13: Buying Fans with Social Media (And Why You Shouldn’t Do It)

By Zach Micklea

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An increase in “unfollower” apps make it simple for bands to follow a massive amount of people, then unfollow the users that did not follow them back.

As Thomas and I have spoke about in our vlogs, social media is a key component in being a band these days. One could even make the argument that it’s the most important (other than the music itself, of course).

I’m a bit of a Twitter addict myself and over the past year or so, I would estimate somewhere between 750 and 1000 bands have followed me, then unfollowed me a week or so later due to the fact that I did not follow them back.

If I choose not to follow someone back — band or not — it’s nothing personal. I’m a full time student and I work three jobs. My time on social media is very limited. When I do have time to scroll through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, I need my timeline to not be cluttered with countless bands retweeting their friends. I need my news quickly and concisely. 

Bottom line, I only follow back people I know, bands I want to promote (i.e. all Michigan bands), and publications that give me news I care about.

But lately, I notice more and more bands are choosing this new route in gaining new fans. 

Perhaps the incline in the trend is due to more and more apps coming out that link with your social media profiles that allow you to see a list of every account not following you back, and within the app, you can unfollow that person, making it incredibly easy to mass follow and unfollow people.

This is no different than paying for Facebook likes. The only difference is the price and platform. 

Bryan H. Iglesias from Prima Vera (Detroit) thinks there is an argument to be made that “following a ton of people is a good technique for finding new fans,” but also thinks that “too many people worry about the number ratio [of following to followers] that they have, and not enough about the relationship that they’re building with their fanbase.”

One of my three jobs requires a lot of research into the analytics of social media. So I know the trends. Research suggests that the closer a person’s following to follower ratio is to 1:1, the less that account favorites, retweets, or shares the content from the accounts it follows.

Basically what that means is, if a band follows an account because that person’s ratio is close to one and are likely to follow back, that account, in most scenarios, is only following the band back to keep it as a follower. It is unlikely that the account will pay attention to anything the band posts let alone check out the band’s music on Spoitfy, Apple Music, iTunes, Bandcamp, etc.

It is not totally impossible that an account will check out a band’s music and become a fan. It does happen, but we can all admit the rarity of that.

All of these unfollower apps, sponsored posts and paid Facebook likes are no different than the payola scandal in 1950 other than money being involved. 

There is only one way to gain new fans: the old-fashioned way.

Write great music. Create original art. Be as interesting as you are entertaining. Engage with fans and they will share and support your music by coming to shows with friends, buying merch and spreading the word like wildfire.

It won’t happen overnight like we've seen with bands like Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms, but again. That is extremely rare.

As a band, you need to stay patient. Keep working every day to promote your music and grow.

Don’t look at potential fans as a statistic.

ZACH MICHLEA is the Art Director at Urban Geographer. Connect with him on social media @OUunderground.