Be like Jean Luc and “Engage!” Star Trek; sending marketing ideas from the future.
Any social endeavor is about people and building social relationships. Relationships whether in the real or virtual world requires trust. Building trust takes time, effort, and consistency. The payoff for not cutting corners is that you will create real and lasting connections with your fans and customers. Like the mullet, old one-way marketing and media tactics have become outdated and obsolete. No longer is continually clubbing people over the head with a message until they buy something an acceptable form of marketing. People want collaboration and transparency, not mandates, hidden costs or bad haircuts. Today, fans all over the world are able to talk with one another about products, artists and shows to help them decide where to spend their time and money. One of the best ways to get to know your fans and to let them get to know you is to talk with them. Fans will be more likely to buy your products if they can interact directly with you and think of you more like a friend and not just like someone who wants to sell them something. No one likes being in a one-sided friendship.
More than ever, you as the artist should be focusing on ways to engage, engage, engage with your fans! We are now all in this virtual world together. Not since the invention of the printing press have more people been able to interact with one another in a real and meaningful way. Social media and the global communities it has created have broken through old and antiquated ways of thinking and marketing. One good way to start getting to know your fans is by the comments they leave on your sites. The comment sections on your social media pages, apps and blogs are a great way to really make a personal connection with your fans and start building those lasting relationships.
Having said that, I know that many people express concern about negative comments on these types of open-ended comment sections. Take heart, it is well documented that when these sections are moderated, by real people (hopefully you), people will often conform to the opinions of the majority when they feel like someone is watching their comments. So if the majority of people commenting on your new album release or your latest show are leaving positive comments, anyone contemplating a negative response will be more likely to switch to something positive if they know you are directly involved in the conversation. One live person can directly influence the tone of a comment section. So please don’t censor your comment section by only allowing positive feedback. If you’re trying to build trust, but never acknowledge any negative remarks, it may look as though you’re hiding something. This is not the way to build confidence with your fans. Politely and respectfully respond to all opinions. The first step to all communication should be the art of listening. So start listening to what your fans are saying and then thoughtfully and respectfully reply.
I feel like I must interject as the “broken record” that I often become these days. This is another time where I feel like I must lobby for music lessons and on you becoming a master at your craft. The amateur media is out there taking photos and video of anything and everything. And unfortunately, there is no “great firewall of China” to protect you from bad and/or embarrassing performances. Media of events and posts, concerts, and fan interactions can now appear in real-time and be shared across the globe instantaneously; and it is out there in the ether forever. Media is global, ubiquitous, social and cheap so if you are not on your “A-game,” then you risk drawing a lot of negative comments and perceptions that can be very difficult to change or manage. Your audience; your fans can and do talk directly to one another. Social media has made them participants in your career. Welcome to your life as a celebrity. There is a reason there a high-walls around celebrity homes, and they choose their inner circle very carefully. And here we are again, returning to building trust, which involves all forms of verbal and non-verbal communication.
Another thing you as your own social media marketer must be aware of is the appropriate tone and message for the proper platform. I know everyone wants to click once and have the content they upload immediately post to all of their platforms, but is that really the best course of action? My personal Facebook account and my Instagram are much more personal than my twitter or this blog. Although I know all of you really want to see posts of my cats, I choose not to post them here. I know that you are on my site for a few reasons, and none of those reasons involve my fur babies. I also know that you can easily see the antics of Lucy and Zoe on my Insta page if you’re really interested or just love cats. I know that posting individualized content creates more work, but it shows that you respect your fans and that you’re are being mindful of their time and energy. Another way to show your fans that you appreciate them is by caring enough about your content to keep it meaningful and relevant and keep your posts on a well-defined schedule. Your clarity, regularity and “stick-to-itiveness” will show them that you really value the information you are sharing, and you respect their time and don’t want to make them look or guess for where to find it.
As always, I’ll close with a few thoughts on some marketing ideas. The Cleveland Indians baseball team did this really cool thing to boost fan involvement, and I think it could work the same way for artists. They designated a “social suite” for some of their fans. This was a special press box that fans could go into and watch the game, but in return for the excellent seats, they had to blog or report on the game on their social sites. Sometimes they might write about it or take pictures and post those to their pages. I imagine they might even do some live streaming of themselves and the other fans inside the press box watching and writing about the game. This was a great way not only to get the fans more involved with the game, but it extended the conversation to all of those in their network who were interested in baseball or the Indians. I think if a few fans that would blog about an artists’ show or meet and greet, it could generate a lot of buzz for the artist and for the fan. This really hits many of the concepts of new social media marketing. It is collaborative and involves fans on many levels. It is transparent because it has the potential of being broadcast in real-time, and for no financial gain of the writer. It is a way, you, the artist can really share your story with the world from a perspective other than your own. No pretext just a real global gathering of friends talking about you and what you do. Lastly, it empowers your fans by giving them access and social responsibility to you the artist. It decentralizes the one-way, over polished, overproduced media advertising of the past and presents the real and authentic artist to the world. Media does not create revolutions anymore, people do.
Risky? Sure is, if you are an inconsistent artist! However, if you have taken your craft and the art of communication seriously and can consistently deliver a fierce performance, you have an opportunity to rise above the world-wide noise. Just remember your performances are no longer only on stage or in the recording studio. You are “on” every time you walk out your door. Every interaction whether it’s in person or on a social media site is a chance for you to communicate and build that trust relationship with your fans. It’s in your hands. Remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression. Make sure your ducks are all in a row before you go plastering yourself out on the global stage. In this new social media age, you must engage with your fans. Just remember, you need to do it in the right way. Many times people will rely solely on demographic information; however, online the demographic lines of age, gender and income can be blurred. It isn’t so easy to market to a chart of demographic information anymore. Online communities are more based on common interests than traditional categories like age and gender. Make sure you are communicating with your fans, and you’re really getting to know them for who they are, not a number on a page. Ready, set, engage!