This post is slightly at odds with one of my mentors, Michael Branvold. Strange considering it’s based on his great advice on what musicians should do online daily. It’s not that I disagree with what Michael says. It’s that, well, there’s not enough time in the damn day! Time management is a bane to my existence.
Currently, I’m trying to start a new band, filling in with another band, and I’m running a blog on how to run a band. And guess what? I’ve hit media overload. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging…the social media list grows every day. I try to keep up, but it’s freakin’ hard! Not to mention I have a day job. Refreshing my Facebook page 30 times a day doesn’t help with job security. After backing off for a little bit, I’ve come up with a strategy to manage my time more efficiently. This post will concentrate on managing online activities since they can cut most significantly into a band’s time.
Make music. Make art. Before all else, do this. Social media and marketing are essential to your band’s success, but they can also be its downfall when not properly managed. If you find yourself blogging and tweeting more than writing new music, you’re doing it wrong. Social media and online promotion are meant to strengthen your music, brand, and fan engagement. If you’re not putting out good music or increasing your musical skills, all the social networking savvy in the world won’t help you. Prioritize. Know what to put on the chopping block for online activities. Creating music, artwork for your band, and videos needs to be at the top of your list. All else can be cut. The good news is these activities generate content for you to use with online marketing.
Now that you have your priorities, you need to…
Twice a day, quickly go through and respond to everyone and everything. Don’t linger or read more at each site. Just speed through it as quickly as possible. If you have notifications set up with your e-mail, you will know quickly what new followers, comments, or updates are happening on each of your sites. You won’t need to go to Facebook if no one has responded, so use your e-mail as your time gatekeeper. On Twitter, check your @Mentions and Direct Messages and respond. Then add any new followers. Quickly respond to your Facebook profiles and your YouTube. Follow back, add friends, and subscribe to all appropriate people. Remember, don’t linger! It’s easy to get sucked in and start reading everything. Only do this TWICE per day. Constantly checking your e-mail and Facebook is a tried and true way to completely lose your valuable time. Try checking at noon and, then, 6pm.
Social media is about being social. To build your fan base, you need to reach out and engage them. One on one, and one at a time. In addition to fans, you will need to be engaging with multiple media outlets: mp3 blogs, local newspapers, and other industry related figures. In this context, I refer to interacting as responding to other people’s posts. Put the focus on others and not yourself. Creating posts is dealt with in the next section. Interacting is, unfortunately, a giant time-suck and needs to be approached with discipline. You can constantly be spending time searching through blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter updates. You will need to give yourself time limits for each online service. Go through each and add comments, re-tweet, and share other people’s posts. Have a goal with these interactions, so you get the most value before you run out of time. Fans first. Venues and bookers second. Local media third. Responding and commenting on people that don’t care about your band won’t win you much. Focus on those with the highest social value to your band. Fans support you and go to your shows. Venues and bookers need your fans. Local media helps you get fans and shows.
Important: Keep a time limit for each! Get a timer and be strict.
By “Create”, I mean creating posts, blogs, and e-mail newsletters. Anything that you put out there. Your Twitter update. Your Facebook status. Start easy and be consistent. If a blog post per week is too much for you, try once every two weeks. If tweeting 20 times a day burns you out, keep it at once a day. Daily “Facebooking” draining all your time? Do it every other day. Develop a strategy that you can keep up with daily, weekly, and monthly. One to two tweets per day. Once a month, pop out a new e-mail newsletter. Do not “Interact” or “Respond” when you “Create”. Dedicate yourself to putting fun, interesting updates in the social-verse. Get your mind on track to blaze through this. Focus intently on only creating new content. Be interesting and have a strategy for each of your online accounts. Twitter is stream of consciousness. Facebook is like talking one on one with a group of friends. Blogs relate interesting stories and adventures. By focusing solely on creating, you can reduce the amount of time you spend online. Facebook update? Done. Next. Twitter update. Done. Next. Once you’ve mastered your routine and reduce the time engagement, you can then consider doing more, a little at a time. Tweet 4 times a day. Facebook updates twice a day.
(See below on “Batching” on how to create multiple updates in only one sitting.)
Reach out for new people to follow, but intelligently. Find someone new that adds value to your online experience. A new, potential fan that likes your music. A blog that covers your band’s type of music. Seek out those that you can interact with. Just blindly adding everything on Twitter isn’t the goal. Finding someone who would be into your music is. Seeing updates that let you know what’s going on in your community is. Add another local band and see how they are using social media. Slowly grow your online reach. Grow it in a valuable way that enriches your band’s online presence. It’s not a number game, but a quality game. Don’t spend hours hunting down new people. Just add one or two at a time. Limit your hunt to a few minutes.
This one is the worst. Consuming is just blindly reading, refreshing, going through post after post. Though necessary to see what’s going on with others, spending all day reading your Facebook news stream is counter-productive. Tightly limit your time here. Especially on Facebook and Twitter. Give yourself a half hour and be adamant about stopping “consuming”. Unfortunately, you need to “Consume” in order to “Interact”. Make sure you are consuming the right things that are relevant to your band and your fans. And once you’ve finished your goals for the day, you can always resume “Consuming”. Accomplish first, consume last. How important to your life and your band were those Facebook updates from last week?
To help with your “Consumption”, develop a filtering strategy with your sites. These filters yield the “must read” content. “Must Reads” are the content that have the most value to you and your band: Music blogs relevant to your band, your die-hard fans, and other bands and venues that have helped you along the way. On Twitter, use lists to group the relevant followers. For instance, I have a list for bands, another for venues, and another for fans and friends. You can also group a more exclusive list of “must read” followers. This is important for Twitter because you can be completely overwhelmed in tweets and never see the more important people. In your RSS feed reader, group the most important blogs into a category. The mp3 blog most likely to feature your song, the local rag most likely to write up your band. Facebook, unfortunately, sucks for filtering. “Groups” are the only way to do it, but Groups automatically e-mail and notify people that they are in a group. Every little thing creates spam for everyone. There’s ways to turn it off, but most people will just quit the group you just created. Facebook needs a silent list option (which I think they used to have). Until then, you’re screwed on Facebook. However you do it, have a smaller list that you can get through quickly. Those days that you simply don’t have time to do all the social media stuff, you can get through your “must read” list. Another way to filter? Learn to forget about it. I’ve had all these back lists of blog posts to read, tweets, and Facebook updates. You miss one day, and it’s like a mountain of information that you need to spend hours on. Forget them. Mark everything as “read” and move on. There’s way too much info to get caught up. It’s a losing battle. Just restart and move forward (…and learn to speed read).
Why create just one Twitter update when you can create all of them for the entire week in one sitting? Using HootSuite, I’m able to schedule updates through the entire week for both Twitter and Facebook. I sit down, reserve an hour, and I have a full week’s worth of posts. Batching is the act of doing a large amount of similar work in a short amount of time. Do you have ideas for multiple blog posts? Write them up on an off day, but don’t release them at once. Schedule them to be released over a period of time. One day of work saves you a large amount of time over the week or month. When your brain is focused on one activity, you can get much more done. This is the opposite of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is inefficient because humans aren’t wired that way. We’re really good at doing one specific thing at a time. Use that brain power to do a lot at once. Write a ton of music. Shoot a ton of video for YouTube. Create multiple blog posts. Pop out all your Facebook updates.
Batch it to save time.
Use every plug-in, automated posting thingy, cross posting widget you can. Use ReverbNation to automatically update your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter whenever you have a show or new song. Grab plug-ins for your website to automatically update your blog when you upload to YouTube. Use sites and services like Ping.fm and ArtistData.com to automate your postings. If you’re going to update each of your sites with a new show or song announcement, just do it once from Ping.fm and have that announcement show up on all of your sites. However, be careful these services you use don’t make your updates look like impersonal spam. Be aware of how your updates may look to your fans.
Do your band mates have half a brain? Can they form complete sentences? Can they communicate in less than 140 characters? Give ‘em a job. Kidding aside, if you have 3 or 4 people in your band, there’s no reason one person should be doing it all. I’ve given my guitarist the responsibility of Twitter. I told him to do it once a day, and to use HootSuite for scheduling. Responsibilities can be split between the band members. There’s no need to be overwhelmed if you have a strategy with 4 people implementing it. Unless the drummer’s involved. All bets are off with the drummer.
Determine what time you can give for a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. How much time do you have free daily? On your days off from your job, how much are you willing to spend on your band? When looking at your schedule, figure out what you can sacrifice. Do you really need to spend as much time at the bar with your friends? Do you really need to watch 2 hours of TV every night? Yes, Portal 2 is awesome, but how far does it take your music career? Remember to leave time for yourself, your friends, and family. You can easily overbook yourself. That means you forget to leave time to eat, do your daily chores, or isolate yourself in an unhealthy way. The purpose of time management isn’t to fill up every single second of your day. Instead, a good time management schedule allows flexibility while achieving consistent results.
Here’s an example of a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule:
- Respond (10 – 15min)(Twice daily)
- Practice: (30min – 1 hour)
- Write music: (30min – 1 hour)
Create (20 min) X Interact (20min) X Consume( 20min)
Once a week:
- Create Blog post (1 hour)
- Batch (1 hour)
Once a month:
- E-mail newsletter (2 hours)
- YouTube video (4 – 6 hours)
- Song recording (5 – 6 hours)
So far, I have been following my own advice for “Responding”. Twice a day, I go through my multiple media sites and respond. Results? I’ve definitely freed time. Unfortunately, there’s an “ache” to keep hitting refresh. To keep coming back and checking up on what I just did. It’s so easy to do, just check that Facebook again real quick. Each little refresh costs you time you could be spending elsewhere. To effectively manage time, the greatest enemy isn’t the lack of time, but the lack of self-discipline.
For other bands and musicians out there, I know we’re all in the same boat. What have you done that helps you save time online and just write music? Have any of you just dropped social media altogether? What were your results? Let us know in the comments!
Chris “Seth” Jackson is a bassist starting a band from scratch and documenting the effort on his blog How To Run A Band. In addition to the normal activities of running a band, he will also be experimenting with marketing and promotional techniques to get more fans and to (hopefully) get a positive cash flow. Both failure, as well as success, will be shared for all to see.
Posted on MTT By: Michael Brandvold (Michael is a 20 year music marketing veteran who has worked with unsigned indie bands and international superstars. Michael owns Michael Brandvold Marketing a site dedicated to providing tips and advice for musicians.)