[UPDATED] In 2017, having a professional looking website and an active presence on social media has become a key component of any band's success. That said, there are a variety of 'right' ways to go about about building an online presence. Here we look at seven tips for doing so successfully.
Guest post Mike Wright of SongCast
A band that isn’t striving to build an audience through online media isn’t really trying. It is 2017, and if you want your band to succeed, you require at minimum a professional website and active social media accounts.
Before diving into some tips for creating an online following and persona, understand that’s there’s several paths you can take. That’s the beauty of social media and the internet, there’s boundless opportunities to express creativity and to reach people. Some bands are amazing Instagram posters. Others struck gold through their YouTube channels. The key is to work efficiently while online, with the goal of connecting to the right people with content and sites that best represent your band. Taken as a whole, your web presence should reflect who you are, what kind of music do you play, and where you want to be in the future.
Bands that want to gain exposure to global audiences and build a fan base should follow these eight tips:
1) Create a simple yet effective website. Consider using Squarespace to manage your domain and to build a site. It’s a great service that includes many useful features at a low price point, including an e-commerce feature that helps you sell swag to your (soon-to-be) legions of fans. Remember that a Facebook page is not a website, you need a clean and dynamic site as a “home base” for fans and transactions.
2) Sell your music online. You’ve created a great album and are getting some fans, and now want to move to online selling. Use a service such as SongCast or Bandcamp to present your work to your fans, and allow them to choose how the music is delivered. Both services put the control with the artist.
3) Get social. Social media is essential for growing a fan base. What other service allows you to share your story, images, and thoughts with more than a billion other people – and do it for free? Pick the right social media sites for your style and be sure you offer unique content for each channel. Don’t “phone it in” by duplicating images from the road on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook or reposting from six months ago. Fans want dynamic real-life comments and imagery. Focus a lot of your efforts on Instagram, as that channel is exceedingly popular with musicians who have established massive followings.
4) Develop an email list. It might seem too “old school”, but email is still an effective communication tool. Millennials and Generation Z are using email because it provides efficient one-on-one correspondence and is useful for record keeping. Pick an inexpensive email platform such as MailChimp and keep updated lists of all your fans. Ask for email from your site visitors to build a fan base over time.
5) Update intelligently. So you have fans that follow you on Twitter, watch intently for your Instagram posts, and “like” you on FB. Now you need to update them with information. Always remember that your information and updates need to be accessible to everyone. Not every fan will be using Instagram, so don’t announce a show “only on Instagram” or just via email. Also consider if the content itself is appropriate for the channel. FB posts should be constructed differently than Twitter posts. Study the channels of other successful artists to see how they’re reaching fans with tailored content.
6) Create a posting strategy. You might find a formal online strategy to be too “corporate”, but it’s essential to work efficiently if you want to create a fan base. Most of your time should of course be spent on creating great music, so embrace structure so you have time to write and rehearse. Your strategy should detail the bigger questions such as “what kind of brand are we creating”, and more specific ones such as “what action (if any) are we hoping the fans take”? A simple “where/what/when” structure is ideal, for example you could commit to an Instagram post every day, with some offering behind-the-scenes looks and others featuring show news.
7) Develop a plan. To put these tips and steps into action, you should have a checklist with concrete steps. Making a list helps you to delegate tasks to other bandmates and keeps everyone working towards the same goal. A useful tip is to create and use a single Gmail account for all of the social and website building tool signups. This is a much better approach than using individual band members’ emails. What if the bass player quits and takes the Instagram handle with them? Make it clear which accounts are personal and which ones belong to the band.
Creating an online presence should be met with enthusiasm if it’s going to be successful. Remember that every online fan you create holds the same value as the people you meet outside of a club after a show. By developing a solid plan and executing that plan, you can efficiently stretch your indie dollars to make a presentable and engaging website and get the most out of free social platforms.