If you’re just starting out, don’t worry: you already have what you need to promote on social media using some bootstrap strategies outlined in this post.
“How do I get my social media going if I’m just starting out and don’t have any fans or followers yet?” asked a musician during a talk we did for New York Music Month at Carnegie Hall in June. This is a natural question to ask since much of our music money-making advice relies on you having at least some fan base in place. But there are ways to build your promotions from zero followers. The key is to use some clever bootstrap techniques to build a following.
Nearly all the best ways to get started from zero use variations of a concept we call “seeding the tip jar.” If you’re a barista or busker, you learn very quickly to never put out an empty tip jar. No one will put money in it. Instead, you kick start it by placing your own money in the jar before anyone shows up to give the appearance people are already happy with the service and are tipping. This is important because those bills and change provide social proof. When it comes to building a social presence from zero, you need to use the same technique to build a following using the fans you already have within reach.
1. Ask friends and family to help get you started
There’s a very good chance you have friends and family who are online. If so, there’s no reason anyone should see you with zero followers. One thing about friends and family is most want to see you succeed, so asking them to follow your social presences is not that big of a favor to ask. But, don’t just ask them to follow you, ask them to promote you to their own followers and friends. After all, it’s free to subscribe, like, or follow a page and isn’t asking a lot to get them to ask their friends to do so. Make it easy for them to promote you by starting out with something fun for them to share — perhaps your first song, video, or post.
2. Post consistently and engage/entertain your followers
As we talked about in “A release strategy to fill your yearly calendar,” posting consistently powers the engine behind growing your following. Your feed needs to provide a regular stream of interesting and entertaining things for your followers. The easiest and most natural way to do this is by following a release schedule. That way, you’re consistently spacing out the release of your music, videos, remixes, shows, events, merch, and more over time rather than dumping it all at once.
By coming up with a calendar of releases, you have something to talk about on your social presences before, during, and after the release. And, because you’ve planned out the year in advance, your future followers will have interesting things to enjoy in your feed when they discover you.
3. Produce the types of posts that social media platforms reward and get recommended to people outside your network
Most social platforms have goals to boost engagement with their service. To ensure people are interacting with their service and spending time on it, they often reward those posts they think will increase engagement and view-time. For instance, YouTube does this by promoting certain videos and posts to you as well as recommended lists to check out. Getting your content caught up in this cycle can grow your views and followers exponentially.
Each platform has different criteria it uses for recommendations. For example, YouTube rewards having a consistent release schedule. In fact, releasing on a daily basis can jumpstart the platform’s recommending you. But YouTube also rewards relevant keywords, length of watch time, how many others link to you, cross-links, and whether you use subtitles. Since each platform is different, we recommend focusing on one platform at a time. You’ll want to research recommendation criteria and structure your posts to not only please the fans, but the platform itself. Of course, the more posts that catch on, the more a platform will recommend you, creating a powerful promotional loop.
4. Follow fans of similar artists to trigger interest in your music
As we talked about in “How To Generate Music Marketing, Promotion, And Publicity Opportunities,” by identifying and researching artists who are similar to you, but who have received more coverage and promotion, you’ll learn exactly where your potential fans are located because they’ve already found them for you. If you start following these fans and create posts that these potential fans can discover and enjoy, they’re likely to see those posts and follow you back.
5. Add your social media links to all of your online presences
Each time a fan visits one of your online or in-person presences, it should be easy for people to find you and follow you. Add follow buttons and links all over your online presences and email. Also, add links and QR codes on your physical banners and posters. Promote the fact they can interact and contact you there.
Although some artists only use social media to promote themselves and get their music out, in today’s world, it’s also a potential source of income. You can use affiliate links, and eventually sell advertising or promotional posts. And once you seed the tip jar and get it started, if you keep releasing things your fans like, both the fans and the platforms themselves will help grow your fan base.
But the heart of social media success comes from an understanding of what your fans want. Perhaps the best advice for this was given by Nice Peter, creator of one of the most popular YouTube channels, Epic Rap Battles Of History. His suggestion: “create things that make your fans look cool for sharing.”
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
A release strategy to fill your yearly calendar
How to generate music marketing, promotion, and publicity opportunities
To make money with music, make sure you’re easy to find
Musician networking tips: Grow your revenue and audience
Define your persona, find your voice, and build your artist brand