12 ways to make your band win at social media

If you’re serious about a career in music, you ignore social media at your peril. Get your online presence right and it can rocket-fuel your ascent, build a loyal fanbase, sell out your gigs and have the industry beating down your door. Get it wrong, though, and you’ll be left shouting into the void, wasting precious time and being dismissed as an attention-seeking loudmouth. Here are 12 tips for smarter social networking – including a few pearls of wisdom from some hot-tip British musicians on the slippery pole.

#1. Don’t spread yourself too thin
If you try to maintain a presence on every social networking site, you’ll either burn out or end up duplicating content (a big no-no). Focus on the platforms used by your fans, and tailor your posts for each site. Facebook is good for announcing information (eg. an upcoming tour). Instagram rules for sharing exclusive photos. Twitter works well for sparking a debate or directing fans to a blog. YouTube is great for behind-the-scenes video footage and tutorials.

#2. The operative word is ‘social’
Think of each networking site like a pub. If you’re only here to shoot your mouth off, people will walk away. Ask questions. Listen to replies. Keep up the dialogue. “Reply to fans as much as possible,” advises blues-rock guitarist Chris King Robinson (who has four times more Twitter followers than Joe Bonamassa). “They’re the primary reason you’re posting on social media.”

#3. Post regularly (but don’t bang on)
You want to give fans the impression that your band is going places, so post regularly and never let your feed go quiet for long. If you can’t get in front of a computer, social media management systems like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck will help you schedule posts in advance. Also, keep your posts concise. “Get the information across in as few sentences as possible,” suggests acclaimed soul-rocker Rosco Levee. “People don’t want to read an essay.”

#4. Aim for the snowball effect
Once you’re famous, fans will retweet any old blather. Until then, make your posts entertaining, useful, informative and share-able, perhaps by unveiling new music, running a competition or offering a video tutorial. “People love to share good content,” explains Robinson. “When I started on Twitter, I had a few guitarists follow me. Once they retweeted my tweets to their followers, I’d gain new followers – and so on. Twitter has a huge snowball effect.”

#5. Let fans into your world
The days of untouchable rock gods hiding in ivory towers are over. Use your posts to invite fans into your inner circle and they’ll start to feel invested in the band. “Record snippets of rehearsals,” advises Levee. “Take pictures of your gear. It’s always interesting to see how bands work behind the scenes, and it makes people feel like they’re really part of a special movement.”

#6. Remember the 80/20 rule
If everything you post is a hard sell for the band, your feed will start to stink of a cynical marketing campaign and send casual punters packing. As a rule of thumb, make 80% of your content personal, funny and relatable – and reserve the remaining 20% to shamelessly plug your new EP.

#7. Don’t feed the trolls

The Internet is a snakepit, and abuse from total strangers goes with the turf. Always block, never respond, or you’ll just waste time in a pointless tit-for-tat. Likewise, while it’s good to voice your own opinions in posts, you’ll turn off swathes of your fanbase if you’re always on the soapbox. “Avoid posting about political, religious or controversial views,” advises Robinson, “as you’ll inevitably alienate a lot of people with these heated topics.”

#8. Put the feelers out
Remember that social media is a two-way street. If you connect and engage with people working in related fields – whether that’s bands from the scene, photographers, local venues or magazines – you’ll make relevant contacts, gain more exposure and be more likely to hear about opportunities. Just remember to scratch their backs, too, by sharing their news with your fans.

#9. Timing is everything
These days, we’re all buried alive in information, so if you announce your tour six months in advance – then never mention it again – it’ll be forgotten by the time you roll into town. Instead, post periodic reminders, and consider what time your fans are likely be online to avoid getting lost in the shuffle. “Around 7pm in the UK,” says Levee, “normally produces the most hits.”

#10. Get out there
When you’re on the road, use the time before and after each show for a recruitment drive, mingling with the crowd, manning the merch table and collecting email addresses so you can keep your fanbase in the loop with a regular mailshot. It’s old-school technology – but it often gets results.

#11. Drive fans to your website
Every band needs a website, which should be the hub for all your activities, from breaking news to regular blogs. Drive your fans towards it with your social media posts and vice-versa: embed all your social media links above the fold of your website pages. Also, make sure that any physical promo materials have details of all relevant URLs and social media usernames.

#12. Don’t forget that you’re a musician!
Keeping on top of social media can be seriously time-consuming, so share the load between bandmembers and never forget that your ultimate purpose is to make music. If you’re always tapping away on a keyboard, at the expense of songwriting, rehearsals and gigging, your craft will suffer, your momentum will slow and your fans will melt away. Social media is important – but it’s nothing without great music.

Rosco Levee’s new album Soul-Roller is released later this year (www.roscolevee.com). Chris King Robinson releases new singles She’s Got Nine Lives and I Know You Want Me Tonight soon (www.chriskingrobinson.com).