Originally published on Babetalk
Part 6: Utilizing Social Media
Now that we have established a roadmap in parts one through five, let’s look at your band’s best friend: Social Media.
Before going into the specifics, let’s break down the goal of using social media to support your band. The obvious goal is to create a place where fans can get regular updates on shows, releases, etc. Sites like Facebook and Bandcamp make this incredibly easy. However, there is another goal that is far more difficult to achieve. This goal is to reach a “stumble upon” audience. These are potential fans who find your band even though they are not directly searching for it. Some social media sites make it very easy to set your band up to be “stumbled upon,” but not all sites should be sued as such.
Bands tend to run into one of two problems while utilizing social media. Either they focus all of their efforts on one social media site or they use all social media sites exactly the same. Each social media site is specialized and the trick to successfully using them stems from your ability to recognize and play to their strengths.
Facebook is your home base. Facebook is often used as a band’s end-all, be-all social media site and has essentially replaced having a band website entirely. This is due to Facebook giving your band the ability to create your own page on a site that people already check daily. It’s like having your store located in a mall as opposed to a standalone location 15 miles from everything else. However, with Facebook limiting reach of your posts and your fan’s newsfeeds getting clogged up with ads and other pages, Facebook is no longer an effective means of getting news out to your fans. Despite this, it can still operate as a home base that can stream your music from Bandcamp and catalogue for everyone who shows interest in your band. In summary, use Facebook as a home base for your band but don’t expect to grow your band on Facebook alone. As far as the stumble upon audience is concerned, do not buy Facebook ads in hopes of reaching them. Honestly, when was the last time you discovered a band through a sponsored Facebook ad? You should use these ads, however, in the event that you are trying to reach your current fanbase all at once or if you are cross-promoting a show with another band and you are concerned that their fans may not know about the show.
Bandcamp is your storefront. It’s an established website that music fans go to when they want to check out new music or find a smaller band’s music quickly and easily. They are also well established with Google and your band page will jump towards the top of any search, usually just under your Facebook page. Most bands use Bandcamp for streaming and digital downloads, but make sure to take advantage of the ability to post physical merch as well. Also, don’t forget to tag your songs with similar bands, genres, locations, and anything else that might cause potential fans to stumble upon your band. Make sure to click the box that requests an email address in order to get a free download. This list will come in handy when you are ready to release something new or go on tour.
Twitter is NOT your megaphone. It took me a long time to figure out Twitter from a band perspective. It’s essentially a gigantic Facebook newsfeed but with short text posts and the occasional picture or link. So why do people bother using it when they already have Facebook? Because the “follow” system is different than the “friend” system. On Twitter, you can follow anyone without them needing to accept your follow or to follow you back. The question then becomes, how does this make the culture of Twitter differ from that of Facebook? The culture of Twitter encourages interaction with people who do not know each other beforehand. Many other social media sites encourage this as well, but Twitter is the one with the least anonymity. It’s the perfect online storm that allows you to make personal connections and seek out new fans at the same time. Keep a band account that tweets band updates, but also connects with potential new fans or people you would like to network with. In my experience, it can be very helpful to post less about your band and more about current, music related news. I’ve seen bands do very well by posting a link to a music article and giving a quick tweet of their take on the story. Live-tweeting something like the Grammy’s that is already trending is a good way to increase your stumble-upon traffic as well. Sometimes hashtags can come across as desperate, especially when you are clearly using a post to try and reach new people. To prevent this, do your best to only post things that you would post to your personal Twitter- things you truly find interesting or funny. Also, tag someone in a post instead of using a hashtag if you can. You increase your chance of that person’s followers seeing your post as opposed to the hordes of bloggers hashtagging that same person in hopes of increasing their page hits as well.
Tumblr is… confusing, as far as using it for a band anyway. If you are already well established then it can be a great tool. For instance, some established bands will spend hours giving in-depth, honest responses to questions from their fans. Tumblr gives fans the same access as Twitter, but allows bands to be more creative with their posts. Tumblr can also be a great tool for bands who have die hard fans because it allows them to be just as creative with their posts about your band. However, I have read countless rants from Tumblr users who become irate with bands that post photos and lyric/art of themselves. For those of us who are still trying to get a large fanbase, treat Tumblr as the blog-making site that it is, but make sure to increase your attention to it as your band grows.
YouTube is the future (probably). YouTube has shown to be the number one place for music fans to find new music. Spotify is the place you go when you know what you want to hear, and YouTube (as well as Pandora) is where people go to browse. You can increase your stumble upon audience using tags as well as posting cover songs of artists who have fans that may also be interested in your band. This is also a great place to post band updates, music videos (of course), and a podcast if you choose to do one. In addition, YouTube has upped its social media game in the past few years and might eventually take over Facebook as the place where bands establish their home base. It obviously doesn’t have the benefit that Facebook has- being the meeting place for an entire generation’s social life- but that might be a good thing. If Facebook becomes so inundated with fan pages and advertisements, maybe the people who are actively seeking out new art will jump off the cliff that is Facebook and actively search somewhere else for it, and YouTube appears to be setting itself up to catch those that do.
Reddit IS your megaphone. When I started posting on Reddit, I posted links to my band, my podcast, a kickstarter and a fantasy football blog to various sub-reddits without even establishing myself in the community first. I received maybe a total of 15 upvotes… and over 2,000 page views. There are a LOT of users on Reddit and these were all posted in small, moderately active subreddits. Reddit in no way serves as a home base for your band, but it’s a great place to drop a link.
Overall, I have tried to make this guide as timeless as possible but this section is the one most likely to become outdated. That said, if you can learn to identify the discrepancies between social media sites of the future and analyze them from the perspective of how they can be applied to a band, you will be able to adapt no matter how the social media landscape changes. Find what makes each new site or app unique and how that may affect its user base.
P.S. Eric wrote this article, but Ryan posted it. Clearly, Eric’s not trying hard enough.