the temptation to broadcast mass messages across your networks. There are now tools and applications that allow you to do status updates across multiple social networks, or automatically inform your fans of upcoming shows, or similar things. The potential problem is that these automated processes can turn your social networks into another mass media platform, which defeats the purpose of social networking. Your fans aren’t looking for advertisements from you; they’re looking for connection. Cross-platform updates and automated messages are okay in small doses, but make sure your base of networks is small enough to be manageable without them.
The point of these suggestions is to target those social networks where you are likely to have the greatest impact and connect with the most people with the least amount of effort. It’s better that you have a winning personal presence on a few social media platforms than to have a robotic presence on all of them.
BE WILLING TO ADAPT
The world of social media is a dynamic, rapidly changing environment, and what works today might not work tomorrow. MySpace was once the go-to place for bands to set up music profiles a few years ago; since then, MySpace has seen a huge drop, and now is little more than a place where some people might go to stream a couple of your songs. (MySpace is currently getting a much-touted, “reboot”, but the jury is still out on whether that’s going to work. I said earlier that Facebook and Twitter are essentials–but that’s today. There’s no guarantee that either platform will be as essential to you a year from now. You need to monitor your own results, be aware of changing trends, and adapt your time and attention accordingly. If you find you’re not getting a lot of attention with a certain social network, stop wasting time there and find one that suits you better. If a certain social network starts taking off and drawing more people in your target audience, add it to your list. Just be aware that this is a changing environment, and be willing to shift gears when necessary.
By using just a bit of common sense, it is possible to promote your music effectively on the social networks, connect with your existing fans and add new ones, without making it your new full-time job. Just maintain some perspective, use a little wisdom, and make your time on social media count.