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Connecting with Fans on Twitter

By David Meerman Scott
Author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Second Edition

"Being a touring musician means meeting fans," says Amanda Palmer, lead singer for the Dresden Dolls and punk rock cabaret solo artist. "I go out and meet fans after every gig. It's important to make contact in real life and not just online in social media like Twitter. If you don't meet fans in real life too, then you're a fraud. If you're not comfortable getting into the sweat with them and talking with people at shows, then how can you do it successfully online? I love connecting with fans. Speaking to people at the merchandise table after the show is great. I can stay there forever."

This committed attitude has helped make Palmer a personal branding force of nature, using her infectious personality to connect with fans in person and on the Web. She has amassed a large online following on her blog, her MySpace page (more than 75,000 friends), her Facebook fan page (more than 25,000 fans), and her Twitter feed (more than 300,000 followers). Note that Palmer's band, the Dresden Dolls, also has nearly a quarter of a million friends on MySpace.

Palmer is very active on Twitter and uses it as a tool for instant communication with her fans. She frequently answers fans' tweeted questions and comments. Because she truly enjoys her connection with her followers, Twitter comes naturally to her. "It's important to have the makeup that I do," she says. "I love to answer fans' questions, and I love to make people happy. You can't fake being authentic with your fans. It's so easy to see through when other musicians are faking it, such as when some employee of their record labels tweets on behalf of their artists. Fans can see through fake tweets like 'I'm about to play at a rad club. Get tix here.' Fake artists' blogs are the same. Who cares?"

Palmer frequently uses Twitter to bring together groups of fans quickly and spontaneously when she is on the road. She tweeted a secret gig in Los Angeles one morning, and about 350 folks showed up five hours later at a warehouse space where she played the piano. It works great for her because, although she's able to get a large number of people to show up, she is not so popular that she would create a dangerously huge mob. "I'm in the sweet spot of popularity," she says. "I can send out a tweet and get 300 people to show up in a couple of days and do a free gig on the beach. I'll play the ukulele, sing, sign, hug, take pictures, eat cake, and generally hang out and connect. And I'll stay as long as it takes to talk with everyone personally. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails can't do that because he's just too popular."

Palmer does struggle with the amount of time she spends connecting with fans both in person and through the tools of social media like Twitter. "I feel guilty sometimes that I'd often prefer to answer questions from fans and do interviews and meet people than work on new music," she says. Interestingly, she has fans who feel the same way; her prolific online content has earned a following of its own. "One person at a record store gig and signing came up to me and said, "I don't really like your music, but I love your blog.'"

How Amanda Palmer Made $11,000 on Twitter in Two Hours

When you have a loyal following on Twitter, it becomes an incredibly powerful tool for accomplishing your goals. You can use Twitter to spread an idea, ask people's opinions, research a problem, or even make some money. "The great thing about Twitter is that the minute I started using it, I realized the possibilities are endless," Palmer says. She proved it one Friday night.

"I tweeted as a joke that I was all alone, again, on a Friday night at my computer, like a loser," Palmer says. "Other people started chiming in, and we were all losers. One of my friends called it a virtual flash mob, and all of a sudden there were a thousand people hanging out and following what was going on, the dialog between the fans. And we started a faux organization called The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers. We started making demands of the government like no tax on vodka, government issued sweatpants, free pizza, anything you could possibly need to be a loser on Friday night at your computer. And it was just really funny. It felt like a little piece of loser anarchy on Twitter."

Palmer set up the hashtag (unique code for finding tweets on a particular subject) #LOFNOTC for the Losers, and the thousands of people communicating made the Loser group the number one trending topic on Twitter at that moment. As members chatted, someone suggested the group should make a T-shirt. So without any planning, Palmer said, "Sure, let's do it," and used a Sharpie to make a T-shirt design. Someone suggested the slogan "DON'T STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT'S WRONG," which was added to the shirt. Palmer's Web marketing company was able to create a quickie site (which went live in just half an hour) and offered the T-shirts for sale at $25 each. The Losers group bought 200 T-shirts that night. Several hundred more were sold the next day after Palmer blogged about it. The total take made via Twitter over just two hours that night was $11,000.

Not many people can get a thousand others to gather on a Friday night, and fewer still can then sell them something as effectively as Palmer did. But that's not the real point here. The point is that Twitter is an increasingly important way for people to connect and communicate, and organizations are using it cleverly to benefit their businesses, their followers, and themselves. So should you.

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Excerpted from The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Second Edition: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott. Used with permission. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010. ISBN: 978-0470547816. This new book was released in January.

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, seminar leader, and author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, an award-winning BusinessWeek bestseller published in 24 languages. He is also the author of the hit book World Wide Rave and three other books. David presents to audiences all over the world on the ways to generate attention and build business. His blog, Web Ink Now, is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog.