We’ve covered the essentials of using Instagram as a musician here: from mastering the very basics, like securing your name and filling out the bio, to sharing your content and engaging with your fans. Now, let’s go a step further.
Essentially, you should use Instagram:
✅ If your fanbase is there. 62.7% of Instagram users worldwide are 18 to 34 years old, making it the strongest age group, with both genders relatively equally represented (the 35–44 group represents 15.9%). Of course, live gigs give you a fairly good idea of who your followers are, but analytics will bulletproof it (we’ll get back to that).
✅ If the platform’s image-sharing nature aligns with your brand. There’s no single correct way to do it, so you can bend this one entirely to your direction.
If you’ve ticked both boxes, put your triskaidekaphobia aside – here are 13 tips that will help you up your Instagram game.
Before we start – to get insights, create promotion campaigns and gain contact options, switch to a business account: in the “Settings” menu, choose “Account”, scroll down and select “Switch to Professional account”.
When you get established, you can also “Request verification” for that blue tick by your Instagram account name. It applies to “notable public figures, celebrities, global brands or entities it represents” and brings more credibility, but you don’t have to hurry if you’re not there yet.
Or to other superstars, for that matter. Worldwide tours, endorsement deals, brand collabs, etc. all contribute to a different Instagram strategy than what an emerging artist needs. Plus, it took them a long time to get there as well.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out artists who are at a similar stage to you and are outperforming you on Instagram (in your genre or wider). Look at their tactics, captions, hashtags, how they engage fans, promote their music, and so on. If possible, incorporate it into your tactics. To find the artists you can learn from, artist popularity charts can help (see details in #13).
When your content is in question, having a cohesive thread will make you recognizable. If somebody recognizes your posts without even looking at your name, you’re winning. Plus, people appreciate authenticity.
Whatever it is, expose your uniqueness and intertwine it with your music.
In marketing, this is called a unique selling proposition or USP. How are you different from other artists out there? Think about your USPs and incorporate them in your content.
It all depends on where your career is at any given moment, but keep in mind – when making your Instagram plan, set specific and realistic (but ambitious!) goals with a timeframe.
✔️ By the end of 2021, I will get 10,000 new Instagram followers.
✔️ Every week, I will put out 3–4 high-quality Instagram posts.
✔️ I will post a series of Stories at least every two days.
❌ I will get better on Instagram.
Although the last one is quite obvious and also not incorrect, it doesn’t give you a specific target to go after. Adjust your strategy to get there.
It's better to start with a thousand followers who are interested in your music, engaging with your content, and are likely to listen to your music, share the word, go to your gigs, and become loyal fans in the process, than a million fake profiles.
Though it might be tempting to get that follower count high quickly, buying followers isn’t a good long-term tactic. Nor is the follow/unfollow technique. Promotors, labels, brands… in fact, everybody you’ll cooperate with in the future will be interested in your actual engagement, and the latter two approaches won’t work to your advantage.
Rather use the tactics below.
Fans like to look behind the scenes and feel like they’re a part of the community. This is your chance to give them a window into your life that you can fully control. Let them hear a preview of a new track, ask for their opinion, take them to the studio, tell them about your gigs.
Make your Stories more engaging by using the Q&A, poll, emoji slider, and quiz features.
When fans react to your Stories, like their response, comment back, like one of their recent posts, share their answer/response/question, or give them a shout-out. Everybody likes to be heard.
Share a spontaneous glimpse of your life. Stories will be there for 24 hours only anyway. And if you want them to stay on your profile, organize them into "Highlights" categories. You can edit the Highlight covers to keep them in line with your visual identity, or keep them “organic”.
Besides having a strong fanbase, a strong music network can give you a massive leg-up in the future. Put work into expanding your base. Starting a conversation through Instagram Stories is a smooth beginning.
Include other artists who you like or have discovered in your Stories, listen to their new track and tag them. Are you a fan of somebody’s artwork/production skills and would like to work with them? Share their work and show your appreciation as a nice segue into the coveted DMs.
By now, you likely have a few industry influencer profiles with highly engaged communities on your feed, whether it’s relevant news and media, podcast hosts, review channels, etc. Make sure to have a constant presence in their comments (make sure you personalize the message) so you can get noticed not only by them, but by their followers as well. That’s how you’ll create a doorway to your account.
Additionally, find artists and industry influencers you like, follow them and engage with them. Remember: engagement is a two-way street – respond and keep the conversation going. An active account will make other followers more likely to join the conversation.
If you have some very engaged followers, it’s a good idea to DM them so they can be the first to listen to your new tracks. Do the same with the tastemakers who might feature you and other artists who follow you, to build a stronger relationship.
We’ve covered the difference between Stories and posts in detail in our Instagram warm-up. Your feed is there to stay, so put a little more thought into the process and create high-quality posts. Think about your feed as a whole – does it represent you as an artist to somebody who scrolls through it for the first time? Would it convince somebody to click “Follow”?
Analyze your content, put it into categories and plan ahead. Pick a day of the week with a dedicated theme. It can be anything from “Horns up, it’s Friday” for the rockers, sharing “Monday motivation”, eating a taco every Tuesday, throwing it back on Thursdays, etc. Find something that works for you and build up a fun rapport.
Don’t just wing it, plan ahead so you won’t be stressed out when you haven’t taken a new pic in the past few days. Reuse old photos that didn’t yet make the cut, crop up old interviews or live gigs, and share them to your feed.
If you're worried about running out of content, take a page from Charlotte de Witte, one of Techno’s hottest names:
“I try to keep my social pages healthy by posting quite frequently. I have a folder on Dropbox with pictures and videos that haven’t been posted yet, in case I wouldn’t have anything specific to say. That also ensures I spend less time worrying about social media.”
To find an ideal time to post, look at the times most of your followers are online. Encourage them to turn on post notifications, so they never miss your content and drive your post reach with early engagement. When it comes to engagement, don’t solely focus on likes and comments. The number of times your post has been saved or shared in Stories is also a great engagement metric.
A good motivation for your followers to be alert when posting is to drop some free merch every couple of weeks or so. The ones that comment and like in the first minute will be up for winning some cool freebies. That’s what Gary Vee did with his “60 second club”. (And if you’re new to merch, here’s a guide that will help you.)
For the DIY design of your images, Canva will help. Use it if you want to polish your posts, create an ad (more in #12), or share a message or a quote. For a more genuine feeling, you can write the latter by hand and post a photo of it or take a screenshot of your notes. There’s also plenty of other tools that help you correct brightness, contrast, saturation, etc. of photos – most of the time, your phone will do. You can try free mobile apps such as Adobe Photoshop Express and Google's Snapseed.
As for videos – think about including subtitles, as most people scroll through their phone with the sound off. Don’t limit yourself to 60-second videos. If you want to share a longer video, use IGTV. For an example of smart format use and engaging listeners, see the video of comedian Andrew Schulz.
Use Instagram Live for Q&As, live premieres of your tracks, conversations about your collabs, etc.
You can make Instagram Live a regular weekly occasion and set the basis for a podcast, which is a great way for your audience to get to know you. That’s how Tory Lanez (before the controversy) actually broke records with his Quarantine show.
Here are some simple things you can do to get prepared.
Both fans and music pros find new artists by using hashtags (plus, people can also follow specific hashtags), so don’t underestimate their importance. Check what hashtags successful artists, similar to you, are using. For tools that can help you with that, go to #13.
Try getting close to the maximum number of hashtags, which is 30. Prepare them beforehand and copy them in your first comment.
It’s not only important to use and follow hashtags. Choose 20 hashtags that are meaningful to you and your content. Take some time every day to search through recent posts with those hashtags and try to leave meaningful comments that will make people check out your profile and return the attention.
Organic reach will only get you so far. Now that you have a professional account, you can create ads. Three things to have in mind:
Our attention span is getting shorter. If your ad is a video, make sure the very first frame is attention-grabbing, and consider that people tend to scroll through their feed with the sound turned off. Rather than uploading the entire music video, boost eye-catching 15-second clips, and add your logo and text.
Your ads don’t have to be only music videos though. Be creative. If you’re using an image, try making sure that the text doesn't exceed 20 % of the image. Even though Facebook recently removed the rule, they are still encouraging it as they "found that images with less than 20% text perform better". Also, coin a clickbait-y, clear and concise caption.
Put yourself in the skin of a fan: Would it catch my eye? If not, improve it.
The trick is to deliver the message to people who might be interested in your music. One example: If you’ve been featured in a playlist, you can target fans of other artists on the playlist with a simple scroll-through-and-click visual. The thing is – it’s more likely that somebody will give you a second thought if you’re connected to somebody they already like.
If a particular ad worked better, find the reason and apply it in the future.
Using a professional Instagram account allows you to see basic insights. To learn more, combine it with tools like Viberate's music analytics. Here’s how you can use Viberate analytics to up your Instagram game: