Using Facebook to Build a Musical Fan Base

For musicians who utilize it, facebook is like having a cluster of groupies or a road team armed with a staple gun and flyers.

(These folks are ALL great at self-promotion)

I wanted to take a minute to talk about how some of my favorite self-promoters are successful and carry a large fan base & great connections. My reason? I get so frustrated with musicians who use my newsfeed as an advertising board three times a day: “Come see me tonight”, and later “No really – there’s free food. Come tonight”, and an hour before the show: “Come hang at so-and-so”.

There are these unarticulated rules that most people follow. I have so many friends who use the bulletin board advertising technique above. Folks, that’s not enough to build a fan base. That’s enough to get the folks who already like you out to your show if they have nothing better to do.

**Before I go on here, make sure you have a FAN page, and it’s not linked to your personal facebook account. You don’t have to deal with the ‘add a friend’ button, it’s a hell of a lot easier for people to find you, and for your name to get around.

As a self-promoting musician, you know that it takes only one click to follow through with the dreaded ‘x’ in the corner of your fan page. People can ‘like’ or ‘unlike’ you with another click. They can ignore your event with another. Yet, to be successful at this, you can’t treat your account like an advertising board, even if that’s what it is. After all – the point of this whole thing is to create a connection with your friends & fans, not to overwhelm them with why you are the best kazoo player on the planet. You need to be legitimately interested in people and the connections you develop, otherwise your advertising board is the equivalent of the ‘old fashioned’ email spam.

Some suggestions outside of the ‘create an event’ box:

  • Ask your fans questions in your status messages. Prompt discussions. Let’s face it- no one uses the discussion boards on facebook.
  • Make sure they know that you know how to listen to them. Respond to their posts. Acknowledge suggestions, even if its something you wouldn’t do in a million years.
  • Share what you know. One of my favorite self-promoting musicians uses his facebook status space to talk about his influences, recognizing their birthdays, and prompts discussions about them. One ‘teaches’ quick music lessons in the form of a bulleted list each week.
  • Send out event notifications to folks about your gigs, and maybe even mention these gigs in your status messages, but don’t overload people with reminders. If they want to go, they will.
  • Post a short ‘note’ on facebook and share it with your friends/fans. Use the note as a blog entry (but keep it relatively short – a few paragraphs at most) to talk about some of your recent experiences. Did someone amazing show up and sit in on a gig of yours? Did you have a particularly awesome experience traveling to a show somewhere? Did you learn something new on your horn? Perhaps you could send out ‘an open letter to your fans’ to give them some news. If you already have a blog elsewhere, you can share it with facebook or just copy/paste it to a note.
  • If you can, offer an incentive. Do you have a gig and aren’t using your guest list to its full potential? Offer free COVER to your favorite response to a facebook status. Offer a free drink if you can.
  • Stay personal. One musical favorite tells the world what tunes were on his iPod when he was working out for the day. Another tells us what book he’s reading.
  • Finally, you need to thank people PUBLICALLY, and often. Did someone share one of your posts? Thank them. Did a particularly helpful fan help you out with your website or unloading a truck? Thank them, either on your wall or theirs. This keeps you personable.
  • Thanks for sitting through this one. I know it’s not like my usual posts (or maybe that’s a good thing?), but sometimes I want to take the keyboard away from people. There are one thousand other creative ways to use facebook as a musician for self-promotion. As always, moderation is key.

    Onward & Upward!

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    9 comments

    1. Extending this to my “Marie Marshall – writer and poet” page:

      You make some interesting points.

      As you know, I have just published a book of poetry. It has been mentioned several times already on the above page, but out of the 40 followers (people who “like” my page) I have only had comments from four people. These are yourself, Elise Stewart (editor of Decanto), and Marcello (the front cover artist), all three of whom are also on my personal Facebook “Friends” list, plus one other person who knows me from allpoetry.com . I have no idea whether any of the other followers have even read my wall.

      It is the nature of FB – or so it appears to me – that people collect “Friends” by the hundred, and it beats me how anyone can keep up with that many! I have seven, and okay I am only on FB for very short periods, but it strikes me that even if someone has the leisure to sit there all day they can’t possibly read everything posted by every “Friend”. How do you cope with several hundred yourself? I have no idea why some of the followers signed up to “like” my page – I don’t recognise 60% of the names – and I don’t know whether any of the do actually bother to read. The last thing I put there went uncommented-upon.

      I bet that if I put a question or a topic for discussion there it would get one, maybe two comments in total.

      I know this sounds very negative and pessimistic, but can you see anything I am doing wrong? You might suggest getting more and more Friends under my personal account (and direct them from there to my “writer and poet” page too), but then I go back to my question of how on earth would I cope with that, seeing that I am not signed in very often? How would I cope with a flood of wall notes etc from Friend after Friend? How would I find the time to “like” their postings and photos, or to comment on them all? How would I be sure I didn’t miss your items, for example (originally the only reason I went on Facebook was to read about your daily doings)?

      Advice would be welcomed. 🙂

      1. Well of course there’s always unknown variables – you aren’t sure when or if people will see your posts at all. And you’re right – it’s impossible to see everything.

        My facebook is very organized, and honestly I rarely look at it on my actual computer. I use facebook for iPhone which has a handy feature that allows you to favoritize as many people as you want. Once you’ve done this, you can click on ‘favorites’ and it’ll show you only the people you’ve chosen for that list. That’s my secret to staying on top of it with so many “friends”.

        Secondly – it’s a GOOD thing that you don’t recognize half the people that have signed up on your page. It means the word is getting out.

        The only thing I can see for your situation that make it harder for your site in particular is that you’re using one that’s not widely known or used by the general web population. That means networking is harder – its harder for people to find you. One suggestion is for you to create more profiles on literary sites linking to your website – this takes time (and I know you limit your time on the web, which is tricky). Perhaps you could make a little game of it and plan to “leave your mark” (i.e. your signature/comment/link) on 2-3 new sites a day – whether they’re blogs, regular sites, or online literary communities. I have a LOT of luck by following news critics and commenting on super-popular blogs like the NY Times. A lot more people will see that. Is there a book reviewer on BBC you can follow and comment on? That’s one suggestion. Again – it takes time to read.

        A BIG BIG BIG part of my whole “career” is spent reading articles, and right now that includes a lot of blogs written by people in the field to stay up to date, and to network. You could do the same – again it depends on how much time you’d want to put into it. Like the above, you could limit yourself to 15 minutes a day of this kind of thing, and track your site stats.

        As for facebook, I would recommend not “liking” things. It can be quite annoying after you’ve “liked” something to get an email flood of 50 further comments. I constantly make this mistake, and constantly regret it.

        The only other thing I can say (in place of the iPhone “favorite feature”) is that you can always click on the few profiles you like to ‘watch’, and just ignore your newsfeed altogether if it gets too crowded. Then skim it once in a while and see if there’s anything interesting you could comment on – for example, start ‘liking’ some fan pages of authors/poets similar to yourself. Their target audience is your target audience, right? It’s all about connections.

    2. The idea about leaving my “mark” here and there is good. It’s (kinda) what I try to do already, but at present of course I don’t pay many calls. I think you have some very good ideas, although I suspect that if I start “liking” the Facebook fan pages of other writers it’ll be a one-way street, knowing my luck!

      By the way, I don’t get ANY emails from liking things on Facebook. I don’t get any emails from here either, whether I check the box or not. If I want to know whether you have replied to a comment I have to keep coming back (which is actually a pleasure).

      One thing I (or my agent – one of us anyway) am going to do is to email all the poetry magazines I can think of to alert them to my new book; in the emails I will include a hyperlink to my site. The site provider by the way… I like it because it has a clean look to it. I’m there because a fan was kind enough to build a site for me to start me off – I wouldn’t be capable of putting one together by myself (even though I am capable of tinkering with the existing one).

      Anyhow, I have printed out your comments above, and will give them some serious thought.

      Let me know what you think of my book, by the way. Also my novel, should you get any spare time to read it.

      1. be happy you don’t get emails from liking things on facebook. It’s an insanely annoying feature that you must somehow have blocked. As for the lack of comment notification, that is annoying. Surely you can fix that under ‘account settings’ on the top right of your page.

        Your new blog looks great so far.

    3. I like this. I have a couple of fan pages on my facebook and I agree that it is important to personalize your status updates, send notes, say thank you ect. I am a fan of a local punk rock band and they literally scared the crap out of me the first time I saw them live, that’s how good they are. When I met them personally at their next show, they were the sweetest guys and they still are. This gives me ammunition to support them, plug them, and write about them. It’s a much better experience to follow a band like this rather than a band that is corporate and huge.

      You should check out my blog. I love music but the genres I prefer are a bit different than the ones you enjoy.

      It’s good to keep your interests open. That’s why I stopped here to read, give my opinion and say hello.

      http://deeannadanger.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/juliette-lewis-at-lees-palace/

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