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Tuesday
May012012

Using Twitter: top tips for musicians and bands

Although Twitter’s been around for quite a while now (since 2006, if my memory serves me correctly), it’s still not fully understood – or used to maximum effect – by a lot of bands and musicians. But many do seem to have a sense of its importance, and “can you get me a bigger Twitter following?” is one of the most common questions posed by bands to Prescription PR, making us feel as though we are the musical equivalent of plastic surgeons. “For a price,” is a common answer, as we reach for some strange-looking implements. But today, dear reader, we’re giving you some free advice on using the medium – and as you’ll find out, size isn’t everything. Here’s our survival guide…

1. Pick the right username

A very obvious point this, but if your little four-piece is called, say, “The Beatles”, then don’t try to be all clever about things and call your Twitter profile “@YokoOno”. Pick a username that is as close as possible to your band’s, because the people who want to follow you on Twitter after seeing you play that gig at the Cavern in Liverpool are as just as likely to whack “www.twitter.com/thebeatles” into an address bar of a browser as they are to search for “The Beatles Twitter” in Google. Or at least that would have been the case had Twitter been around in 1961. It wasn't, which is why the Beatles didn't 'make it' on Twitter. They actually played a few gigs and wrote decent songs - worth doing that too, by the way.

2. You’ve got a biography: use it

Alright, a biography comprising a mere 160 characters is not nearly enough to describe the incredible things you’ve been through as an artist and to impart your views on the price of cabbage – but it is what will come up in Google when somebody searches for your band’s Twitter page (see example below).

So get to the point – put decent, concise content in your bio that enables people to spot your profile easily in search results, and distinguishes you from the American sports hero who happens to share your name.

3. Look professional

Twitter gives you the option to brand your profile nicely – you can upload a dinky profile picture and a background of your choice. Use these tools to make your Twitter profile appear consistent with your band’s general online presence. In short, don’t rely on one of Twitter’s default backgrounds and a blank profile pic – be professional about things. Otherwise you will look like the Twitter novice that you are. Pay particular attention to the profile pic, because this is what pops up in other users’ news feed when you post your latest inanity about a gig down in the Dog and Duck.

4. Follow the right people

Don’t be tempted to use automated ‘adders’ or dodgy sites to grow a Twitter following. The 10,000 followers you get from such services may a) not exactly be real people and b) simply won’t be interested in your latest double album. They will however, be interested in regularly offering you an oil inheritance from Nigeria or shoving a pair of fake breasts in your face (sadly these offers rarely translate into reality, believe me). Instead, try to follow bloggers, journalists, writers and musicians that you respect and that are relevant to you – for example, bloggers that write really interesting stuff about the nu-metal-cum-chillwave-shoegazing scene that your band is trying to break into. A proportion of these hip bloggers and journalists will follow you back, meaning (as we’ll see below) that Twitter will inform other similarly hip bloggers and journalists that you are an interesting person worth following, generating more hip followers for you.

5. Take Twitter’s advice

When you log into Twitter, you’ll see a ‘Who to follow’ panel on the left, with suggestions from Twitter's algorithms regarding people that you might find interesting. These recommendations are based on who you are already following on the network (and who's following you), and assuming you’ve taken my words of wisdom above on board, Twitter will be suggesting interesting, relevant and (shock!) “useful” people to follow. (If not, it’ll be prompting you to follow more oil barons and big-but-pretend-bosomed ladies. Nice and all as they are, these individuals might not be all that much use to your music career). So take a careful look at the suggestions, check out each profile suggested, and if you think the algorithm has sussed you out correctly, start taking Twitter’s advice on who to follow.

6. Follow back – where appropriate

When somebody follows you, take a look at what they do / write about, and if they seem like a "fit" for your band, then by all means follow back. I’d suggest not following everybody back – otherwise it makes it harder for Twitter to make accurate recommendations about who you should be following and who should follow you. As with points 4 and 5 above, the “quality” or relevance of follower / following is everything here.

7. Remember: content is king…

…but not necessarily your content. By all means post links to your band's new videos and MP3s from time to time, but do not get too fond of doing so; otherwise you’ll just look like a jerk. Believe me, when it comes to overcommunicating about my own music projects, I’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt…and despite waxing endlessly about the importance of musicians keeping schtum for five minutes, I still see artists (who should know better) bore their friends, family and remaining fan to tears with hourly Facebook updates about their latest creative endeavours. Nobody cares after a while (if they ever did in the first place –geddit?). Instead, post links to great content from other sources – whack links up on Twitter to scintillating articles which don’t happen to be about your music (and rest assured, there are a lot of them). Or make witty observations about cheese and/or the credit crunch. In short, get a reputation for being an interesting dude, not a self-obsessed bore. If you post a lot of fantastic content on Twitter, guess what? It’ll get retweeted, meaning your lovely face will potentially pop up in thousands of Twitter feeds. Meaning you’ll get more followers, which you can then eventually bore with stuff about your band (which, after all, is why you’re reading this post in the first place).

8. Interact

Although it’s great for broadcasting news to millions of people, starting revolutions in dodgy regimes and so on, Twitter isn’t a one-way medium and by using the ‘reply’ or “@username” options provided you can interact with people and engage your followers (whatever the hell that means; writing the words ‘engage your followers’ is obligatory in any article about Twitter, so I had to include it somewhere). In a nutshell, if you take the time to respond to enquiries from fans or comment on tweets from the hip bloggers you follow, you will build up a rapport with both groups; this can lead to goodwill for you being generated amongst your two key audiences – fans and tastemakers – resulting, hopefully, in more sales and coverage for your band.

9. Ask for retweets – but only when it’s REALLY important

You can ask your followers to “retweet” stuff –  for example, share posts about your latest video, or a big showcase gig. However, don’t prefix absolutely every tweet with “Please RT!” – only do so for posts that are really important. Otherwise you will become the boy who cried “retweet!” and so jaded will your followers be with this carry-on that nobody will ever retweet anything you post. So there.

10. Be regular

Don’t set up a profile on Twitter and then forget all about it. Doing this will a) guarantee that you don’t have much of a following or b) make you look like you don’t give a monkeys about social media or c) don’t know how to use it. None of these inconvenient truths will impress those skinny-jean wearing A&R guys from Shoreditch who are all queuing up to view your Twitter profile right now.

11. Be visible

Remember to promote your Twitter address outside of Twitter. Put it on your album art, your website, your posters, your drumkit, your head – anywhere people can see it. This will help increase your following.

12. Use hashtags to increase the visibility of your tweets

If you're tweeting about something topical - for example, Louise Mensch - use a hash ('#') followed by a relevant tag - i.e., '#louisemensch'. This increases the visibility of your tweet, because people often search for popular hashtags on Twitter to see what the latest news on a subject is, or simply to steal a funny tweet and pass it off as their own. So with the example given, people who are searching for '#louisemensch' (and there are a lot of them) may encounter your witty, and quite possibly rude, tweet about her. This may result in more people, particularly those of a non-Louise-Mensch bent (and there are a lot of them) retweeting your witticism or following you (or both).

13. But size isn’t everything…

Finally, another reminder that like your girlfriend said, SIZE IS NOT EVERYTHING. Having thousands of dodgy followers you never communicate with is less important than having a smaller group of influential followers who hang on and retweet your every regular, interesting 140-character utterance. Think about it: if 200 tastemakers with audiences of 10,000 each are following you, and 50 of them dig you to the extent that they retweet your post about your latest video, you’ve just hit 50 x 10,000 people…that’s your video broadcast to a potential audience of 500,000 (many of whom may retweet it again). And crucially, those 500,000 Twitter users you’ve been exposed to are more likely to take you seriously, because they heard about you from a credible source, not the oil baron with the big boobies.

The Prescription is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

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