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!

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How can you find your ‘social voice’? In what ways can you be building an audience? When should you post on certain platforms – and for that matter, what kind of stuff should you be posting?

We all know it’s not enough to simply set up profiles, post once or twice a week, and expect those minimal efforts to have a meaningful impact on the way you build your fan base online. But at the same time, artists and musicians were born to do just that – create! It shouldn’t be expected that every creator is a natural self-promoter or marketer, regardless of how experienced with social media one is in their personal life.

In addition to information on building a sufficient social media strategy and utilizing analytics (gasp!), the TuneCore Social Media For Musicians guide also has some incredible video components to it! We interviewed experts in the field of promotion and PR, social data, and even some TuneCore employees who happen to be independent artists themselves to find out what kind of struggles music-makers need to get over when diving into the brave new frontier of social media marketing.

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