"Step" 1 – Listen
"The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people." Woodrow Wilson
Listening is the first step to the “Fan Experience” strategy in fact; listening is the heart of all strategy be it business, military or simply bettering communication. In the Fan Experience strategy “listening” acts as a guide through the ever-changing and fascinating minds of the fans. If we want to engage, build rapport and identify opportunities in fan communities - we must listen. It is important to know the difference between a passing mention of the music or a deeper experience with it because this makes it easier to determine which strategy to use. It is also critical to understand sentiment meaning whether any conversations are positive, negative or neutral. In addition, it is valuable to listen to peer to peer feedback, in other words what the fans are saying about each other. When we listen we can listen online via social media this includes everything from networks to blogs and forums, we can listen via fan mail and we can also listen in person at concerts for example.
Fans are becoming more and more empowered when it comes to their personal world of music. Advancing technology through the internet allows fans to share their experiences leading them to have richer connections with others. Fans have become more educated regarding the music creation and business process and therefore more confident when it comes to understanding it. As the technology companies hand over the control of information to the fans, other music business organisations may feel that they are losing control of their own. This doesn’t have to be the case with a good listening strategy.
There are many advantages to employing a listening strategy one of these is artist brand management. Listening to the fans can help you identify opportunities to strengthen an artist’s reputation such as addressing fan concerns. You can also measure where an artist stands in relation to any competition in the opinions of the fans. Another aspect is the overall tone of the fans’ conversations in relation to the artist and her music which can be influenced positively through your artist’s presence when done correctly. You may find that an artist doesn’t have a significant presence which is an opportunity in itself and is presents the chance to establish one on your terms with the fans that matter the most thereby strengthening ties with fan groups.
Conversations on social media are in real time and many fans take no prisoners in how they express themselves. What is said can sometimes do massive if not irreparable damage to an artist’s reputation, especially in the event of a crisis or any kind of controversy. No one wants to face a crisis however listening in on the chatter around any kind of crisis can be the one strategy that helps stop the bleeding through clarifying facts and reputation management. By taking a pro-active approach to listening music business organisations from major label groups to small independents can make it part of their marketing and fan management plans rather than a last minute tactic. Listening in this instance is significant to risk assessment and will help anticipate and prevent any catastrophes. Another advantage is identifying influencers be they positive or negative. Ascertaining your top ambassadors and critics can give you instant critical insights into how an artist and her music is perceived. By being proactive in this area you have the chance to strengthen relations with ambassadors and potentially convert critics into fans or at least neutralise any negativity coming your way.
Part of the Fan Experience listening strategy is to monitor your competition. With social media you can easily find out what fans are saying about your competitors and what their fans are saying about them too. There are numerous opportunities in discovering what fans like and dislike about any opposing teams. One thing you might be able to do is capitalise on any gaps between the competing artists and their fans. Another way to capitalise on listening to the fans is to recognise timely sales opportunities. You can gain incredible insight as to where sales leads exist. In addition to this your influencers can provide effective leverage within the fan community to help drive sales.
The internet is primarily where we go to listen and the rise in social media has given fans louder voices – they now cannot fail to be heard and it is now more important than ever to stay ahead of online fan conversations. Fans will often take to social media in order to get the attention of artists and their supporting music business organisations. As social networks expand so does the chatter and the noise that fans produce. It can be overwhelming so how do you prioritise all this information? The first thing that can be done is to find out where any conversations are taking place – are they happening on blogs, forums, video streaming platforms, short form messaging services or image-based social networks? It is much easier to participate on a conversation than create a completely new one.
The next thing to note is when conversations are taking place. Theoretically, conversations are taking place all the time in real-time so the listening strategy also takes place simultaneously ad infinitum however there will be spikes in chatter that will prove to be of significant interest. Some conversations might be event driven for example performances at awards ceremonies, sneak peaks of videos and audio, news stories or tour announcements. Another trend to look out for is cycles in chatter such as seasonal conversations or could you take advantage of back – to – school season? The most fundamental thing to note however, is “who” is doing the talking. It is beneficial to understand how much influence they have on others for example can this person sway the purchasing habits of other fans? If this ambassador were to post a comment would they have hundreds of others fans validate their point of view. Keeping an eye on ambassadors and critics can help you gather priceless input that you can use as design criteria around the artist, music and the experiences you plan to facilitate.