It’s hard to believe that Instagram introduced their Instagram Stories feature less than two years ago. Since August 2016, Stories have become one of the most compelling reasons to actually use the platform — over 300 million people use Stories on a daily basis, drastically increasing the amount of time users spend on Instagram in general.
With that amount of eyeballs hungry for Stories content, there are so many great ways for artists to reach fans beyond the commitment of posting content on the permanent Instagram feed, which is often curated to fit a specific brand or theme. Stories present the opportunity to show your natural, real, and even goofy side.
“The key is for artists to not overthink it,” says Jessica Savage, Director, Digital Strategy & Marketing at AWAL. “I think there's so much pressure to portray a certain part of their life and only do Stories when they're in the studio or on tour. That's a really good look at their daily life, but fans want to see the minutia, too.”
A few weeks ago, Spotify upped the ante by adding a feature that allows users to share songs to their Instagram Stories directly from the app. Now, when listeners are streaming a track, they can click the “three dots” beside the track’s title, hit “share” and instantly upload the song’s cover art to their Stories. When followers view it, they’ll see a link in the upper-left-hand corner to stream the track on Spotify.
Although this gives artists an important gateway to direct fans to their music on Spotify, take those music-oriented Stories to the next level by using screen record or a laptop to add music to Stories slides. With screen record, hold the microphone icon to record a song playing on your iPhone. Or, for those without iOS 11 or an iPhone, capture decent audio by playing a track on your laptop and recording with your phone as close to your speaker as possible. Make sure to add a “sound on” icon to let your followers know to turn it up!
To help you make the most of your Instagram Stories as an artist, here are a few more tips we’ve pulled together for sharing music, creating interesting visuals, and making sure your posts are seen not just by your followers but the Instagram community at large.
Be present, post later
Once upon a time, Instagram Stories had to be posted in real time, but now, users can access their camera roll and upload images and videos later. This not only gives you the freedom to actually be “in the moment” when something happens, but it also allows you to plan and create the message you want to share with your viewers.
“Feeling rushed to post can put pressure on you,” says Savage. “Now, you can think about it, reflect on your own day, and upload it after the fact, which is great because then you're more present in your own life. That’s kind of the point when you're recording your album, on tour, or onstage.”
Use hashtags and geotags thoughtfully
You probably already use both hashtags and geotags on your traditional Instagram feed, and by incorporating them into your Stories, you give yourself a fighting chance of showing up in the “top 9” of both your location and in any tags. “Hashtagging is a big one especially at a location or when you're at a show,” says Savage, “because you have the potential of getting featured in that city's roundup on Instagram.”
For geotags, make sure you’re using a popular location — for example, instead of tagging yourself at the Bowery Ballroom, you may want to use New York City. Experiment and see what type of geolocation lands you in a particular place’s Story. That may vary based on where you are, venue size, and how many other people are “adding” to that geo-Story.
Although your Stories will disappear after 24 hours, you can preserve them forever by compiling them together as Highlights on your profile. Many users group Stories together by theme, location, or event, but regardless of the thread that ties them all together, it’s important to choose the best of the best to showcase. Depending on who’s looking at your profile and why, this could be the all-important first impression of you and your music.
To give your highlights a little extra polish, create custom “covers” that have a cohesive color scheme or font. The web-based design app Canva is a quick and easy way to make covers that look professional — Savage recommends starting with the “Etsy shop icon” template.
If you have over 10,000 Instagram followers, you’re eligible to use its “swipe up” feature to directly point viewers towards outside links. Make sure it’s clear that you want your followers to do just that by coming up with original ways to say, “Swipe up.” (“Learn more” or, “Listen now” are both good starting points.)
Whether or not the swipe-up feature is available to you, use arrows or gifs to drive traffic by pointing at any important hashtags (#LinkInBio) or drawing attention to the “swipe up” CTA. It’s crucial to also make sure you’re communicating what’s in it for your viewers if they do swipe up. What will they get? Where will they go? No one likes being dropped off-platform in a strange place.
Interact with fans through DMs
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to communicate with your fans via social media. Your Instagram DMs are a great place to interact directly with your fanbase, and many artists are using them to source postable content and receive feedback. Challenge your fans to send you photos in your DMs, then repurpose it on your Story.
“Fans love seeing their content get used by an artist,” says Savage. “They just love it. They feel like they're part of their world. It's something they then share with their friends and family and say, ‘Oh my gosh, my favorite artist used the picture of my dog in their compilation video or their Instagram Stories for the day. Check 'em out!’”
One word of caution, however: “If you're going to use a strategy like that, you just have to commit to it,” says Savage. Some artists with large followings might underestimate how many DMs they’ll receive, so only promise a message back or to share photos if that’s feasible for you.
Above all, the most important part of Instagram Stories is in the name — the stories. Make sure you’re acting as a great storyteller and giving your followers something interesting and entertaining, along with any promo, announcements, or direct requests.
Experiment with Stories’ features to figure out what your fans respond to and what feels right for your artistic brand. Keep an eye out as new features consistently roll out, and have fun creating connections with your viewers in unique, innovative ways.
Need some Instagram inspo? Follow @AWAL and check out our Stories and Highlights!