Social media, on principle, exists to give your fans and followers greater insight to who you are offstage and outside the studio. Many artists, however, are reluctant to weigh down their feeds with mundane check-ins and some are nervous about posting personal photos. For musicians on Instagram, there’s a popular new feature that solves all these challenges.
The beauty of Instagram Stories, like Snapchat, is that nothing is permanent. Want to post a photo of your dinner at a chic restaurant in LA but don’t want to bog down your Instagram profile? Story it! Being silly with your childhood best friend in a way that wouldn’t really stand up beyond the next 24 hours? That’s primo Story content right there.
If you haven’t tried out Instagram Stories yet, do a little experimenting to get familiar with the features, then try these six ideas to really engage your fans.
1. Take them behind the scenes
Recording a new song in your DIY studio might not be that exciting to you. After all, you’ve probably spent countless hours in there tweaking your tracks. But to your fans, many of whom probably have no idea how songs get made, it’s fascinating. Never before have fans had greater access to their favorite artists; take advantage of that by giving them exclusive, behind-the-scenes tours of your world.
It’s also important to let them know you’re a real person beyond the studio, too. Don’t forget to show off your pad, your car, your favorite coffee shop – anything that lets your fans know you’re just like them. Who knows? Maybe you’ll win over a whole new audience because you both prefer the same kind of espresso.
2. Give a preview of new music
One of the key points of a great Instagram Story is to create content that’s special. After all, not everyone will watch your story, so there should be a reward for those who do. When it comes to music, fans will flip over the chance to hear a new track first. Even if you’re demoing something you’re not quite sure about, play or perform a snippet and ask for opinions.
Bonus: when one fan asks another, “Hey! Did you hear so-and-so’s new song on their Instagram Story?” and the other fan woefully missed it, you can bet that person’s eyeballs will be glued to your IG so it never happens again.
3. Introduce the people (and pets!) in your life
Most likely, you write songs about people who inspire you. Whether it’s a significant other, a parent, your first-grade teacher, or your beloved bulldog. Now’s the time to let your fans virtually meet them.
Don’t make it too elaborate – after all, not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera – but give them their time to shine. Your mom’s making her famous lasagna for dinner? Your girlfriend’s jamming out with her own band? Your cat has a new toy he’s obsessed with? Make those moments the plot of a great story, and don’t forget to mention how they inspire you.
4. Admit a secret
You don’t need to dig deep and drag out a skeleton, but letting your fans in on a little secret builds a bond that feels special. Even if it’s something as simple as, “Hey guys, I just want to put this out there… I hate broccoli” or, “I know everyone’s obsessed with Halloween, but honestly? It creeps me out because I’m scared of the dark.” You get the idea.
Try not to make any bold statements that may alienate your whole fanbase, but don’t be afraid to upset some people. Chances are, it’ll be minor (how mad can you get over broccoli?), and if they’re true fans of your music, you won’t lose them anyway. In most cases, it may start some lively discussions in your Instagram inbox, which is a great chance to build those all-important relationships with your fans.
5. Initiate a contest
Remember those rewards mentioned above? Consider this the ultimate – a straightforward contest or giveaway. Generally, this comes as one of the last slides in your Instagram Story, and it should tie into whatever topic you’re discussing that day. For example, if you’re preparing your new EP, hold a naming contest. Fans DM you their name ideas and the winner not only names your EP but gets a signed copy and a ticket to your next show.
Ideas for contests are endless, but by integrating them into this new-ish platform, you’re really giving your casual fans a reason to watch. And, hey, if you giveaway backstage passes to your next big gig, that could make for a really engaging Instagram Story down the road.
6. Include a CTA
Unless you’re crafting a story that’s purely for engagement, make sure to always include a call to action. These can range from, “Head to iTunes to download our new single,” to “DM us your favorite deep-dish pizza place in Chicago.” Ideally, you always want fans to know what the next steps are.
Instagram is also rolling out a new linking system that, as of now, is only available for verified users, but will probably roll out to everyone eventually. This will make creating a strong CTA even easier, but for now, you’ve got your Instagram one-shot – your bio link – so use it!
Your Instagram feed is great. It’s everlasting and should still be used as your primary venue on that platform. But neglecting Instagram Stories not only puts you at a disadvantage, but shows you’re not hip with the changing trends. Experiment and have fun, but make sure both you and your fans are gaining something worthwhile out of it.
Allison Johnelle Boron is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Goldmine magazine, Paste, and more. She is the founder of REBEAT, a “blogazine” focused on mid-century music, culture, and lifestyle.