Social media gives you the opportunity to create genuine relationships with the members of your growing fan base, helping to create more super fans and ultimately working to strengthen your fan base as a whole.
At first, this is the best possible situation: as you grow, your fans will demand more attention and more access from you, and thanks to social media, you can now supply them with it. And again, thanks to the level of transparency that social media offers, the experience of the artist/ fan relationship is more authentic and personal than ever before.
And this is all good. Both you and your fan are happy. You continue to grow and your fan continues to gain more access and attention in return for support.
But as you and your fans go down this path together, you will inevitably run into the situation where you couldn’t possibly continue to manage all of the existing relationships that you’ve formed with your fans. No one can. Sorry.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty nice problem to have. By the time you’ve reached this point, your fan base should start to take a life of it’s own. But unfortunately, the fans don’t just want each other.
They want you!
At this point, many of your ‘original fans’, as many will call themselves, will feel as though they are apart of your success, and feel they now deserve your attention and acknowledgment. It is your job to find ways to keep the level of communication and transparency consistent enough where your fans don’t feel ‘left behind’.
Here are a few ideas to help you along the way:
Maintain Honesty/ Transparency
Fans respect honesty, so this is something that you should be doing from day 1. Just look at Charlie Sheen or Kanye West - they are brutally honest and look at where it has gotten them.
But when you get to a point where you just can’t manage to keep up with all of your fans they way you or even they are used to, you need to be upfrotn and honest with them about the situation. Let them know that free time is becoming harder to come by, but that you will continue to be the face behind the updates, blog posts or tweets; not just someone else on your team ‘representing you’.
Addressing this head one will make it much easier for your fans to understand, and they will likely give you less of a hard time about being less present.
Do NOT, under any circumstance, lie to your fans about this. You have a certain voice, and by this time, your fans will know just from your use of words that it is you, or that it is someone posing to be you. This can have a very negative effect on the loyalty of your super fans.
Maintain A Fan-Centric Attitude
Fans are a funny breed. They want nothing more but to support you, spread the word and be there with you as you grow. Unfortunately when you do, they hate the fact that the dynamic of their relationships has changed. It is your job to help keep them excited about the change, to help them see that change is actually a good, natural progression, and that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE for it all.
Be it through Newsletter updates, blog posts, or even tweets, let your fans know how much they mean to you. This will help them continue to feel as though they are apart of something bigger then themselves or even you… they are apart of a movement.
Create New Opportunities That Didn’t Exist Before
Just because previous opportunities to engage with fans, say through Facebook or Twitter, are becoming harder to maintain, doesn’t mean that you can’t create NEW opportunities that are tailor-made to give your core fans the same experience and attention they desire.
Since you’re ‘original fans’ are simply afraid of being left behind, and are looking not only for attention, but acknowledgement, why not take it up a notch and actually give them some responsibilities? These ‘original fans’, or really, your super fans, are the perfect people to approach about spearheading an official street team. They are dedicated, understand your image and your target fans, and are seeking praise straight from you. What else could you ask for?
Do Something Out The Ordinary
People get tired of the same old shtick. Its unfortunate, but true. And this becomes an even more cumbersome issue when combined with the fact that you don’t have the time to pay your fans the same attention they are used to. So, you’ll need to do something out of the ordinary to keep them happy, to make them remember why they fell in love with you in the first place; to stoke the flames of fandom.
This, action or activity, doesn’t need to cost a great deal of time or money. It just needs to be, in a word, epic. Here are a few quick ideas that I came up with, though understand that every fan base is different and not all of my ideas will satisfy your fans.
- A ‘VH1 Storytellers’ Event: No it doesn’t need to be in some fancy room with velvet draped on the walls and cameras all up in your face, but breaking it down to the most simple concept, this one is a winner. You could do one, exclusive event, or maybe multiple events, but the idea is to create an intimate setting, where you play and explain the meaning behind songs, and let your fans ask you questions, personal or otherwise. Talk about a memorable occasion that shows just how much you want to satisfy your fans!
- UStream Q&A: Similar to the idea above, this is all about giving your fans some personal attention. However, this could be a great way to give those fans who couldn’t possibly make it out to the ‘Storytellers’ events to still be able to get some personal time with you. Create a twitter hashtag and allow your fans to submit questions using the tag so that you can respond to them in real time. This is just more rewarding for everyone.
- Non-Music Networking Event: Think of this as a meet and greet on a large scale. I got this idea from MicControl member and friend Brian Franke, who set up a non-music event at a bar for his fans to come down, have a drink and just hang out with Brian. This is a phenomenal idea and is one of the best ways to create and/ or strengthen the REAL and long-lasting relationship with your fans, even if you don’t have the capacity to keep up with them on daily basis.
Jon Ostrow (@miccontrol) is the cofounder of MicControl, a music blogging community that bridges the gap between musicians and music bloggers. This post was originally published to MicControl on Thursday, March 17 2011.