So one of the main things I've had to learn this year with the rapid advance of social networking as a direct-connect to your fans is this: DON'T make the mistake of overmarketing to them.
Fans become fans because they LIKE your music, but they are naturally curious about the person behind the music and the LOVE getting to know you even more than they like your music. This is an incredibly important lesson to learn. Keep in mind that the same should be true for you in order for there to exist a genuine relationship between the two of you...be more interested in learning about and knowing your fans than SELLING to them. They will buy your music if and only if you've established trust and interest with them as an independent artist. Let's face it - we're not Taylor Swift or Beyonce who have had millions of dollars behind developing their brand that is mass-marketed to everyone. We are independent artists with limited marketing budgets and time and genuine care will go a LONG way in your social networking strategies.
I was fortunate to have a couple wake-up calls from fans on Facebook letting me know that they were tuning out or leaving because "all you do is talk about your songs." WOW. That hurts. I thank them for being honest and opening my eyes and engaging me in a discussion that eventually earned back their trust.
Now, I take time to thoughfully formulate a status update that lets them see inside the window of my day-to-day existence, whether it's a fall bike ride, or baking pumpkin pies or what kind of music I feel like listening to or playing. After all, I'm just another person, not a music machine, right? This keeps my fans engaged, "liking" my status and tuning in for when I have important marketing announcements to make.
I've noticed time and time again when I ask something about THEM (people love to talk about themselves) I get a lot more response than when I narcissistically post about myself all the time. Get your fans involved with a small "survey" that is a "get to know you better" tool (like surveymonkey.com) and you'll find out a lot of great things about that that may help you understand what they like more. For instance, in the survey I conducted, I found out that most of my fans' favorite season is Autumn...so guess who just put out a fall/winter single about saying goodbye to fall and snuggling up with a loved one through the winter? It's important to know what your fans LIKE. After all, they are your best supporter and customer, right?
Find out if your fans are even interested in buying more music from you before you proceed with another recording! This is worth its weight in gold. If they are, what format do they prefer? Digital download, CD, vinyl? FIND OUT. You need to be conforming your business model to what your market wants, or you will sell nothing and spend needlessly. Maybe you're riding the line between rock and country. Find out if your fan base is more interested in one over the other. This might sound like a sell-out technique, but remember, your fans are unbiased and they probably see the best in you before you do. Some of the best advice I ever received was "The Market is always right." This means that if stocks go down and you're long, you are broke. It also means that the people buying your product will determine what sells. It makes all the sense in the world, so LISTEN to your market.
Okay, that's it. A few tips that hopefully will help you connect with your fans more personally in this cyber-centric world. Take care and keep making AND selling GREAT MUSIC.