This week I want to write about how musicians can effectively use Twitter.
Why? Because I have heard a few too many people tell me that Twitter is 'not for them', or that they 'don't get' Twitter, or even that they are scared of Twitter. Trust me, there is nothing to be scared of. Nothing much anyway.
Let's start at the beginning. Why get Twitter? Well, it's a great way to see what your colleagues are up to and to make new connections with people in the profession. It is also a good place to find work, or at least auditions and depping notifications. Believe it or not, it is also possible to find funding on Twitter - if you don't ask, you don't get, but if you do ask, who knows what will happen...?
People say that Twitter is dying. Perhaps it is, I am not in the know about these things. What I do know is that it currently has 320 million monthly active users, and that they're not all about to stop using the platform at once. So while they are still online, I suggest you join them.
So, how does one get started on Twitter? Simple: create a username and password, upload a profile picture (easy for us musos - we have headshots), follow a few hundred people and get tweeting. The following bit is really important, hence the bold text. By all means follow organisations and celebrities, but also follow actual human beings who are doing the same thing as you. These are the people who will interact with you and follow you back - they are the kernel of your success on social media. Remember to interact with them too.
Next question: what to tweet about? Or rather, how does one tweet successfully? Tweet about what matters to you - let your personality shine through. I often tweet about food and cats, as these are the two things I spend most of my time thinking about. And then there's the business aspect of things - you need to self-promote! Be arrogant about it, be annoying. Use hashtags that will get you noticed (but are still relevant) and if you can tag venues, or companies who you are working with - tag away.
When you go to a show, find the right accounts to tag when you tweet about it afterwards. And make sure you get the hashtag right. For example, if you go to something at the Royal Opera House, the hashtag will usually be #ROHtitle eg. #ROHTosca, or #ROHTrittico. It's not rocket science, I promise.
Once you've tweeted, start finding things to favourite and re-tweet. Search for topics that you are interested in - personally it's often arts education and mental health. Find unusual articles and hit re-tweet. Maybe sometimes add a personal opinion using the quote option. Make your Twitter profile a multi-faceted channel of communication - it should not be all me, me, me - nor should it be filled solely with the opinions of others.
Next, download Twitter on your phone so that you can write on the go. Once you get used to it, it takes less than ten seconds to compose a tweet, hashtags and all, and send it out into the Twitter-sphere. It isn't as time-consuming as you may think.
If you want to take a more commercial approach, then check out Tweet-Deck, where you can schedule tweets for the coming weeks and months and then forget about them. I personally find this a rather detached user-experience, as it lacks the interaction of re-tweeting and joining conversations with like-minded people, but it is a practical and effective way to maintain an online presence during busier periods.
My final words are this: be bold, be brave. Just go for it. Twitter is a space for everyone to have an individual voice. It is a great audience-building tool, it is a great networking tool. And with a little common sense and discretion, you really can't go that far wrong.
Good luck, good tweeting, and when you join us, make sure to follow me @MimiDoulton!