Marketing Fail (?): Fighting on Twitter

At this point, you are hopefully aware that Twitter is an effective communication and marketing tool for musicians. Granted, it doesn’t do everything well, and there are certain unspoken rules one should abide by.

But is it okay to fight on Twitter? And, if you’re a musician, is it maybe even a good idea?

It’s clearly a good way to get attention. Twitter beef has been lighting up different corners of the music universe for a while now – Tyler the Creator starts shit on what seems like an hourly basis – but the past two weeks have featured two particularly colorful examples: Ciara and Rihanna got into it at the end of February (overlong explanation here), and Chris Weingarten and his old band, Parts & Labor, were slugging it out earlier this week.

Each highlights the potential gains and losses that come with fighting on the Internet. In the case of Weingarten vs. Parts & Labor, the whole thing was a stunt: Weingarten was DJing at the release party for Parts & Labor’s latest album, and the two figured that the easiest way to get bloggers to notice would be to start calling each other names. It worked, too: both Brooklyn Vegan and the Daily Swarm, two of the web’s bigger music news aggregators, posted about it, and a good time was had by all in the Monster Island basement.

The other spat was very real, and though Ciara lost the battle (“good luck with bookin that stage u speak of,” was Rihanna’s kill-shot), it got her fans mighty stirred up, and many rallied around her. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any way of capitalizing on that sudden surge of emotion amongst her fans. If you’re going to step into the ring, you’d better keep the following things in mind:

Pick On Somebody Your Own Size
A fight is not a fight until aggression is met with aggression. But on Twitter, it’s exceedingly easy to walk away, or just plain ignore, the twerps who are trying to get in your face. You’re not going to successfully get into a fight with Bret Michaels or Russell Simmons, but you might be able to piss off that band in Minneapolis that’s always bidding on the same gigs as you on Sonicbids.

Fight For Your Band’s Principles, Not Your Personal Ones
At the end of the day, everything you do on Twitter is about brand extension, and so if you’re going to get after somebody, your motives had better be clear to your fans. If you’re a jazz bassist, it may throw some people off to see you attacking PETA for being so hostile. If you’ve already talked about your dislike of PETA elsewhere, that’s one thing, but Twitter is the wrong place to reveal inner passions or pet peeves.

Treat It Like the Dozens
For those of you unfamiliar, the Dozens is basically a kind of insult contest that ends only when one person loses his temper. If there are certain aspects of your brand or your public profile that you’re insecure about, remember not to let anybody see it. Let your fans decide who’s out of line.