2021 Growth Strategies For Artists
Instagram continues to reign supreme as one of the most popular social media platforms out there, making a it a key part of any artists growth strategy. Here, we look at some effective ways to build an audience on the platform.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Instagram is one of the most popular and competitive social media platforms worldwide. Building an audience isn’t easy, but it is worth the effort. Let us help.
Instagram is the best social media platform. TikTok may be able to claim it’s the best app for new music discovery, but Instagram empowers musicians to engage and build their audience like no other. It’s the only service that seamlessly blends photo and video content in a variety of engaging ways while giving everyone a chance for added exposure through its multiple discovery features. The competition is fierce, but we know there are ways to make the app work for you.
But let’s be honest: Instagram is not the same app it was in the past. Posts no longer appear in chronological order. Instead, the Instagram algorithm pushes content to users based on engagement. The algorithm considers more than 500 factors, but three of the most important are comments, shares, and story replies. Consistency and likes are secondary to these three, so this is where we are focusing our energy in 2021.
In the latest Music Biz 101, host James Shotwell walks viewers through the ins and outs of Instagram success. He discusses the things everyone should do and avoid, as well as the importance of experimentation. You can view the video below. If you’d prefer to read our advice, you can find a summary of the following video after the clip.
The first thing you need to know is that you should never purchase fake engagement under any circumstance. Advertisers will tell you they can get you legitimate followers or comments overnight, but don’t be fooled! The algorithm is brilliant, and anyone caught trying to cheat the system risks banishment from the platform.
Got it? Okay. Let’s keep going.
Analytics. If your account is a business account, then you have access to Instagram Insights. These tools will tell you everything you need to know about your audience, including the most popular times for engagement. Use that data to create content more in line with what is already working on your account, and try to post it when your audience is the most active. If you need a scheduling tool, we recommend later.com.
Don’t have a business account? No worries! There are many Instagram analytics tools available online.
Video is the name of the game. Instagram has long claimed that it treats videos and photos the same in a user’s main feed. While that may still be true, video content is 4x more likely than images to appear on Explore pages. Instagram Reels, the company’s TikTok competitor, is more than 6x as likely. Video content is keeping people on Instagram longer, which is one of the company’s top goals. If you create engaging content, Instagram will help you promote it to the world. Experiment with one-minute videos in your feed, story clips from recording sessions, IGTV videos, and Reels as time allows.
On that note, avoid pushing users off the app. Instagram is in the business of Instagram, meaning that they want people to stay on the platform as long as possible. When the algorithm detects content trying to get people to go elsewhere (another app, a website, etc.), that post is far less likely to appear in user’s feeds.
Captions Matters (in more ways than one). Every post on Instagram has a caption. Ask yourself, am I making the most of this caption by engaging my fans in a unique and fun way? Are your fans going to read your comment and reply? Will they share the post in their stories? Don’t overlook the power of this section! Spend as much time on creating striking captions as you do your photo and video content.
Additionally, make sure your video content — especially longer clips — has subtitles. Some viewers may be hard of hearing, while others may be in a situation where they can’t listen to clips at a high volume. Certain fans may prefer reading closed captioning over listening to a video. Whatever the case, make sure to make your content as accessible as possible by adding captions. Instagram has tools that make this possible for specific content, but some apps can help as well.
Stories reign supreme. You most likely use Instagram’s Stories feature regularly. It’s the platform’s most popular feature, drawing users to reopen the app repeatedly throughout the day. As you continue to post, make sure you take advantage of the many additional features found within the Stories functionality. Ask your audience questions, and allow them to ask you questions in return. Create polls to choose merch designs, tour stops, song titles, etc. Use the location button while on tour to let fans know you’re in the hometown. Add a countdown in posts that tease a new release to ensure fans remember when your next piece of content will drop. Fans will love the engaging nature of this content, and the algorithm will appreciate your use of the system.
Reels are here to stay. Instagram is pushing Reels harder than any other feature, but the competition isn’t as challenging as you might think. Make experimenting with Reels a priority in your social media efforts this year, and you could easily find yourself appearing on the Explore page of users around the world. Be sure to blend original content with clips from videos, performances, etc. Give people a looping look inside an artist’s life in 2021, and watch as your follower count grows.
Finally, a few words about hashtags. Long before Instagram created its Explore page, users hoping to find exciting new content on the app turned to hashtags. Millions of hashtags are in use today, and a niche community of like-minded individuals populates each one. It would be best to use hashtags with your content, but you’ll want to avoid generic terms. That’s why we recommend using Display Purposes. It’s a free website that will help you find hashtags relevant to your content that is more likely to raise engagement than terms such as #music or #rock. Be creative!
REMEMBER: Experimentation is a necessity. Don’t rush to delete a post that doesn’t work as well as the rest because a single photo or video with low engagement won’t ruin your chances of appearing in users’ feeds. Think of your account as having one overall grade, and the grade improves as you build engagement and use more of Instagram’s features. Play around with the service and find what works best for you and your audience. HAVE FUN. After all, it’s just an app.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.