Evil marketing, good marketing

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting pair of compare 'n' contrast articles about on-line marketing.

The first is about the sleazy world of fake Twitter accounts--you can pay people to create huge blocks of Twitter accounts that will follow you and reTweet you and generally make you look more popular than you are, at least to people who give a crap about Twitter.

"If you're not padding your numbers, you're not doing it right," [Ethically-Challenged Rapper] says. "It's part of the game."

Can you guess that I disagree? I mean, if "the game" is to impress some idiot gatekeeper, OK then, but if your goal is to actually reach readers, I don't see how this helps, especially if you are a novelist. If you're not positioning yourself as a non-fiction expert, social media in general isn't all that helpful, and having a bunch of fake followers...? Plenty of real people are already ignoring you on Twitter, trust me. And I'm not even getting into the fact that if you pay for a bunch of fake Twitter accounts to follow you, you have absolutely no guarantee that Twitter won't shut them all down 30 seconds after you buy them.

Ethically-Challenged Rapper's argument in favor of doing this is that it's more cost-effective than advertising on Twitter. I don't know what that says other than that you probably shouldn't bother to advertise on Twitter, either.

(And can I just take a moment to note that it infuriates me when people assume you have to cheat to win. You don't. Remember how people were arguing that paid reviews, while bad, for some reason should be the norm? Remember how that blew up? Nobody likes a cheat.)

Article #2 is about asking fans to give you their e-mail address, so that you have a database of people who already know they like your stuff. (Lindsay Buroker has a lot of useful things to say about this strategy as well.)

Oh, and look! Actual numbers indicating value!

A fan who gives Arcade Fire his or her email address spends, on average, a lifetime total of $6.26 to buy music, merchandise and tickets directly from the Canadian indie-rock act.

Meanwhile, the Icelandic band Sigur Rós boasts an email base of fans worth an average of $10.91. And followers of the progressive rock band Umphrey's McGee generate an average $32.96.

Industrywide, the average fan email address has a value of about $3.78 in direct purchases from artists over the owner's lifetime, according to new data from Topspin Media Inc., a six-year-old Santa Monica, Calif., company that manages online stores for more than 70,000 artists.

That may not sound like much, but it is nearly four times the price of a single from Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store.

Also, as a manger for The Pixies points out, when you've got a mailing list of existing fans, advertising to them couldn't be cheaper--you just shoot out an e-mail, and you're good. The cost savings means that your profit margin on purchases is even better.

The bands that really maximize revenues offer unique (and pricey) goodies exclusively to fans--totally something writers can do. And freebies are always good--according to the article:

Fans who get free music in exchange for an email address are 11 times more likely to make future purchases directly from a band than fans who get nothing for forking over their contact details, Topspin's data show.