[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinski and is the third and final segment in her “Redefining the Hustle” series! Get caught up and read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.]

We’re in the final chapter of our Redefine the Hustle series. Part 1 focused on ‘pandemic-proofing’ your time and Part 2 covered shifting your ‘money mindset’. Now, we’re going to tackle your relationship with your fans.

In the midst of all the “hustle,” artists all-too-often get so wrapped up in the panic of promotion that they forget the other side of the computer screen sits a human being who yearns to be spoken to, and not spammed at, with every post and ad.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, unfortunately that’s me, I just can’t seem to find the balance between promotion and authentic engagement,” keep reading!

Redefining your hustle around fan engagement is two-pronged:

  1. You need to shift your mindset around engagement from ‘spam’ to ‘authentic connection’, and;
  2. You need to ‘niche down’ rather than try to attract everyone. 

Many artists spam because they simply have no idea what to post other than “Stream my music” or “Follow me on Instagram.” It’s important to remember that there are two ways fans enter your sphere of influence: the ways you inspire them, and the ways you relate to them.

When it comes to engagement, it’s easier for fans to comment on something they relate to rather than something that inspires, but eludes, them. This all tracks back to the Know Like Trust Factor – allowing fans to get to know you, staying relatable so that they grow to like you, and then staying consistent enough with that message that they grow to trust you and that is when they start to invest their time, money, and energy into your music.

For example, behind the scenes posts of you recording your next single is inspirational/aspirational because the person stuck working their 9-5 may not have the courage or ability to pursue their dream. However, they may not know what to say about it other than “Cool!” or use a thumbs-up emoji.

However, posts about your pet, your love of making coffee at home, or how music from some of your influences have gotten you through a really touch time can elicit more engaged comments from your fans. They can open up about their pet, or favorite brew, or how that same artist touched them.

See the difference?

You want to make it as easy as possible for fans to comment & simultaneously get to know you more deeply. It’s important to know your fan base so you choose themes/topics that they can personally relate to and engage with, otherwise what’s the point?

Look at your email list/list of followers so far and check your social media insights to glean what you can from the data sets. You can always tweak it as you grow and get more information.

This is the second piece of the “old hustle” vs. the “redefined hustle” as it relates to fan engagement. Rather than trying to make music for everyone, you’ll be more successful niching down and owning the audience your message speaks to directly. Think about and show up for your super fans. Your customer avatar or target fan is simply an average or sample of your super fan community.

Whenever you’re stuck on what to say or what to market next, focus on speaking to that particular fan and market to them. Don’t concern yourself with gaining thousands of fans.

Concern yourself with your core fan base and show up for them so much that they are the ones that go out and bring you your other thousands of fans.

It’s part of the “old hustle” to waste your time with vanity metrics (likes, follows, unfollowers, subscribers, un-subscribes). It doesn’t serve you to have 10,000 followers and a 1% engagement rate. Your 300 followers, if you’re engaging them and relating specifically to them, will make the effort to click the link in your bio and/or follow the calls to action you have in your captions.

Much like shifting your money mindset, which we did in Part 2, here are three things you can do a few times a week to shift from spamming to authentically engaging with your fans:

1. Look at your numbers. If you’ve got The Rock/Star Life Planner we ask you this very question each week. We encourage you to set aside five to ten minutes per week to look more regularly at your analytics. Much like budgeting, take the judgment out of it and you will begin to notice patterns that can help you improve your relationship with your fans.

2. Share your story. So many artists are stuck on what to say and yet always default to spamming their audience with the same messages. Rather than focus on your music, focus on you (remember it’s all about that Know Like Trust Factor!). Get comfortable sharing yourself more often with your community. It’s ok to repeat the same story over the course of a few months – you’ll always have new followers who need to see it!

3. Focus on community. When you grow a fan base, you’re building a community of which you are the leader. Yes, you want to be ‘niching down’, but it’s up to you to make that niche feel safe and heard. The more inclusive and welcoming you make your community, the more trust you will build and the larger your niche will grow over time.

Remember, your community is not just about you – your music is only one piece of your brand. Here are three things you can do to be more inclusive (inspired by this article from Ruby Magazine’s Monique Melton):

  • Do the work to learn about who is in your community and how you can be a more inclusive leader by reading a few articles and being aware of what your community is telling you, (they may be saying it on their personal profiles – do some research).
  • Connect with and follow people of different backgrounds who share your interests and message, then invite them to join your community, (and consider joining theirs).
  • Collaborate with other musicians who differ from you and your genre. Not only will it improve your community, it will improve your creativity!

With a little bit of structure & routine and a reminder that there are humans on the other side of your screen, you will soon be able to redefine the way you engage with your fans and the way you approach your hustle.

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