Every Band has a MySpace page, but very few have a MySpace STRATEGY.
A recent post by Bruce Houghton at Hypebot reminded me of a conversation I had with a Band last year on this subject:
Band: “Should we take down our MySpace page and make people go to our own website?”
Me: “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?”
Band: “Why? We get some fans there, but most aren’t real anyway.”
Me: “True, but…”
Most Artists think of MySpace as a ‘home base’ for their online activity. The problem is that a MySpace page is akin to a rental unit within a huge apartment complex. Sure, living in this rental complex means that ‘friends’ drop by all the time, which is fun when they bring chips and beer and are really into your music, but less fun when they bring con artists and viagra salesmen (although, admittedly it depends on your goals). Its a very noisy place, MySpace, and attracting the wrong crowd some of the time is par for the course.
The apartment complex has rules that you must follow. For example, you can’t easily send a message out to just your ‘real fans’ without also sending it to the other ‘friends’. There are rules and limitation about how you decorate your apartment too, making it difficult to differentiate your unit 4A from unit 3G down the hall. And if you want to sell things from your apartment to your friends, the landlord drops in to remind you that its an apartment and not a business.
But the apartment is free, so you put up with the tradeoffs and start giving out your address to everyone you know to come to your parties and hear you. Its says “Apartment Complex is THE place to be. By the way, we are in unit 4A.” The Landlords are amazed by the number of referrals they get from their tennants who are constantly promoting the ‘Apartment Complex’. They sell out immediately and have a huge waiting list. This, in turn, brings more random friends dropping by all the time, and so on.
Its a great thing, for what it does, but I would argue that it lacks the brand-building tools that Artists need to create long lasting value.
Think of MySpace as a super highway. Your Artist page is a FREE billboard on that highway. Millions of cars are passing each day and some people are seeing your message. Some are even responding, saying everything from ‘tell me more’ to ‘we’re similar’ to ‘can you help me? I’m out of gas and need money’. But you need a strategy for filtering out the noise and for converting the potential fans into ‘Real Fans’. Okay, that analogy may be insufficient. How about MySpace is a bar. You go there to meet a lot of people, but you don’t try to create a meaningful relationship with them there - you take them back to your place, right?
…enter a Fan Relationship Management (FRM) strategy. This strategy is based on the idea that the financial value of an Artist (not the artistic value, mind you) is a function of the breadth, depth, and length of fan relationships an Artist possesses at any given point in time. Its the ‘pipeline’ that an Artist has going to sell things like tickets, songs, merch, brands, etc. Its the value of YOUR BRAND.
Artist’s Brand Value = (# of fans) x (avg. depth of relationships) x (avg. length of relationships)
Adopting an FRM strategy and focusing on building your brand value may cause you to re-think about MySpace, and other social nets, as lead-generation hotspots (bars or billboards) that can act as the initial filter points for pulling in real fans.
This will, in turn, lead Artists to take a different approach to social networks. The first step is to acknowledge what they are good for:
1. Fan leads.
2. A Messaging outlet to potential fans (and some real fans, but only to grow the value of the real Brand).
3. Viral promotion (letting fans share your music with more and more potential fans).
Then, acknowledge what they are not good for:
2. Developing Fan Relationships on your own terms.
3. Building your Brand.
Once an Artist has done this, it becomes more apparant how to approach the networks. They need to be used the same way you would use a billboard or a bar:
1. State the value proposition. In other words, provide content to potential fans that they can sink their teeth into. Songs, videos, etc. Get them hooked.
2. Make it obvious what you want them to do to get deeper into the band. This could be a join the mailing list or street team opportunity, or to pass the music on to friends via a viral widget. It could be a simple, ‘learn more at our site’ kind of thing. Give them an incentive like exclusive content if they do so. This will be a good filter as well as a conversion tool. There are a myriad of things you can do here.
3. Spend LESS time there responding to the noise. Be selective about what you do respond to, and always try to get qualified potential fans to convert into real fans - your real asset.
4. It may turn out to be the right decision to continue to give your MySpace url as the place to find you (on t-shirts, CDs, bumper stickers, etc), but be cognizent of the converion rates you are getting there, and act accordingly.
5. Give the real fans that come to your home base MORE than those that don’t. If you get them back to your place, make it count.
There are many additional tactical ways to employ a lead-generation startegy within the social networks, but I wanted to highlight just a couple.
MySpace should not be viewed as the ‘home base’ for most bands (except those that are truly starting out, or have no finances at all). That doesn’t mean that every band shouldn’t have a MySpace page. They’d be foolish not to. But successful bands will use MySpace and the other social nets as a lead-generation tool for qualifying and converting new fans, and keep their ‘home base’ somewhere else. Your MySpace site should be designed to filter and then funnel good leads into a conversion process that will yield real fans.