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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Using Hashtags To Increase Your Twitter Presence

One of the most egregious errors for an artist using Twitter is overlooking the use of hashtags (the "#" symbol before a keyword).

Using a hashtag is like including a keyword in your tweet. It's an unofficial feature of Twitter but now widely accepted and supported, and is an easy way for people to search for and find a particular topic.

Here's how it works, using some of my own tweets from the last couple of days.
"The Secret To The Merch Table. Want to sell more merch at gigs? Here's how. http://bit.ly/7GFjDq #merch #gig #bands"
This is a simple tweet regarding my Music 3.0 blog post from yesterday, complete with a shortened url link. At the end are the hashtags #merch, #gig, and #bands. How did I select them? First of all both "merch" and "gig" appear in the tweet, but I researched them first to see what kind of searches there were by going to hashtags.org (You can also do the same search on Twitter at twitter.com/search). There I searched for "merch" and determined that there was a sizable enough search so it was worth using, as was "gig." I figured that bands would be most interested in this tweet and the blog post, so I did a search and found that "bands" was also sizable, so I used it as well.

Here's another way I could've used the hashtags in this tweet.
"The Secret To The #Merch Table. Want to sell more merch at #gigs? Here's how. http://bit.ly/7GFjDq"
In this case I embedded the hashtag directly into the tweet text. This works too but I find it too difficult to read and it can turn quickly into a negative for less sophisticated users, so leaving some room at the end for the tags seems to work a lot better.

Here's another example.
"The Magic High-Pass Filter. Some tips for using the mixer's secret weapon. http://bit.ly/dpL9bv #highpass #filter #mixing"
Same thing here. I did a quick search and discovered that #highpass had a lot more searches than #high-pass and #mixing more than #mixer (there was also some confusion with a food processor as well).

Since I've been using hashtags the traffic to my blog sites have gone up by about 25% and I've gained some more Twitter followers as well. Using hashtags is a great way to help people find you, but don't forget to include a link to take them to your blog or website as well, since that's the real goal.

Follow me on Twitter either here, or here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Secret To The Merch Table

In Music 3.0, we use music as a promotional tool and not as a moneymaker for the band or artist. Where the artist really makes money is from gigging and merchandise. This income stream concept isn't really all that different from any time in the past though. In fact, one of the most powerful music attorneys in LA once told me that most famous recording artists have always made 95% of their income from touring and merch, not record sales.

Even if merch is really where the money is at, most musicians have a natural aversion to selling it (or selling anything for that matter). Yet one simple act that doesn't directly involve selling can help you make up to $500 a night from the merch table. Here's a great tip I found on a post by Daniel Kohn and his askkohnny blog.

In his post, Kohn talks about a band he saw where the lead singer would announce during their show, "After our show, we're going to be hanging out at the merch table, so come and say hi." He wasn't specifically selling anything, just announcing that the band would be available to chat later and where to find them.

At the end of the set came another announcement from the lead singer - "Thanks again for coming. We are xxxx. We'll be at the merch table so come and say hi," who immediately jumped off the stage and headed for the mech table where he was followed by fans.

At that point, nature took its course, and fans began to look at, then buy the merch as they were talking to the band (and buy and buy). It's a brilliant, low-key and low pressure way of getting people to look at your merchandise, which is always half the battle.

This one simple act can make a big difference in your merch sales, and that's the one place that you can be assured of making money these days, especially if you're just starting out. Remember, you don't have to physically sell anything yourself, just be there and talk to fans. Can you imagine what the sales would be like if Bono did that after a U2 concert?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Social Network Changing Of The Guard?


By most accounts, a strange thing happened at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference this year - a new social network dominated.

While last year was the year of Twitter for most of the communications between attendees, and the year before it was Facebook, this year foursquare was the social network of choice for learning about what and where things were happening at the show.

If you haven't joined the foursquare craze, it's a combination of social network and game. Everyplace you go you "check in" to receive points, and you can see where your friends are as well. The more places you go (even if they're the same ones over and over), the more points you receive and you move up the rankings amongst your friends and players, unlocking prizes, secrets and suggestions as you go. While it started as strictly a consumer network, businesses are now getting in to the act by giving free items to players after 10 or so visits.

But foursquare is more than a game. It's a way to explore and share your experiences with your friends. If you check in at a restaurant, for instance, you might receive some suggestions regarding the best item on the menu, or the best place to sit.

There's a foursquare app for most mobile phones and that's where this network shines, making it one of the new generation of mobile apps that can truly exist without it's web counterpart. And at the rate it's exploding, it may soon become one of the most used phone apps ever.

Is foursquare just this years fad and will it have some legs? It's too early to tell. But even though Twitter use seemed to slow down at SXSW this year, it shows no signs of overall diminished use, which is also true of Facebook. But remember that there are over 100 social media networks that have more than a million subscribers with new ones coming on line ever day, so don't be too surprised if a new social media app that hasn't broken out yet dominates at next years conference.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finding Keyword Phrases - Part 1

Following up on my deep linking post of the other day, I thought it would be a good time to talk about keyword phrases since there's so much misunderstanding about them.

The common mistake that people unfamiliar with SEO (search engine optimization) make is to add as many words as they can to the metadata in hopes of improving their search rank. A common example would be for the website for The Blu Bullit Band to use an assortment of meta tags like "blue, bullit, band, group, guitar, music, vocals, blues, willie dixon, eric clapton, robert johnson, etc.

Here are the problems when this occurs:

1) Don't underestimate the boffins at Google. They're smart and always ahead of the curve. Whenever they think that someone has figured out a way to game the search rankings, they change the algorithm to compensate. Google figured out years ago that web designers were typing in hundreds of keywords into the metadata to ensure a higher search ranking, so they changed the system. 4 or 5 is now the most that will rank, and adding more is known as "keyword stuffing" for which you'll be penalized.

2) Choose those 4 or 5 keywords (or keyword phrases) carefully and keep them relevant to the page. In our example above, The Blu Bullit Band used "willie dixon, eric clapton, robert johnson" in their metadata. If the copy on the page with those metatags doesn't contain those phrases somewhere, then Google raises its digital eyebrows and penalizes you again. That's to prevent you from just using Lady Gaga keywords (like Lady Gaga, Pokerface, Paparazzi, Just Dance) in an effort to have her traffic give your site a look.

One of the good things about Google is that it places great importance on the user experience, and if anything diminishes that experience, the website owner will pay for it. In this case, if someone searching for Gaga or Clapton or Willie Dixon was directed instead to The Blu Bullit Band's site, that wouldn't be a great user experience unless there was something relevant to those keywords, so Google guards heavily against that. That's why all links must be relevant. If you put Gaga in the keywords, Gaga better appear on the copy of the page.

3) Don't use those keywords too much. Keyword stuffing can work another way as well. Even if you only use 4 or 5 keyword phrases (that's a multiple word phrase that counts as a single keyword like "Blu Bullit Band" or "black mini HD camera"), but then repeat them over and over in the copy of the page, that calls for a spanking from Google too. Different experts will tell you different ratios from as low as 1% to as high as 5%, but if you keep those keywords in the 2% range you're probably safe. That means that for every 100 words, you can only use your keyword twice.

Although not directly related to keyword phrases, Google also penalizes your website if you have broken links (a big no-no), and although you don't get penalized, Google can't index Flash files so any text within is never seen by the search engine.

In the next part of Finding Keyword Phrases, we'll look at how to find phrases that work and how to apply them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Music Alliance Pact Promotes Music Discovery

Music Discovery is one of the buzzwords of Music 3.0, but while other such phrases might be more technobabble than description, this is one phrase that carries a lot of weight in the music business for one reason - no music discovery, no new music business.

For most of recorded music's life, consumers discovered new music through a single source - the radio. With music radio listening decreasing in importance every day due to the tight playlists and takeover of talk-radio, consumers have had to look elsewhere to discover new music and that has mostly been from a variety of sources online.

Music-related blogs have increasingly become more and more important to users trying to find new hot music, and they act in the same way that the FM DJ's did in the 70's. You listened to the DJ's show because you trusted their taste and knew that you'd probably like what they played. Same with many music bloggers. You read them in the hope that you'll probably be introduced to something you like.

Now comes a new twist on the music blog idea. Every month on the 15th, 34 music bloggers from 34 different countries cross-post an identical list of hot bands from their nation along with MP3s. This blog group is called the Music Alliance Pact (MAP) and is the brainchild of Scotland's The Pop Cop as a way for the acts that he writes about gain exposure beyond Scotland.

It's a great idea that once again shows how small the world has become. While acts have sometimes gained exposure in other countries in the past, they always required the enormous infrastructure of a major label to do so. Now, an unknown local band in an overlooked corner of the world can gain exposure around almost everywhere in practically no time at all. Good job, Pop Cop!

Here's a list of participating bloggers, thanks to Hypebot.




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