Notes for the Twitterati

As a musician, twitter is a strange place to be. @harlequinskiss has existed as a twitter user for a good couple of years now, and I’ve never quite been able to get my head round what to do with it. There are reasons for this.

I put the band on twitter in the first place because I felt I had to. At the end of the day, the music industry is changing and so much outreach to fans is made through social media. Facebook, for all its ubiquitousness, is still quite a closed system, and has grown to a level where attempts to get your bands page out to your friends gets lost in the chatter. Plus the fact that facebook deliberately limits your visibility for posts you’re not paying to boost. Reverbnation generally only gets you out to other musicians, so the next big conquest had to be twitter.

So far, so good. But have you ever followed a band on twitter? Some individual pop artists use their feeds to act like a normal user: retweets plus passing comments about their lives. Bands, being corporate entities in the literal sense, tend to just bang out headlines. “Buy our album,” “like our facebook page,” “we’re gigging in Boston tonight,” et cetera, ad nauseam. If there is a music community on twitter, most bands aren’t in it or engaging in its discussions.

So version 1 of Harlequin’s Kiss on twitter was a mix of headlines and brief reports from rehearsals in an attempt to make a connection. This was short-lived and imploded along with the old line-up. Fast forward to a March last year, and you see me having a re-think.

We’d got a new line-up together after months of searching for a drummer. Our first gig was imminent. We had all of two followers. I put out headline tweets advertising the gig, and my mate Shaz drummed up some more publicity for it on his own account, along with a bit of a review afterwards. Realising that I had other real-life friends on there, I decided to change tack. If I used twitter as my personal account, it would generate more activity, even if much of it was irrelevant to what we’re doing musically.

So version 2 was born. And mostly version 2 talks about professional wrestling. Why? Because that’s the discussion community I seem to be connecting with personally at the moment. This new, more lively but less advertising-heavy, version of @harlequinskiss has had a bit of a learning curve. Lesson one: more activity means more attention. I’ve followed musicians, other musicians have followed me. Some randoms have followed me, too – wrestling fans and people with otherwise inscrutable motivations. Oh, and “follow” farmers, but I’ll return to those in a bit.

Lesson two: you can’t please everybody. Some people follow you just to get you to follow back. Sometimes it’s an obvious attempt at nefarious “follow” farming, where an account has a day of posting inspirational quotes from a month ago and no proper interactions, sometimes it’s a band hoping you won’t notice when they “unfollow” you (Clue: I have 40 followers. It’s kinda noticeable when a two-digit figure fluctuates…). But I have had one band follow @harlequinskiss only to unfollow again when they discovered that a lot of my tweets are genuine interactions with friends and fans, not the blaze of headlines and links to music samples they were expecting. Why do I think that? Because they followed us again after a genuine musical discussion. I love the idea of being part of a rock and blues community on twitter, but more important is the possibility of higher gig attendances from fans feeling they have a connection with you. And a connection on twitter means inane chatter.

So how does the @harlequinskiss account run now? Well, I’ve drummed up a damn sight more support from treating it as a personal account rather than a band advertising feed, so I’ll keep up with the wrestling talk and the nonsense chat to friends and fans. I’ve never had any truck with the follow farmers, so I’ll still avoid following back those farming accounts. I’ve made a point of always following back anyone else, though, and I’ll keep at it. I’ve got to hear from some interesting people and bands that way. And the headlines are still there, because, well, what’s the point in naming your twitter account after your band if you’re not going to advertise your gigs? Really, the point here is: follow us on twitter. We don’t just spam you with release and tour dates – we also say hi!

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~ by Scary Rob on 10 June, 2013.

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