I’m a sucker for infographics. Yesterday during my morning ritual of combing through RSS feeds, I stumbled across this little ditty which detailed the 5 steps a consumer brand should take in order to gain “social currency” – which is essentially convoluted marketing speak for “online fans”.
I thought I’d take a moment to make a cross-post that explains how what artists and aspiring rock stars can take away from these steps. So here we go – five round-about suggestions for creating a rabid online fan base:
1) Advocates Trump Followers
As much as it pains me to say this…you can’t do much better for advocacy then Insane Clown Posse. These clown-faced (and recent meme subjects) rappers are the perfect embodiment of artists that don’t create fans, they create family. Not many other acts can boast a self-created name for their fans (Juggalos), their own annual festival (Gathering of The Juggalos), or fans that refer to each other as “family”. It is this sense of fanatical community that drives fans to support ICP in droves – in 2009 ICP’s latest offering landed at #4 on the Billboard charts and outsold rock band Chevelle by 5,000 units!
I’m not kidding. They even have their own documentary titled “A Family Underground” which you can watch on YouTube for insight into this nutty micro-culture – I highly recommend checking it out, if just for a laugh.
What traits of your music can fans rally around to create this kind of culture?
2) Context Matters
What do indie-rock fans bond over? Organic coffee? Flannel shirts? Ironic beards? I could play on the stereotypes all day, but it is in the genuine interest of an artist to find out and package yourself around these ideals and shared interests.
For example, let’s say you are a jazz musician with a stipend advertising budget to spend on one of e-zines. While it may be tempting to advertise in the publication with a larger circulation or readership, but what you should really be finding out is which publication do jazz fans read? The answer might surprise you.
Vampire Weekend understands this concept. When the band began their viral marketing campaign for their new album ‘Contra’ they specifically targeted blogs and sites where indie fans hung out like Stereogum and Pitchfork. You can bet there wouldn’t have been nearly as much impact if their advertised Vibe.com
3) Not Every Band Should Be Social
This one is fairly self-explanatory, but worth a mention anyways:
If your audience doesn’t use social media, you probably shouldn’t expend your time and resources on it.
You can probably assume that the audience for classical music isn’t big into twitter, so if you are a classically trained pianist perhaps your efforts are best served elsewhere. Or, if you are band which already has a poor reputation amongst social media users (I’m looking at you Nickelback) getting onboard likely won’t help the situation.
At the very least, you can do some research to see just which networks you should be using based on the age of your audience. Here is a great breakdown of social networks by age for reference:
4) Social Is A Means, Not An End
So your band has just reached 5,000 twitter followers, congratulations! Now what do you plan on doing with that exactly? There is always a drive as an artist to have more. More followers, more friends, or clicks, and more views – but many times there is no planned endgame.
Make sure you have a strategy to funnel all your digital friends into channels where you can exposure them to your music and ultimately turn them into fans.
Some ideas? How about posting exclusive demos on twitter, acoustic/live videos on YouTube, comment on fan’s Facebook walls, or post exclusive merchandise/ticket sales on your website.
Take a page from YouTube wunder kids The Fold, who instead of merely offering their fans a fun cover video of Miley Cyrus’s “Party In The USA” they offered them the MP3 as well – provided they were funneled to their website, where they can be exposed to more of their music and hopefully buy their albums.
5) Gimmicks Marginalize Trust
You might spend untold amounts of money or time crafting the most incredible viral since Nine Inch Nails “Year Zero” for your music, but at the end of the day are you rewarding fans or just chipping aware at their trust? As the first comment on a thread for the IAmWhoIAm viral states: I am so sick of viral marketing
Your biggest bargaining chip is your music, withholding it or masking it from your fans is only going to work up until a point. Your audience will be much more receptive to what you are offering, and much more enthusiastic to boot if you don’t have to think “what’s the catch”.
Bottom line: Your innovative viral might give me a laugh, but you have to ask yourself if it motivates me to become a fan or ultimately buy your album from iTunes?