Social Networking

Facebook

Social Networking

Facebook hardly needs the introduction that most of the social networking utilities featured in this column have received. The odds are that you have used it. The odds are use it on at least a weekly basis. Particularly if you’re in a collegiate a cappella group, the chances are good that you use it multiple times every day.

But have you thought critically about how you use Facebook for the betterment of your group?

Though groups use Facebook in a variety of ways, for the purposes of this article we’ll focus on using a fan page, as opposed to a group or an individual-person-esque profile. Groups have grown a bit outdated on Facebook; individual person profiles for groups are frowned upon by Facebook proper, and while there is the benefit that people may more readily accept your group as a friend than commit to being a fan, still, it’s an out-of-context use of the tools at hand.

In using your fan page, make sure you take advantage of Facebook’s capabilities as a microblogging service. Putting up regular status updates helps make you a fixture on your fans’ newsfeeds, and while you don’t want to overwhelm and annoy those fans, you do want to spread the word about upcoming shows, and you should consider how you can connect with fans on an everyday basis—suggesting songs they can check out, asking for their feedback on songs you should cover or how you should change up your attire on stage. Most fan bases have a short attention span, so if you can keep your group relevant through regular updates it will help your cause.

One Facebook’s primary functions comes as a photo-sharing service, so make sure you put your group’s best foot forward by posting albums that feature your group looking it’s best. You may also want to post photos of other groups, and use tagging to help draw more attention to your page. The same principles apply to videos. We live in a sensory world, where people want to do more than read text. Cater to that impulse.

Don’t waste the space available on your info page. Make sure you’re linking to your group’s main website, your Twitter feed, your YouTube page, etc. Each of these platforms has unique functionality and value, and the more you can network them together for the ease of your fans, the better.

Though the tool has become a bit overused, you also shouldn’t ignore Facebook’s capacity to market an event. Set up an event page for your upcoming show and invite your friend—make sure that ignorance isn’t the reason why they’re missing your event. By the same token, keep in mind that you can earn extra good will by being selective and not inviting people who you know won’t be able to come—if you have a friend who lives on the opposite coast, it’s probably a safe assumption he won’t make the trip just for this show, and he’ll appreciate being spared the invite and subsequent updates to it.

As Facebook continues to evolve, there will certainly be more and more efficient ways of using it to bolster your a cappella group. Keep an open mind and stay attuned to these advances. Everyone’s using Facebook, so make sure your group is getting the most it can out of that.

Kickstarter

Social Networking

In virtually any field of entertainment or competition, the most rabid fans tend to be those who have a sense of personal investment in the people they’re cheering on. It’s the sports fans who weathered losing seasons, rain, and snow before getting to cheer their teams to championships. It’s the people who are a part of message boards and forums about a favorite TV show.

And it’s the investors.

There may be no more tangible way for a fan to support a group than by investing money into the cause. For an a cappella group, there are certainly investment opportunities—whether it’s funding the professional recording, mixing and mastering of a new album, putting money toward the travel for a tour or appearance at a far away competition, or sponsoring the special effects for a special show.

Kickstarter facilitates donations by allowing the solicitor to write about the goal, and set a level of money they need to raise in order to achieve that goal. If donors provide enough money, the project is fully funded. If the donations don’t meet the goal, no money changes hands. Groups offer incentives to investors to spur on participation.

The group that wants to use Kickstarter should think about realistic goals and base them around the actual needs of the project. There’s no point in getting greedy, but at the same time, there’s no point in not pursuing enough funding to actually accomplish what the group has said out to do.

Groups should also consider the incentives they will offer carefully. Are the incentives things that people will actually want? Are the incentives realistic and cost effective? In general, the best incentives for a cappella groups to offer are ones that will mean something to the donor that won’t really cost the group anything. A mention of the donor in your CD liner notes is an easy way to appease low stakes donors. Front row seats for one of your shows won’t cost you money, but will probably be a nice perk for a fan. A personalized performance for the donor, autographed memorabilia, or having your group record the a cappella voicemail message for someone may take a bit a bit of time but are nice low-cost returns that give your supporters something unique and special to hold onto.

Kickstarter is a fantastic way for groups to connect with their fans on practical level to raise necessary funds, while giving back something meaningful in return.

iTunes

Social Networking

Lots of folks like physical CDs. They like having something tangible for money, they having cover art, they like popping that music into their Discman and going for a run—

OK, so no one actually uses a Discman anymore.

And while there are, truthfully, still folks who dig physical media, it’s worth noting that nowadays far more people are buying their music online, and in the current marketplace, iTunes is king.

In a social networking age, iTunes is more accessible from a participatory standpoint than any Coconut Records ever was. You may work through services like CDBaby or TuneCore, which will get your foot in the door and do most of the legwork for you for a fee, or you may apply to be a content provider directly with iTunes, but note the qualifications are pretty steep.

However you approach iTunes, the core value remains the same that getting your music sold there means opening your music up to just about the largest body of music consumers possible. Fans of your music are much more likely to double click to buy their favorite song from your group than they are to navigate your website to actually a buy CD—much less actually go out and hand you physical cash for the physical media.

In using iTunes you’re making your group more accessible to the masses, which is ultimately what social networking should be all about for an a cappella group.

MySpace

Social Networking

There was a time when MySpace was the most happening social network in the Internet.

Then Facebook happened.

Nowadays, most folks think of MySpace as the space where pedophiles and emo teens go on the prowl—and even then, only out of habit, when bored, or when looking to explicitly express how anti-establishment they are by shunning Facebook.

So what use can MySpace be to today’s a cappella group?

The utility of MySpace rests with taking advantage of what remains unique about it as a platform. Though Facebook has grown more flexible over the years, MySpace remains the platform that’s most designed for customization, ranging from custom color schemes, to being able to choose a song that will autoplay upon loading your page, to setting up a playlist for visitors to experience over a period of time. The key is not to be arbitrary about how you use these opportunities. Pick a color scheme that’s easy to read rather than cool; that reflects your identity rather than the whims of whoever is tinkering with the page at a given moment. If you’re going to have a song on autoplay, pick something that puts the group’s best foot forward while, again, reflecting the group’s identity.

MySpace is built for customization and the promotion of music. Channel these strengths toward marketing of your group, and you just might be pleased with the results.

Chatroulette

Social Networking

Founded in 2009, Chatroulette is a website built around the idea of meeting random people in face-to-face video chats. The site grew very popular very quickly through the spring of 2010 before leveling off a bit. While the peak period for Chatroutlette—during which it was featured on The Daily Show, South Park, Good Morning America and elsewhere—may have passed, but this unique approach to social networking may still have value for your group.

Consider using Chatroulette as a viral marketing tool. Get the whole group, or a subsection onto the chat and start singing to whoever you come upon. Some people won’t be interested, but others may be pleasantly surprised to make your group’s acquaintance. Become the group on Chatroulette and you’ll start gaining international attention in a whole new way, spreading your talent s to people who never would have heard of you otherwise.

Also consider Chatroulette as a source of inspiration. One of the reasons the site gained such notoriety was the tendency for people to portray themselves in inappropriate ways on the site. While you don’t necessarily want to spend your time looking at a series of people with their junk hanging out, this brand of expression does represent the diversity, and often outlandish nature of the people who go on Chatroulette for fun. Such personalities can help to inspire you with new brands of personality you might infuse into your group. You never know where you’ll get your next great idea for how to dress, carry yourself on stage, or market yourself—what better way to go looking for inspiration than on a site where the interactions are random by design?

You also might find value in using Chatroulette in performance. A cappella advocate Ben Folds have gotten more mileage out of Chatroulette than anyone when he took his laptop and a projector on tour and performed a song inspired by and for a random person he met on Chatroulette during many of his shows. Your group may not have quite the extemporaneous chops as Folds, but if you do have someone who can pull it off, this is an exciting, surprising and memorable little feature to include in a show.

Press Releases

Social Networking

In the age of do it yourself marketing and online advertisement, press releases may, at first glance, seem like an outdated mode for spreading the word about your group. We live in an interesting, transitional time, though, when print media is losing its grip, and professional media is, in many senses becoming less formal. Just the same, mainstream media remains a force when it comes to communicating with an older demographic, and still has a longer reach than many of us want to give it credit for.

Press releases remain the way in which standard media expects to hear about major news. Whether it’s your college news service, the local paper or TV news station, or a larger entity, professional news outfits still expect to see press releases regarding news worth covering—in your case, a big show, a fundraising effort, a new recording, a TV appearance, and so on. In a grown up world, there is still a need to play by old-fashioned rules, and a press release is much more likely to get your group a foot in the door than an informal email or phone call.

When crafting a press release, groups need to think about being professional, clear, and concise. Anyone can, in theory, put out a press release, so the first step is to look more professional than Joe off the street. Stick to a basic, professional font, like Times New Roman, and keep the page design formal and simple, as opposed to getting carried away with colorful design and cutesy music note graphics.

To the points of being clear and concise, think about what message you’re trying to get across and boil it down as simply as possible. Newsrooms still get inundated with information, and they don’t want to read more than they have to. State what you have going on, why the media should care, and--when applicable--where, when, and how people can get involved. Clarity will avoid the sort of confusion and snafus that waste time and deter media coverage; concision will, again, help you get a foot in the door.

Press releases may seem old-fashioned but they remain a powerful tool for an a cappella group to network with an outside audience via the media.

Facebook
Kickstarter
iTunes
MySpace
Chatroulette
Press Releases
Craigslist
Survey Monkey
Your Group Website
Skype
Blogging
Your School's Website
Email List
YouTube
Cafe Press
Twitter
AOL Instant Messenger