Marketing Strategies: 5 Tips to Consider Before You Tweet

08.01.10
Stefan Jackiw
Strings Magazine

By Cory Ramey

Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool, if you follow a few simple rules

After Stefan Jackiw played the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in Ontario, an audience member approached the violin soloist backstage. The audience member had never been to a classical music concert, and the only reason he had shown up was because of Twitter. A friend of Jackiw’s from college, now a rock musician with almost a million Twitter followers, had tweeted about Jackiw. “With a click, this guy introduced me to a million of his fans,” says Jackiw, 25, who recently made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut.

Stories like that are becoming more common.

Twitter, the popular online social networking service that allows users to post bite-size chunks of information, has a growing membership from the string world. And it’s become an effective way for string players and teachers to network, exchange ideas, and promote their careers.

Here are 5 tips to consider before you tweet:

1. Browse Before You Tweet

After creating an account, take a look at what others are doing. Notice how tweeters fit information into the 140-character limit, and familiarize yourself with Twitter lingo, such as retweeting (sharing other tweeted content) and hashtags (tagging key words with symbols—like this: #violin—that allows other Twitter users to search for those keywords). And don’t be afraid to look outside of classical music. “P. Diddy uses Twitter in the most effective way,” says Josh Gindele, cellist of the Austin-based Miró Quartet. “He talks about current projects, does lots of promotional things, or asks people to send beats they’ve written, and he uses them in a rap song.”

2. Promote Yourself, But Not Too Much

The key to successful Twitter use is to use it as more than a simple marketing tool, says Eric Latzky, vice president of communications at the New York Philharmonic. “I think what Twitter can do is create a buzz, a sense of community and excitement,” he says. While buzz can translate to ticket sales, don’t make that the goal—people get turned off by pushy tweeters.

Instead, use Twitter to personalize yourself. Some performers, like violinist Jackiw or cellist Gindele, use Twitter to make themselves or their ensemble seem more accessible and human. “I think it’s an easy thing for classical musicians to have a barrier between ourselves and our audience,” Gindele says. “Twitter is an easy way for people to understand that when we’re in Buffalo we eat buffalo wings and drink beer at pubs.”

3. Link Away

Successful tweeters frequently direct others away from their tweets. Tweets might include a link to a YouTube video, Web page, news article, or blog post. Consider using link-shortening services such as bit.ly, which keeps track of how many people have clicked on your post. In his tweets, Gindele often includes links to pictures of the Miró Quartet on tour or videos of performances and master classes.

4. Build Relationships— and Keep It Personal

Twitter is a two-way street. One way to get people to follow you is to follow them first, and to respond to questions and comment on their tweets. For example, Todd Reynolds—a New York City–based violinist and composer who performs with Bang on a Can and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble—uses Twitter to tap into a community of people who use the music software Ableton Live. Twitter allows him to exchange software tips and trade ideas with a virtual community.

Don’t hesitate to integrate the personal and the professional on Twitter, Reynolds, 46, says.

Others agree.

“Anyone can go to your website and read your bio,” says Jackiw, the violinist. “I want to find out what someone is reading, where they are, what new piece they’re learning, or what great concert or recording they’re listening to.”

Here’s one way to get into the right mind-set: while using Twitter, cellist and composer Zoë Keating imagines she’s at a party. “If you’re in a circle of people and the only thing they’re saying is ‘Hi, I have a concert tomorrow, here is the info,’ it’d be a terrible party,” says Keating, who has over 1.3 million Twitter followers. “You have to give the world a compelling reason to listen to you before you can advertise yourself.”

5. Observe Tweetiquette

Twitter has its own etiquette rules, like using an “@” symbol when talking directly to someone, or using the abbreviation “RT” when retweeting something that someone else tweeted. A big Twitter blunder, Reynolds says, is treating it as an instant–message service and having extended personal conversations.

But don’t hesitate to interact with other users, adds bassist Linda Johnson, president-elect of the Colorado chapter of the American String Teachers Association. “Twitter is like leaning over the back fence talking to your neighbor,” says Johnson, 62, “but everyone around you is hearing you, too.”

Who to Follow on Twitter

The string players interviewed for this article can be found on Twitter through their user names (or Twitter handles):

Josh Gindele, @miroquartet
Linda Johnson, @ColoradoASTA
Todd Reynolds, @digifiddler
Carnegie Hall, @CarnegieHall
New York Philharmonic, @NYPhil
Stefan Jackiw, @StefanJackiw
Zoë Keating, @ZoeCello

And here are a few Twitter accounts each of them recommends:

New York Times music section, @nytimesmusic
LA Chamber Orchestra, @LACOtweets
Eighth blackbird, @eighthblackbird
Steve Smith, @nightafternight
Bill Bragin, @activecultures
Michael Tilson Thomas, @mtilsonthomas