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How to Improve Your Online Profile

Harness the profile-boosting power of the web and you’ll put your career on the fast track. Here’s how to succeed online – and not get lost in cyberspace.

Last updated: 20 October 2020

When it comes to self-promotion, the Internet is a double-edged sword. Personal websites can be created in a morning. Free-to-join social media can find and nurture an audience. An unsigned artist with negligible budget can make their mark around the world, while sat at their home computer. It’s an egalitarian model, especially compared to traditional old-school advertising campaigns, which are beyond the reach of all but the most established stars.

But there’s a punishing flipside. Thanks to those same benefits and low bar for entry, the web has created fierce competition between musicians, all competing for the limited time and attention spans of transient music fans. It’s no longer enough to just have an online presence. To build a profile, sustain a career – and avoid shouting into the void – modern musicians must learn how to work the web.

Start with your website

As a musician, your website is your online headquarters, and with cheap self-build packages from Wordpress and Wix, there’s no excuse not to have one. You should have dedicated sections for live dates, recent news, bio, merch, examples of your music and favourable press cuttings, all embellished with professional photos. It’s critical that your social media links are prominently displayed above the fold of your homepage, so casual visitors click through, follow you and become fans. Likewise, use your social channels to drive fans back to regular blogs on your website. Be smart and your website is also a good way to start building a database: why not run a competition and use the entrants’ email addresses for a mailshot next time you go on tour?   

Choose the right social platform for the job

Join as many social sites as you can realistically manage, but remember that content should be tailored depending where you’re posting. Media-sharing platforms like Instagram and YouTube are great for bringing fans behind the scenes with exclusive photos and videos, while Twitter is ideal for interacting with followers and showing personality. “Remember that all social media platforms are slightly different and have different audiences,” says acclaimed Worcestershire-based singer-songwriter Tazmin Barnes, who has been tipped by the BBC, placed second in the National Final of Teenstar UK, and has an active presence on Facebook and YouTube. “For example, Instagram is for younger followers but Facebook is a better business platform.”

Post regularly

A neglected social account looks worse than none at all, so maintain a steady flow of posts and use tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to schedule content during hectic times. Your fans have busy lives and short memories, so it’s better to flag up your forthcoming tour at regular intervals rather than making a one-off announcement six months in advance. “Post regularly – but not too often – and at times when your audience is most likely to see your content,” advises Tazmin. “If you don’t post often, you can very quickly be forgotten, but it’s important not to annoy followers with pointless updates or endless sharing of unrelated content.”

Make your content shareable

There’s a risk of your music becoming sidelined as you scramble to maintain your online presence. But by making your content personal, honest, funny, revealing, useful, shocking and audio-visual – in short, making it shareable – you can leave your fans to spread the word. Use hashtags to ensure your Tweets are seen by those with an interest in the topic (eg. #unsignedbands) and tag relevant firms and individuals. “Keep the quality of your content as high as possible,” advises Tazmin, “and always use interesting text and good photos and videos, especially on YouTube. If your social media is high-quality then viewers may also assume it’s likely your music and performances will be. Of course, it’s important to tag others that feature in your content, but also people you want to see your post, like festival organisers or radio stations.”

Engage with your fans

Some musicians treat social media as a one-way street, simply posting content then logging out. But you’ll build a more dedicated fanbase if you engage with replies, start a dialogue and share the news of contacts working in related fields like music journalism and photography. “Try to engage your followers with posts that ask questions or ask them to do something like click a link,” says Tazmin. “Always respond and thank them for the comments. Use social media to give insight into you as a person. Followers and fans want to know you are a real person and are always interested in your backstory.”

Avoid the hard sell

Social media experts call it the ‘80/20 rule’, meaning that 80% of your content should be fun, relaxed and relatable – while only 20% is actively pushing your new releases and tours. It might be tempting to tip this balance in favour of self-promotion, but doing so will risk alienating casual visitors with what feels like a hard-nosed marketing campaign.    

Take the high road

Not everyone who arrives on your website or social feed is there for the right reasons. Sometimes, you’ll be critiqued. Occasionally, you’ll be abused. The key here is to take the high road, blocking troublemakers instead of replying and being drawn into a tit-for-tat. “Be nice to everyone online, even if their comments are negative,” says Tazmin. “It’s never wise to burn your bridges in this industry. It’s a small world and reputations spread fast – good and bad.”

Don’t forget old-fashioned ‘face time’

Musicians have the most success when they achieve a synergy between their online and real-world presence. On tour, be sure to circulate amongst the crowd, letting fans put a face to the username. Be present and engaged at the merch table as fans drop by: this not only gives you a better sense of who’s consuming your music, but another opportunity to collect emails for your growing database. On that subject, make sure that everything on your merch table is printed with your website URL and social handles.