In this post, I discuss some highlights of an interview I had with the fantabulous, highly popular and gorgeously talented singer/songwriter Kina Grannis. What does this have to do with social media, you say? Actually, it has everything to do with grassroots marketing, with social media and being… well, “real.”
You may have only just recently been introduced to the beautiful talented Kina Grannis. Perhaps you’ve seen her YouTube video In Your Arms, which is rapidly approaching 4 million views! Recently, Kina appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show and was featured in In Touch Weekly. She’s won numerous awards including MTV O Music Award for Best Web-Born Artist & Doritos Crash the SuperBowl contest.
Kina has done all of this on her own, without the support of a major record label, using social media – YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and yes, even now Google+.
Here is my social media discussion with Kina:
KBJ: Kina, thanks so much for joining us. Let’s start at the beginning. What made you decide to get online in the first place?
Kina: I had MySpace, but to be honest, I don’t think any growth ever came out of having the MySpace. But, the first really useful one I started was my YouTube channel. At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be such a powerful tool. I just started it because I was in that contest (the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest), and I wanted to give people a reason to come back every day to vote. I decided… to put up a video every day. Then… [the audience] can come back and watch a new video each day. I kind of got started like that.
I was doing probably half originals – half covers. Pretty quickly, I realized that somehow people were getting to my music that I did not know. So, YouTube is where the most organic growth came from, because people can accidentally find you if you’re doing cover songs.
Then there is a very human aspect to YouTube… when you are talking, being yourself and explaining your story. People really connect to that and feel like they know you as a person and they’re with you and working on your side. I found that the people that were coming from the YouTube to my website were really involved and really believed in me, not just a fan of music. Facebook came around later and [I] could actually use it to help keep people’s attention. I think it’s a good way to collect, but Twitter…I think between Twitter and YouTube, those are the two most powerful ones for me.
Like you were saying in our conversation earlier, talking with people is incredibly important but you can’t just start talking to people and make people appear. You have to find the people and I found them on YouTube. I can talk to them via Twitter. That’s where I can have discussions and have people vote or do Q&A sessions and things like that to really connect with them. I think those two are definitely the strongest for me.
KBJ: Okay. So where do you think your Facebook page comes into play? Do you just have it because you’re supposed to?
Kina: Well, I would say it’s really important. I guess Facebook and Twitter are kind of similar in that some people will be on Facebook all the time. Some people are tracking their Twitter all the time, so when I update people I update on both. A lot of people respond on Twitter, and a whole bunch of other people respond on Facebook… that’s a job, I guess. My part is a little harder because it’s more difficult to respond to each person individually. You can send a private message but it’s not…
KBJ: Yeah, it’s hard to interject into the comments, right? They’re set. Most people like that. Most typical users on Facebook like the fact that it’s threaded so they can see the conversation in one place, but to individually respond to people, it doesn’t make sense the way Twitter does.
Kina: Exactly. I’ll attempt to sometimes. I’ll post a comment and I’ll be like: @Megan: Thanks. @Timmy: Cool. I’ll be there in August. But it’s kind of crazy looking.
KBJ: You mentioned covers so I want to ask: You said it’s a really powerful thing to do covers. If somebody was getting started and they’re just starting a YouTube channel and trying to get their music out there, would you think it’s a good idea for them to do covers? Can you explain more about why you do covers on your YouTube videos?
Kina: I definitely think it’s very important to do covers. A couple of reasons from my perspective: Number one, it’s a great way to keep challenging yourself. Whenever I do a cover it’s: ‘Okay, here’s a song that has nothing to do with me and it’s produced with whatever crazy production it has… how can I make this mine?’ It’s a good challenge and I’m trying to find more sound and trying to make other things sound like that original song and connect to the audience like that song did. It’s a good challenge musically.
But other than that, if you’re just putting up original after original after original, even if you brilliant, people are still not going to find it. It’s unfortunate but people aren’t searching on YouTube for random song names to see who’s out there or up and coming artists. They’re searching what they’re hearing on the radio and if they come across you, it’s because of that original song. But then, they like you for you and then they go and listen to your originals and they like your originals. That’s how you really find people.
KBJ: I think that’s brilliant because I work in an industry where we’re always telling people to be relatable and to think like the customer even if we’re trying to sell a YouTube video or something besides music. For me this is a hard and fast example of you thinking like myself and the other people that buy your music. It just proves a point that is hard for people to understand. Say you’re trying to sell bandanas or you’re Joe’s Coffee Shop–How can Joe’s Coffee Shop be successful on YouTube? It really is to ‘think like your customer’. But how do you actually do that? This is a perfect example. I’m just kind of geeking out on that from a strategy perspective.
Kina: (laughs) Yeah, it’s definitely a cool thing. It’s unfortunate because you do eventually get some flak for it. People will comment: You’re selling out. You did this cover. Why do you need covers? You should just do originals…blah, blah, blah. The thing is the people who have supported me for two or three years will now comment back and say: ‘I love Kina’s originals. That’s why I support her, but I would never have known about her if I didn’t find her Regina Spektor cover.’ So, it’s definitely powerful…
KBJ: If you know how “search” works on YouTube, it’s a fairly easy thing to understand why that would be so powerful. Considering the way both “search” works and the way “related videos” work, it makes a huge difference.
I don’t know if you even have a comment on it or not, but a lot of what we’re seeing right now is this exact process as a result of the Rebecca Black video. People started creating covers of her video to try to get subscribers, basically capitalizing on this exact process that we’re talking about.
Kina: Yeah. I’ve definitely noticed that. It’s in the same way that any huge song on the radio can get people views on YouTube for doing covers and whatever is going on socially whether it’s the double rainbow or socially viral videos, right? This is my world so it kind of takes over everything, but it’s like the Rebecca Black thing exactly. It becomes a huge Internet thing and everyone says: Okay, need to make a video [on this topic] if I want to get views.
KBJ: Maybe if I was a musician I might really want to do a cover or if I was a videographer I might really want to do a cover just because it’s funny, but I think it’s more about the strategy of trying to get attention than it has to do with trying to making a parody of somebody.
Oh and here’s just kind of a fun question…have you ever been Rickrolled? Speaking of Internet memes?
Kina: I actually haven’t. Is that still going on?
KBJ: It’s happening with QR codes now. Do you know about QR codes?
Kina: Oh. That’s hilarious.
KBJ: My friend, Ori, was doing that the other day and I’ve seen some other people doing it: Scan the code! Everyone is so excited about scanning codes now. Ohhh, where is it going to take me? It’s the perfect little thing to go Rickroll people.
Kina: That’s so funny.
KBJ: It’s funny that no one’s ever Rickrolled you. I’m going to have to remember that and see what I can do about it.. So what would you tell a new musician, a new artist, or a new songwriter that wants to do their own thing? Let’s just assert that you felt strongly that they had talent or that they needed to get their music out there. What would you tell them?
Kina: I guess the first thing would be to cover all your bases and get a YouTube, get a Facebook, get a Twitter, and a MySpace account…and whatever other ones you want to get, but those are the main four for me….just so that anyone that could be looking for you can find you. Then I would say to get on YouTube and start posting originals and covers as often as possible. Make sure that the songs are ‘yours’ and be as genuine as possible. I think it’s really powerful to talk in your videos so that people know that you’re a real person and you’re willing to share what’s going on with them as a part of the conversation. So be real. Be genuine and then utilize that on all the other networks. On the updates keep the conversation going whether that’s letting them know about new videos you put up or just engaging them in what you’re doing and asking them how they’re doing. I think it’s a get out there and give as much content as possible. Be genuine and connect.
KBJ: That’s awesome. Thank you. Now that you’ve gained so much popularity, do you have an issue with volume in that you can’t reply personally to everything? How do you handle that?
Kina: Yes, that’s been one of the harder things. On Twitter, I try to respond to everyone. Some days it will be four days late. But when you get into all the Facebook messages and all my accounts and MySpace and emails, it gets to a point where I can’t get to everyone. It does really bother me because one message is as important as another, but if I did answer everything I would have to stop being a musician. I wouldn’t have time to write and do videos.
KBJ: Yeah, and that’s the reason that they’re writing you. Well, it is a testament to the power that you have moved people with your music. You are a real person so they feel like they’re going to get a response. That’s what I thought when I emailed you. Oh, probably her publicist or somebody else is going to get this. But then I actually got a response from you and it was really awesome. So you just deal with it as best you can, or do you have people that help you with that kind of stuff?
Kina: I have some sorting going on. I have my inquiries at my Kina Grannis email so that goes to me and my manager to address business-related people asking about a show or a CD or whatever. As far
as all the other messages, I do my best. I have my iPhone on me at all times. I can scan them really easily on the go. I’m constantly looking through them and marking them as unread in hopes that later I’ll be able to go back and respond. But if it’s something really pressing or really moving, I’ve seen it and I try to respond to it first.
KBJ: Correct me if I’m wrong,but the whole Justin Bieber effect…that’s what everybody is looking for now…that they’re going to get on YouTube, build a following, and then they’re going to get signed by a major label. I think you have chosen a different path with it. What you are doing is so real.
I thought it was really cute in one of your videos where you’re: “Oh, so go buy the CD.” I also love the video where you’re unwrapping all of your presents that people have sent to you because that’s one more way of making people feel like they’re part of the conversation. It’s as if we’re there with you on Christmas while you’re opening your gifts, which is not something we really get to do but we have the virtual experience of it.
One of the things I’m always harping on people on is in social media we say: Don’t sell stuff; just be you. But when people love you and your music, it would be natural for them to want to go buy your CD or download it. Do you think you’ve been able to grow organically because you have such a solid fan base and because you’ve so well connected with your fans?
Kina: I don’t think the end goal ever needs to be a label nowadays. There are many ways that labels can be extremely helpful and for the right person a major label could be great. For another person it could be the worst thing ever. I don’t think the label should be the goal. I think the goal is just to have the tools and use them to find your own following organically and not about hoping some day to get this big giant company to shove you down people’s throats. It’s going to be something that lasts because people know you, care about you, and want to support you.
KBJ: Perfect. That is a perfect note to end on. It’s not about the big payout at the end. It’s literally just about being you, connecting with people and creating relationships. Whatever the end goal is, positive things will come from it if you’re just a real person and you simply engage with people. Yes, you have a message to share. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
Kina: You’re welcome.