It occurs to me tonight that social networking for musicians might not be all that different from playing a gig, and that musicians might even find it helpful to think of it as such. Allow me to elaborate...
There are more social networking outlets than I could ever name, but I'm going to use Twitter as my example since it's the one I use 97% of the time, and the format I'm most familiar with.
Let's say you have a band, are on Twitter, and are attempting to spread the word about your awesome music to the masses. You want your Twitter followers, of course, to know who you are, that you make music, and that if they'd only give it a listen they'd enjoy at least some of it. Fair enough. But what are you really telling your fans via your Twitter stream? Are you introducing yourself, meeting people, engaging them, or are you just posting links? (be honest with yourself, and stop here for a moment to scroll through your last several tweets). Let's liken this to a gig:
How do you approach your audience at a live show? If your experience is similar to mine, you do much more than just play songs while on stage-you would begin the show by telling the audience who you are, and thank them for taking the time to be there. At some point you'd likely thank the club for having you, and remind the audience to take care of the servers that are taking care of them. You might pause between songs to either give the listeners a bit of back story behind the song you're about to play, or acknowledge some special guests that are in the audience. Those "special guests" could be friends, family, someone who loaned you equipment, provided food, or just showed you a nice time while you were in their town. You might even, at times, stop in the middle of a song, and encourage the audience to sing a song with you. Above all, you're hoping to have fun as you play the gig, and you want the audience to have a nice time too. I'm hoping most of my fellow musician friends can relate so far.
Now re-read that last paragraph and try and apply that to your social networking sites. If you're only posting links, that's the same thing (in my opinion) as going onstage unannounced, playing several songs with no breaks, then turning around and walking off the stage without saying anything to anyone. If you did this, you'd notice your audience was much smaller at the end of the show than it was when it started. Even on the off-chance that your music was so amazing that people stuck around, they'd leave the show not knowing the name of your band or anything about you other than you have some cool songs. Imagine them trying to tell their friends about your fabulous band the next day:
"Dude I saw the most amazing band last night-they totally rocked!"
"Sweet, who were they?"
"I don't know their name, they never said anything-they just started playing and it was awesome"
"Are they local?"
"I don't know-like I said, they didn't say anything-one of the dudes looked kinda familiar"
Anyway, I think you get my point by now. Even if it's not a perfect analogy or entirely true, I think it would serve a musician well to think of their social networking presence as a "gig." If you want your potential audience to give two craps about what you're doing-even so much that they'd tell others about you-you'd best let them know who you are and show some gratitude to the various people that make such a performance possible. As I've said for many years, being a talented musician and having some good songs isn't enough: never has been, never will be. Image matters whether or not you choose to believe it, and the way you carry yourself affects the way people respond to your music. Whatever your social networking site of choice, you're going to have to do more than post links.
Hope this makes some sense to some of you. Thank you for taking time to share my microcosm with me.