Musicians’ Guide to Rocking Twitter

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Publicist extraordinaire Ariel Hyatt (CyberPR) and I sat down last fall to talk Twitter for Musicians. I distilled  what I said in that interview into this quick-start guide for musicians wanting to make a splash using Twitter. Also see Ariel’s excellentMusician’s Twitter Road Map, here.

UPDATE: I mis-linked to the database of musicians on Twitter

BEST TIPS

1. Surround Yourself with Successful People
One of the oldest rules in the book of business success is to surround yourself with successful people. Find someone inspiring to watch and enjoy the little snippets of their life that they share.

2. Join or Organize a Tweetup. Get out there and Network
Invite people to come out for a drink or to watch a show. Any meeting in a public place provides an opportunity to meet and network with potential fans. Famous already? Do this the way you might do an in-store or other more controlled public appearance

The really major friendships and business relationships that have come to me have been a lasagna of different layers building on each other: connecting online, connecting in person, hanging out online, seeing each other at another event… it builds up to some very powerful, loyal connections.

3. Use Twitter to Share Audio and Video Links
Twitter is primarily text based, but that doesn’t mean you can only share text. Use Twitter to share links to other material, including photos, audio files, and video clips. You can even share a live video stream that you can deliver using nothing more than a cellphone using technologies like Qik.com or Flixwagon. Imagine letting fans watch (and then later embed on their own web pages) an impromptu jam on the tour bus. Your authenticity – and access that YOU get to control – is very enticing.

4. Use Twitter to give your fans a Sneak Peek
Speaking of which, imagine being backstage at a gig warming up and letting fans experience the sound check without any hassle or cost on your part. Again, that mobile video cellphone, or webcam live streaming, or even just links to audio, Twitpic.com put your fans there.

That type of content can make fans feel connected and it costs almost nothing to make available. It also lets you take back a fair share of the “Papparazzi economy.” Good money is made exploiting stars’ privacy. Go straight to your fans instead and use the content the way YOU want to.

5. Take Twitter on the Road with You
It’s hard to sit down and compose a blogpost when you’re on the road on tour. With a phone in your hand, it’s easy to share snippets as the mood strikes. And since it’s Twitter, people don’t expect well-thought out, composed and polished updates. They just expect you to be genuine.

6. Twitter is powerful because it’s not in-your-face
Don’t try too hard. Don’t be pushy. Just be authentic. Talk about stuff that you would remark on out of the power of your own heart. All the soulful things about musicians are the very same things that will make you successful on Twitter.

People want personality; they want authenticity; they want a genuine look at the person behind the music. You’re not dealing with the paparazzi coming in and invading. You’re saying, “I want to share something personal, and I’m going to let it get out there in a way that is totally on my terms and in a way that benefits by business as a musician financially.”

7. Don’t push; Pull instead
Get people involved in your life, in your artistic ideas and expressions. Share a photo and say, “this is where I write most of my songs.” You can get people excited and involved by letting them know when you have a new album, when you do a signing party, when you have a tour going… don’t send tweet after tweet saying “buy my album, buy my album,” because you won’t get an audience that way.

People can get a real sense of what you’re like just from reading 4 pages of tweets. It always astonishes me how well I know someone by the time I meet them, just fro those little offhand remarks.

BONUS: Be creative.

Creativity is what you do for a living, right? Try using your name, a song, album or venue to “tag” your tweet by putting a # in front of the word, especially when you ask a question. Instant communities have formed on Twitter by sharing a tag in common. Searching http://search.twitter.com for your tag (see hypothetical for The Beeristas: #Hartfordshow) lets everyone follow the conversation.

There are even ways to exchange money on Twitter, including TipJoy andTwitPay. You can use these payment tools for a charity drive, to sell things and to share the love by tipping other musicians you admire.

OK, LET’S GET STARTED

1. Choose your Username carefully
Use your brand name, your band, or whatever name you want people to easily find and Google. Choose something you’re comfortable with. If you know about Google AdWords, choose whatever word you would spend your last dollar of beer money on. Your username has really strong influence on Google search results. Want to see what I mean? Search “pistachio” on Google.

2. Set up an engaging Profile
You will want people to follow you, and what they see on your profile page will help them decide whether or not to click that Follow button. Think of your Twitter profile as a “free website” where you can have maybe an album cover or a candid photo of you on the road as your background image. Use a good profile picture. Write a couple of things about yourself. Make sure there’s a link to your web page.

3. Write a Few Interesting Tweets
Twitter asks “What are we doing?” to help us figure out what to write. One of the big things that I think we’re all doing on Twitter is answering and asking the question: “What do we have in common?”
I’ve been in situations that I find fascinating, but when I tweet about it, a couple of people might say “that’s cool.” But when I tweet about something really dumb like “why do we throw rocks into water?” I can get 40 replies because everybody knows that feeling of standing on the shore and just lobbing rocks into the water. So my advice is to start with things that people can really identify with.

4. Use Twitter Search to Find Like-minded People
Go to http://search.twitter.com and search for keywords about the music you play, whether it be the genre or the instrument. Look for brand names of your band equipment, for example. You’ll find other people who have made remarks about similar equipment. That gives you a starting point.
You can click on their names to see their profiles and start following people whose tweets seem interesting and whose personalities give you a good vibe. If it turns out they’re not the type of people who are interesting to you, you can simply un-follow.

5. Syndicate! Add a Twitter widget to your website
A widget is just a little box that contains your latest tweets and displays them anywhere. It can start out on your site, but ideally go anywhere – MySpace, Facebook, fan sites, blogs – so think big. Using this you can engage your audience wherever they hang out and share more with them.

The widget makes it possible for your fans to see what you’re sharing even if they don’t even have a Twitter account. Definitely use a widget that they can “grab” for their site too (look for a button that says “get this widget.” Then, whatever you’re sharing on Twitter can “self-syndicate.” Each time a fan displays your widget on their site, you’re reaching more and more and more and… you get the idea.

6. Find other musicians already on Twitter

Who tweets? As of this writing there are more than 500 bands and artists on Twitter. (Coed Magazine ran this list of 406 and Pitchfork Media rates 14 of them.)

Check out people like Dave Matthews, Matthew Ebel, Samantha Murphy. Look at their streams and see what they do. It may surprise you to see really ordinary, boring, slice-of-life tweets from rockers, but in a way it’s better because fans will be interested (to a point) and talk about it.

7. Make it about your fans

Most best-loved and most effective Twitter streams aren’t selfish. They’re giving the reader something: interest, value, relevance, fun!

Say you’re promoting a specific show. You could post ticket-buying links with the date and venue, sure. But that’s about you.

It’s better if you tweet (for example) questions about the experience of going to a show. “What was your favorite live show ever?” “What songs should we play on ___ in ___?” “What’s your favorite memory from any concert?” “Check out this new track, should we play it next week in ___?” Questions like that will draw people in and they will engage with that, and you can still deliver the same content with the show date and the link to buy tickets. They’ll be thinking about their experiences — it’s back to “What do we have in common? You can do the same thing with MP3s, albums, merchandise, causes or whatever stuff you want to share with your fans.

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