Your guide to a successful online business!

Build a buzzPlenty of people have argued that record companies have been a bit left behind by the internet. Maybe that’s true. But lots of bands have certainly grasped the full potential of the web, using it to market themselves in innovative ways that simply wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago.

In fact, some of them are so good that we think they could teach the rest of us a thing or two about online marketing.

Take Them Crooked Vultures. This bizarrely-titled supergroup is one of the few worthy of the name; its members are Dave Grohl (from Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), so you can bet they’ll build a huge fanbase.

Now for the clever bit. They’re a new band (albeit with some very famous members), yet a short 14-second clip aside, they haven’t released any material for people to listen to.

There’s one official photo on the band’s website and some grainy pictures of fans queuing for tickets on their Facebook page. There’s no list of tour dates, information about the band, bios of the people involved … in short, virtually none of the stuff you’d normally expect a band to make available online.

And yet, despite this (or more realistically, because of it), there’s an enormous buzz building about this group of musicians.

Discussion on the band’s forum is lively. They’ve amassed more than 20,000 fans on their Facebook page. Twitter is awash with rumours and hearsay: will they come to London? Are they going to play the Reading Festival?

That’s not all. They’ve stirred interest further by hinting at forthcoming gig locations through a Google Map. And they announced their Amsterdam gig on Twitter, by posting a link to an image of a poster.

It’s a sort of teaser campaign online. They’re providing just enough information to get people talking expectantly, while still preserving an air of uncertainty.

Less is more

Ok – so you’re probably not starting a high-profile rock band with a bunch of famous friends. But there are plenty of other circumstances when you might want to build an online buzz about something in this way.

It could be a new product launch, a rebrand of your website or a particularly impressive special offer. Or maybe you’re running a local event, campaigning for a cause – or even launching your own supergroup.

Whatever your motives, this can be a powerful way to capture people’s attention. You can set people a puzzle, show them cryptic images … or just drip feed pieces of information to them gradually. Whatever you decide to try, there might be something you can learn from Them Crooked Vultures:

  • Less is more. If you reveal too much, you lose the element of suspense. So whether it’s a new product launch or an incredible special offer, keep people guessing.
  • Make people look for things. Rather than stating things outright, suggest them. Then let people who are interested put everything together.
  • Tell the people closest to you. Then encourage them to spread the message to their contacts. You might send out a cryptic newsletter, or post a link on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Don’t drag it out too long. People have short attention spans online and it won’t take them long to be distracted by something else.
  • Make sure you deliver. If you run a teaser campaign to get people interested, you need to make sure that when you reveal the big secret, it doesn’t turn out to be a disappointment.

Finally, a word of warning. It’s not easy to get these things right. If you release too much information too soon, you might find the buzz you wanted doesn’t materialise.

On the other hand, if you hold out on people too long, you risk losing any momentum you’ve built up. It can be a tricky balance to hit, so here’s some further reading to help:

Good luck! Oh, and if you do hear anything about Them Crooked Vultures, could you let us know? We’d like to catch them live if possible.

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