Having a strong Instagram presence, in my opinion, is very important for musicians. Despite being a visual platform, Instagram has all the functions, features, attention and even audience for music artists. The fact is, Instagram users spend more money on music, while also devoting more time listening to and supporting in general.
According to a Nielsen study commissioned by Instagram from 2016:
- IG users spend 30% more time listening to music on a weekly basis in comparison to the general U.S. population, and they’re more likely to be listening to pop, hip-hop/rap and R&B.
- Instagram users are 42% more likely to spend money on music during the year, in comparison to the general population’s annual music spending habits.
- 90% of Instagram Users Stream Music, compared to 76% of the general population.
While it’s easy to get caught up in wanting more followers, I think it’s worth pointing out that there may be reasons why people may not follow you in the first place.
If you’re having trouble getting more followers, here are the 10 most common reasons why people aren’t following you.
1) You have an incomplete profile.
I want to start with this because it’s the easiest thing you can take action on. Every space you can control on your profile is a chance to convince someone to follow you. If you’re missing a bio or not writing something useful (which is what I usually see), that’s 150 characters you’re not using optimally.
It’s all about first impressions. If someone lands on your profile, chances are they’re going to see your name, profile image and your bio first. Make sure to maximize this opportunity.
If music is something you want to do professionally, you want people to take you seriously. You need to be able to communicate why you’re someone they need to follow. An incomplete profile is a not a good way to convince people to follow you.
- Have your artist or group name displayed accurately. No need to use all kinds of different characters or get too elaborate with it. Taking the clean, simple and professional route is the best way to go. Although I’ve seen people use
- Make sure you have a profile image that is a good quality photo. An actual photo of you or the group, logo is ideal. Album or single cover may work only temporarily in a promotional campaign.
- Use your profile URL to link to your website. It’s the only way to have a clickable link (unless you have over 10k followers to do swipe ups in Stories) so make sure to update appropriately for certain things you’re promoting (like a new song, upcoming show or new music video), but to also change it back once it’s done. Be sure to write a small note in the bio of what the link is for, if it’s not your website.
- Maximize your profile bio. How can you present yourself in your profile in way to attract your ideal followers in 150 characters? Often times, the most effective approach is being straightforward about who you or what your band is about. More on this in the next point…
2) Not focusing on branding.
If you haven’t thought about branding, that’s a big mistake. Although it’s great to share your music, provide updates and engage with fans, you want to be able to use your Instagram account as a tool to define and develop your brand. The two key ways this is done is through your bio and the things you post.
The problem is many artists don’t invest time to incorporate their brand in their profile as a way to stand out.
Your profile bio is an opportunity to communicate what you’re all about as simply and clearly as possible. You don’t need to get too elaborate, just be straight forward. I’m sure you’ve seen people list points about who they are using emojis. If you clearly state who you are and define aspects of your brand, it’s easier for people to decide if you’re who they want to follow. Look the following as an example:
Outside of the bio, you have a few design elements you can control and customize on your Instagram profile:
- How your photos and videos are displayed in the profile grid and the Instagram Highlights circles above it.
- Create a consistent feel and theme with your posts. One way is to use photo filters on all your posts to give it that consistency.
- If you have Instagram Highlights, optimize the cover photos on them so they match your branding.
3) Your content sucks.
Posting photos and videos is the lifeblood of an Instagram account. Unfortunately, content creation can be difficult to do. Some people really have trouble knowing what to post. If you don’t have or show promise of good content, there’s no real reason to follow you if you’re still building your brand.
One of the big reasons why your content is not attracting followers may be because you’re not thinking about how your posts look in your profile. A common thing I see a lot is too many promotional posts (like flyers and repetitive cover photos). If you don’t have some strategy in mind, it’s going to look like a mess.
Another common reason it may be unappealing is because you’re not providing value. Content often is meant to achieve certain goals through your posts – education, entertainment, inspiration, perspective, informing, personality or connection. If this is lacking, it’s going to be harder to get followers.
4) You post poor quality content.
Instagram is a visual platform. When people are scrolling through their feed, you want people to stop and pay attention to your post. Of course, no one expects everyone to have the most professional photos or videos. But if you’re photos are blurry, out of focus, too dark or overexposed, your content becomes very unattractive in the feed.
Now, you don’t need to be visual expert, but you want to be viewed as a professional musician. Often times, poor quality visuals communicates amateur.
Even though as the artist, you will have others capturing content for you, you need to have some base understanding of what is good and not good for your image. Read up on photography basics so you have certain standards and criteria when you have others doing it for you. The photo and video quality of the average smartphone can be really good for most of your social media needs as long as you know the basics. However, it would be wise to invest in paying others to capture high quality content for you.
5) Not using hashtags or using too many hashtags.
Hashtags are essential for your posts and account to be discovered on Instagram. If you’re not getting followers, it may be because you have no way for people to find what you have to offer.
Not only does it help when people browse specific hashtags, they can be useful in helping you get exposure on the Explore tab of Instagram.
Even though your limit is 30 hashtags per post, you only need to focus on the highly relevant ones. Don’t just use the most broad and popular hashtags!
The other problem is posting too many hashtags, or hashtag stuffing. Not only does it look messy and unprofessional, you risk getting shadowbanned.
Although shadowbanning is not confirmed, there has been suspicion by many in the online marketing community of such a thing where Instagram makes your post less visible without letting you know if it suspects you of spamming through excessive use of hashtags. The general consensus is to change up different combinations of hashtags in each post. If you haven’t been getting followers organically through hashtags, you may want to see if you’ve been shadowbanned.
6) You underestimate the importance of a caption.
When you post something without a caption, it looks and feels very weird. You rarely ever see it so it looks very out of place. If you post a lot without captions or even just a couple of words, it shows that you’re lazy or don’t care.
At the very least, you should at least write something relevant to what you’re posting. A good caption doesn’t have to be long. Sometimes it makes sense to only use a few words. Incorporating longer captions or long form posts are great too if that’s something you’ve tested to work.
The idea is you want to provide context around what you’re posting. Use it as an opportunity to tell a story, document your journey as an artist, show your personality, inspire others or provide insight. Your photo / video work go hand in hand with your caption. They compliment each other.
I find that writing a caption can be time consuming so plan ahead.
7) You don’t respond or engage.
The last thing you want your social media accounts to be is a one way broadcasting tool. Accounts that do this are not attractive to follow.
Earlier on in your career, you should respond and interact with as many people who comment or message you. Not just on your own posts, but other people’s content as well. The power of social media is in the two way interactions and being personable.
You don’t have to be friends with all your fans, but you want to build relationships and show that you’re a real person. When potential new followers see that you’re active, it makes it more inviting to click ‘Follow.’
As you become more established, you’re less expected to interact as you become more busy. However, you still want to show that you’re active and that you care about your fans.
It’s also in your best interests for visibility to engage with the way the Instagram algorithm work. Engagement on your posts helps to signal that your post is good and should be displayed to more of your followers.
8) You follow way too many people.
Having a lot of followers gives the perception that you are socially validated by others. On the other hand, when you follow a lot of people that is very disproportionate to the number of people who follow you, that gives off a bad impression.
If you have 500 followers and you follow 5,000 or the maximum of 7,500 (done over a long period of time because Instagram does have hourly limits to fight against spam), it looks suspect and desperate. It looks like you’re a spammer or a bot.
If your strategy to gain more followers is to follow as many people as you possible can to see who follows you back, you may be more of an annoyance and people won’t want to follow you.
9) You’re not posting regularly.
People generally like to follow accounts that are active. If your last post is months old and possibly weeks apart from the last thing you posted, then that’s not a good sign to show that you’re active. This is not to say you should post a bunch of random things every single day. You should always prioritize quality over quantity, but take the time to plan and strategize.
10) No Patience.
Lastly, building a following is not easy work regardless of where its at. In our fast paced, instant gratification society, we want success to happen quickly. When we become impatient, it can get us to make poor decisions like spamming people or even buying fake followers.
It’s crucial to understand that people generally want to follow accounts that they see potential value in. Building value for yourself as an artist and brand is going to naturally take time so that’s why patience is key.
In my next blog on Instagram, I will talk about the right way to get more followers.