Whether you’re an author, a musician, an artist, a life coach, or any number of other people aspiring to gain a fan base, the question of how to get to something from nothing may seem like a daunting task. All of us who have sought to gain fans and followers have been there: we’ve felt the difficulty of getting the first few likes on your posts, getting people to show up to your shows, and getting people to buy your stuff. When you’re just starting out it can seem impossible, but there are ways to build a fan base from scratch, if you’re willing to put in the work.
Here are some must-dos:
Get Started on Social Media
Social media may make you roll your eyes because it is so oversaturated: everyone is on social media and maybe you’ve dipped your toe into it and not seen any success. But the fact that everyone else is on social media is exactly the reason why you need to be there, too. In marketing we talk about points of parity and points of difference: a point of parity is a thing you must do because everyone else is doing it, and a point of difference is a thing you’re doing that no one else is offering. To be successful, you have to have both the parity and the difference: you have to meet the base expectations and then exceed them. So how does this translate into social media? Let’s look at the major platforms individually and see how you can differentiate yourself.
Instagram is all about the visuals, and there are so many different ways that you can leverage this. If you’re an artist, then odds are you already have an Instagram account where you share your work–and don’t be afraid to share your work! This is where you need to show off. If you’re worried about thieves then use a watermark, but you must have your stuff where people can see it.
But other creators can utilize visuals as well: musicians can post pics of their concerts and tours; authors can make creative book displays (they call this “bookstagraming”); motivational speakers can post quotes and imagery; chefs can post pictures of their dishes. And if you don’t have something to show off, then show off pictures from your life: your favorite writing chair, your new cooking utensils, your practice sessions.
The more content that you can get up, the better. And of course use hashtags at every opportunity, especially jumping on trends.
One of the best ways to get engagement on Facebook right now is through video content, so don’t think that you need to post a lot of text. Create a Facebook business page for your community to follow and engage with, and use that to post updates on what you’re doing and planning. Keep followers in the loop with everything you’re up to.
And Facebook is perfect for starting conversations. On your Facebook business page, ask questions and engage with your fans and that personal touch will be the thing you need to gain followers.
Twitter is all about the short posts and updates. People go to Twitter for news (about you and your business) as well as opinion (about anything you feel is related to your brand). Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, and, as always, respond to comments. When people see that you’re replying to their comments, they’re more likely to reply, and that’s what builds loyalty.
Also, Twitter is a great place to join larger conversations. It’s one of the few places where you can reply directly to celebrities and reporters. Sure, they might not reply to your post, but remember that they’re trying to engage just as much as you are. They may be inundated with replies, but you might catch them on just the right day to get a reply and maybe even a retweet.
YouTube is all about engaging content on a consistent basis. If you’re always posting on Fridays, always post on Fridays. Give your viewers something to expect. It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be overly professional. Most smartphones have cameras and editing software that will get you a decent video you can upload, and you can be showing off your business in no time.
Pinterest is a different animal from the others, but it’s really a monster in the social media world. Post relevant content, and be active on the Pinterest boards, sharing other people’s content as much (or more than) your own.
Combine Social Networks to Work Synergistically
Looking at that list of social networks, it can be overwhelming to think that you have to make use of all of them and follow all of those guidelines. The good thing is that you can share similar information on them and get them to work together. Want to show a segment of your concert on YouTube? Post an excerpt of a song on Facebook. Want to post images on Instagram? Don’t forget to cross-post them to Pinterest. When you get things working together, then if you gain traction in one network it will cross over into another. Someone with an active YouTube channel can also host an active Discord server, or a Facebook fan page where you can interact and talk.
Don’t Forget About Email!
Email marketing is still 100% a great thing, even in these days when people are turning to social networks for some of their communication. Email marketing is a powerful tool, and as you grow your following on social media, you can collect email addresses for newsletters and alerts. A regular newsletter (not too often; no one wants spam) will keep people engaged even if they don’t frequent the social networks that you’re growing. Email is also a great place to start contests, give away swag, offer perks, and give extra-special bonuses to your those on your list, making your newsletter an exclusive club that people will want to be a part of.
Build a Website that Combines All of These
In this day and age, you need a website, not only for static content, but to combine all of these other media marketing efforts into one easy-to-use platform.
But for starters, don’t forget about the static content. Every website needs an “About Us” page with all of the information that people will want to satiate their curiosity. You’ll also want to post links to anything that you’re selling, be it albums or books or workshops or art. If you’re an artist or photographer, you need a website as a gallery–one place where someone can consume everything that makes you you.
And in regards to the non-static content, post your videos to your site. Link your Twitter feed. Link your Facebook page. And yes: blogs are still a thing, and they’re great for search engine optimization and internet marketing, which is very much alive and well. You’ll want to be blogging, even if it’s just cross-posting the information that you’ve posted elsewhere.
Give Perks to Your Fan Base
You need to reward your fans for sticking with you through all of this. They’ve dedicated a lot of time to following you and consuming your content and now is the time that you give them something back. The ideal place to do this is through your email marketing, but advertise it on all your social! Say “I’m going to be giving away tickets to my show to someone on my subscriber list” and then collect as many email addresses as you can get.
But the perks don’t have to be contests. They can also be sneak previews, behind-the-scenes looks at what you’re working on. If you have a book coming out, throw the first chapter up on your website to gain traction for it. If you’re going on tour, have a “making of” video with shots of you and the band in the van going to the theater and getting ready for the show. These kinds of personal glimpses behind the curtain will be the reward that your fans need for sticking with you through everything.
Depending on what your business is, Patreon is a great way to both earn money and reward superfans. By donating a little money to you every month you can send them Patreon-only videos and blog posts–stuff that they can’t see anywhere else.
Consistency is Key
It’s not good enough to tweet only when it crosses your mind once a week, and no one is going to keep checking your pages if you never update them. Set a schedule for yourself and say that you’re going to post a video every week, or twice a week. Determine that you’ll post to Instagram every weekday. Check into Twitter every morning or night to update your fans on what’s been going on. As people are able to rely on you for quality content on a schedule, they’ll start showing up on the assigned day and demanding you produce–and that’s what you want.
Engage with Your Audience
Above all, engage with your audience. Sure, there are mega celebrities who never reply to Tweets or YouTube comments, but when you’re starting out–and even when you’re established–it’s important to keep your fans happy and rewarded for sticking with you. Don’t abandon them once you’ve “made it”. They’re the ones who got you where you are, and you need to give them respect for that and dedicate time to them.