10 Ways To Engage Your Fans Online

DDanielle Rodabaugh is an online marketing specialist for
SuretyBonds.com
, a nationwide bonding agency. She also manages online branding and PR for We Live In Public, an electrified folk/pop/rock band based out of Columbia, Missouri.

Whether you like it or not, technology rules today’s music industry — no matter what genre your sound falls into. One major perk of that fact is that, by using technology to your advantage, you can grow your fan base quickly with limited resources. The catch is you have to find ways to engage people along the way. To help you do so, I’ve developed this list of 10 tips that will help musicians use the Internet to increase their fanbases.

1. Make a plan.

As a self-taught online marketing specialist, blindly stumbling into the world of online marketing is not something I’d recommend. This isn’t to say you can’t teach yourself online marketing strategies; just be sure you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it before you do it. Research various approaches to online branding and marketing strategies before you dive in. You wouldn’t go onstage without practicing your material and checking your sound, so why would you market your band online without knowing what you’re doing?

Image credit: themadguru on Flickr

2. Go where your fans are (virtually).

If you’re trying to start your first online marketing campaign, chances are you don’t have much funding set aside. Kickstart your campaign by setting up profiles on Facebook and Twitter, a.k.a the world’s two social media tycoons. Of course you can also set up profiles on sites like ReverbNation, Last.fm and SoundCloud, but most of these social networks are targeted to musicians. Although networking with musicians can obviously be beneficial, you should use Facebook (more than 845 million active users) and Twitter (more than 140 million active users) when your goal is increasing your fan base. You might not be “into” the whole social media thing, but it really is the most valuable option for bands that don’t have much (or any) funding to spend on marketing.

3. Be personable.

The era of joining fan clubs in hopes of connecting with a favorite musical act has come to a close. Today’s fans have a plethora of free, easily accessible avenues through which they might connect with their favorite musicians. Bands should not ignore this opportunity. There’s nothing worse than musicians who are too self-important to take the time to communicate with their fans, especially when they’re new to the music scene. If you want to build a following that will support your hopes, dreams and goals both emotionally and financially, your success depends on your fans — most of whom you’ll never even meet. As such, you can’t afford to have a pretentious attitude when building an online following.

Image credit: mrlederhosen on Flickr

4. Launch a blog.

Writing weekly updates for a blog is a great way to keep fans in the loop without spending a lot of time interacting with them on an individual basis. Switch up the pace by having each band member write an update from his or her personal perspective. Just be sure you proofread everybody’s writing before hitting the “publish” button. You don’t want to come off as being lazy or unintelligent, no matter what scene you’re into.

5. Always produce with professionalism.

Whether you offer fans merchandise, videos, songs or other online content, be sure you do so with professionalism. If you don’t have enough funding to pay for high quality promotional materials, get in touch with your creative friends. You’ll find a few who would be happy to support your cause by designing promotional content, taking publicity photos or managing merchandise sales. This approach will help you access professional level branding for a nominal fee — if not for free.

Image credit: Walter Boy on Flickr

6. Don’t promote yourself too much.

Sure, the point of any online marketing strategy is to draw attention to yourself. But online audiences quickly become bored with businesses that only talk about themselves. My full-time job is to market a surety bond company, which falls within a specific niche of the insurance industry. Few people get on Facebook to find information on surety bonds, so I’ve had to find other ways to interact with them, such as providing links to entrepreneurial resources or inspirational quotes. Getting people to engage with you will be tough enough; don’t make it harder by spamming them with promotional content they probably care little to nothing about. Engage them with subject matter outside of your music that genuinely interests them.

7. Be consistent.

Posting fresh content is increasingly important for engaging fans online, and it’s also crucial for a maintaining a strong social media presence. Update your band’s website, blog and social media profiles with a steady stream of relevant, interesting and nonpromotional content potential fans would love to read and share.

Image credit: joost-ijmuiden on Flickr

8. Don’t overcommit.

Be realistic when planning your various online marketing strategies. Don’t sign up for 10 different social media accounts and then ignore them because you’ve got too much other stuff going on. Your work should always be your top priority, but if you really want to use the Internet to grow your fan base, you can’t abandon your efforts after a few months of invasive marketing. If you take on more than you can handle, you won’t be able to engage with your audience consistently, and you won’t be able to grow your brand over the long-term.

9. Build a community.

The strongest fan bases function more as a family than a random group of people who happen to have the same taste in music. Once you’ve gathered a relatively large following, encourage your fans to interact not only with you but also with each other. You can do this by starting up conversations on your social media profiles or by offering special merchandise to those connected to you online. One popular, and very effective, online marketing strategy is for bands to take a photograph of the crowd from the stage. Then they tell the attendees to go online and tag themselves in the picture. Doing so not only draws additional traffic to your band’s website or social media profiles but also unites the fan base.

10. Branch out.

When you get a handle on the previous tips, branch out in every way possible. Reach out to different demographics by targeting them in new online marketing campaigns. Form partnerships with other musicians through which you cross-promote each other. You can also use your credible online reputation to market yourself to industry leaders more effectively. Once you establish a solid online presence for your band, your ability to branch out will snowball, and you’ll be able to garner more fans and more respect naturally.

Image credit: miuenski on Flickr

This guide is only a start, but the tips it includes are essential to the growth of any online fan base. If you really want to improve your online engagement, you’ve got to be prepared to implement solid online marketing strategies — and you have to commit to them for the long term.

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