Twitter is hot. Even though it’s only been in the public consciousness for slightly over a year, it has already gained an incredibly devout and widespread following. On a recently weekday I counted three separate articles on the front page of the New York Times website involving Twitter. Oprah recently used twitter live on her show. Both Karl Rove and Rachel Maddow regularly tweet. So do celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon, Aston Kutcher, and Shaq. But perhaps the demographic that has most fallen in love with twitter is musicians.
There are many reasons musicians love Twitter. It is an incredibly powerful tool. So much so that some (including myself) feel that Twitter is as an essential a tool as MySpace to a musician. Already you find many musicians have taken to Twitter and use it constantly and in innovative ways.
What is Twitter…
Before I go any further, I’d like to give a brief overview of what Twitter is. It is a website that allows you to post brief (140 characters max) messages. You can “follow” other users by opting to have their tweets sent to your home page. On your home page, all the tweets by the people you follow are displayed chronologically (most recent first). People who are following you have your tweets displayed in the same manner on their home page. You can reply to a user publically by typing “@theirusername”. You can also reply privately via a Direct Message (DM). That’s about it. Sounds underwhelming, right? Where is the cause for such excitement and devotion amongst its fans?
The real power of Twitter lies with the cumulative effect of the tweets. One tweet is ultimately meaningless, a single brush stroke on a canvas. But if taken as a whole over the course of weeks and months, these single brush strokes come together to form a remarkably accurate painting of the personality of the person behind the tweets. This makes Twitter a great way for old friends to stay in touch, for current friends to coordinate their lives, for people to learn more about the bands, celebrities, and other public figures that interest them, and for those bands, celebrities, and public figures to engage their fans.
A much more succinct portrait of twitter by user SoftCoeur, who tweeted the following:
@softcoeur think of it like a combination blog, away message, and mass text message. embrace it. love it.
Note: when quoting a tweet, you say “@TheUserNameBehindTheTweet And Then The Tweet Itself”
How To Use Twitter Effectively…
So, then, how can a musician use Twitter in a manner that reaps its full benefit? There certainly is no shortage of musicians on Twitter. COED Magazine recently published a list of 406 Bands On Twitter and that’s just the more mainstream musicians. There are untold amounts of complete unknowns who twitter too. Despite the plethora of musicians using the site, very few seem to have a good grasp on how to best use the site. What are they doing wrong?
Twitter…You’re Doing It Wrong
There are several common mistakes made by musicians that render their Twitter efforts ineffectual. They are listed below:
1 – Not following anybody back – If there was one word to describe Twitter and what sets it apart from other sites such as MySpace and Facebook, it would be “conversation”. Twitter is about the interaction between people, sharing tidbits, insights, thoughts, information, and answers to questions. If musician does not follow anybody back then they obviously are not listening. Follow in return every person who follows you; its common courtesy on Twitter.
Case Point: Oasis: http://twitter.com/Oasis
2– The person behind the account is not the person claimed to be – Because Twitter is all about personality and conversation with the stated person, there is little point to having a third party run your twitter account. To do so is a bait and switch and is inherently less engaging to followers than tweets from the actual person stated to be behind the user name
Case Point: The Raconteurs: http://twitter.com/theraconteurs
3 – Infrequent Use – Going back to the painting analogy, the more tweets/brush strokes, the richer and more interesting the portrait. A band that posts infrequently tends to not be worth following. Of course it is possible to tweet too much, but that’s another topic.
Case Point: Bjork: http://twitter.com/bjork
Twitter…You’re Doing It Right!
It is also useful to look at musicians who are using Twitter correctly, to see how and why they are effective.
1 – Be insightful and interesting – Let your fans know about who you are or who your band is. Make them want to read more. The key is to engage your fans. Sonic Youth did an excellent job with this as they recorded their last album this winter, posting frequent studio updates that provided a behind-the-scenes look at the rock legend’s recording process. Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) and Edward Droste (of Grizzly Bear) are both very insightful and engaging. Their Twitter pages are a rich portrait of them, their influences, and their music.
Case Points: http://www.twitter.com/thesonicyouth
2 – Interact with your fans – Since the whole point of Twitter is the conversation, why not converse? It’ll engage your fans, getting them to check back often. David Allen, the bassist from the English punk legends Gang of Four is fantastic at this.
Case Point: http://twitter.com/pampelmoose (David Allen)
3 – Be creative – Find new and creative ways to engage your fans through Twitter. The more people you have following you, the easier it will be for you to get the word out about shows and new releases. UK rapper The Streets recently premiered a new EP via twitter, posting a new song every day. Famous venture capitalist Roger McNamee has a band and they recently tweeted a live concert (as soon as they finished playing a song, they had somebody upload it to twitter). Think of other creative and new ways to use Twitter. Not only will you be engaging your fans but you might just get press for using Twitter creatively.
Case Point: http://twitter.com/skinnermike (The Streets)
http://twitter.com/Moonalice (Roger McNamee)
11 easy steps to getting started at Twitter as a musician…
1. Sign up for an account. Ideally choose your band name (if applicable). Make sure you put your band website as your link and for your bio explain who you are and what you do. Pick a memorable (and relevant) profile picture.
2. Import your mailing list into Twitter so you can find which of your fans are already on the site. Follow them.
3. Use the powerful Twitter search function to find people with similar interests. For instance, if you sound like Nirvana, search for “Nirvana” and find people who have tweeted about that recently. Follow them. If your music prominently features cellos, search for “cello”. And so on. When all is said and done, you want as many people to follow you as possible. A primary way to gain new followers is to follow people first. People will also find you via searches, so mention people you sound like or like often.
4. Tweet! Tweet about anything. Twitter itself asks the question “What Are You Doing?” but that’s just the beginning of it. Here are some good things to tweet about:
– What am I doing?
– What am I thinking?
– What do I like?
– What don’t I like?
– What do I want to do?
– Answer a question posed by somebody
– Ask a question (you’ll be amazed at how easy and fast it is to get answers via Twitter)
5. Follow influential people. One of the great features of Twitter is that it allows you to target various audiences very well. You can target broad demographic groups (Metallica fans, for instance) or you can target very specific people. Many of the most influential and important people in the music industry today use Twitter. The primary example of this is music bloggers. A majority of the music bloggers I would classify as “influential” have and use twitter regularly. Since Twitter is all about the conversation, you can easy engage these people. This will at the very least allow you to make them aware of your existence and at best, you may end up befriending some of them (which obviously has its benefits). To find music bloggers to follow, go to their websites and see if they have a link to their Twitter account. Many do. When you find one on Twitter, see who they are following because most music bloggers follow other music bloggers.
6. Update frequently. The minimum would be at least 3 times a day and I would say between 5 and 10 is ideal. Any more than 20 times in a day and you’re probably going to really annoy people. After using Twitter for a few weeks, you’ll begin to fall into a routine that feels right, and the answer to the question of “how much should I tweet” will become self-evident.
7. Post pictures! Use a program like TwitPic (http://twitpic.com/) to give fans a behind the scenes look at the band. Instantly post pictures from backstage, in the studio, on the road, or at home. This is a great way to engage your fans.
8. Post links Use a URL shortening program like Bit.ly (http://bit.ly/) to shorten URL’s to post. Post links to articles that you find interesting.
9. Re-Tweet. If somebody says something you find interesting, or otherwise want to pass along, then re-tweet it. Simply post this: “RT @UserNameOfPersonYou’reReTweeting What They Actually Tweeted”. A RT is one of the highest compliments you can give a Twitter user. This is a possible way to reach out to people you want to notice you (i.e. music bloggers).
10. Join the conversation! Send @ messages to people by posting “@UserNameOfPersonYou’reTalkingTo What You Want To Tell Them”. This is a great way to meet new people.
11. Link your mobile phone to your Twitter account so that you can text updates from your phone to your Twitter page. You can use twitter anywhere at any time.
Final Words And Tips…
1- Keep at it! It takes a while, several weeks or even months before you really get the hang of Twitter and begin to see how powerful a tool it is. Don’t give up at it after a few days or weeks. Twitter is a long term strategy.
2- Be interesting. No matter what you do or say, make it interesting.
3- Don’t spam people. Remember, Twitter is about the conversation. If you’re not conversing, then you’re probably doing it wrong.
4- Make new friends on Twitter and get hints and advice from them. You’ll be surprised at how many new friends you make. Unlike other sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, Twitter is less about connecting with people you already know than it is about meeting new people.
5- If you have a band account with multiple people posting, consider having each person sign their tweets with their names like this (Tom).
6- When following influential people (such as music bloggers), do not badger them about your music or they will ignore you. Twitter is not the place to approach them about listening to your song (that’s what e-mail is for). Rather, your goal is to befriend them and to get them to know who you are and what you’re all about. This way, when you do e-mail them your music, it won’t be coming from a complete stranger but rather a friend.
7- Don’t be surprised if Twitter becomes an addiction.
Useful Twitter Resources For Bands
These are links that I’ve found useful and I feel that musicians using Twitter will find them worthwhile as well.
Lengthy but I recommend every musician read this:
Laura Fitton of Pistachio Consulting On Twitter:
Musicians You Should Follow And Some You Shouldn’t:
A How-To Guide For Bands:
Grow Your Band’s Following With Twitter:
Ten Twitter Tips For Musicians And Bands:
Why Every Band Should Twitter More:
 Tweet: an individual post on twitter. Usage: “I just tweeted that joke my boss told me”.