Instagram Best Practices For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Hugh McIntyreHugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more. Speaking of photos, be sure to check out Hugh’s piece on getting fans to take more photos at your shows!]

Of all the major social media platforms, Instagram might have the worst reputation for “mattering,” as some people would put it. It can be difficult for many people to grasp the importance of an app where people post pretty pictures of where they are and what they’re doing, if not simply selfie after selfie.

Well, if you haven’t realized it yet, this is the world we live in. You had better just accept it and learn to be good at the things that the world has deemed important if you want a job that relies on you being even somewhat well-known. I’m not suggesting you need to start spending all of your time curating your Instagram, but if you want your profile to grow and you want to be heard (and seen), you’re going to need to learn a thing or two about the world’s most popular photo-focused application, and you’ll want to at least put in a modicum of thought before every post.

Here are six best practices I hope you keep with you at all times:

1. Use At Least One Hashtag

I could go on for pages about how best to use hashtags, where to apply them, when they are most appropriate, and which ones will bring the most people to your photo, but that is another article entirely. Instead, right now I’ll keep a laser-like focus and simply say this: you should be using hashtags, and even if that makes you nervous, you should at least be adding one to everything you post on Instagram.

For the moment—this is my avoiding getting into the very lengthy discussion about hashtag etiquette I mentioned above—just know that using at least one properly-chosen hashtag will help you in a number of ways, and there isn’t really any good reason not to tack one on. Make sure it’s appropriate, fits the image, and isn’t too long, and soon enough, you’ll see at least some newcomers find your image and perhaps even like it and follow you. It certainly doesn’t hurt, right?

2. Be On-Brand

Deciding what your Instagram page will look like should tie-in with your brand, and therefore it shouldn’t be too difficult to decide what that means. If you play death metal, you might want to think about keeping the photos you upload relatively dark. If you produce high-energy electro-pop, perhaps you’re interested in bright colors and explosive hues? Folk-pop that evokes feelings of longing could lend itself better to certain filters and effects you can easily locate on the app.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you choose, and you can feel free to be creative here, but think carefully before committing to something, because once you’ve started cultivating your brand, you should really stick with it. At times that may become difficult, but maintaining a cohesive brand is helpful in all manners of marketing, and it’s often the most successful marketers who make it big.

3. Engage

A lot is said (and written) about what to post, when to upload, and maintaining your brand, but I don’t often see enough pieces emphasizing how to engage with your friends, fans, and even strangers on Instagram. It may sound like brand speak (who actually says “engage”?), but it’s the best way to describe what I’m talking about.

Don’t be shy when it comes to Instagram—it is social media, after all! Look for other musicians, artists, those in the music industry, and anybody else who you find interesting for any reason and follow them, like their photos, comment when they post something especially fun or beautiful, and message them if you’ve started to form any kind of meaningful bond.

You don’t necessarily need to do this with every single account, because that would become exhausting, but don’t be afraid to converse with people you don’t know. Strangers are just friends (and potential fans, in your case) you haven’t met yet.

4. Share Something Compelling

It is incredibly easy to tell the difference between a great Instagram account and a boring one. You don’t need to think about it or consider who the person is—just look at the content and let it speak for itself, which, by the way, is the same thing that can be said for music. Stop thinking it’s okay to just post selfies and pictures of your lunch and starting putting in some actual effort.

Yes, it may mean you need to stage an impromptu photo shoot from time to time, or actually plan some time to shoot some pics, but that’s what it takes these days to stand out on this platform. If you keep uploading beautiful images of interesting things, you’ll see your engagement grow, and that will likely coincide with an uptick in plays and streams of your tunes.

5. Be Consistent

One of the worst things you can do on almost any social media platform, be it Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the others, is be inconsistent with your uploading. If you and your band decide to only post images on your Instagram account once a week, that’s your decision (and not one I necessarily endorse), but you should stick with that. If you like to upload more frequently, try to keep up the pace.

You don’t need to keep a strict schedule (unless you do something special on certain days of the week, for example), but don’t share what’s going on in your life almost every day and then disappear for two months, because people will either worry about you, or perhaps even worse, forget about you entirely.

6. Keep The Caption Short

I always personally become incredibly annoyed whenever I see someone has posted an image that clearly holds some significance with the equivalent of a paragraph of text beneath it. Instagram is perhaps the worst platform on which to spell something out with words, and the site itself makes it incredibly difficult to actually read anything.

There are times when it’s necessary to actually spell something out, and you may even be able to share an image with a good amount of text from time to time, but for the most part, keep the words off your IG page!

6 Things You Can Do To Get Your Fans to Take More Photos At Your Shows (And Why That Matters)

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Hugh McIntyreHugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

 

These days, everybody is taking photos…of everything. Now that cameras are everywhere and anyone can upload their latest capture to the world wide web in mere seconds, there is no stopping the deluge of images that continues to grow larger and larger by the hour. Some musicians are upset about this, as it distracts them when they are performing and they feel audiences aren’t paying the sort of attention they want, but none of that is going to stop how people act nowadays, so why not make the most of it?

As a working musician in a social media-focused world, you should always be on the hunt for great content. You will find yourself constantly needing something to post or to save for another day, and snaps from a concert can be the perfect filler. If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, keeping a photographer with you at all times (especially when touring) probably isn’t an option, so why not rely on your fans to supply you with the pics you’ve been looking for?

Here are a few ways to get your fans to take more photos of (and with) you, and then to share them in a way you can find them easily and repost them…with their permission and proper crediting, of course.

1. Pose!

Young people these days don’t always need to be told to take a photo—it’s in their nature by now. Most under the age of, say, 30, have extensive experience with smartphones, and the vast majority of them have become used to taking photos of almost everything in their day-to-day lives. This is the generation that has had to think of everything in terms of content, be it for Facebook, Twitter, or especially Instagram, and they have a mind for this sort of thing. If you do something fairly obvious that says “take my picture!,” chances are they will understand the message in no time.

Pose for a moment on stage, stop moving for a minute or so, put the spotlight on just you, stand with your bandmates before taking a bow at the end of the night…you can be as creative as you want with this idea, but it’s really, really easy, and you may be surprised how popular those few seconds will be in the photos you search for later.

2. Make A Special Moment

Every concert and every performance should be fun and special in its own way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out of your way to do something extra during at least some of your shows. What this might be differs for every band or artist and it should vary by staging, but if you do it right, you could wind up with plenty of photos and perhaps even some press.

Shoot confetti out of cannons, bring a fan up onstage and sing to them, gather two fans together and arrange a marriage proposal (this is always a crowd pleaser), use a funny prop during one of the songs, or bring out a special guest that those in the crowd might recognize, if that’s possible. Any one of these would likely end up being the highlight of that particular performance, and it just begs everybody in attendance to whip out their cameras.

3. Create a Photo Booth

This option might not yield any photos of you and your bandmates doing what you do best (performing), but it can supply you all with a different kind of picture, which can wind up being useful in its own way.

Work with the venue before you arrive to set up some sort of area specifically designed for photos. This can be a “photobooth” of sorts (though you might not want to shell out the money to rent an actual photobooth just yet), or perhaps something as simple as a backdrop. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make this a reality, though it might cost your band a few dollars to have something printed with your band’s logo all across it, like what red carpets are lined with. If you’re meeting fans afterward, why not make sure to do so exactly where you want to, with this added bonus? It might help push a new song or album, or maybe just a hashtag you are trying to promote.

4. Suggest A Hashtag

Speaking of a hashtag, that is something else that younger music lovers are already familiar with, and once you’ve given it to them, they know exactly what to do with it (usually). You can print the hashtag, which should be easy to understand, make sense, and be as short as possible, and people will see it. Show flyers, event reminders online, and perhaps even posters placed throughout the venue can all feature the phrase, and you can even mention it while performing, but don’t be annoying here, because while most young people don’t mind being asked and reminded about a hashtag, especially if there is any incentive to go tweet it or Instagram it, they can very quickly become a nuisance, and once that has happened, nobody wants to be a part of the movement.

5. Post On Social Media

Since you are looking for pictures to share on social media later on, why not use the medium to influence more fans to start taking pictures in the first place? Start posting on your accounts telling everybody flat out that you are on the hunt for some really excellent snaps. This will let those who catch the missives know to go out of their way to do so when they are at your next show, and you never know what pics are already out there sitting on phones or in folders on computers, just waiting to be unearthed by those who are into your music who might not have realized anybody was interested in their digital souvenirs.

Also, once you begin posting pictures shot by concert attendees and tagging them (and thanking them in your tweet), it won’t take long for people to get the idea and start sharing openly. Who doesn’t want a little recognition for a well-framed picture and a thank you from a musician or band they like?

6. Ask Them

If all else fails, or if you’re feeling particularly lazy—or perhaps if you just want to be direct and honest with your fans—why not just ask them to take some photos and share them? While you’re on stage and chatting in between songs (if that’s your thing, which isn’t the case with every artist), casually mention that you love seeing pictures from your shows on social media.

You don’t need to beg or plead, and please don’t be obnoxious about it (nothing is worse than someone bugging you to snap an excessive number of pics of them), but if you’re doing a good job and entertaining those who paid to see you, and since some of them will already be taking photos on their phones anyway, nudge the rest of the audience to do the same, and you may be surprised to see how many come flowing in over the next few days.

Celebrate TuneCore’s $1 Billion Milestone on Social Media!

Back in June, we announced that within the coming months, TuneCore Artists will be hitting a MAJOR benchmark in its efforts to support the independent artist community: receiving over $1 BILLION collectively in streaming and download revenue!

In an ever-changing industry, artists have had to ensure that their desire to create music can be sustained financially. As more and more platforms for music consumption and discovery have emerged, TuneCore has helped play a role in countless careers by delivering 100% of our artists’ sales revenue month after month. That money may have gone towards rent, instruments/gear, touring, recording or simply eating. Regardless, this figure sends a message that independent music is stronger than ever.

Now, as we count down to the big day (and you can follow along on our website, where a live ‘ticker’ lives), you’re invited to get in on the fun and show your TuneCore Billion Dollar Pride.

If you head over to our Billion Dollar Club page, you can start the celebration by getting your very own Facebook badge and flash your membership credentials. See some examples below:

Once you click “Get The Badge”, a preview will be generated from whatever Facebook account you’re logged in from, and voila – you’ve got a new profile photo!

Want more? We here at TuneCore know that being featured on Spotify playlists is in high-demand these days. Over the next couple of months as we rally to the big financial figure, we’re giving you the chance to be featured on our TuneCore Billion Dollar Club playlist – and we’ve made it pretty easy:

  1. Find your release on Spotify, choose the song you’d like to be featured, and hit play on your mobile device (make sure your cover artwork is visible);
  2. Grab a screenshot of your music playing and upload it/share it via your Instagram account;
  3. Tag your Instagram post with the hashtag #TCBillion.

That’s it! We’ll be updating the Spotify playlist regularly, so keep your eyes peeled for your track in coming weeks. And while you’re at it, be sure to support your fellow indie artists by following the Billion Dollar Club playlist.

As thrilled as we are to hit this major milestone, we know that it couldn’t have been done without YOU, the TuneCore Artists of the world. Let’s continue to show the world that independent music is here to stay. Happy celebrating!

Are You Guilty? 4 Ways Indie Artists Are Killing Social Media

[Editors Note: This post was written by Joshua Smotherman, co-founder of Middle Tennessee Music, and it originally appeared on the Cyber PR blog.]

 

In an ideal world I would wake up in the morning to a fresh cup of hot coffee. I would enjoy it as I check my e-mail and skim social networks to check up on friends and my favorite bands.

I would immerse myself in an online community of music lovers, songwriters, and musicians sharing, caring, and building with each other… NOT blasting commands to “check out my new hottest thing”.

I see enough billboards on the interstate.

In this world:

  • Bands would stop acting like rock stars and start acting like leaders
  • They would build self-sustaining tribes
  • They would listen to their fans
  • They would understand that growing organically will always win over view counts

As a music blogger, my inbox would NOT be full of one-liners and YouTube links I only see as distractions. Whatever happened to “connecting” with someone?

Unfortunately, this world does not exist. From where I’m sitting, the average indie band sucks at using social media and its ruining it for everyone else. Most importantly, your potential fans.

What are we doing wrong, you say?

Oh boy…where do I begin?

Me, Me, Me Marketing

You might have been raised in a world of billboards and commercials, but using social media as a one way street is killing your promo game.

It seems too many people are missing the social half of the phrase, social media.

You need to engage with fans and listeners instead of blasting them with links, videos, and nonsense about buying your album.

Sadly, most bands qualify [as what the marketing world refers to] as spammers.

Engaging is easier than you think and should come naturally (assuming you are not a recluse).

  • Share albums, videos, and news about other music you enjoy or local bands you play with. Ask others what they think.
  • Share news related to the music industry or issues that reflect the personality of your band and use them to engage in conversation.
  • Instead of posting links to the same videos and songs repeatedly, post clips of the band working in the studio or upload a demo mix and allow fans to share their opinions so you can take the art to another level. Involve fans in your process(es).
  • Network with bands in other areas to create an atmosphere for gig swapping and collaboration as well as cross promotion of content.

This list goes on but the takeaway here is engage in a way that results in feedback and interaction.

Build a community.

Focusing on the wrong metrics

Your follower count means nothing unless you see conversions.

Huh?!

More important than a follower, view, or like:

  • How many fans have signed up for your mailing list?
  • Do you pass around a mailing list signup sheet at your show?
  • How many people have you met at shows? (You do hang out with the audience after the show…right?)
  • How many people have bought a CD or t-shirt?

Stop putting all your energy into increasing numbers on social sites and focus on converting the followers you have into loyal fans.

Use social media to funnel music listeners to your website where you attempt to convert them into a mailing list signup, song download, or merchandise sale.

Would you rather have 1,000 likes or 100 fans spending $1,000 on music, merch, show tickets and crowd funding campaigns?

Show me the money!

Repeating yourself on every social network

Sending your Twitter feed to Facebook then copying and pasting it to Google+ so the same message appears on every site is a horrible idea.

So is auto play on audio embeds but that’s for a different time.

You are not expected to know marketing, you make music! Allow me to guide you on this train of thinking…

People who use Twitter are different than people who use Facebook and the people who use Google+ are not like the others.

It is imperative you consider these facts when developing a social media strategy and act accordingly.

Make sure you actually use social media as a music fan before deciding how to market your music using these tools. Follow bands who are in a position you would like to be in and see how they use each network. Notice what works, what doesn’t work, and then perfect your plan of action.

Posting several updates to Twitter every hour (depending on the nature of the updates) is more acceptable than posting to Facebook every 15 minutes.

When you over saturate a person’s FB News Feed, they hide you from their feed. Or worse…unlike your page or mark your posts as spam.

A general guideline is try to retweet, reply, comment, and share relevant content from others more than you broadcast and peddle your own wares.

Sell Without Selling

If you focus on building a community around your band instead of acting as a bulletin board, you will start noticing the true power of social media.

You will not see overnight results.

The key is to stay consistent, focus on creating great music, and communicate directly with your audience.

If you create a community of loyal fans, they will want to support you.

Your community will become your sales force and all you need to do is be yourself and continue giving fans a band worth loving.

Consistency allows you to reach a tipping point where fans begin promoting your music for you by wearing t-shirts, playing CDs at parties, and recommending you to their friends.

It is hard to conceive this when you are starting at zero, but 6 to 12 months down the road you will notice things happening simply because you remained persistent.

While fans are busy promoting your music, you need to seek out gig opportunities, blog reviews or interviews, and other chances to put yourself in the presence of tastemakers who can expose you to their audience.

Bloggers, journalists, booking agents, and other industry personnel will not give you their attention unless you have proof of a loyal, engaged following.

Buying followers or views might help you manipulate chart rankings and other metrics, but they will never replace the power of community. If you have 5,000 page likes but no one is liking, sharing, or commenting on your updates; we all see right through you.

So can the people who can expose you to bigger audiences of music fans.

In closing:

  • Build your tribe
  • Nurture your community
  • Stop acting like a corporate sales machine

You might also be interested in this panel discussion concerning Marketing, PR, and Promotion on a Budget hosted by Indie Connect NYC which discusses mores things indie musicians are doing wrong online.

How Have You Avoided Killing Social Media?

Let us know below what you have done to overcome these four social media killers above (or any others that you’ve experienced) in the form of a comment below!

3 Habits of Artists With a Strong Social Media Following

[Editors Note: This blog was written by W. Tyler Allen and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

 

There are many tactics that go into a solid social media marketing campaign, but tactics are just theories unless they’re put into action, right? Even then, you need to ensure that these tactics become habits so that you maintain a level of consistency with your social media presence. Wondering which habits you should be forming, exactly? Well, for starters, here are three that artists who have built up strong social media followings all have in common.

1. Embrace new social media channels

Bobby Shmurda may be in prison right now, but no one can forget his track “Hot Boy” (under the clean title), which surged to the top of the charts and even closed out the 2014 BET Music Awards. The track began gaining traction on the video-sharing app Vine, when users began to mimic Shmurda’s dance and the line “about a week ago.” This viral meme turned into a standard radio hit and really blasted Shmurda from struggling rapper to full-blown artist.

The key here is to always be aware of current outlets. Sure, Shmurda’s fans may have taken the effort to create memes, and it seems to have happened organically, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to hop on Vine with your own fun content and encourage folks to remix it, share it, and remake it.

2. Perfect your balance of promotional and personal posts

It’s hard to find ways to promote your work, and it’s also hard to find ways to integrate your personal life in your outlets – but it’s essential. Talking about your day, your life, and your non-musical interests really help fans feel like they’re getting to know you.

My favorite examples of this are 2 Chainz’s food and culinary posts on his Instagram and Diddy’s posts of his family and nights out. Rappers and mainstream artists obviously aren’t the only example of this, either – bands like American Aquarium and Angus & Julia Stone have gotten in the habit of using that healthy mix of posts, too!

3. Network to have the power of social media influencers in your corner

Indie artist Ryn Weaver wasn’t a very well-known name, but that all changed when her single, “Octahate,” was tweeted and shared by artists like Charlie XCX, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and Jessie Ware. This push from those heavyweights single-handedly assisted in the catalyst to her success.

Whether it’s organic, paid, or squeezed into, having influencers in your corner might be that extra boost you need to get your work heard. Check out paid networks like IZEA and Fluence, or better yet, simply make an effort to build genuine connections with journalists and fellow artists who have that large pull and following to help your work.

How You Can Use ‘Instagram Story’ to Market Your Music

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Michelle Aguilar, a writer and digital artist based in Los Angeles. Read her tips on how to maximize Instagram’s coolest feature rolled out in 2016 when it comes to connecting with fans! If you’re a TuneCore Artist, be sure to check out TuneCore Social in your dashboard.]

Think about the last time you hung out with a group of friends or people.

Now, think about the person in the group that kept things alive and entertaining. Maybe it was that story your friend brought up about that one camping trip and how the tent flooded with rain because everyone else thought it was waterproof so you all ended up “glamping” in a somewhat dysfunctional tavern instead (true story). Well this experience is no different from Instagram’s new Story feature—it provides a visual compilation of a personal event or message. It gives people fresher insight and appreciation to the person sharing the Story. As the long-time writer for Time magazine Roger Rosenblatt puts it, “We are a narrative species.”

Since its launch earlier this year in August, Instagram Story has become millions of Instagrammers’ favorite tool for instant communication. Amongst these, include people of all kind and have attracted entrepreneurs, artists, illustrators, photographers, activists, musicians, DJ’s and much more.

Notice how I’ve mentioned “instant communication tool”. Of course, all social media platforms serve as a medium for communication but when it comes to Instagram as a whole, the new Instagram Story feature serves as a more specifically direct form of communication. Think of it as a new method for highlighting a certain message to your audience.

Reveal Sneak Peeks

Everyone loves gifts, and although it’s that time of year, the type of gifts I’m referring to are the gifts of good old sneak peeks; they provoke interest and an even stronger connection towards your fans and audience.

With stories, you have a chance to take your followers (and prospective followers) on a more realistic journey—without the staged and beautified element that the general platform presents.

Ramp up your Instagram Story by posting a rehearsal session in the studio, a moment with your friends, the process of your art, or exclusive footage on a video shoot. The choices are limitless– just think about a significant moment that your audience would normally not get a chance to see.

Although blogs have been commonly known for their roles in sharing additional insight on a band or any business, the immediacy of the Instagram Story provides the instant gratification that most users seek while helping to retain your current audience, as well as garner newer audiences (assuming your profile is public).

Keep Your Audience Posted

Definitely a pun intended here, but going back to the concept of Story as a more direct form of media communication, Story helps simplify your promotional endeavors. Many musicians, comedians, online influencers and the like use Story to update their viewers on new releases, projects or even special offers. By referring viewers to their link in their bios, they are smoothly directing them on learning more about the offer and how to participate. Announcing merchandise giveaways is no longer limited to a generic promotional graphic or even a gig. All you got to do is just say the word through Story.

Missed out on a concert? No problem!

For those who couldn’t make it to one of your shows, your Instagram Story could serve as an instant preview of what they have missed. Ask someone to record parts of your performance and update it on your story as soon as you can. Not only does this supply your viewers who weren’t able to make it, but it gives them a nice foretaste of your talent and energy — in real-time. Showing them a preview may ultimately inspire them even more to see you live and to continue to support your work.

“Hmm, What Happens If I Push ‘The Button’?”

Notice how when you first log into your Instagram account, you can’t help but glance at the rainbow highlighted icons right above the vertical strand of pictures that follow. There’s a tempting element to this approach. I myself notice that although I might not intend view a user’s story at first, I eventually tap to see what they’re about, because well, they’re all waiting in a row to be viewed!

The new Story feature has changed a significant chunk of Instagram’s template; take this change as a complimentary edge to your platform.

Regarding Instagram’s newly revised template, there are two other perks that come with this update.

First, is that you’re able to get quick qualitative and quantitative feedback on user engagement to your Story. After posting your video, tap on your Story and slide your thumb upwards to see who and how many users have viewed your Story videos. By doing this, you can gather this simple data to help draw conclusions about the types of videos that interest your audience and the types that don’t.

This leads me to the second perk of Instagram’s new template features. Although this feature was added on to Instagram much earlier than the Story, it is still worthwhile to mention. You can easily switch your account to “Business Profile”. Tap the options icon  and then tap “Switch to Business Profile”. You’ll need to connect your business profile to your Facebook account.

Once you’ve done that, make sure to review your business’s contact information and you’ll be ready to run your new business account. Shortly after, you’ll notice a blue “contact” icon to the left of your profile icon. You’ll also notice on the upper right hand side of the template, an analytics icon that will direct you to an “insights” page. This page allows you to review and gain more specific feedback on the behavioral impact of your posts on other users.

Story’s new “1:1” communication format is similar to Snapchat, and if you’re familiar with Snapchat, you’ll be much quicker to get the gist of how it works. On the other hand, if you’re completely new to this feature, it’s helpful to think back to that last time you hung out with a group of friends.

Think about what made you pay attention to that particular person telling a story. What made you engage and what made you respond? More often than not, when somebody shares stories which in turn creates and recreates moments, we are left feeling somewhat more connected and with a better sense of who that person is—that is, what ultimately interests us and keeps us wanting to learn more.