It really is a problem. Between social media, email, texting, and phone calls (let alone snail mail) there are numerous conversations going on with your fans all the time. If you want to be heard, your communication needs to fly above the fray. The key to doing that, thereby cementing your fan relationships, is quality content and an effective delivery tool. Otherwise, even though you’re talking, no one can hear you.
If you want better solutions for reaching your fans, keep reading.
The Battle For Your Fans’ Attention
We remember when industry pundits predicted that digital communication would make us all much more productive. It turns out that the opposite is true. The constant bombardment of information is distracting, and not at all productive.
In terms of information overload, social media platforms like Facebook are often the worst offenders. You may think that, since you are a performer and these are your fans, your voice somehow filters to the top. Not true. Performers get the same priority as everyone else who has something to say. The reality is most of what you say scrolls off the page before anyone has a chance to see it, which means you remain unheard, even if you have a large number of people following you. Why is that? Too much competition for your fans attention.
It may come as a surprise, but the average person on Facebook has over 335 “friends”. That’s like being in a room with 335 people simultaneously talking to you and trying to show you something.
Stepping slightly off topic for a second: Who really has 335 close friends? And even with your actual close friends, would you want to hear every single thing they think or see, every mundane thing they do? No. Sure, you want to know the big, even the medium, things: life milestones, how their relationship and careers are going, what their interests and hobbies are, what they’ve been up to. But the little things? Not so much.
It is like being a slave to a crazy person’s impulse to over-share all the things that stumble into their brain at any moment. This is what you face as an artist if you intend to communicate with fans on social media. Just more noise.
Let’s look at an actual, typical fan. This fan has 453 friends on Facebook (not counting pages liked or groups joined), has 68 connections on LinkedIn, and follows 259 users on Instagram, 129 users on Twitter, and 152 users on Pinterest. That makes five networks used regularly by this fan, and accounts on two other platforms that rarely get used. Plus a personal email account. And that doesn’t even factor in work-related accounts.
When faced with accounts on multiple social media platforms and hundreds of interactions to wade through daily, the thought of seeing everything becomes a bit daunting. The result is that, despite creating accounts to stay in touch, their connections actually weaken.
It’s easy to see how users can be inundated with information, and it’s clear that you’re fighting an uphill battle. Yes, some of your fans are seeing your information. And yes, there are ways to better your odds, such as paying to boost your posts, or strategically timing your posts. But, in the grand scheme of things, you’re still competing with all that other noise.
Good Content Creates Loyal Fans
While we are on the topic of noise and over-sharing, let us make one point that is critical for your career: do not over-share. When you speak to fans, make sure you have something important and relevant to say, something they want to hear. Otherwise, your fans will classify you as someone who wastes their time. It is like a good relationship that has gone bad; fans can close the door on your relationship as quickly as they opened it.
You may have a better chance of creating a connection with your audience if your communication focuses outward more often than inward. For example, if you are constantly talking about yourself, it might sound too much like self promotion or bragging. Quite often, when I get an artist communication it seems that they are “shouting” at me with their announcement – “Hey, come buy my new album!” Remember that you are talking ‘with’ people, not ‘at’ them. Have something interesting to say that gives insight into who you are, and try to engage fans in a conversation. That’s hard to do if the entire conversation is one-liners from you about your accomplishments, so stay away from “sales speak”. Inspiring fans with real conversation will get them engaged and talking, to you and to their friends about you. Other people talking about you is much more powerful than you talking about yourself.
Now that we have covered over-sharing, we want to emphasize the importance of good consistent communication. It is not our purpose to convince you that less is more. While you do not want to over-share, it is very important to share good quality content on a regular basis. Do not ignore your fans.
There are plenty of topics that are good for sharing, here are a few examples:
- Announcements. This could be a new album release, concert date, tour, products, promotions, crowdfunding opportunity, last minute texts, etc.
- Insights. These reveal what it’s like to be a musician or offer a behind-the-scenes look at the industry and your career, etc.
- Personal comments about your music, how you write music, what inspires you, your passion for music, how you started as a musician, which musicians are your role models, etc.
- Fun, short features. Shoot a simple video, tell a funny story, post a picture from a live performance with relevant comments, etc.
Whatever you offer, make sure it is thoughtful and well-presented. It does not necessarily have to be polished and professional looking; sometimes informal and impromptu create a better connection with your fan base because it feels more personal.
As long as we are discussing social media, we encourage musicians to maintain separate social media accounts: one for personal friends and family, and one for their music career. Friends and family can choose to follow both accounts, but fans should not have access to all of your personal comments and shares. Do you really want everyone to have access to the details of your personal life: a list of your family, photos of your kids, embarrassing posts from aunt Nicole and your sister Anna?
The Most Effective Communication Tools
What if there was a way to cut through that noise and truly stand out, to have your message pop up where your fan notices it (in other words, outside those social media platforms)? In our book, there are two methods that help you do just that.
Method One: Emails – Email allows you to personalize the communication, control the conversation, and convey a complete message without length limitations. Try to automate this process as much as possible. For example, a fan signing up for your mailing list should auto-generate a welcome email. This is also a great time to offer them a free download for signing up. (If you’re wondering how to capture their email, manage your contacts, and run campaigns, we’ll cover this topic in an upcoming article.)
Method Two: Text Messages – Communicating via text message with your fans (using an SMS service) is a great way to convey important information. This is the only communication (other than printed material or a phone call) that does not require your fan to log-on to their account to view it. This is completely different from Facebook, Twitter, and most other forms of social media. Text also carries a sense of high priority. When you get a message alert, don’t you check your phone and that message as soon as possible? Most people do.
(See the end of this article for tips on responsible mobile marketing practices.)
If you’re interested in mobile marketing, keep reading as we discuss several text marketing options.
Using An SMS Service
We scoured the internet looking for SMS service providers that offer good features and flexibility at a fair price. Of the services we found, we narrowed it down to two options that we would use.
Mozeo is our frontrunner. You can use keywords or a website widget to allow your fans to opt-in to your SMS contact list, or you can enter contacts manually or by uploading a spreadsheet. Mozeo allows you to enter a lot of fan information besides their name and phone number: address, email, gender, date of birth, and a half dozen optional fields. This is probably because it offers services, like email solutions. For accurate feedback on sent messages, Mozeo provides real-time reports. There is not a monthly fee for Mozeo’s SMS services; it’s simply 3 cents per outgoing message, and incoming messages are free. Keywords are sold separately as one-time fees ($25 for 1, $70 for 3, or $111 for 5). Mozeo also offers email solutions (half a cent per message—you can manage your contacts, design your emails, and send your marketing messages out to subscribers) and mobile web design (at $10 per month, with no limit on pages or sites). Web design includes the option of adding a mobile merchant/shopping cart to your page. Click on this link for a free downloadable guide.
We chose our runner up, Ez Texting, because it operates on its own or as a plugin to other popular platforms (such as MailChimp), and it’s one of the most popular SMS service providers available. Ez Texting allows you to import contacts or add them manually and then sort those contacts into as many groups as you need to. If you need help gathering contact data, you can use the keyword, widget, or QR code features that Ez Texting offers. You can incorporate merge tags to personalize your messages, and you can send text or voice messages to your contacts either when they are written or at a future scheduled time. The site provides you with analysis of sent messages so you can see which messages and acquisition methods are effective. Ez Texting does not charge for incoming messages, which are stored in your account’s Inbox or forwarded to your email address; messages forwarded to your mobile phone do require a credit. Plans range from $29 to $2000 a month, depending on how many messages and keywords you need. There is also a pay-as-you-go option, where messages cost 5 cents each (unless purchased in quantities of 20,000 or more, when a discount begins to apply). Click on this link for a free downloadable guide.
Other SMS Options
While our downloadable tutorials focus on Ez Texting and Mozeo, they are by no means the only options. Here are some details on other SMS service providers:
For MailChimp Users Planning Events: Gather is an event-focused SMS tool available to MailChimp users. MailChimp recognizes that email is ideal for sending event invitations and information ahead of time and for following up afterward, but less ideal for communicating with attendees—sending reminders and updates or receiving live feedback—right before or during the event, when they might not have email access. Gather also provides texting security (by keeping phone numbers private) and ensures that attendees won’t be spammed with text message marketing down the road. As a musician, you could use Gather to communicate with your core fans about exclusive after-parties. What fan doesn’t like that idea?
For SMS Campaigns with MailChimp: Call Loop is another SMS option that operates independently or as a plugin for MailChimp. Your contacts—which are unlimited—can be uploaded in a spreadsheet, synced from MailChimp, or inserted individually. Call Loop offers many of the same features that Ez Texting offers, including Merge Tags, scheduled messages, and auto-respond triggers. There is a pay-as-you go plan at 5 cents per message, or plans range from $30 to $150 dollars a month (depending on the number of messages and keywords you want).
For SMS Campaigns and a Little Extra: ProTexting also offers a variety of SMS features. Subscribers can sign up through mobile keywords or web signup forms, which you can create and add to your website or social media profiles. The site then stores their contact information in your subscriber database. Messages—which can include audio, video, and/or text—can be sent to individual subscribers or to groups, and they can be scheduled or sent immediately. ProTexting encourages paying personalized attention to your fans, such as targeting recipients by location or sending birthday wishes. It also provides analytics on your messages’ performance, so you can see which messages are effective and which aren’t. ProTexting also offers a mobile website builder, letting you create a simple and functional interface for your fans, as well as an app for you to access your account on the go. For self-managed accounts, pricing starts at $70 a month and reaches up to $899 a month; as with the other SMS service providers, the packages vary in terms of how many messages and keywords they include.
Responsible Mobile Marketing
Now, before you go rushing off and start texting all your fans, you should know that there are some rules that apply to text marketing:
- You must get recipient consent first (i.e., they have signed up to receive communications from you in this manner, and you’ve provided them with information on messaging rates, frequency, and purpose). Note that, if they’re under 13, they’ll also need parental consent.
- You should not overwhelm fans with irrelevant or redundant information—don’t spam them!
- You should make it clear who is sending the messages.
- You should provide opt-out information with your messages and/or on your site.
For more information, we recommend reading this Best Practices guide assembled by the Mobile Marketing Association. You’ll also want to check state laws, both where you live and where your recipients live, to make sure there aren’t further restrictions.
If you’ve decided that SMS marketing is the right step that will give you an advantage in reaching your customers, and you’ve done the research to understand the best practices and laws regulating text marketing, it’s time to start looking for a way to get your messages out where they belong: in front of your fans.