Written by Bob Fichtner
Things to Consider
Social media and social networking can be powerful tools for communicating with your audiences, fans and the communities where you perform. With a little effort up front and some ongoing efforts throughout the year, your quartet or chorus can leverage the power of social media and social networking to your benefit.
For those of you old enough to remember the old Faberge shampoo commercial about “…and they told two friends,” you should immediately grasp the power of social media and social networking. For those of you not old enough to remember ‐ look it up on YouTube.
Why does this matter? Social media and social networking is a very cost‐effective way for you to reach a large number of people. Rather than sending mailings to a list of people, or maintaining an email list and sending things out, you “publish” information on your site or send “updates” to your fans that opt in to receive information from you. Using freely available (and free!) tools, you can send information to hundreds or thousands of people with a few mouse clicks.
The real power of social media and social networking comes when people to whom you send information share it with their friends. One post to one person might be shared with their friends. If their friends like it, they may pass it on to their friends. If you start with 500 fans and only 1% share the information, it still has the potential to reach thousands of people. It is similar to putting up a show flyer at the entrance to the grocery store – lots of people walking by every day. Some will notice it and some won’t. But given the costs of getting involved with social media and social networking are nominal, besides someone’s time, your quartet or chapter doesn’t have much to lose.
Where Do We Start?
There are many flavors of social media and social networking, with hundreds of sites offering services. Just Google “social networking sites” and see for yourself. However, the most popular ones include
Facebook and Twitter.
Before you dive in and start setting things up in any of these sites, there are several important questions
to which you should know the answers:
- What do we want to accomplish with social networking?
- a. Raise awareness of our quartet/chorus?
- b. Sell tickets?
- c. Recruit new members?
- Who is going to set it all up?
- Who will manage the content over time?
Before We Get Started – Copyright Laws
I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV. But I do know that the Barbershop Society has been very
forthright in communications about copyright laws. Be sure you are familiar with these laws before you
start uploading videos, MP3s or other audio files to the Internet, whether your web site, a social media
site, YouTube or other publicly accessible location. If you haven’t done so already, click on the links
below for information from the Society on how to handle these and other matters related to copyright
Facebook is the current king of social networking sites. If I had to choose one site and one site only for social media and social networking, this would be it. What started out as a way for college students to stay in touch with one another – both in school and out of school – has turned into a site with a broad base of consumers using it regularly. Hardcore users are on the site daily, if not more often.
First StepsThe Account
One of the first decisions you will have to make regarding setting up on Facebook is whether you will create a “business account” on Facebook that is not associated with a particular individual or if you will create the site using a member’s personal account. On the surface, that seems easy – but it really isn’t. Facebook started out as a way for individuals to stay in touch, not a way for businesses or music groups to communicate with fans or followers. Everything about Facebook is geared towards individuals, so while Facebook allows for business accounts, there are some downsides to going this route. Click on the link below and read for yourself just what they are. Personally, I would lean towards using a personal account, but you have to make that decision for your quartet/chorus. http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=721
Group or Page?
The next decision you’ll need to make with regard to Facebook is whether to create a group, set up a page or both. Just keep in mind that if you set up both, you will need to update and manage content at both of these places, essentially doubling the amount of work you have to do. Once again, there are pros and cons to each of these. People “join” a group, but become “fans” of pages. Which sounds better? The links below are all good resources for understanding the differences and benefits that each offers.
Again, if I had to pick one of these, I would opt to create a fan page.
The Fan Page “Admin”
The Fan Page Admin is a Facebook user who manages the content on the site and has the ability to edit the page. It is probably best to have more than one person in your quartet/chorus designated as an admin of your page. Why? People come and go. If the person who is managing your social media sites leaves and they were the only person with access to your pages, your sites become boat anchors.
Create Your Page/Group
One of your designated admins will actually create the page. The steps are fairly straightforward and can be found at http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php
IMPORTANT – click on the box that says “Do not make Page publicly visible at this time. (You will be able to edit and publish later.)” This will allow you to set up and customize your page and create some content for your page before you open it up to the world. If you don’t, people will come to your page and there won’t be anything for them to do there.
Get your vanity URL
When you first set up your fan page, Facebook will give it a URL like this - http://www.facebook.com/pages/MidwestVocalExpress/409635288331?ref=mf
Not very easy to remember or to tell people so they can visit your site. Go to http://www.facebook.com/username and you should be able to create a more memorable name, like http://www.facebook.com/MidwestVocalExpress You may have to wait until you have 25 fans , but do it as soon as you can.
There is a lot that can go into setting up a fan page and you need to decide how much effort you want to put into it.
At a minimum, you may want to consider the Wall, Photos, Videos (copyright legal only!), Events and Discussion. The more content you have, the more people will want to visit your page or receive updates from you. If you build a page and never post any content, fans will become bored and you’ll have wasted your time and effort.
Add candid photos from rehearsals and retreats showing your members having a good time. Have any CDs? Add a “discography” tab and enter them, along with a link to where they can buy them. Did you just raise money for a local charity? Post that on your page and link to the charity’s web site. Did your quartet get on the radio to promote Singing Valentines? Ask the station director if you can post the audio file on your fan page with a link to their web site or if they will post the audio on their web site and then link to it.
The possibilities are endless. Be creative. Be genuine. Be prodigious!
Now that you have at least some content on your page instead of a blank wall, go ahead and publish it. Put it out there for the whole world to see. After all, that’s why you did all that work, right?
Promote Your Page
The corollary to “If a tree falls in a forest…” is “If you create a Fan Page in Facebook and don’t tell anyone about it, how will you get any fans?”
Your admins should become the first fans. This will then show up on their Facebook wall. Then ask every member in your chorus who is on Facebook to become a fan. Don’t force them to sign up for Facebook if they don’t want to. The whole premise of social media and social networking is built upon people opting in and giving you permission to reach out to them. There are many ways you can promote your page. Below are just a few of the things you can do:
- "Suggest" the page to your family and friends. Ask your fans to do the same.
- Add the page to your “favorites.” Ask your fans to do the same.
- Post a note on the Harmonet inviting everyone to become a fan.
- Add the URL for you fan page to your letterhead, show flyers, mailings, emails, web site, show programs, etc. Anything you publish should automatically include the link.
- Add a “fan badge” to your web site. http://www.facebook.com/facebookwidgets/fanbox.php?page_id=88926183463
Promote Other Pages & Content
You are not the only fish in the sea. If you see something that someone else posted and think your fans would want to see it, share it with them. Give proper credit to the original author, but by all means share it.
- Post links to interesting pages, even if it isn’t barbershop. Think choral, a cappella, singing, music – chances are your fans may find those topics just as interesting
- Post links to the Society, Sweet Ads and Harmony Inc
- Post links to (legal) videos on YouTube, such as Crossroads at International
- Link to your District fan page, if there is one
- Link to quartets in your chapter ‐ fan pages, web sites or both
- Link to other chapters in your area
Chances are, they will link back to you or become a fan of your site. Be generous and your generosity will be returned.
Encourage Your Fans to Get Involved
Another important aspect of social media is that it allows for two‐way interaction. TV and radio (excluding talk radio) are one‐way broadcasts. They publish and you watch/listen. Social media breaks down those walls.
Ask your fans questions. What is their favorite song of all time? What is their favorite song that they’ve seen you perform?
Invite them to post things on your wall (if you want this and have set this up). Instead of you dominating the conversation, people will see others posting and may feel like chiming in as well. Keep it fun and interesting and they will be more likely to want to promote or share your page with their friends. It takes time, but once the snowball starts rolling downhill, you’ll be surprised by how quickly it can pick up speed. It may take a month to get 100 fans and another month to get 200. It may take three more months to get to 300. Be patient. Keep at it and the fans will come.
One of the downsides of social media is that with a billion+ channels of information available on the Internet nowadays, it is easy for your content to get “lost” in the vast ocean of information that is out there. Don’t be afraid to publish the same information over the course of several days or weeks. Just because you posted that awesome video of Crossroads two months ago doesn’t mean that everyone who is a fan saw it. And guess what – people who are new fans within the past two months likely haven’t seen it either. So post it again. And again in another three months.
Obviously you don’t want to post the same information on an hourly basis and be considered a “spammer.” Respect your fans time and they will respect you for it.
In some respects, a Facebook fan page in and of itself is a form of advertising. However, you can also place paid ads on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ads/create/). The costs are very reasonable and you have the ability to target what types of Facebook users will see your ads. You can target by:
- Geography – country, state or city (including cities within an ‘x’ mile radius)
- Relationship – single, married, or ??
- Likes and Interest – e.g. “singing” or “chorus” or “choral” or music
- Friends of your current fans
As you make targeting selections, Facebook will tell you how many people it can potentially “reach” with your ad. Unless you have an unlimited advertising budget, it is likely you won’t reach all of them. But you can see if you go overboard in your targeting if Facebook says it can only reach 10 people based on your criteria. Play around with it.
The costs are fairly nominal and you can pay by the impression (how many people “see” your ad) or by the click (how many people click on your ad). You can set a daily budget and the minimum is only $1.00 per day. If you have a show coming up in a few weeks, you could tell Facebook that you would like to spend $20 a day for two weeks. Or $5. It’s all to you. Keep in mind that clicks will cost more than impressions and other people are bidding to have their ads placed on the walls of the same people you might be targeting.
Above all, track your advertising efforts. Have the person handling your tickets ask people how they heard of you. Maybe offer a special promotion for your Facebook fans – mention code “123” and get $10 off an order of four or more tickets. If you don’t track this, you won’t know if the money you spent on the ad resulted in any ticket sales.
You can also use Facebook to recruit new members. Post information about an upcoming guest night on your page and ask your fans to share it with their friends. They may not be interested, but might know someone who could be.
And similar to promoting a show, you could place an ad to recruit new members. The Nashville Singers successfully recruited a number of members using Facebook ads. Use the targeting abilities available in Facebook ads to have ads displayed on the walls of people who might be looking for an outlet for their talents. Start small and try something. If it doesn’t work, change the target and try again. Keep at it until you find something that works.
Next Steps for Facebook
This manual has only begun to scratch the surface of what you can do on Facebook. Try things. Experiment. Visit the fan pages of other barbershop choruses. Visit the fan pages of other non‐BBS choruses in your area. See what do and then try it using your own group’s style. After all, we are a society founded upon “preserving” things.
Twitter is a “micro‐blogging” site. You create an account and try to attract followers – people who will see what you write. It’s called a micro‐blogging site because unlike regular blogs, where you can post as much text as you want, on Twitter, you are limited to 140 characters. You might think that it is hard to communicate in just 140 characters and you would be right. But you can just as easily post a message (called a “tweet”) with a link to a much longer message on your web site, Facebook page, Facebook event, or any other place on the Internet.
A great resource for learning more about Twitter is http://mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/
Steps to Setting Up a Twitter Account
Ok – I Have An Account – Now What?
Once you have an account, you should find people you know who are already on Twitter. Fortunately, Twitter has some tools built into it to make this easy.
Similar to Facebook, you need to promote your Twitter account. Again, tell chorus members and ask them to tell their family and friends. Publish it everywhere – web site, flyers, programs, etc. Send an email to the Harmonet. Post it on your Facebook page.
Following vs. Being Followed
Just ask you invited people to become a “fan” on Facebook, you will want to invite people to “follow” you on Twitter. You will also want to follow other people back. Use the tools in Twitter to find people. Search on Twitter (http://search.twitter.com) using keyword like barbershop or quartet to find other barbershoppers on Twitter and follow them. Chances are, they will follow you back. Then, when you post information (“tweet” something), they might “re‐tweet” it, which means all of their followers might see it.
As I mentioned before, tweets are limited to 140 characters. You have to be interesting, yet concise, when posting information. Learn about URL shorteners (Google it). Don’t be afraid to cut words out, just as long as people can still understand the gist of your comment.
What should you tweet? Anything and everything. Information about upcoming shows. Information about a great rehearsal or coaching session you just had. Links to great videos on YouTube. Links to your fan page on Facebook. Links to buy tickets to your next show. Links to information about other groups’ shows – both barbershop and non‐barbershop.
Remember – it is a conversation . Don’t dominate the discussion. Ask questions. Read what others are saying and reply to them. Be genuine.
Some people don’t consider YouTube a social networking site, but since the whole purpose is to share videos, and barbershopping can be experienced via both audio and video media, it can be an important part of your social networking plan.
You could decide to set up a “channel” on YouTube for your chorus or quartet and upload all your video there and then link to it via Twitter, Facebook, etc. Or you could upload your videos straight to Facebook, then link to them via Twitter. Or just do Facebook.
On Facebook, there is no limit for the number of videos you upload as long as each video is under 1024 MB and under 20 minutes. On YouTube, your videos can be up to 2GB in size and 10 minutes long. These should be more than enough for most barbershoppers. You obviously can’t upload your two‐hour Christmas show, but you could load snippets of those shows as teasers.
Above all – keep it legal! Don’t post a video of your quartet that an audience member made during your recent contest unless you have secured the proper licensing for it.
There are tons of sites out there that you can read to get additional information about how to use social media and social networking to your advantage.
Social Media Examiner is a blog with tons of info, including tips on how to promote your shows/events on Facebook.
There are also many books available, including:
FACEBOOK FOR DUMMIES BY LEAH PEARLMAN AND CAROLYN ABRAM
FACEBOOK MARKETING FOR DUMMIES BY PAUL DUNAY AND RICHARD KRUEGER
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FOR DUMMIES BY SHIV SINGH
Keep in touch with what others are doing. Join the BBS Marketing discussion group on Yahoo (http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/bbsmarketing/)