We’ve all heard the marketing buzz – it’s all about engagement, with high profile influencers maximising the use of social media. Today the most successful bands are the ones that know how to engage their fans. Of course, fans bring recognition but importantly, they help create financial success as well.
Digital channels give access to fans and to musicians alike which means the relationship between them is direct and measurable.
Here are some key lessons businesses can learn from the music industry and musicians in particular about how to engage and create a loyal fan-base.
Get the conversation started
Whether you’re a new band, a startup, or a more established business you need to remember that consumer expectations across the board have changed dramatically. So much of our lives are online, using numerous platforms, which means it’s becoming harder to hold people’s attention. Relationships with publishers and media have also evolved with traditional media losing its clout, and you need to think differently about how to get your message out and keep your audience interested.
The power is being handed back to fans and consumers, who are driving the conversations on social media and user generated content platforms such as TripAdvisor. This means more work is required to create and nurture audience relationships, but it also provides new opportunities for conversations with fans, finding out what they want and keeping them updated and informed about what’s in the pipeline.
Steps to take
Marketing is becoming increasingly story-led. Artists, brands and businesses need to show a more complete and authentic picture of who they there and what they stand for.
But it’s not just about your story – you need to be able to talk to your audience in a way that shows you want to listen to theirs too. Authentic people are those who ask questions and open up conversations. As in daily life, these conversations will be multi-genre, they may be political, they won’t always relate directly to what you do or make, but they will show your values and identity. Avoid sitting on the fence.
A good example… when your fans are getting fed-up with ticket prices, availability and secondary sales do something about it. Ed Sheeran did. He went out of his way to ensure tickets to his shows were only available through reputable ticket exchanges.
Create your niche community
User generated content platforms are driving conversations between fans and artists/businesses. We’ve all seen how powerful fan communities can be on social media platforms such as Twitter, so it is important to focus on creating your own niche community around your identity.
Subba-Cultcha.com is one example of a music community that is following the model of the likes of TripAdvisor. Fans can not only upload their reviews and read others but have a place where they can buy tickets for experiences they love, all reviewed by like-minded peers whose opinions they know they can trust.
Any space that can offer a sense of exclusivity, and give audiences control over what they see and what is sold to them will keep people engaged.
Make use of the data
There are so many ways you can use technology to understand your audience’s online behaviours – and you don’t need to employ any shady or privacy invading tactics to do so. Remember, anything you or they publish digitally is a tool to discover what your target audience responds to, enabling you to anticipate future patterns trends in more granular detail.
Some tools that will help you measure and monitor audience behaviour include Google Analytics, and Amplitude, a platform that allows you to track user response trends in real time.
What is important is to understand what is driving those numbers – it will be worth the investment of time.
Incentivise your following and give them rewards for their presence, for example, competitions, exclusive first samples/listens to new products and music, follower discounts on merchandise, etc.
Radiohead let their fans decide what to pay for their album ‘In Rainbows’ with their ‘pay what you want’ scheme – showing fans that they cared about them, and their relationship with them wasn’t just about the money.
Work out what is most appropriate for your business and the stage that you are at – for example if you want to increase your email database, give them an incentive to sign up, if you want to encourage more word of mouth brand ambassadors, use merchandise.
But show restraint
Don’t give everything you’ve got in the hope that people will return the favour! It must be employed with restraint, and there needs to be some benefit to you. Free content and services are powerful means of showcasing what you are about and giving people the feeling of being a valuable part of the club.
For musicians it can be a difficult balancing act – open access can help you get a viral hit and a loyal following, but you have to be paid for what you produce. Whether you’re a musician or a business – remember, it’s also much harder to roll back and begin restricting access to your content when you started by giving things away for free.
There are a few big success stories of artist’s having been discovered through giving away content; Carly Ray Jepsen, Shawn Mendes and even Mr. Bieber himself, but there are many more not so successful stories whereby providing free music via streaming platforms didn’t provide the big break the artist was hoping for.
In some cases it can even lead to a backlash. For example, U2 gave away their album ‘Songs of Innocence’ free on the iPhone 6 – and it caused a massive backlash and didn’t generate the additional sales they had hoped for.
It’s the same with business, giving your product away for free doesn’t mean it will reach the masses, it just devalues the product. Ever heard the brand slogan “reassuringly expensive”?
Take time to respond
It may not be possible to respond to every comment on your page, but you should be paying attention to them all. Take the time to respond to as many as you can; the positive, the negative, the suggestions and constructive criticism. If you are updating your site or products on offer, share an update and explain how audience feedback and comments helped to drive your decision. And if your community is not yet forthcoming with opinions and ideas, show you want to hear from them by conducting polls and asking questions – this can be easily done on social media channels, blog posts and via email campaigns.
Trailers and sneak previews are a great way of giving your nearest and dearest fans a taste of what’s to come, whetting their appetite so-to-speak. Childish Gambino is a great example of an artist who relishes fan engagement by providing sneak-peaks to new, sometimes even unfinished videos. He continually reacts to the zeitgeist and comes up with ways to whet his fans appetite and keep them engaged.
And remember, if you leave them wanting more, make sure you’re responsive enough to follow up!
Reaching people in private inboxes helps to add to the sense of community and involvement with something bigger. In an instant message age, communications direct to a personal inbox have more resonance. People don’t want intrusion or anything with a whiff of ‘salesy-speak’, so don’t bombard them every other day with your latest offers. Do keep in regular touch with well thought-out messages telling them something you know they will be interested in.
Where applicable this can also be employed with direct mail – used thoughtfully and with a specific purpose, it can be an effective tool for grabbing attention away from the digital noise. Communication shouldn’t come through just one channel; the conversation needs to continue offline, online, in store, at live events, and through product and service development.
Nowadays you want to attract actively engaged customers. Keep working on engaging and keeping them engaged and their enthusiasm will be a positive force for your business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Jennings has worked in digital publishing and advertising his whole career. He previously worked in the US and UK for the Financial Times, he most recently launched the digital portfolio for Last Word Media. Mark Jennings set up Subba Media with the aim of disrupting the publishing market. Subba-cultcha.com is a fan generated music and festival reviews platform. Built from a strong loyal community, the content is produced by music fans and festival goers, enabling artists and brand sponsors to reach a new, more engaged audience.