How To Use Social Media Successfully as a Musician
No matter what stage you’re at, being a musician is a full-time job if you’re doing it right. You’ve got the music down but what’s next? You’ll definitely need to work on sending pitch emails to score press, maybe connect with a designer to start sketching out merch ideas, build the perfect EPK, smooth-talk radio hosts into giving you a little airplay… the list goes on and on. Somewhere in the middle of this endless to-do list is that seemingly unattainable triumph, the green light Gatsby reaches for, the bane of the technologically-inept’s very existence, the pride and joy of digital marketers, the key to establishing a fanbase: social media. If you’re not familiar with how to navigate the constantly evolving digital landscape, tackling social media is probably either terrifying to you or totally unimportant. The truth is that it’s neither. Once you take a little time to study the patterns and intricacies of social media, you’ll see that it’s not as scary as you thought, but it’s definitely an important beast to slay. Right here, we’re walking you through everything you need to know about social media so you and your band can grow the following you deserve. We’ll cover a broad look at the digital landscape, general tips and tricks for social media coordinating, content ideas, a mock schedule, resources to help you make the best of it, and so much more. Maybe it looks a little overwhelming, but trust us -- you don’t need to be a digital marketing executive or a millennial with a Tumblr to succeed on social media. You just need to learn the rules of the game and know how to play.
A Brief History of Social Media
It’s been over two decades since one of the very first social networking sites, the aptly named SixDegrees, launched. The inaugural social site allowed users to keep track of their connections by establishing personal profiles, sending messages, and inviting friends to join their networks. Fast forward a few years later to 2003 when Myspace joined the wild world of internet friendships with their more comprehensive version of SixDegrees, offering once again the ability to craft personal profiles and connect with friends, but advanced by more interactive opportunities like photo uploads, music sharing, and more. Myspace quickly became a household name (whether parents of angsty teens brainwashed by the internet liked it or not), garnering nearly one billion users since its launch 15 years ago. But just a year after Myspace established itself as a successful social site, Facebook was formed. Originally adopting an exclusivity model in which only Harvard students were offered access to the database, Facebook expanded to reach a much wider pool of users so long as they were 13 years of age with a valid email address. Since its launch, Facebook has pivoted frequently and built hundreds of features as requested by socially-crazed users, though it’s not been without its faults (endless controversies make Facebook a case study for deception, privacy issues, and tech efforts).
Two years after the advent of social media’s most notorious website, Twitter was launched, a micro take on social media networking. The site and app allowed users to share information so long as their tweets were restricted to a measly 140 characters (this limit has since been doubled) and offered a minimalist version of the networking components of fellow sites, in which users could follow each other, tweet one another, or send direct messages if they wished. Fast forward years later to 2010 when Instagram launched, not the first photo-sharing service but one of the first to offer a social component. Instagram has recently surpassed over one billion users, many of whom are active on the app daily. Just a year after Instagram’s debut came Snapchat, a one-of-a-kind app allowing for multimedia messaging that dissolves after a certain period of time. The time-sensitive and exclusive nature of Snapchat quickly found it increasing in popularity, now boasting nearly 200 million active daily users.
In today’s digitally-minded world, there are hundreds upon hundreds of social media networking sites each fighting for user interest, but the ones listed above reign due either to their trailblazing beginnings or their monetary success. As the digital landscape continues to change year by year, social networking sites must align themselves with the ways in which internet users change the way they engage with the digital world and evolve to accommodate new social advancements.
Tips and Tricks for Succeeding on Social Media
We’ve already covered the fact that the possibilities for social media curation are endless and succeeding across platforms takes work, but here’s the good news -- there are tons of little tips and tricks to be aware of that just might make your foray into the digital depths worth it. The thing about social media is that it’s really a game, of sorts, and it must be played by the rules. And the rules? They’re not too crazy, just things you need to keep in mind, like which day of the week affords the most social media interaction or the harm of hashtags. Let’s take a look at a whole bunch of tips and tricks below.
- Treat social media like you would a raffle -- the more you play, the more likely your chance of winning is. Don’t be afraid to post content more frequently than you think you should. It’s okay to double-post… or triple-post… or quadruple-post. The more content you’re posting, the more likely it is that your followers will see and engage with you.
- Social media management tools are your friends so explore them to see what works best for you. Content posting is daunting, but a scheduler will help keep you on time, on track, and organized.
- HootSuite allows users to manage and schedule posts across many platforms all in one helpful database. The free trial allows for 30 days, 1 social profile, and 30 posts, but the cheapest option after that is $29 a month to maintain 10 social profiles and unlimited scheduling. For social media coordinators or artists working across multiple platforms, this is a smart tool to manage the stress of posting.
- TweetDeck allows users to schedule and create content before the site automatically sends it out depending on when you schedule it to release. Because it was acquired by Twitter, this is a free in-browser app that all Twitter users have access to. As long as you’re logged into your Twitter account, you can check out your analytics by visiting this link.
- Later allows users to “visually plan and schedule Instagram posts.” The free version allows one user, one account, and 30 posts per month. The cool thing is that it also lets users connect their other social accounts, but this is really the app Instagram users have been waiting for.
Instagram has been regarded as one of the most obvious examples of instant gratification in the world of social media -- it’s all or nothing. Don’t think, just post, scroll, like, post, scroll, like, and onwards. Prior to Later’s launch, there wasn’t a solid service that allowed users to draw out the Instagram experience by formatting, designing, compiling, and scheduling their posts like they could do easily on apps like Twitter.
Here’s the catch -- third-party apps and services that publish directly to Instagram are actually prohibited by Instagram itself (guess they’re trying to maintain the instant part of their name), so Later gets around this caveat by operating within their rules, but with a twist. It doesn’t publish your posts for you -- you plan and schedule them, but when the time comes to go live, Later will text you in real-time reminding you that it’s time to press send on the posts you’ve curated. It’s your best bet for getting around Instagram’s grumbling.
- Airtable allows users to compile and organize any information pertinent to their business all in one comprehensive platform, separated by categories and spreadsheets you design yourself. Essentially a glorified Excel sheet, Airtable is a brilliant tool for users overwhelmed with content priorities. The free plan offers more than enough awesome features -- you’re allowed an unlimited number of bases (meaning database or spreadsheet) and can store up to 1,200 records in each base. The Pro plan provides color and styling options if you want to tack a plus sign onto your Type A personality, but the free plan works great without it. Instead of drowning in a bunch of disjointed spreadsheets in Google Drive, you can manually track analytics, keep a fanbase, schedule content, and more in AirTable’s easy-to-use platform.
- Feedly isn’t a scheduler, but it does generate endless content that might be of interest to you, basically acting as a good friend making recommendations they know you’ll love. Your social media should be chockful of your own music-related pursuits, but maybe one day you want to share an informative op-ed about the industry on your Facebook page or a tweet about popular music news. That’s where Feedly comes in. It does the work of scouring the internet for interesting content so you don’t have to.
- The most popular (meaning gets the most engagement) type of content is photos. This goes for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, obviously. Text posts alone get very limited engagement, so if you have an announcement or something to make, consider slapping it onto an image or graphic instead to be sure it catches the eyes of your fans (you can accomplish this in Canva, a website with crazy easy graphic design capabilities and essentially limitless options to create nice social media graphics, banners, posters, logos, and so much more).
- Nix the one-way content -- increase your two-way content. What this means is that you’re inviting interaction. One-way content are things like sentences, a picture without text, etc. Two-way content can be in the form of Twitter polls, simply posing a question on Facebook, posting a photo on IG and asking something in the caption, etc. Keep finding new ways of encouraging people to respond.
- Hashtags are great, but use the trick below to hide hashtags for a cleaner, more professional look. By using this approach, your hashtags will now reside in a separate comment, meaning that fans won’t see them all bunched together when they read your caption.
- Open notepad on phone
- Insert one period. Enter.
- Repeat until you have 1 dot each on 5 separate lines
- Insert hashtags like you normally would
- Copy / paste full note into a comment on your IG posts -- don’t add to your caption. Post your picture with your caption then add the hashtag note as a comment.
- Hashtags are most successful on Instagram, but they can also be helpful on Twitter if you use them sparingly and in ways that make sense. Don’t be afraid to make your own hashtag too! This should be as simple as your band or artist name (can be followed with “music”), but keep consistent and use it every time you post a photo on IG. Once you start building a steady fanbase, your fans can use that hashtag when they post about you and start building up some traction for it. Some of the most popular hashtags on Instagram as of the end of 2018 are as follows:
- #newmusicmonday (79.5 thousand posts)
- #newmusicfriday (293 thousand posts)
- #instamusic (over 14 million posts)
- #musicmonday (676 thousand posts)
- #acousticmusic (340 thousand posts)
- #musiciansofinstagram (401 thousand posts)
- #musicoftheday (195 thousand posts)
- Consider hosting a merch contest to attract new fans. People love to win free stuff, even if they’re not totally involved in the brand or product. By hosting a contest (on any platform), you can basically “trick” people into giving you more engagement. Keep in mind that there are rules you must follow when hosting a sweepstakes or giveaway. You can look into that more here. Below are a few examples of how this might work on each main platform.
- Post graphic accouncing merch contest or pic of CD
- Caption: “Hey _______ followers! We’re hosting a giveaway for our upcoming album… signed. All you have to do is follow us and tag a friend who might be interested (they’ll have to comment too though) in the comments. For an extra entry, post about us on your IG story (make sure you tag us)!”
- Post pic of a signed CD
- Caption: “Hey world! We’re giving away one free signed copy of our upcoming album. All you have to do is follow us and retweet this post! For an extra entry, tweet us about your favorite song of ours.”
- Post pic of signed CD
- Caption: “So excited to announce that we are giving away two free signed copies of our upcoming album -- one for you and one for a friend. All you have to do to be entered to win is like our page and tag a friend. You both must be following to win. That’s it!”
- According to SproutSocial’s latest study this year, the best times to post on social media are mid-week in the afternoons. More specific takeaways are as follows:
- Best: Wednesdays, noon and 2 PM
- Best: Thursdays, 1 PM and 2 PM
- Least engagement: Saturdays
- Least engagement: Evenings and early mornings
- Best: Wednesdays, 3 PM
- Best: Thursdays, 5 AM and 11 AM and 3 PM to 4 PM
- Best: Fridays, 5 AM
- Least engagement: Sundays
- Best: Friday, 9 AM to 10 AM
- Least engagement: Sunday mornings
Social Media Content Ideas
The whole point of social media is that users all over the world get to share the things they love with each other in a multitude of ways. This is a really special thing we get to do, especially since it allows us to connect and learn endlessly. For musicians, part of their job is sharing who they are and the work they do with their fans (and all those random strangers who are bound to become fans if the band does their job right), so creating and curating content that is both truthful and engaging is something to be nurtured, to be carefully thought out. There are so many ways you can tackle social media, but in case you’re stuck, we’ve come up with a pretty lengthy list of content suggestions.
- Behind-the-scenes photos and videos
- Pic of the band lounging in between rehearsals
- Blooper video of a vocal error caught during recording
- Text post about a funny tour story
- Weekly themed content
- Pics of each band member every Monday. Caption with their favorite album, their role in the band, their favorite song from their own discography. When you run out of members, start posting about the external team -- producer, photographer, support system, etc.
- If you’re currently in the middle of a tour, keep fans up-to-date with a mini video log series about the places you’ve stayed, the people you’ve met, the craziest things that have happened in the van, your favorite venues so far, etc.
- Post a cover video every Tuesday of your favorite song, or just give a little love to your favorite musicians of the week by telling your followers why they should love ‘em too -- don’t forget to tag them!
- Each week, commit to writing one song with the help of your fanbase. Ask your followers to give you prompts or suggestions for lyrics, MadLib-style, then post a handwritten verse or a 30 second video delivering the final product on Wednesday. Or you can hook up with friends for a weekly co-write series (singer-songwriter Jordy Searcy does this and it’s awesome -- check it out).
- You can’t go wrong with this classic hashtag, but get a little creative with it. Instead of the typical baby pic, throw it back to a picture of your very first band practice or the lyrics to the very first song you ever wrote.
- If you specialize in folk music, there are any number of things you can do with this tag. Maybe an exclusive video series just for your Instagram followers? Or perhaps an “ask me anything” set? Or a series in which you highlight all the folk musicians who have inspired you?
- Sneak peeks and exclusives
- Reward your loyal followers with fun stuff like free download links, 15 second clips of an unreleased song, a fleeting look at your upcoming music video, an invite-only link to your private blog about your band’s recording process, etc
- Motivational quotes or lyrics
- Remember Canva, that graphic design tool we mentioned earlier? You can make tons of sleek social media graphics on it so you can share the quotes that inspire you or the lyrics that move you (or you can post your own lyrics).
- Interactive posts
- Polls and questions
- Which song is your favorite off our new EP?
- Who deserves the Queen of Pop title today?
- What should our next song be about?
- Questions embedded in the caption
- End your caption with a totally unrelated question just to get to know your followers. Ask them how they’re doing today. Ask them to tell you their favorite ice cream flavor. Just think of new ways you can goad your fans into engaging more.
- Get creative with the rules of your giveaway -- by asking fans to tag a friend, you’re getting more eyes on your brand and hopefully more ears on your music, for example.
- Polls and questions
- Promotional content
- Pics from your newest photo shoot (don’t forget to give appropriate credit to your photographer, please!)
- A screenshot or link to a raving review
- Testimonial from a fan
- Tour dates
- If your fans like your music, it’s likely they might like your music taste too or at least trust you enough to give it a try. Curate a Spotify playlist of your all-time favorite tunes and share it with your fans -- or ask your fans to send you their favorite songs and then build a playlist of them. They’ll love being involved and having a special place on a compilation you put together (UK artist Jack Vallier did this once!)
- Have you met this world today? We love memes. Stay relevant, keep up with the trends, and post content to make your followers laugh… either at you or with you.
Mock Social Media Schedule
Below we have created a mock schedule you might use for your social media postings across the three major platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In addition to keeping consistent with your content (and avoiding cross-posting), engaging with others on social media will be a key indicator for success.
Be an active participant on social media. Spend half an hour a day scrolling your feeds, liking and commenting on posts from your fans and favorite musicians, tweeting questions or shout-outs to specific people, responding to your fans, etc. If you get into this practice of actively engaging with the people around you in the digital world, you’ll find that you can easily generate a community of loyal and interested folks who want to support you. In between your own posts, take the time to thoughtfully interact with publications -- tell a journalist you love their writing style, retweet an article and quote your favorite part, shout-out the blog you read most often. Talk to fellow musicians -- tell them you can’t wait for their new song or that it would be an honor to collaborate with them. Virtually hang out with your fans -- DM them thanking them for their support, post a pic of you with a fan at your last gig, design a special graphic showing a little love to the people who make it all the more easy for you to do what you love to do.
The genuine friendships you make and maintain in this industry will afford you some of your most important, exciting opportunities of your career, but don’t write them off. Foster your friendships. Show you care. Support the folks who are doing battle in this tough industry every day, just like you.
Okay, now that we’ve covered that, let’s get to the mock schedule. These components are all mix-and-match, of course, and there are hundreds of content combinations you can try out across any platform, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
Helpful Resources for Musicians
Hopefully we were able to offer at least a little guidance on operating your social media platforms, but we know there’s so much more to digital marketing and musicianship that would be pretty hard to cover in just one article. We want you to have the best information out there, so we’ve compiled a list of helpful resources for musicians covering everything from social media to booking to press outreach to so much more.
- Drooble, a social media networking site specifically for musicians
- SproutSocial, a comprehensive resource website focusing on marketing, branding, and social media techniques
- Sonicbids, a suite of resources designed to make the lives of musicians a little easier by offering opportunities to book gigs, connect with promoters, and create press materials all in one platform
- hypebot, an online publication covering daily news and commentary about the music industry
- Music Business Worldwide, a music news website that frequently updates a job board of open positions in the music industry across the world
- CD Baby, a company that helps musicians distribute and sell their music across platforms
- Bandzoogle, an online platform that allows musicians to build and integrate their own websites, promote their music, and sell to fans directly
- Music Minds Matter, a UK-based nonprofit organization offering a support line and resources for musicians struggling with their mental health
- Fractured Atlas, a national organization specializing in fiscal sponsorship opportunities for artists, along with a wide range of other helpful resources including SpaceFinder, a service that helps artists find venues, rehearsal spaces, etc
- Haulix, a service assisting musicians with the distribution and promotion of their music
In this section of the blog you can find a growing array of resources and articles about music marketing, publicity tips and music business tricks.
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