Whether you run a large business or are just out to promote your local band, the key to successful social media is to figure out who you are and find your audience.
That was one of the key messages delivered by the very entertaining Mike Huberty at September’s Social Media Breakfast Madison held at the Holiday Inn West. Mike, who plays in the band Sunspot, also represents Broadjam, a Madison-based online hub for musicians to promote their music and themselves across the web and through social media.
For about 20 years, Mike has been involved in promoting and marketing his band and the 1,000 shows they have put on since he was in eighth grade. Since 2011, Mike has helped other musicians promote themselves and license their music through Broadjam.com.
Mike said he often runs into musicians who say, “All I want to do is create, man. I don’t want to do marketing and branding. I’m an artist. I create.”
But in today’s world, that just isn’t enough. What every band ultimately wants is an audience to consume their art, he said. Nobody wants to play in front of an empty venue (and isn’t the same true metaphorically for businesses?).
“You want to connect with people who care about your product and what you’re trying to do.”
Basically, he said, it comes down to this: “You want someone to play in front of. You want fans.”
To get them, you first have to figure out who you are, what image you want to portray (yes, your brand), and go where you can connect with people who are interested in what you have to offer.
“You need to tell them why they should be there. This is where a lot of people fail. You need to create a context: the story that you weave together. What you are creating to get people excited. You need to give them a compelling reason.”
Branding isn’t a dirty word, Mike said. “It’s just about knowing who you are. It is about knowing yourself. It’s a shortcut for the audience to figure out who you are. The audience is looking for someone like them, someone that expresses feelings thorough art that they cannot. Branding helps those people find you. It’s your context; it is your story.”
The beauty of the Internet and social media, Mike said, is that they help you make that connection with the right people.
“It’s your branding that helps those people find you.”
Mike said the biggest mistake bands make is they don’t take the time to define who they are. They are afraid of pigeon-holeing themselves, but if they don’t create a niche, they can’t stand out in the crowd. So he said, create that image, create that niche. You can always change it later. Madonna has changed her brand many times over the years, as have many other successful artists.
The same applies to businesses whether they are selling insurance, music or food.
“Before you do anything, know who you are,” Mike said. “Who you are is your context,” so make it personal. “When you’re an artist, your art is you. Your product is you.”
And it’s all about marketing YOU.
“The essence of digital marketing (social media) is that you’re a real person selling you. We have the freedom online to create that real person. We have the freedom at an event to create that real person.”
Bruce Springsteen, he said, is worth $300 million and he still connects with the working man. But it works. “He still speaks for them even though he hasn’t been one of them for a really long time.” Springsteen simply defined himself.
The vulgar band Gwar pretends they are aliens from another planet who came to Earth to destroy it. It’s a safe bet they are not really aliens, Mike said, but they defined themselves that way and their fans accept them for what they portray themselves to be.
Once you know who you are, find out who your audience is, where they hang out and go out and connect with them, Mike said.
Mike ran through the major social media platforms and described how people can use them to define and market themselves, their products and their businesses:
On Facebook, he said, “Everyone trying to show how awesome they are. You are creating that person. You’re playing dress up.”
Facebook is great for promoting events, posting live pictures and press photos, showing success, validating relationships and keeping yourselves in front of your fans.
If you’re a musician and not on YouTube, do it right now, Mike said (and, again, isn’t that true for all businesses?). YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, he pointed out
“It is Internet on crack. It has the greatest engine in the world for people looking for more content immediately. It is a place to create new relationships.
“If you’re gonna tweet, then tweet! Play the game, respond, and interact. Join conversations. It’s Twitter, you don’t have to be invited to say something.”
In addition to using Google Plus for SEO, it offers an amazing tool for interacting with your audience: Google Hangouts. “We talk to our audience (on Hangouts). It’s long form interaction with your audience. I’ve done Google Hangout from a plane. That’s blows my mind. I’m talking to people from space on a video screen!”
Deepen relationships with friends by staying in their feed and make new ones through tags. People are searching tags for cool pictures.
It’s worth it for SEO alone. Just post things that you like, or post to content you’ve already created.
Let people get to know you by spending a lot of time with you. Sunspot has done this since 2005. In his experience, Mike said, other popular podcasters listen to his podcast and then sometimes put his songs on their podcasts. Highly successful podcaster Adam Curry, he said, played one of Sunspot’s songs after hearing it on a Sunspot podcast, and the song immediately got a large number of hits.
This is the place for funny, in-the-moment pictures. It’s great if you have a young audience or already have a lot of friends out there.
Because it has far fewer people than Facebook, there is opportunity to grab them on MySpace.
Great for EDM (electronic dance music) artists.
Great for songwriters looking to collaborate and meet other serious artists.
Finally, Mike said, don’t neglect your own website and email list. “Email is still the best way to connect with your audience, period.”
Successful artists – like successful businesses – use all these Internet and social media tools – as well as building old-fashioned face-to-face relationships – to promote and market themselves, Mike said.
“Be ruthless and don’t stop. No one else cares about your career. If you’re not comfortable marketing your art, find someone who is and get them on your team.”
And, in what can be turned into another lesson for us all, he said, music is a tough business and nobody cares about your success like you do. Keep plugging away, don’t let it get you down, and believe in yourself.
“Play your own game. You are not competing with anyone else. Do not let other people’s opinions, success or failure affect yours.”
Mike shared these links:
His band: sunspotuniverse.com
His other business, which involves ghost tours of downtown Madison: madisonghostwalks.com
Mike also writes for Madison-based Maxiumum Ink magazine.
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.
Video by Geekazine:
Photo gallery by Bob Wydra: