Scott Kirsner spent the last year interviewing musicians, filmmakers, comedians, novelists, and artists about how they cultivate a following online – and develop business models that can support their creative work. The result was the new book, Fans, Friends, & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age. While you may be pitching a product that’s a bit more down-to-earth than a new indie film or a great jazz album, many of their marketing insights are universal. Here’s an excerpt from the book.
Chasing coverage in traditional media can be exhausting, with or without a full-time PR person on the payroll. Imagine all the work that goes into securing an author appearance on “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” or trying to get a band booked on “Saturday Night Live.”
Even if you succeed, think about what happens in the audience member’s mind. They may enjoy the music. They may even remember the name of the band. The next time they’re perusing the iTunes Store, or shopping at the mall, they need to remember that they liked the song, recall the group’s name, and make the purchase. That initial spark of interest needs to be rekindled – days, weeks, or months later. A tiny percentage of the audience that saw the performance on TV will ever actually consummate a purchase.
While you should certainly grab national media exposure if and when you can get it, there’s incredible power in online media coverage, specifically because the blog reader or podcast listener who gets exposed to your work is much closer to actually buying something. They’re on their computer already. The blog may link directly to an online storefront like Amazon or iTunes; even if it links to your site, you have a prominent “Buy” button awaiting visitors (don’t you?)
If a site writes about you but doesn’t include a link, by all means you should get in touch and request one. Most online publishers will happily comply – but you will be surprised how stubborn the Web sites of many traditional magazines and newspapers can be about including one little link.
It’s also worth monitoring the way people wind up at your site. If you run your own Web site or blog, you can easily get statistics software from your hosting company, or from a free service like SiteMeter, that will show you where visitors are coming from. Google Analytics, a free service, is another great option for gathering this data. Looking at this “referral data” – a long list of sites that referred or pointed people to you – will show you which online coverage is actually paying off with additional traffic. (With social networks like MySpace and Facebook, this kind of visitor tracking is just about impossible.) If your commerce vendor supports it, you may also offer certain sites a special discount code (“10 percent off if you enter the code XYZ.”) That allows you to see which sites are actually driving the most purchases, based on how often a given code is used.
All links are powerful, but some are more powerful than others. The tech culture blog Boing Boing is famous for sending so much traffic to sites it covers that many of them temporarily collapse under the weight of all those unexpected visitors. When you discover a particular site or blogger that generates a lot of traffic and purchase activity for you, put them at the top of your media outreach list. Offer them exclusive photos from your next movie shoot, or an outtake from your forthcoming album, or an exclusive excerpt from your next book. Give them reasons to keep covering you – and linking to you.
Accumulating links from lots of little online communities that most people have never heard of is not quite as glamorous as landing a spot on “The Today Show.” But the traffic and purchases you’ll get from those direct links can add up to impressive levels.
And if you do wind up on “The Today Show,” be sure you take a moment to mention your Web site, or MySpace profile, or Facebook presence. It can’t hurt – even if most people won’t remember it.