I know I promised a comprehensive HOWTO in last week’s blog post, Your social campaign needs 1000x followers but I was spending time with NPR over the weekend, as heard through WAMU 88.5FM here in DC, and TED Radio Hour came on, titled “Giving It Away” so I had to discuss this instead this week. What really caught my attention was the last segment, “Amanda Palmer: How Do You Get People To Pay For Music?“ Amanda Palmer discusses her past as a street performer (drop a dollar in the hat for the Eight-Foot Bride), busker (a street musician) and how she’s taken everything she learned from relying making her living from the kindness of strangers and passer-by’s and brought it into the Internet age.
If you listen to the NPR segment or watch the video, you’ll hopefully get me, feel me.
The first, most important, point I believe in Amanda Palmer’s TED talk has to do with asking for help, asking for what you want. And in that moment of vulnerability you accomplish four things: you build trust and intimacy, you become more human, and you may very well get what you want.
And building trust, intimacy, and becoming more human — and more accessible — is always a challenge for brands; and, keeping whatever trust, intimacy, human face, and accessibility as your brand scales can feel like an exercise in futility.
I have a feeling that the years of blog posts I have written have not remotely been able to convey the relationship we have with both our listeners, fans, customers, clients, prospects, and community — and it is intimate. And it is intimate even in situations you may not appreciate or even realize.
Years ago I attended a “church development” meeting in Rehoboth, Delaware, and our OD consultant told us that villagers feel way more attached to the local parish than their behavior suggests: though there is the core members: the Vestry, Clergy, and Choir, the daily and weekly congregants, the members, and the Christmas and Easter visitors, the reach goes much further. Who gets to claim the parish as “My Church” is not defined by the Priest but by the villager: even villagers who never attend — or have attended only once for a Funeral, Baptism, or Confirmation, or Wedding, often listen to the peeling of the morning bells and feel connected to it: that’s my church.
In my opinion, connecting intimately with your community online does not limit you to just the people who bring your band brownies (to show you their love), who get your music for free when they’re too poor or overpay when they’re passionate and flush, or even the people to whom pass out the extra brownies (because you can’t ever eat that many brownies) — they’re everyone else, too (even folks you may not appreciate or even realize).
But what’s important here is that the way you engage with your “apostolic core” — your sanctum sanctorum — ripples, echoes, and resonates outward, from your the folks who take you into their very own home when you’re in town to the “follow you everywhere” and “never miss a show” crowd to the folks who have ever been to a show, to the folks who listen to you and you only (but have never seen your face on anything but an album cover), to the “I have all her albums” crowd all the way through to someone who heard a song once and maybe likes it enough to find out who it was — and even further out, to the faintest tone of the church bell.
You don’t really need to become besties with all of your followers. You also don’t need to convert all of them to membership right away either. What you need to do is build as much connection as possible with the members you already have — those natural allies — and do it out in the open!
Personally, the level of devotion that Amanda Palmer’s fans have towards her makes me like her more — and I don’t even know her music! That her fans are willing to open up their homes to her, feed her, bring her brownies, and feel guilty about not being able to afford to pay for free music speaks volumes about her character and her willingness and ability to love.
It also says a lot about her. It makes me think about how trusting she is. Not a fool (I mean, she survived the streets) but that fearless person in the trust-building exercise who just closes her eyes and goes ahead and falls backwards into the arms of her co-workers without pleading and cajoling.
I know I promised to write about how to build lots and lots of followers on Twitter, etc, but I was so impressed by Amanda Palmer that I couldn’t wait. And, this is also a reminder that you can — and should — be able to maintain and grow your intimacy with your core group of followers while still being able to grow your general audience. And the better you nurture your social media family the more that public display of affection will ripple all the way to the most casual audience member.
Like I said, after a decade of blogging about just this issue, I must admit that Amanda Palmer has said it much better than I ever have.