This guest contribution is written by Jon Ostrow (@jon_ostrow), cofounder of MicControl.com, Publicity Director of Cyber PR and blogger for Songtrust.com. Jon can be easily reached at any time on Twitter.
As an emerging musician focusing your efforts online, building a strong and loyal fan base is the ‘secret sauce’ to success. Loyal fans purchase music, attend shows, evangelize your music and help you exponentially grow your fan base. Ultimately they’ll give you the leverage you need to pursue music on your own terms. When you have a cult following, you maintain creative control; no label in the world will try to mess with someone whose fan base is making them big money.
While this all sounds great, unfortunately there’s no “secret sauce” to help grow this kind of fan base. Some people find themselves naturally at the forefront of a movement. And others try for years to make it happen with little success. And while a secret sauce would be nice, the truth is there’s one constant that is guaranteed to get you moving in the right direction: Treat your fans like gold!
The idea of customer service may sound a little too ‘corporate’ for some of you, but in all honestly it’s something that you should ALL be thinking about as you’re interacting with fans and building a presence (and hopefully influence) online. Here are five important ways to treat your fans like gold.
1) Fans Are Not Numbers, They Are People
Something that so many artists and brands are guilty of doing too often is promoting the fact that they are only a certain number of fans away from hitting some milestone number on their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Youtube videos,etc. This obsession with growing the numbers as big as possible is a continuation of the myspace era of social networking, and it really needs to stop. The best way to grow a truly loyal fan base is to nurture their loyalty from the very beginning, and nothing makes a fan feel less appreciated then making them feel like just a number.
Forget for a second that you are only 10 away from 4000 fans, and start to actually spend time appreciating and nurturing the fans that you DO have. Treat them as human beings, with care and respect, and they will start to reciprocate.
2) Give Your Fans a Human Response
Speaking of treating your fans like humans and not numbers… fans want to know that on the other end of the computer there’s a human, not a robot responding to them. When fans reach out to you online — whether it’s to complement your music or ask you a personal question — respond with a personal touch and you’ll show them that you care enough to take the time to personally get back to them.
3) Under-Promise and Over Deliver
Regularly delivering value to your fans online is a big part of nurturing their loyalty. The more value you deliver on a consistent basis, the more loyal they will become. But with the idea of delivering value comes a problem that many artists run into, which is to make promises they don’t carry through. This could be in the form of promising a new song release on a certain date, promising a live performance like no other, or even simply promising that your music is”like nothing anyone has ever heard before.”
Let’s get something straight: fans hate nothing more than when a promise to them has been broken. Fans, as any customers and brand loyalists, are very delicate and will quickly feel betrayed and disrespected when they are promised something and then let down. The easy solution? Stop promising things…but you don’t really want to do that. The better idea is to under-promise and over deliver so that everything you give to your fans is received with delight!
4) Bring Your Fans on Your Journey
You need to give your fans something to be loyal to if you want their loyalty to be directed towards your music. If you talk AT your fans and focus on “me, me, me,” they won’t have much to feel a connection with you. As far as they are concerned, they don’t exist in your world and so whether they stay or leave won’t mean much to you.
But if you talk WITH your fans and make them feel as though they are truly an important part of the well-oiled machine that is your music career, you can give them a sense of meaning and a reason to stick around. By bringing them on your (‘your’ as a collective of you and your fan base) journey on a regular basis, your fans will have that special something to feel loyal to and support in all ways that they can.
5) The Follow Up!
This couldn’t be simpler, and yet it’s one of the most important things you can do. If your fans come out to a show and sign up for a mailing list, or join a mailing list to download a new song, or have commented saying how much they like your music, FOLLOW UP with them and thank them for doing so. The follow up is widely viewed as THE most important part of growing a loyal fan base and it’s absolutely essential that you embrace the idea in any way that you can. Nothing says ‘human response’ and ‘I truly appreciate you being a part of our journey’ as a simple follow up.
Plain and simple, don’t make the mistake of missing this incredibly important — and incredibly easy — opportunity to nurture the loyalty of your fans.
How Do YOU Treat Your Fans Like Gold?
These five ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg! We want to hear from all of you about how you treat your fans like gold, so please leave your stories, suggestions and/or feedback in the form of a comment below.