Growth Hacking Your Fanbase: Tips for Independent Artists
Published on December 10th, 2015
Every artist and their grandma understands that, aside from the music itself, their online presence is the cornerstone of their career. Strong online platforms allow artists to develop genuine relationships with existing fans and consistently bring in new ones. Of course building your following and nurturing those relationships is never as simple as you want it to be.
What is a growth hacker? It is a term often used in the tech startup world for a new kind of marketer – one that fuses creativity with data and experimentation to engineer growth. It assumes that growth is not the result of luck, knowing the right people or spending more money than the next person, but rather the output of a well-designed marketing machine. Let’s embrace that sensibility when it comes to marketing your music and growing your career.
One of the pre-requisites for being a growth hacker is understanding your audience. You need to know how users receive and interact with your content across platforms, and for musicians in particular, this means your social media platforms. This is a major advantage in not only determining who to target, but also how and when it is best to deliver content to them. So let’s take a deeper look into the statistics you have access to and how you can use them to your advantage.
Step 1 – The Power Couple: Engagement and Reach
The key analytics tools you need are right at your fingertips. The backend of your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube profiles each give you access to some crucial data about your fans. You can access this all through your profile pages. Two very important metrics that will be the first steps at shaping your social strategy are Engagement and Reach.
Engagement measures user interaction on your posts. Whether it’s a like, share, or comment, you’ll be able to determine if your content is doing what it’s supposed to do – creating conversations, getting people to your posted content, inspiring them to share it, and making new fans.
Reach shows you how many users have seen your content. Through your profile’s backend you will be able to see reach for your page and each individual post that you make. Use this data to figure out what types of content performs best on your feed. And when you have advanced knowledge of your social platforms, you’ll see that there are also sub-segments of this metric (paid vs. organic vs. viral).
These are just two of many data streams that will help you better understand your followers and market to them. This is something you should monitor on a regular basis. For more advanced stats spanning your social platforms, consider setting up an account on a third party analytics platform like Next Big Sound.
Step 2 – Go Big or Go Home: Maximizing Engagement and Reach
Now that you have a basic understanding of Engagement and Reach, there are a few key tactics you can integrate into your daily social media practices to quickly maximize them. The best practices below are based on the tricky algorithms that define each social platform, as well as successful campaigns run on Show.co in the past.
Post Strong Visuals: Let’s be honest – visual content rules social media. It’s fun to experiment with different photos, but if you’re not sure what to post here’s a good rule of thumb: your fans like to see you. Whether it’s an inside look into your recording session, jam space, new promo photos, or a shot of you and your bandmates performing - people want to feel connected to your band. If there’s a way to get your messaging across through visuals instead of text, it’s likely the way to go. All this said, make sure your visual content is high quality! Nobody wants to see a grainy photo/video!
Tag, You’re it: Ever received a like from someone totally random? It’s exhilarating - and most likely came from strong tagging. Of course, it’s important that your content remains genuine (or at least very funny), so you don’t OVERUSE hashtags (we recommend a maximum of 3 hashtags per post to be safe). But tapping into trending topics, or using popular hashtags like #TBT, #NewMusic and #PhotoOfTheDay will help you to engage with total strangers. But hashtags aren’t the only way to expand your network. Tagging relevant social media handles in your posts, including venues, organizations and influencers relevant to the content will not only notify the owner, it’s also a great way to cross-promote and integrate into new communities. And in turn, they may return the favor leading to added exposure for you as well!
Know when your fans are online: How does that saying go? If a Tweet goes out at 2AM and no one is online, did it really go out? Okay, maybe that’s not it, but you get the idea. If a majority of your fans are online between the hours of 1PM and 3PM, then that is when you should be posting a majority of your content. Simple, but effective. Knowing when your fans are online is one of the easiest ways to increase your reach and be part of their routine surfing habits. You can find these stats through your Facebook Insights dashboard under the “Posts” heading. As Twitter and Instagram are real-time news feeds, experiment with different post times and see which times provide the best performance.
Consider targeted social media advertising: If you have a small budget, social media is a good place to use it! One of the best ways to reach new fans is through social media advertising. Whether through promoted or “boosted” posts, or through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter’s ad platforms, social media advertising can be just the tool you need to get your music into the hands of like-minded fans. Targeting your advertisements is a crucial step to advertising – choose artists that are similar to you in genre, festivals and venues you’ve played at, and bands you’ve toured with, to ensure your advertisements are as effective as possible.
Step 3 – Hold Them Dear: Keeping New and Existing Followers Engaged
So now that you’ve expanded your reach, how can you engage with these newfound supporters? Check out some of our favorite engagement techniques below.
Use Calls-to-Action and Incentives: We could write a blog post on this, and probably will. A call-to-action can be a profound way to engage with fans online. Ensure that each piece of content you post has a call to action. Fans are more likely to engage if they are being prompted to. Use action words like: comment, share, like, retweet, watch, to activate your fans. And don’t forget to give an incentive. It’s not enough to write “Like me on Facebook.” Tell your fans why they should do something. Do they get a free track download? An early sneak listen to a new song? Give them a reason to take action. What we see is that, absent an incentive, no matter how strong the call to action, conversion rates plummet.
Limit your word count: Social media is all about easily digestible content. Say what you’re trying to say in one sentence or less. Twitter may only give you 140 characters, but a recent report suggested that Tweets between 70-100 characters receive a 17% higher engagement rate, and Facebook posts that are 40 characters or less receive a whopping 86% higher engagement rate (source). That being said, don’t be afraid to be passionate and write long about subjects that really mean something to you. And don’t forget to spell check!
Develop creative and diverse content: Don’t give your fans a reason to get bored with you. Make a point in coming up with creative and diverse content for your social media platforms. Whether it’s a new YouTube video, an impromptu photo shoot, or inside jokes that reward your fans, unique content goes a long way when it comes to engagement. But that doesn’t mean you need to have a new music video ready everyday. Diversify your content by posting about things that interest you, and might interest your fans too. Read an interesting blog post lately about how to reach and engage with your fans? Share it on social media! ;)
Be genuine: The number one, best way, to engage with your fans is to be genuine. Your fans will care about what you have to say, if you care about it. Consider each post before you post it, and let your fans discover your personality.
Integrate these tips into your social strategy, and consider your social metrics as feedback from your audience. Play around to figure out what works and sooner than later you’ll find your rhythm.
Next week we look at additional ways for you to keep your followers engaged through rewards and exclusive content.