Instagram is one of the best places to grow a fanbase for musicians. But you only have to take a trip to the explore page to realize that there is a ton of content posted on Instagram every single day. How on earth do you stand out and get noticed by new and potential fans? To help you out, I’ve compiled everything you need to know about growing your fanbase on Instagram into this musician’s guide to Instagram.
If you’re new to Instagram, make sure you check out this post to learn the in’s and out’s of taking great photos, posting, and setting up your musician account.
Growing Your Fanbase on Instagram
Once you have some great content, let’s talk about what it takes to grow a fanbase for your music on Instagram. I’m going to tell you this right up front: there is no quick-fix, cheat, or formula to growing your fanbase on Instagram. Growing an engaged, dedicated, and enthusiastic community of fans takes time and consistency. That’s it.
Sure, there are follow-for-follow strategies or other “hacks,” but all you’re going to get with those strategies is a number. In other words, you’ll get followers but they won’t be true fans who actually care about what you have to say or share. A number isn’t worth anything if those fans are not commenting on your posts, buying your music, or coming out to gigs.
So instead, I want you to focus on the effective ways to build your fanbase on Instagram in a way that’s authentic and genuine. Let’s take a look.
The Musician’s Guide to the Instagram Algorithm
Currently, Instagram feeds are organized by an algorithm. Posts are not displayed chronologically. Instead, Instagram orders posts in a feed based on what it thinks you want to see. As a result, you’ll notice posts from people you engage with a lot towards the top of your feed. Conversely, fans who engage with your posts regularly are more likely to see your posts than fans who rarely engage.
Here’s the secret to “beat” the algorithm and make sure your fans to see your posts. Act like an actual, social, human being.
The algorithm goes through a lot of minor changes, but ultimately it always prioritizes engagement. The more likes and comments your posts get, the more people will see them. The more active and engaged fans you have, the more successful you will be.
So here’s the secret to “beat” the algorithm and make sure your fans to see your posts. Act like an actual, social, human being. It’s that simple. If you talk with your fans instead of at them, if you respond to comments and have actual conversations with your fans, and if you treat them like people and not numbers, you’ll be successful.
I also want to footnote this section by saying that it’s totally normal to have a large group of inactive fans on Instagram. Most fanbases follow the 80/20 rule (or something close to it). Often, 20% of the fans are responsible for 80% of the engagement.
How Often to Post on Instagram as a Musician?
How often you post is a big part of growing your fanbase on Instagram. When you’re posting to Instagram, always opt for quality over quantity. Always. You’ll be better off posting a one really engaging photo with a conversational caption that gets people commenting than a few rushed posts that no one really responds to. Remember, each post should be contributing to your story in some way, and that, above all, should affect how often you post.
A lot of Instagram guides for musicians will tell you that you need to be posting at LEAST once per day if you want to grow a following. That’s not always true. Yes, Instagram’s algorithm does reward frequency and consistency. BUT if you’re not posting QUALITY content and posting just to reach some quota, you’re not going to see the kind of growth you want.
That said, consistency is important. Figure out what you can realistically manage and stick with it.
Spread things out even if you have a lot going on and a lot of really great, interesting posts you want to share. Avoid the urge to share them all at once! You’ll get much more engagement if you spread them out – say, one per day – than if you lumped them all together. This will help you avoid that “commenting fatigue” that occurs when you share too many posts at once and will help to ensure all your posts get maximum engagement.
Build a Network FIRST
This is perhaps one of the most effective strategies in this musician’s guide to Instagram, so pay attention! I see far too many musicians try to hit the ground running on Instagram only to be disappointed when they don’t grow a fanbase on Instagram as quickly as they would like.
So instead of focusing on finding fans from the start, focus on finding a network. This should be a community of supportive musicians, songwriters, and bands at a similar level to you.
Use hashtags and the explore page to find other small and independent musicians whose work you genuinely love. Follow them and take the time to leave real, valuable comments on their posts. In other words, actually, comment on their music or their caption instead of the unfortunately all too common “Cool. Check out my music.”
Be consistent and be supportive and eventually you will start up two-way communication and a relationship of genuine reciprocity. On Instagram, two accounts that follow each other and support each other are called “mutuals.” In the beginning, it may very well be just these mutuals who are leaving comments on your posts. But that honest engagement will lead to more organic discovery.
Use Collaboration to Reach New Potential Fans
Once you build some relationships, you can start collaborating to expose each other to your respective audiences. When you collaborate with another artist, you are tapping into the power of a trusted source. If they like your music, your audience is likely to trust your musical taste, and will, therefore, take a recommendation for another band seriously. And visa versa.
The key with successful collaborations is the think of ways you can authentically recommend each other’s music to your audiences. Remember, it’s all about building your story and narrative. If you trade shoutouts with any and every musician on Instagram, your audience will start to lose trust in you.
So here are some ideas. Cover each other’s songs and post 60-second video clips to your feeds. Remember to tag and @mention each other. Share each other’s music via your Stories or in a #musicmonday post. Co-host a contest or giveaway together. Do a fun live stream where you write a song together. This exposure will be more powerful than any hashtag strategy during your early time on Instagram.
Respond to ALL Comments and DMs
I know it can seem tedious to respond to every single comment you get on Instagram, but it is single-handedly the easiest thing you can do to build more engagement around your posts.
Think about it – once you respond to your fans, it opens up the opportunity for a conversation, leading to even more comments on your posts. Plus, fans who feel like you care about what they have to say are more likely to take the time to comment on future posts. It’s a simple action, but responding to comments and DMs can help fans get more invested in your career and move them towards superfans.
And remember, the comments you get on your posts aren’t just numbers. They are real fans voicing their support for you. Their support is what will make or break your career, and that’s worth appreciating.
The Musician’s Guide to Instagram Hashtags
Just like Twitter, hashtags are important for growing your fanbase on Instagram. Think of them as organic discovery drivers – a way to build a fanbase and get more followers on Instagram. People will often browse through certain hashtags to find new posts and new accounts to follow. The “Explore” tab will also use your hashtags to recommend your posts to relevant audiences. Which is especially important if you’re just starting out.
Think of hashtags as organic discovery drivers.
So what are the best hashtags for musicians to use for music marketing on Instagram? When choosing Instagram tags for musicians, don’t simply use what’s trending. You want to choose hashtags that reach a targeted audience that’s likely to be interested in your music. Relevance is key here. Going niche is always going to be better than going broad. So instead of using #music, you might use #progrock. Instead of using #guitar, you might use #fender. Instead of using #singer, you might use #acapella.
To help you choose the right hashtags, check out what hashtags similar artists are using, especially on posts that have high levels of engagement. Remember, it’s not about copying someone else’s hashtag list. Instead, think of this as market research. Look at what’s working, think about if and how those hashtags may relate to your music, and use that information to build your own hashtag list – one that’s specific to you and your story.
Another way to see if a hashtag might effectively reach your fanbase is to simply browse the posts containing that hashtag. If these posts are related to things your audience is interested in, consider adding them to your next post. You’ll also see a list of related hashtags at the top of the Explore page if you search a specific tag.
If your content is relevant to a specific geographic location, you can also use geotagging to further target your audience.
The Musician’s Guide to Instagram – The Bigger Picture
Even if you’re able to grow your fanbase on Instagram, it’s still only one part of your music promotion strategy. If you want to effectively promote your music, you need to be thinking big picture and start getting your social followers to go deeper by signing up for emails and buying your music.
We show you how to do this in the free How to Promote Your Music guide. You’ll learn how to create interesting and engaging social posts, and how to start collecting emails and emailing your fans. Plus you’ll get three social media checklists with tons of post ideas to get you started!
If you want help promoting your music, consider signing up for the Music Business Accelerator program (MBA).
The class is part of the online music business training offered at New Artist Model.