We hear this term thrown around a lot—“building your tribe”—but what does it really mean? Seth Godin, author of the beloved book ‘Tribes’ says a tribe is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” But it’s much deeper than that. As he continues, “A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
As it turns out, this advice spans across all careers and interests. What most people don’t realize though, is that the “shared interest” he mentions isn’t your business. It isn’t as simple as saying “well I like my music and they should like my music so there we go!”
It’s about going deeper.
It’s about connecting over a shared passion/mindset/viewpoint that has nothing to do with the music you make.
The first thing you want to ask yourself is:
Where does your expertise and passion intersect?
This is a crucial first step that will help determine what you’re all about and eventually, how you can begin to attract people who are into those same things. In other words, this is where you define your brand.
I don’t want to gloss over this part—building your brand is a time-intensive process that requires asking yourself a lot of honest questions and getting comfortable with the idea that whatever you do, you’re going to be presenting a very niche version of who you are and asking people to join you on your journey. It requires vulnerability and it requires consistency—for a lot of artists, that feels really uncomfortable. But for most artists who will go on to succeed (whatever that means to you personally), it’ll be the key ingredient. Not the music, not the money backing you, but the connection you can build with your fans. And that connection comes from your brand and the bonds you share.
The reason it’s so important to focus in on expertise as well as passion is because either one of those things on their own won’t be as strong. If you’re passionate about something but have no real investment or expertise in it yet, it’s a little more difficult to fully speak about and to gain any kind of credibility with your audience. If you’re an expert in something but really don’t care about it well then, you’re not going to want to talk about it day after day, year after year. Hence, finding that intersection.
A couple questions to ask yourself to get started:
When you think of your favorite artists, what is it you love about them? (Hint: odds are these are the same things that will end up being a part of your brand) How do they convey that in everything they do from their live show to their social media presence? What can you learn from them?
What story/cause do you want to known for telling/championing?
What inspires you and how do you want to inspire others?
Provide never-ending value
You know what no one likes? Spammy social media pages that just talk about the band all day long and don’t provide anything for the reader. If you want to attract an audience that cares about the same things you care about, that connects with the same things you connect with, you have to actually give them a chance to do that by sharing those things. Posting a myriad of status’ about your new song/show/merch is just going to alienate people over time. It’s boring and it’s the equivalent to having a friend that only talks about themselves and never asks how you are.
As a general rule you should adhere to providing free, valuable content most of the time and selling only 10% of the time (or thereabouts). Generally, this means brand building posts like behind the scenes photos and videos, contests, and connection based posts like this or this. Things that connect you to your audience, spread your beliefs, and give them a reason to keep coming back.
Do the legwork
In the later years of your career, once you’re a burgeoning rock star playing festivals and stages across the world, you probably won’t have to work quite as hard to find new fans. But until then, you can’t expect to put in zero effort and have fans organically find you. While it’s true that the process of finding fans that follow you and become eventual superfans should be relatively organic, sometimes you have to pop into their life to let them know that you exist, and that you’re about to be great pals.
One of the best ways to do this is to utilize your existing social media presence. For me, IG is my happy place but for you, maybe it’s Twitter. This method doesn’t really work as well on FB but if that’s your jam, you can make it work for you.
So how do you do this? It’s simple really. Find a band (or industry figure, if you’re on that side of things) who is in the same genre/field you are, but who are a step above you in terms of where they’re at in their career (note: this really does work best if they’re only a little further along than you, rather than mega-star status), and start to pay attention to who interacts with them. Go to their page, scour their comments, and start to follow and directly interact with those people. You’ll already know they’re eager to connect and chat because of their comments on the other page, and by commenting directly on their posts, you’ll let them know 1) that you exist and 2) you start to create that recognition and eventual bond. Odds are they’ll follow you back and respond to your comment, and that’ll set the path for continuing to build that relationship.
Hint: try to comment on something you really do have an interest in, because it’ll create a more organic conversation and bond. If they have 2 photos from the last week and one is of a steak but you’re a vegetarian and one is of a puppy and you love dogs, then comment on the dog photo and tell them how adorable their dog is and ask them what its name is/how old it is/the breed. The idea is to bond over something that has nothing to do with music, and ask a question to get them engaged.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Co-Founder and Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.