When it comes to contemporary social media marketing, Instagram has in many ways become an artist resume of sorts, allowing musicians to be discovered from the comfort of their bedrooms. That said, for Instagram to do you any good, you need to be engaging with users and growing your fanbase. Here, we explore how to organically build your following on the platform.
Guest post by Christine Elise Occhino of Soundfly's Flypaper
We’re living in an awfully interesting time now, aren’t we? Musicians can be discovered and earn major opportunities from the comfort of their own home, without ever even leaving their bedroom!
Instagram has itself become a living, breathing résumé for many artists around the world, and a bonafide creative transmission platform. Gone are the days when you actually had to perform live to get discovered. And although I don’t personally subscribe to the platform’s “popularity contest as marketplace merit” ideology that seems pervasive today (some influencers go as far as buying their followers to make it seem like they have more “fans”) the fact remains that Instagram is, for all intents and purposes, a pretty great space to grow one’s fanbase.
So let’s talk about how you can earn better organic engagement on Instagram (the right way), and get as many new eyeballs on your artistry as possible.
1. Quality Counts
The first thing you should be thinking about is posting quality content. Without photos or videos to show what you do, it’s nearly impossible for anyone new to find or like you if you aren’t already well-known for something else. The internet can be unforgiving when things don’t look great.
Whether that means getting a better phone with some necessary accessories to improve things like sound and lighting quality, or a professional video camera complete with tripod and the works, make sure you’re putting some thought into what you’re creating and how it’s being shared.
2. Don’t Fight the Algorithm, Befriend It
The next thing to consider is the ever-changing Instagram algorithm. Most recently, the new algorithm dictates the order of the posts that users see when scrolling through their feed. Rather than seeing all posts as “equal” and viewable based around the time of posting, now it uses a special formula to figure out how “relevant” a post will be to a user due to a number of factors like the user’s interests, previous app activity, relationship strength between accounts, etc.
Instagram’s goal is to maximize the time users spend on the app, so they’re betting that showing users more “relevant” content will keep them engaged longer. But so often, the algorithm misinterprets a user’s info and makes a judgment call, and unfortunately many posts end up “hidden” in lieu of others. (Read: Why you see way more posts from famous people than your Great Aunt Sally who follows just 11 people and posts way too many videos of her cats.)
In any case, it’s important to fully understand the backend of how the algorithm functions in order to keep your account as relevant as possible. Keep an eye on when most users are online too, and be sure to post strategically at higher engagement times of day. You may notice that something you post at 8pm has a way higher like and comment count in a shorter amount of time than something you posted at 5am. It’s important to consider user behavior and the timing around that to know when to put what on your page. A little research and experimentation goes a long way until you find a rhythm that works well for you.
3. Hashtags Help You Grow
Hashtagging strategically puts your content in front of tons of other users who have the same interests. Though you may think it makes sense to go broad with something many people are using, it actually doesn’t quite work that way. Taking the “little fish, big pond” approach will easily get your post lost in a sea of millions of other accounts seeking the same attention.
On the other hand, you also don’t want to go so specific as to alienate your audience and only capture a very small interest group. So shoot right down the middle with accurate, somewhat specific or even self-generated hashtags, and make good use of Instagram’s limits (30 tags allowed per post), for the best chance at organic engagement. And finally, put all of your hashtags in the initial caption, and not in a comment, or else you’ll appear lower in the hashtag search listings.
4. When You’re Active, Your Community Will Become Active
Engage with other similar accounts on the platform as often as possible. This will help give the algorithm a better chance of showing your content to other users that have a history of liking those kinds of posts and pages. And you know what, it’s a win-win because you’ll organically grow your network at the same time and make friends. Like posts from other users that are similar to yours, leave thoughtful comments, ideally ones that could spark a back-and-forth of some kind (Instagram loves those!), and engage in direct message conversations in the app as opposed to taking your communications elsewhere.
All of this will help run up the engagement reading on that post, and increases the chances of your page displaying to other accounts.
5. Stories Keep You in Your Followers’ Feeds
Stories are a newer, fun feature designed similarly to the Snapchat app, allowing users to post quick snippet glances into their daily activities. The main difference between story posts and your grid is that they disappear after 24 hours, so you’ll want to try to use these differently than you would a regular old post. Use features like tagging other accounts, stickers, GIFs, and hashtags, and try to tease upcoming or current posts in an interesting way that encourages users to then poke around back to your profile and keep their attention.
Additionally, you can leverage geotags to help your posts and stories become organically discoverable. By tagging your location, it allows users to engage with posts within the same physical vicinity. Lots of businesses like doing this to help bring in customers and share new things that are going on. Consider geotagging locations for gigs, recording studios you’re working out of, events, and any other times you’ll want your fans to know where you are, where you’ve been, and where you will be soon.
6. It’s Not Just About the Image
Finally, take some time to create quality captions! This is your chance to showcase your personality, develop a brand, and encourage user interaction. Think of something interesting or clever to write about your post, follow it with some relevant emojis to make it fun, space it out a bit so it doesn’t look too cluttered, and insert your thoughtful hashtags at the bottom.
If you’re a lyricist or songwriter, here’s your chance to get really creative with words and song stories!
Another way to engage with people is to add some “call to action” moments to your posts. For example, if you posted a video of you covering a Kings of Leon song, maybe add something like “One of my favorites by them. What KOL song do you like best from this album?” This will help get other users responding to your post, outside of just liking it or adding a single word or emoji as a response. The more users that comment, the higher the engagement, the better you do in the algorithm, and boom! You’re on your way to steady growth and earning top quality engagement on Instagram.
Hope this helps! Let me know how it’s going at @XtineElise.
Christine Elise Occhino is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for the music business. In addition to being a vocalist herself, she is the CEO of Elise Music Group, Artistic Director of The Pop Music Academy, and owner of Stamford Recording Studio. She is also the proud Founder and Executive Director of Hope in Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses music to help and heal those in need. Christine is a member of the Grammy Recording Academy, the American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers, and the Berklee College of Music Alumni Association. She has spoken on many music industry panels, contributed writing for music business publications for over a decade, and currently hosts the music-based web series and podcast, Soundbytez.