Instagram is one of the best social tools for bands looking to promote their music. Plus, it’s free and easy to use! If you’re not already using Instagram on your iPhone or Droid, you can download it for free from the Apple or GooglePlay app stores.
(And hopefully they’ll amend their terms of service after this week’s uproar over who can exploit the digital rights to the photos you take using Instagram!)
Got Instagram on your smartphone yet? OK. Now that we’re all the same page…
Instagram for bands ain’t rocket science; simply take a picture on your phone, apply one of those hip filters so the photo will look like it’s straight outta the 70’s, add a caption, and post it to all your social media profiles with a single click.
But there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get maximum results from your band’s activity on Instagram.
10 ways to make the most of your band presence on Instagram
1. Sync Instagram to ALL your social profiles
This includes your band’s Facebook Page, not just your personal Facebook profile! For more info, check out Instagram’s instructions HERE.
Before posting a picture, make sure you’ve selected the appropriate default Facebook page/profile for that particular image. Otherwise, you might find you’ve accidentally shared a snapshot of your family reunion with your music fans.
2. Share images across all your social networks
Every fan will have their own preferences for engaging with your content. Some like Twitter. Some like Facebook. Some check your blog. Others wait for your weekly email newsletter. So unless you’re running some specific kind of campaign on one particular social platform (for instance, “Come into the recording studio with us on Twitter!” or something like that), then it’s wise to share your Instagram images everywhere — your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, Tumblr, etc.
Note: Facebook now owns Instragram, so to kill some of the fun, they’ve decided to disable Instagram images from populating that nice little photo display on your Twitter profile. However, you can still share links and captions to Instagram images in your Twitter feed.
3. Diversify your portfolio
Your photo portfolio, that is. Fans want to see it all: live shots, soundchecks, broken guitars, in the van, late-night writing sessions, recording, putting up posters, pictures of new merch, shooting a video, eating lobster at a band meeting, the Santa Monica sunset, etc.
4. Post a photo series
It’s fun to post a whole series of related photos over the course of a month or two, and it’ll keep your fans coming back for more. Maybe your drummer writes a different message on his drum sticks each night and snaps a quick shot. Maybe you’re on the hunt for the perfect burrito, and you take a shot of a plate of Mexican food in each new city. Whatever sounds fun.
5. Use hashtags
Tag lots of your images with hashtags. This groups your photo together with related photos by other Instagram users (or with other photos you’ve taken with the same hashtag) under a single category. Instagram users can then find your photos based on their own interests. For instance, I was in a bar a few weeks ago and snapped this shot of the bar’s wall — painted like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. So I tagged the image with #VanHalen.
6. Elevate the everyday
Not every moment of your musical life is going to be filled with high drama. There are plenty of little magical moments too. The mundane can be interesting if you frame it right. So share the minutia, the ennui, the drudgery. I guarantee it’ll seem exciting to your fans who are sitting all day in a cubicle.
7. Put your Instagram photos on your blog or website
You can use Instagram’s API or a third-party service to put your Instagram photo gallery on your own site. Check out these sites for further details:
8. Captions can make or break the image
A little context can go a long way — and can turn a bad picture into something hilarious, moving, or otherwise share-worthy. Try to be clear and brief. For example, “Getting ready for our show in Toronto” or “Steve just got the call; his girlfriend is pregnant!” (On second thought, you might not want to put that one on Instagram right away).
9. Don’t overthink it
Instagram is supposed to be fun. Snap a picture, add a filter, and post it! Don’t spend 20 minutes setting up the perfect shot or fretting over the filter options. The more fun you have, the more it’ll show in your images.
10. Ask your fans to help
Get your fans to take Instagram pictures too. But don’t just ask them to take pictures of YOU. Make sure you’re including them. Have them take pictures of themselves at your concerts, holding your CD, or getting a drink with you after the show. Oh, and make sure to ask them to tag your band!
Hopefully that helps you have more smart fun with Instagram. Did I forget anything? How’ve you used Instagram to promote your music? Let me know in the comments section below.