In previous posts I have spoken about social media being an excellent tool to market yourself in the digital age. You have access to your current fan base and there is the potential to attract more fans through a few taps of a keyboard and pressing the word “send”. Every social media platform is different though and while you might be great at one it doesn’t mean that should be your only tool. Twitter has been my favorite and the one that has helped me the most but I’ve also used Facebook to market these weekly posts and Instagram so you can see what is saved in my camera roll.
This week I wanted to focus on using Instagram to build your brand along with tips on best practices to make your profile stand out among the sea of endless accounts. While you may have a unique story to tell, it can get lost in the shuffle if you’re not telling it in the right way. Every little detail counts when it comes to using a social media platform to market yourself and your music. If you don’t have an Instagram account you can even create one through your Facebook page (Facebook owns Instagram).
“Instagram is for posting pictures but many artists fail to see the ability to engage with your fans in the comments.”
When you look at your profile there are a few things you’ll notice. Just like any social media platform, you’ll need a profile picture and bio so people can distinguish who you are once they find you on here. You should use one of your best pictures or a press photo if you have one. Do not use blurry or grainy photos; this picture needs to be high quality so people will recognize you once they click your profile. I used a great shot that my girlfriend took of me over the summer for mine. There’s plenty of sunlight so you can see it’s me, it has some light filtering, and I’m having fun in the shot.
The next thing you’ll need to do is include your artist name, your username (which should reflect your artist name), a link to your website, and short bio. For the bio you can have some fun but make sure just like you did on Twitter that you include the most important things about you as an artist. Have you been featured in a big name publication? Has your music been played on a TV show? You want to include these things so people can see your accomplishments if they’re discovering your profile for the first time. This all can be updated at your leisure so if you have something new happen for your career you can add and subtract as needed (there is a character limit for your Instagram bio just like Twitter).
Instagram is for posting pictures but many artists fail to see the ability to engage with your fans in the comments. Responding back to a fan should be a priority even if it’s liking their comment. This helps in building a relationship and shows that you care about their support. You should also engage with other accounts similar to yours by liking and commenting on their pictures.
I see many people who post on Instagram (non-artists included) that upload a picture and feed it to all of their social media platforms. This is not a good practice and it offers no value for your fans. Each social media platform is different. If I can see what you’re posting on Instagram just by going on Twitter or Facebook, what benefit is there for me to follow you there?
Using hashtags may seem like a chore but in reality they work well on Instagram. People search for hashtags to discover aesthetically pleasing photos (more on that later). When using hashtags you should find a set that work for you and define what you’re posting. For example: if you’re an artist from Chicago you may want to look into searching for hashtags like #chicagohiphop, #illinoishiphop, #chicagomusic, etc. You can scroll through a hashtag like your own Instagram feed and see pictures people have been posting under this hashtag. When you search for a hashtag you will see a number next to it. This indicates how many times the hashtag has been used by others. You’ll want to use hashtags that have been used at the minimum 1,000 times.
The number of hashtags you should use to have your content discovered can vary. Some people say using 30 is best while some will say using between 9-15 is great (Hootsuite did a post that you should look into). Overall it depends on how you feel with your pictures so experiment with what works best for you. If you’ll be using the same hashtags on each picture I suggest making a note in your phone to save these so you only have to copy and paste after you upload your picture. I would recommend posting your hashtags in the second comment, following your caption for a cleaner appearance.
“Instagram can be fun but it’s a tool for you to build brand awareness and should be treated this way.”
How Instagram Posts Should Look
While the apps name suggests uploading pictures “instantly” that doesn’t mean they all have to be pictures you took at the moment. You can use pictures that you’ve shot on a DSLR camera or filtered through different apps. In the past I used Instagram to post screenshots of articles I had written and pictures that had nothing to do with my brand. Instagram can be fun but it’s a tool for you to build brand awareness and should be treated this way. You don’t have to be an expert with the camera or editing app but it’s important that your pictures look presentable for your timeline and for your layout. Here are some tips on making your feed look aesthetically pleasing:
- No posting screenshots!
Instagram users want to see pictures of you in action or in the studio, not a screenshot of an article. There are ways to talk about a blog you’ve been featured in where you don’t have to post a screenshot. For all of the pictures I use to promote these articles on Instagram I have my girlfriend help me by shooting pictures of equipment that is relevant to the post or the music industry. You can then talk about your post in the captions and it helps to clean up your feed.
You can use the filtering process on Instagram but you want to make sure your pictures stand out when someone is scrolling their timeline. Arlene from Do Orlando Local recommends using an app called A Color Story. She uses this for most of her pictures on her Instagram feed and it’s free (some filter packs can be purchased in the app). The goal when adding a filter is to make it look more vibrant without making it look completely processed. She helps me with all of my pictures and you can see a better example of this by checking out her Instagram (a feed she’s grown from 0-1400 followers in a year).
- Picture Taking Process
The pictures uploaded to your profile should be the best quality shots you have taken or someone has taken of you. Remember to give credit to anyone who has snapped a picture that you will be using (ask permission if it’s a picture you like but do not have access to). Like I mentioned for your profile picture, do not upload blurry or grainy quality pictures. Take some time to setup a photo shoot with a friend or you can use your phone to take studio pictures when you’re recording. You want to portray a certain look to your brand and blurry pictures will not help your cause. It’s ok if you don’t have anything to post for a day or two. Posting on Instagram just to say you posted for the day is counterproductive. With the use of hashtags people will discover your content even days after you have posted it.
Every social media platform now has analytics for you to see how well each post performs. For Instagram this helps in figuring out what time of day your followers are on the app and what days of the week that your posts will perform the best. You can also see how many impressions your posts have received, your top posts for the week, the gender of your followers, their age range, and locations. Consult these stats before posting to ensure maximum exposure for your fan base.
Thank you for reading again this week! These articles will be posted every Monday so make sure to follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay informed about upcoming posts. You can also watch Periscope chats on related topics while you wait for the next article. If you have a topic you want me to address, feel free to contact me and I’ll be more than happy to talk about it. Email questions/topics to: firstname.lastname@example.org with “Indie Artist Advice” in the subject line.