Top 8 Instagram growth hacks for musicians and other creators
By now, Instagram has proven itself to be a powerful, career-making tool in a musician’s arsenal, provided one knows how to navigate it effectively.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Instagram can change your career trajectory almost overnight, but finding success on the Facebook-owned platform takes more than good luck and catchy songs.
Everyone has an Instagram account. I don’t write that as a joke, but more as a matter of fact. More than Twitter, Facebook, and even TikTok, Instagram has become a global cultural hub. Virtually every single person that will hear your music and have the potential to become a lifelong fan is currently on Instagram. We may all follow different accounts, but we’re together in our mutual use of (dependency on) Instagram.
But Instagram can be intimidating. As a new artist trying to build an audience and have your voice heard, the idea of creating an account from nothing is a powerful proposition. You do not only have to convince your existing friends and followers to check out your new account, but you have to actively grow your reach through constant creative output, updates, and interactions. All that, while also making music and touring and (more than likely) maintaining normal jobs to cover your bills, is enough to make anyone feel anxious.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to this problem. You can read every blog on Instagram growth hacking and watch every video, but you will not find a magic trick or secret code that suddenly unlocks rapid growth. Unless you are a celebrity or person gaining a lot of viral attention, growth on Instagram comes down to following the basics and doing them extremely well. It’s a marathon, not a race.
In the latest Music Biz update, host James Shotwell breaks down eight proven growth hacks for Instagram that musicians use to build their following in 2021. He explores content creation and user engagement tactics that utilize the basic functionality of Instagram and identifies features many artists currently overlook. He also emphasizes the importance of quality, consistency, and originality. Check it out:
For everyone unable to view the video, here are some things to keep in mind when plotting your future Instagram efforts:
- First impressions matter. Studies show that people form their initial impressions of someone online in seven seconds or less. Your profile needs to grab someone’s attention and tell them everything they need to know as quickly as possible. That is why your Instagram bio is so important. It can convey who you are, what you do, and who the target market for your music is in mere seconds, but many artists don’t utilize that space to the best of their abilities.
- When I ask musicians about their Instagram strategy, they often tell me that they post Stories daily, but rarely use their main feed outside of major announcements. That isn’t a stategy as much as it is a common way to use the app. Your mom, for example, probably uses Instagram the same way. But your mom isn’t trying to chase a music career, and if she is, then she needs to change her approach because your followers deserve consistent content. Develop a plan for when you’re going to post and the types of content you hope to share. Be sure to schedule your posts weeks in advance to avoid any mistakes.
- Are you using Instagram Reels? I know many people describe Reels as a TikTok knockoff, myself included, but the relatively new feature is a top priority for IG and its algorithm. Reels have a higher likelihood of landing on explore pages than story posts or posts made to a user’s main feed. If you’re not utilizing the looping video feature to share scenes from the road and clips of new songs or videos, then you’re missing out on the potential for massive exposure to new listeners.
- Captions matter. Most people think of Instagram as a place to see photos and videos, but captions are where the conversion of strangers to fans and fans to lifelong supporters happens. Great Instagram captions engage the viewer with creative ideas or thoughts and guide them to take action that ultimately benefits the content creator. There are many guides to Instagram captions online, but finding what works best for your specific audience will take time. Don’t get discouraged! The return you see from IG after developing your caption writing skills will be immense, so please, stick with it!
- Music is about community, so why not build a community on Instagram? The vast majority of artist accounts feature only that artist and their work. But artists don’t exist in a vaccuum. Musicians are part of communities built around the love of particular sounds and styles. They have fans who make art inspired by their music, fellow musicians that write songs they love, and content creators whose posts keep them entertained while on tour. More artists need to bring their communities into their feed through collaboration and mutual promotion. Uplift those around you and hope that they do the same! Share the art fans give you (and credit them). Post the new single from the band you’re touring with next month. Tell the world about the people that entertain you in case they want a better understand of your interests and the things that excite you. In short, be more inclusive.
- Unless you’re receiving hundreds of comments daily, there is no excuse for not interacting with all of your comments. As little as a like in response to a fan comment can turn that commentor into a ticket buyer. People love to feel close to their favorite artists, and digital engagement is a great way to create a sense of closeness where one might not otherwise exist. Reply to everyone (except the creeps).
- If you have access to data of any kind, use it! Figure out when your posts perform well and build your content calendar with that information in mind. Study the performance of different posts to understand the type of content your audience wants to see so that you can better engage with them in the future. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into the day-to-day chaos of social media, but we often learn more about what works best when we zoom out and look at the big picture. Make sure you often step back, reflect, and study the performance of everything you’re doing online to ensure you’re not wasting time/energy. Your mental health will thank you.
- Make sure you share links to your Instagram everywhere you can. The easier it is to find you online, the easier it is to fall in love with your music. Be unavoidable.
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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.