Remember a decade or so ago, when building and growing a band was virtually impossible? You had to play out of garages and at house parties until you got enough of a reputation to start working in bars and low-key restaurants, and from there you simply had to hope you could snag incrementally larger gigs until someone with some real power found you.
The internet has helped immensely with this process. You no longer need to spend quite so much time in the early stages before hitting a more mainstream beat. You can bypass a lot of the early tedium and grinding away at local shows by taking to the internet and growing a presence there.
Now, a word of warning before we begin; you’re going to have to be honest with yourself. Local shows have one advantage, which is a generally captive audience. You might be playing before someone they really want to see; they aren’t going to walk out when they don’t like you. Online, people can simply drop you mid-song and never look back. If your music is mediocre, it’s not going to perform well online. On the other hand, if you’re better than your local position deserves, you can find yourself rocketing to the big leagues before you have time to blink.
Twitter isn’t the best social network for music, but it’s amazing as a supplemental network. Use Facebook to create a central hub. Use Soundcloud, Bandcamp or your music host of choice, as well as YouTube, to host your music and distribute it. Use Twitter to tie them all together and promote them.
One last thing: I’m not going to bring up ads beyond this paragraph. Twitter ads can be valuable, but they’re not the focus of this post. I know many bands don’t have the budget to spend on such advertising, particular when there’s so little direct correlation between ads you run and gigs you book. There are plenty of other ways you can promote your band on Twitter without paying a penny, you might as well do those first. Only once you’ve established a presence and have proven that Twitter can be valuable to your band should you consider paying for advertising.
Maintain a Minimum Level of Activity
The number one key to using Twitter properly is keeping up with it. Maintain a minimum level of activity or else people will fail to follow you. They’ll figure that you’re not really paying attention to the account, because you don’t tweet or post very often. As a consequence, it will be harder to grow until you do get into the habit of being active.
Thankfully, there are a bunch of different kinds of content you can post. The biggest challenge with activity is figuring out what to post, but most of the rest of the items in this article will help you with that. In general, though, remember that you’re not limited to just posting about your music. You can post about the band, about the people in the band, about the gig locations, about promotion, even about daily life. You’re never limited to just being self-promotional. In fact, too much self promotion too often is going to drive users away as well.
Come Up with a Posting Schedule
Marketing studies indicate that Twitter should get around 3 tweets per day, pretty much every day. However, there’s some flexibility to this. Consider three to be a good starting point, so you can come up with three things to post about each day. Some of them will be hyping your music. Some of them will be sharing new content. Some will be talking about upcoming shows. Some of them will be commentary on trends or news topics. It’s up to you to figure out what to post.
At three posts per day, you’re looking at around 21 per week, though you can be flexible. Some days might work with just two. Some days warrant far more, like the day of a gig. You can post setup selfies, you can post during the show crowd selfies, you can post aftershow parties, and more.
Interact with Fans that Comment
Sometimes I feel like I add this to every post I write, but it’s just that important. Social media is, above all else, a social medium. It’s a two way street. You’re not just posting and letting people consume your media; that’s what YouTube is for. You need to monitor your notifications and pay attention when someone mentions you. You need to monitor hashtags and see if people are talking about you using them. You need to run “vanity” searches for your band name to find people who are talking about you in a casual setting.
More importantly, when you find people talking about you, you need to think of a way to participate in the conversation. Don’t just thank them blindly; add a comment of your own. Be clever, be witty, be human.
Follow a List of Bands You Like
One of the most frequent questions asked of musicians is “what are your influences?“. You don’t have to answer these days; all you need to do is point to your Twitter feed, where you follow the musicians you like and respect. There are two great reasons to follow bands you like.
The first reason is that, as a band, you might catch their attention. Many musicians like looking at other music and enjoying or just studying it, and when you interact with high profile bands it’s no different. If they like you, it can be a great kickoff to a great profile.
The second reason is so that you can study what they’re doing on Twitter that makes them successful. Yes, a lot of it is going to be their popularity, but they probably have either successful strategies or trained social media experts on their side. If you can break down and emulate what they do, you can benefit from their experience.
Make a Twitter List for Influencers and Agents
Twitter Lists are an important feature for when you follow a lot of people, or for when you want to follow a lot of people without following them. In this case, you want to come up with a list of influential people who may be able to help you out in the industry, if you can engage with them. Agents, recruiters, scouts, bands with connections, and friends in high places all fall into this category.
You can follow these people, but they won’t be the only people you follow. Ideally, you’ll have plenty of people you follow, but that makes it hard to keep up with the ones you want to monitor. That’s where a private list comes into play. When you monitor the list, it’s like an exclusive feed with the people you want to engage with taking front and center. Reach out and engage via the list and you’ll seem almost prescient in your proactivity.
Tweet to Promote Upcoming Shows Prior to That Day
One problem I often see with bands is they want to promote their shows, but they tend to only start around the day they happen. If I check your Twitter feed, I want to be able to see what shows are coming up in the next week or even month. At the very least, I want to be able to see a link to your website where I can find that information myself.
Building hype about a show starts long before the day of the show. If it’s anything larger than a house party, you should probably be hyping it up at minimum a week beforehand. Only then will you get the sort of responsive turnout on Twitter that you’re looking for.
Pin a Good Relevant Tweet
Generally, when I come across a new Twitter account, it’s because someone else retweeted them, or they showed up as tertiary to something else I was doing. I generally don’t follow someone just because of one tweet, so I’ll check through their profile to see what else they post. This means I see the tweet pinned to the top of their feed.
Your pinned tweet is one of the first things someone sees about you, so you need to keep something good pinned there. I like to rotate it every couple of weeks. Maybe it’s an upcoming show. Maybe it’s a new album or song release. Maybe it’s a contest you’re running. Who knows! It can be anything you want it to be, it just has to be good.
Run an Album Art Contest
Contests are great in general because they get your followers to interact with you. One simple type of contest that bands have access to that other brands don’t is the album art contest. You’re probably not going to be using whatever art the fans come up with, but you can certainly reward their creativity. Plus, if you do happen to really like what one of them produces, you can offer them a contract to use it for your album. Just make sure you’re not taking it and using it without permission; that opens you up to legal problems.
Give Followers Exclusive Preview Content
One question you should ask yourself every few months is “what do new followers get out of following me?” When someone discovers you, what benefit do they get if they follow you? Sometimes all they get is a chance to interact with their favorite band, and sometimes that’s enough.
However, it’s often a good idea to provide additional value fo those who are interested. Here are some ideas:
- Offer up a free download song for new followers. You can do this by setting up a Twitter bot that looks for anyone following you and sends them a message with a link to where they can download your designated song. Alternatively, you can run an offer where the link to claim a download coupon to your storefront is given to them on following you. You can also offer a download in exchange for a promotional tweet, though that’s more of a gray hat technique and some people frown upon it.
- Publish exclusive content on Twitter. One thing I see a lot of bands doing is posting pictures of exclusive scenes the usual fan won’t get to see. Things like a venue empty before a show, things like the backstage setup process, things like recording new music in a studio; these are all valid options.
- Publish content that makes you more interesting as people. What do you do when you’re not at a show and not in a studio or practice room making music? Do you go out to eat? Do you hang out with fans? Do you go to the beach? Pictures and comments about what you’re doing will get you fans just because you’re accessible and social.
Anything you can offer to followers that they can’t get anywhere else is something good to offer.
Promote Your Twitter Everywhere
You can’t just build up a Twitter account and trust people to find it. If you’re not running ads, you need to make it visible somewhere, because Twitter themselves sure won’t. The best way to do this is simply to share it everywhere you can. On other social networks, post about your Twitter when you have something to offer, like that song download. You can also, however, promote it on your print media, your physical copies of your music, and any other paper marketing you have access to. Make sure that anyone who might be interested in you has easy access to your Twitter URL.
Crowdsource a Song
Okay, this last one is a bit of a goofy idea, and not all bands will be able to pull it off. You can crowdsource a song and see what you come up with. Ask your followers to vote or suggest aspects of the song, like tempo, key signature, and lyrics. What you come up with will probably be ridiculous, but it gets a lot of engagement going and it’s fun to see what your band can do when faced with a challenge.