One of the biggest challenges for a band or artist is to attract, engage and retain fans. When considering this challenge it appears there are clear parallels with the way we manage the relationships with our friends. So how do we maintain our circle or friends, and how can we apply these principles to attract, engage and retain fans?
Introduce yourself: Provide new fans with a simple introduction to you and your music. Nobody wants to trawl four of five different profile pages just to find out when your next gig is. Ensure you create and share working links and make sure can easily be found in all the places people would expect. (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, iTunes, Spotify etc)
Be yourself: Nobody wants unnecessary shocks or surprises, you can rely on friends and you know what to expect from them. If your old public school friend Henry showed up one day and announced he was a goth, or started using slang and endlessly swearing it would probably freak you out because that is not Henry. Henry always wears ironed shirts, and Brogues, he’s well spoken and never swears. Apply this same consistency to your bands brand image.
Retain some mystery: We’ve all had those awkward situations where the office junior, your boss or even a family member befriends you on Facebook. Do you really want them to see the drunken photos or hear your work related moans. Of course not! So you either block them or quickly change your security settings. It’s equally important that a band retains some mystery. Nothing kills the aspirational image of rock n roll excess quicker than you telling your fans about the drudgery of your day. Before writing anything, think do they really need to know this? And how will this help?
Introduce them to your other friends: Most people find their friends through other friends. So remember your fanbase probably have a lot in common, they all like you for starters but it probably doesn’t end there. Encourage a community atmosphere and provide opportunities for fans to interact with each other not just you. When you are updating Facebook remember your ultimate audience is not your friends but your friend’s friends. So remember to provide your friends with engaging content and make it easy for them to share your music with their friend network.
Don’t forget their names: Forgetting a friends name is unforgiveable and hard to recover from. As a band it is unrealistic to think you can remember the names of all your fans – but at least remember the names of the super fans, the ones who are always writing on your wall or attend all of your gigs.
Regular contact: Striking a balance is important nobody likes a needy friend who is constantly calling them, and nobody wants to go months without hearing anything. In Facebook terms one update a day is sufficient, as long as you have something interesting to say. Most bands work hard to attract fans, then ignore them the moment they click the ‘Like’ button. This should signal the start of your dialogue with them, not the end!
Don’t just talk about yourself: We all know people that talk about themselves endlessly and never ask about you. It’s annoying isn’t it? Don’t fall into this trap as a band. Variety is important, mix up your updates to include news and promotional messages and also share the music you like. Building relationships with other bands and their fans can only help when you are looking to hit the road to tour.
Listen to them: Encourage your fans to share their opinions, and if it’s appropriate provide them with a forum to talk about themselves. EG Post links to their websites “We wanted you all to check out this charity event taking place on Sunday, we’re supporting it and encourage you to do the same.”
Give them gifts: Everyone likes a gift even more so when it’s unexpected and something you really, really want. Surprise and delight your fans with exclusive content. It could be anything from an unreleased live track, a signed poster, or guest-list entry to your next gig.
Be reliable: It’s hugely frustrating when friends cancel social plans or constantly turn up late. If your shows have been cancelled go the extra mile to apologise and ensure everyone knows. If you know stage times, share them with your fans, so they aren’t kept waiting around or worse still arrive too late and miss you.
Good & bad times: Never forget the fans who have been with you from the start, the ones who experienced all of the terrible music venues you used to play. Without these people you wouldn’t be where you are today!
Don’t be afraid to tell them to shut up: Nobody wants to do this, but ultimately if a friend is rude or abusive in your house, you would ask them to leave. Likewise if a fan posts something inappropriate on your Facebook wall you must not be afraid to remove it to ensure your fans and your own image is protected.