Creating awareness for your music is a delicate balance between promotion and authentic, genuine connection. On one hand, you need to wear the marketing hat — you need to be sharing your work and encouraging fans to support you in some way. And on the other hand, you need to relate to fans on the human level — you need to show your personality, be real with them, and share enough to get them into your world.
It’s a tough balance. But luckily Instagram has features that let you wear both hats.
The Basics of Creating Instagram Stories
There are two main sharing features on Instagram: your feed and your stories. Your feed is usually the place where your very best photos and videos will permanently live. Many people take great care in curating their feed so that it fully reflects their image and music. Your stories, however, only stay up for 24 hours, so this is where you can open up a bit more.
If you’ve ever used Instagram to connect with your fans, you’re probably familiar with the “Story” feature, but let’s quickly recap…
You can add a Story by tapping the small camera icon in the top left corner of your Instagram home page. There, you’ll find a few different options ranging from simple text posts to photos, live streams, boomerangs, and videos. You can add fun face filters by tapping the smiley face icon on the right. If you want to upload photos or videos from your phone, just tap the image icon on the left side.
After you have a photo or video, you can add filters, text, GIFs, stickers, hashtags, tags, or even draw on it. Click the “Send to” button at the bottom, choose “Your Story,” and share. Now your Story is live for all your fans to see!
Once you’ve posted your Story, your profile picture will appear with a multi-color border around it, and your Story can be viewed by tapping your profile picture anywhere it appears on Instagram. Fans can tap right to scroll through your stories or swipe right to left to skip your stories.
Why Use Instagram Stories?
Okay, now that we know how to use Instagram Stories, let’s tackle the big why. Why should you bother with Instagram Stories, at all?
Since its launch, Instagram Stories have amassed over 300 million daily active users — that’s way more than Snapchat. And on top of that, Stories are discoverable. You can add hashtags and locations to your Stories to make them searchable, and Instagram recommends Stories at the top of the explore page. Massive potential audience + discoverability = a chance to get your music in front of new fans. And who doesn’t want that?
Another huge win for Stories is that you can actually share links. Historically, the only clickable link on Instagram is the one in your bio, but now fans can swipe up while viewing Stories to open a link. To add a link, just click the link icon on the top while editing your Story. This feature alone opens up a ton of opportunities to link to your website, new blog post, new YouTube video, merch store, tour page, or email signup page.
Another big benefit is that a Story only lasts 24 hours. After that, it’s gone (unless you choose to save it to your Highlights, of course). I know it sounds weird for this to be a benefit, but hear me out. When something is only going to be live for 24 hours, you don’t need to worry about production quality as much. It can be a lot more spur of the moment, and that means you’re able to be more authentic, real, and flawed compared to your feed. Showing this real side of you (even just a little) helps fans relate to you as a person, which is essential if you want to differentiate yourself from other musicians in your genre.
Building on that, Stories tie right into direct messages. Fans can choose to “Reply” to your story, which will send you a DM. This opens up opportunities for one-on-one conversations between you and your fans. Now we can move on to the fun stuff and discuss some cool ways you can incorporate Instagram Stories into your music promotion.
1. Use polls to get fans involved.
Stories are a great place to get instant feedback from your fans. To add a poll, create a Story and click on the sticker icon at the top. Tap the “Poll” option and type in the question you want to ask your fans. You can also customize the poll responses (the default is simply “yes/no”).
Ask fans which merch design they prefer, which riff is more rockin’, which cover song you should record next, or which guitar they like better. These polls can be serious (like a vote on merch design) or as just a fun way to engage with your fans. Give it a few hours and you’ll be able to go in and view the results of your polls. Just swipe up while viewing your Story to see the analytics. You’ll be surprised what insightful information you can glean from these polls!
2. Use emoji sliders to get feedback.
Emoji sliders are similar to polls but give you some more fun, customizable options. Just like polls, you can add an emoji slider by tapping the sticker icon as you’re editing your Story. Ask a question, choose an emoji, and add it into your photo or video.
Ask your fans what they think of a beat you’re working on with a heart eyes emoji slider. Or, share a post with different songs listed and ask fans which ones they’d like to hear at your next gig on tour. Add a slider with an arrow pointer to let them vote. Once fans have had a chance to cast their votes with the slider, you’ll be able to swipe up and view the results (hint: you’ll see the average answer in your analytics).
3. Use Stories to cross-promote other social channels.
Did you just release a new video on your YouTube channel? Great, let’s make a Story for that! Grab a screen cap video or upload a short edit of the video right into your Story. Use the link icon to add a direct link to the video and overlay some text telling fans to swipe up to watch.
4. Use Stories to promote your music.
You can also use Stories to link directly to your store or gig page on your website. Create a short video letting fans know that your new song is officially available for purchase with a direct link to your store so they can swipe up and buy.
5. Share exclusives in your Stories.
Some musicians will occasionally share little exclusives with just their Instagram Story viewers to incentivize engagement. Try sharing coupon codes for discounts on merch or two-for-one deals where fans can get two stickers for the price of one. Another option is to give Story viewers early access to content; you could share a direct link to an unlisted YouTube video before you make it public.
6. Promote your new post.
Instagram has been making a lot of changes to their algorithm lately, and that means some fans may not be seeing everything you post to your feed. A great way some musicians are trying to increase the visibility of their posts is to share a quick announcement to Stories. You won’t catch everyone, but you may get some of the fans who fell through the algorithmic cracks.
7. Use Stories for the fun stuff.
Above all, your Stories should be a place to have fun, so don’t be afraid to try things out and be yourself. Share some video clips from band practice or from the studio. Use a series of videos to create a mini tutorial or play through of a song. Do a mini-review of a piece of gear you’ve been trying out. Or even let fans help you choose an outfit for your next gig.
Hopefully at this point you have some cool ideas of fun things to post to your Stories. Remember, Stories are a place to share some behind-the-scenes info and get some engagement going between you and your fans so don’t overthink it too much.
New to Soundfly?
Our community of Soundfly Mentors can help you set the right goals, pave the right path toward success, and stick to schedules and routines that you develop together. It’s like having a personal trainer for your music, with a series of musical workouts, a ton of feedback and support, and the chance to accomplish something you’ll be proud of. Interested? Tell us about yourself!
Chelsea G. Ira is the Director of Marketing for The New Artist Model.