Seven Unconventional Ways to Use Twitter

[Editor's Note: This post is by Jonathan Ostrow (@miccontrol), the co-founder of MicControl, a music blogging network based on a social networking platform.]

Discussing Twitter, its advantages and disadvantages and how it should be properly used by musicians is obviously not a new subject.

If you want to learn more about the basics, check out the 3.24 Million Google results on the subject, or check out the above image to figure out where you fall on its continuum.

Even with all of these posts and graphs out there, musicians are still using Twitter in ways that are either incorrect, or are just horribly uninteresting. So in an attempt to open up the discussion, let’s explore a few unconventional ways that musicians can use their Twitter accounts. The idea here is for musicians to use their Twitter accounts in a way that is ultimately unique enough to rise above the static of the thousands of self-promoting musicians, increase their following, and more importantly improve their engagement with fans.

1. Real-Time Setlists
This is by far the most obvious, and most consistently overlooked use of Twitter. The real-time focus of Twitter gives musicians the perfect opportunity to let fans track the set lists of shows they are unable to attend. This unconventional use of Twitter is most suited for any musician or band who has put a strong focus on the live performance aspect of their music. However, this is really the most beneficial for bands who spend the time and create a varied setlist from show to show.

Of course, if you don’t want to clutter your tweets with setlist updates, or want to give your fans the option to either follow your setlists or just follow your regular tweets, you do as Phish did, and create a separate account that is solely for setlist updates:

2. Focus Groups
Just recorded a new demo? Finished a track but feel something is slightly off? Or maybe this demo could lead to your best work yet, and you’re just looking for a little validation from fans and friends? In any case, you can very easily and effectively use your Twitter account as a focus group to receive proper feedback.

Song.ly is a great service that allows you to post a link to an mp3 that will allow people to listen to the track but won’t allow people to download it. This should help you avoid people spreading around a track that isn’t quick finished (though if you are concerned about that, I would avoid posting the track to Twitter all together).

3. Take Requests
This one is fairly straightforward. Ask fans for cover song requests or, if you have a large catalog of original songs, simply ask for requests of your own songs a few hours or a day before an upcoming show.

This strategy can take an interesting turn if you decide to take to uStream or any other live streaming service. You could turn a simple online performance to a unique request-centric live stream, taking requests from fans over Twitter in between each song. This is a great way to empower your fans, increasing engagement and fan loyalty.

4. Tweet Coordinates/ Date/ Time to an Unannounced Show
Some may say this is a bit cliché, but if you have a dedicated fan base in a single area, this is a great way to put on a guerrilla show, especially if it’s at an unusual venue like a house party, or even outside a major venue for a larger, well-attended concert.

5. Question Of The Day
Unless you have fans that are already willing to do anything they can to interact with you, you may need to nurture the process and openly encourage your fans to respond. But don’t stop the encouragement! A question of the day is a great way to get your fans to interact with you. In fact, if you create a unique hashtag (i.e. #mybandQOTD) to accompany every question, and invite your fans to use it for their responses as well, you are creating an easy way for people to track all of the questions, as well as track other fans’ responses, creating even further interaction with each other! As an artist, one of your most important, long term goals, which is also one of your biggest obstacles, is to create a community out your fans. This could be the jump-start that you need to achieve this goal!

6. Offer expert Advice
Have you put hundreds of hours into researching and perfecting how to record your acoustic guitar, properly mix your vocals, or apply preamp effects in Pro Tools? As an artist, you can use Twitter to offer your expertise to your following.

Screenr allows you to record videos of your computer screen that can be tweeted to your followers instantly:

7. Market Research:
By now, most people are familiar with the analytical opportunities that exist through Twitter – RTs, mentions, #hashtags and even link shortening services such as bit.ly, ow.ly and song.ly can be tracked to measure engagement. However, Twitter also gives you a great opportunity to do some market research, to create an even better idea of who your fans are, what they like, what they need, and what they do on a daily basis. No one will appeal to an entire population, so it is crucial to create a very detailed description of who your target market is. This will give you the opportunity to work with people who are most likely to identify with you or your music without wasting your time dealing with people who just don’t care.

Of course, these are only a few unconventional uses of Twitter that can be beneficial to musicians. Try mixing some of these together, or using them to create your own unique ideas to increase your following and fan engagement.