Instagram has become the most popular social media platform for musicians; It is incredibly feature-rich and allows you to engage with your audience and build new fans like no other platform, so here’s our best tips to get more fans and promoting your music on Instagram.
1. Best Type of Posts
Although originally a platform for people to show off their photography, Instagram has transitioned it to becoming an incredibly versatile social media platform, as you can publish your content and get your message across in so many ways.
This is what Instagram was made for, you can post photos of you with a caption underneath, or you can use Canva to put text over your image if you’d like to post a message or a quote.
These are the second most popular posts on Instagram, but can have an amazing impact, especially as you can get someone’s attention so easily with a fast-paced video. Don’t forget that most people scroll their feed with the sound off by default, so we recommend subtitling your videos before you post them so people can follow along even if they’re scrolling Instagram in a public place and have no headphones.
c. Blog post
Yep, you can blog on Instagram! You’d be surprised just how often people will read your captions if you can tell a compelling story. You actually have a 2,200 character limit for your captions, which is more than enough for you to upload a photograph which is significant to you and take a fan on a journey by writing a short blog post. If you need even more space, you can upload a screenshot of your blog post which has been written on the notes app in your phone.
2. Use Hashtags
People are still discovering most of the accounts they’d like to follow by using hashtags, in fact Instagram is now recommending hashtags to people that they may wish to follow based upon posts that they have liked in the past which means in the long-term hashtags could become even more significant.
For your posts to get maximum reach, you should be using at least 20 hashtags on each of your posts. The maximum number of hashtags you can use is 30 for each post, and ideally you should be coming close to this.
How to find the right hashtags to use
There are two primary ways for you to find the most effective hashtags, using hashtag tools and also looking at other successful accounts and trying theirs.
There are many tools out there which can recommend hashtags for you to use. Our recommendation is Display Purposes which allows you to input a series of relevant phrases and it will suggest the most appropriate related hashtags for you to use. You can trial and test various phrases to see which hashtags work best for you.
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Just like creating a content strategy designed for an emerging artist, you need to do the same for your hashtags. Find artists who are receiving organic engagement on their posts and look at the hashtags they are using and test them on your own posts.
When you’re typing in your hashtags on the Instagram app, don’t be fooled by the figures that pop up which tells you how often they’ve been used, the number of posts that a hashtag has doesn’t mean it’s frequently searched, so you should have niche hashtags which have people searching it rather than a hashtag that everyone uses. If you have the budget there is a platform called Sproutwhich will actually tell you which hashtags are getting you the engagement, however you will have to pay for this service.
3. Use ads and sponsored posts
When you convert your Instagram account in to a business account, it allows you to boost your posts to reach a wider audience and gain new fans.
The secret hack to ads is actually the content you promote rather than the targeting. You need to be able to create a post which will make people who have never heard of you stop scrolling and take notice, so if you’ve created a video it needs to grab people’s attention within the first 3 seconds. You can do this by having something happen in the first frame of the video or using text banners with a clickbait title. Instagram usually tries to limit your exposure when using too much text, but in our personal experience we’ve found if you promote via the app itself they tend to let you through.
If you’d like more detail on using ads you can read our other article on promoting your music on social media.
Don’t just promote your music videos
Imagine people are scrolling, what would make them stop and take notice of your ad?
In 2019 artists are now obsessed with ‘views’, it’s almost become a second currency in the music industry. And if you want to spend your money on getting your view count up then social media platforms will much oblige, but you need to make sure those views are put to good use.
Musicians often invest their hard-earned money on a high budget music video and panic that no one is going to see it, so they spend money by uploading the music video directly to Instagram and running it as an ad, but the issue with this is that a music video is not going to stop people from scrolling and then listen to your music.
Most people are scrolling Instagram with the sound off, and even if they have the sound on they’re not usually in the right mentality to sit and listen to a new track. If you think about the times you spend on Instagram, you haven’t dedicated a long period of time to spend on it, usually when you open the app you’re anticipating to consume the content for 20-30 seconds then you sign off, which means that trying to get people to listen to your music when they’ve never heard of you is useless.
If you’d like to promote your music video you need to edit it down in to a short clip and add logos and text over the top to add credibility or entice someone in to listening, perhaps you’ve had previous press which would add credibility, or you target people who are fans of similar artists and then list those artists on the video with the title “FOR FANS OF: ” which will make people stop and listen.
4. Direct Message people
Instagram has a powerful feature right now where you can actually DM anyone you like. Unlike Twitter where you can switch off the ability to receive messages from non-followers, Instagram allows you to DM anyone you like, you could even send a message directly to Ariana Grande.
You need to be taking advantage of this feature while you still can with the most effective strategy. This feature often gets abused by people asking for shout outs or for a follow back, but the best possible outcome is for an account with a large amount of followers to use your music in the background of one of their posts or Instagram stories.
You can DM your existing fans to update them on your latest releases, or even find people who have commented on posts from similar artists to yourself, and send them a polite DM making them aware of your latest track.
As well as sending DM’s to people, you can use the Instagram Discovery feature to comment on posts by similar artists, but don’t beg for people to follow you or listen to your track, add value to the conversation and if your point is strong enough people will naturally check out your profile and give you a follow.
5. Offer people your music to use in their stories for free
Content creators are always looking for music to use without the need to go through complications such as royalty collection, so offering your music to them to use royalty-freecan get your music heard by millions.
To find these people, simply find hashtags such as #makeuptutorial #inspirational or #motivation and find people who create videos who get thousands of views and have up to 2 million followers.
Here’s our suggested template for reaching out to these people:
“Hi [Account name], I absolutely loved your [mention a video and specifically something you liked about it].
I’d love to give something back to you, I’m an artist and have a track which is really taking off, you’re welcome to use it in one of your videos!”
After this engagement they will usually give you an email address to send the mp3 to.
6. Have your Socials in your Spotify account
Spotify is a fantastic music discovery platform which can help drive traffic and fans and they have now released a feature to allow you to add your social media links to your Spotify profile. This means your fans know exactly where they can find you after they’ve discovered your track on a Spotify playlist. Your social media can act as a “catch net” for fans to ensure they don’t forget you and you can quickly make them aware of future releases.
7. Stories and engagement
Your objective to promoting your music on Instagram is primarily to gain more followers, which is exactly what your end goal should be, but you shouldn’t neglect the other aspects involved in building an audience.
You have to prove to those potential followers that your account is worth following which means when they look on your profile they can see:
a. Engagement from your existing followers
People like to get reassurance from others and do the same, in marketing it is a well-known topic named social proofing, which means that if people see others following or engaging with something, others are likely to feel reassured that they’re making the right decision by following you. If you just have a dead account where you post the best images and videos but receive no comments, then people won’t be persuaded to follow you.
Engagement doesn’t arise because of the post itself, there isn’t a hack to receive constant engagement on your posts. It comes with time and nurture to build a rapport with your fans who are familiar with your content well enough for them to leave a comment by voicing their opinion, giving you support or tagging their friend in your relevant post.
Just because stories aren’t permanently on your feed, that doesn’t mean that you’re not contributing to your feed.
You need to nurture your audience and condition them to interact with your account, and the best way to this is through Instagram stories. In stories you can have polls, host Q&A’s and also opinion sliders which all allow your audience to interact with you by giving you feedback and influencing your content. As your followers will be interacting with you daily and you’re proving to them that their votes count and you acknowledge their feedback how it influences your future content, they will become accustomed to interacting with you so when you do post on your feed they’ll engage with you there too.
b. There is a strong community
People like to feel like they’re part of something (or a community), so you need to make people feel like individuals rather than just numbers, you can do this by responding to every single comment. Even if some of the comments you receive in the early stages are from bots, still reply as this increases the engagement and displays to your potential real followers that you’re willing to engage, and if they were to leave a comment you are likely to reply.
c. There is content people would like to see more of
Gaining followers isn’t about looking cool, people don’t follow accounts because they are visually pleasing, nor do they decide to listen to your music because you’ve given them a pitch in your bio, they look to see if your account is something they’d like to be involved with as well as whether your content is something that they’d like to see more of. People hit the follow but not to reward you for having a great page already but because they intend to consume more of your content. If you are creating content which has an ongoing story or theme which tells your audience there is more to come this will get people to hit the follow button when they come across your account.
8. Serve your existing followers
There is no stronger form of marketing than word-of-mouth, and people love to share hidden gems with their friends, not just because your content or music is good but because they want to prove to their friends that they’ve got great taste and a talent for discovering things that you would never have found.
Too many artists spend their entire time trying to gain new followers rather than nurturing the following they already have. How often do you DM your existing fan base, or reply to all of their comments?
By making your account an amazing thing to be a part of, the new followers will come naturally.
9. Create an ongoing theme and message
In order to create content which people want to see more, you need to have an ongoing theme, your audience needs to know what they’re buying in to. Therefore, you need to have an ongoing theme or message which your audience can buy in to. If you’re a musician who plays multiple instruments, you can build your audience through creating content for an audience interested in musical instruments, an example of this would be HANNIE who managed to accumulate 300,000 followers combined through creating content around their songwriting, production and instruments, you can check read more about them here.
Using a KISS strategy (keep it simple stupid) this will allow your audience to easily identify your themes and messages and know exactly what they’re going to be seeing show up on their feed after they’ve hit the follow button. These themes and messages can be anything you like, here’s some examples:
– Inspirational content where you create music to be played over inspiring videos.
– Political, environment or for a cause type of content where your content stands for something which will attract others who have similar beliefs to follow.
– Documentary style content which has a strong story line of your journey as an emerging artist.
– Educational content teaching your audience new skills such as live production or songwriting sessions.
10. Don’t act like you’ve already made it, act like an emerging artist
Most musicians when they’re just starting out aren’t sure what they should be posting on their social media so seek inspiration from other artists, their initial instinct is to go to established artists who have already made it and touring globally to see what kind of content they’re posting. The problem with this is that you’re assuming that this content is the type of content that made these artists successful and build a following, but the truth is an established artist needs a strategy which works for an established artist, and an emerging artist needs a strategy for an emerging artist. When you have a global fan base, it doesn’t require the same types of posts to get engagement, people are going to engage and show up to your gigs anyway.
As an emerging artist, you can’t fool your audience in to thinking they’ve come across an established artist, it doesn’t take much information to identify that you’re upcoming, whether it’s your number of followers, people who show up to your gig or streaming numbers on Spotify. What you need to understand is that it’s ok to be emerging. There are a lot of ‘early adopters’ in the music industry who get a real rush out of finding talented musicians who are yet to grow a big fan base. They even proudly share the music with their friends as they’ve discovered yet another new gem. These are the people who give new artists a platform and help spread the word to a larger audience, however if fool your audience in to thinking you’re big, you won’t attract the early adopters and those who you do attract won’t be willing to share your latest tracks.
When you’re creating your Instagram strategy, you should constantly be asking yourself “What will make someone who hasn’t heard of me stop scrolling and consider following my account?”, because tour dates, Spotify screenshots and clips from your latest music video isn’t going to cut it.
11. Give to your audience rather than take from them
It’s unfortunate to say, but people when using social media have a “what’s in it for me?” thought process, and that’s something you have to deal with. This means to get someone’s attention you need to be giving them something. You need to offer your audience something in return for their attention, whether it’s educational, an extension of their views/opinions, a documentary or your content is funny or inspirational.
By asking people to listen to your music you are actually takingfrom them. Often musicians think that they are giving to people as their music is free and of course is worth listening to, but the reality is that you’re taking from people, you’re taking up time from their day and for someone to give up 3mins of their time to listen to your song you need to have convinced them over a long period of time.
This is a difficult concept for most people in marketing to understand, however it is the absolute foundation of a social media strategy, and if you’re going to take one thing away from this article it would be this point.
12. Have Amazing Visuals
It’s important to make your posts as visually pleasing as possible. As Instagram is a platform founded upon the concept of uploading photographs, this one comes obvious to most people, however usually the next step for people to achieve this is to buy expensive photography equipment and hire graphic designers to make your account look as aesthetic as possible, but this is unnecessary.
You don’t need to invest in high end equipment to make your posts look amazing, in fact for social media purposes research has shown that a basic smartphone camera can actually outperform the top of the range iPhone in a blind test, meaning that to impress people with your images you don’t need the best equipment.
The same goes for editing software, for most people Canva is one of the best free tools out there to create social media posts to capture your audience’s attention and promote your music. Canva is completely free to use and has some amazing templates which will allow you to create visuals, tour posters or album covers without the need to hire a graphic designer.
BONUS: Things to avoid
We understand the temptation to buy fake followers, a lot of people tell us that it’s to make their account more ‘credible’ as no one is going to follow an account which only has 60 followers, but the problem is that if you buy fake followers than you’ll severely limit your chances of having your posts pushed out by the Instagram algorithm.
Instagram determines the quality of your post based upon the engagement it receives in relation to how many followers you have, so if you have 100 followers and 10 people like your latest post, that’s a 10% engagement and your post is likely to show up on more of your followers news feeds, but if you have bought 1000 fake followers and 10 people like your post, that is a 1% level of engagement so your posts will remain hidden.
We don’t recommend follow/unfollow, it’s similar to buying fake followers except they are real accounts, but a follow back is not as valuable as a new follower, it means they follow people easily, are probably following a lot of accounts and therefore not very engaged in the content on their news feed.
For follow/unfollow people often use bots, again we severely recommend against this, but if you’re going to do it we can’t stop you and you may as well make sure you’re using the best bot for doing so. It’s called Growbot and is a Google chrome extension which you install, but don’t say I didn’t tell you it will be useless!
Even on our own account, we often receive comments on our posts from artists asking for shoutouts or a follow back, but this is a useless strategy and if it were to work you aren’t receiving high quality followers who will be evangelists for your music.
This is similar for people asking for others to comment on their latest post, this method is fine if the post is relevant to the conversation, you also need to give the audience context in to the post they’re going to see on your profile and why it will add value to the conversation.