How to Earn New Organic Engagement on Instagram
by Christine Occhino on August 9, 2019 via Soundfly
We’re in an awfully interesting time now, aren’t we? A time where musicians can be found and earn major opportunities, all from the comfort of their own homes and without even leaving their bedrooms sometimes! Welcome to the internet age, and the age of social media. This in not new information for the majority of you, but Instagram has become a living, breathing resume for many artists around the world. Though I’m not one to personally subscribe to the “popularity contest” that runs rampant as an ideology throughout the platform, I know as much as anyone that it does indeed hold some weight though, and is something people do look at as having significant value. Some users go as far as buying their followers to make it seem like they have more fans than they actually do - but I’m not here to talk to you about that. What I would like to discuss though, is how you can earn new organic engagement on Instagram to help you further what you do and get as many new eyeballs on your artistry as possible.
The first thing you should think about is posting quality content. Content is king and without photos or videos to show what you do, it’s near impossible for anyone new to find or like you if you aren’t already well known from something else. The internet is also not terribly forgiving about quality these days, and it’s important that the content you are capturing is in as high a quality format as possible. Whether that means getting a good cell phone with some necessary accessories from Amazon to improve things like sound quality, or a professional video camera complete with tripod and the works, make sure you’re thoughtful about what you’re creating and how it’s being shared.
The next thing to consider is the ever-changing Instagram algorithm. Most recently, the new algorithm dictates the order of the posts that users see when scrolling through their feed, rather than seeing all posts as “equal” and viewable based around the time of posting. Now, it utilizes a special formula to figure out how “relevant” a post will be to a user due to a number of factors like the user’s interests, previous app activity, relationships between accounts, etc. Instagram’s goal in doing away with the former reverse-chronological feed order is to try to maximize the time users spend on the app, so they’re betting on showing users more “relevant” content to keep them engaged longer. However, there are many times the algorithm misinterprets a user’s info and unfortunately many posts end up “hidden” because the formula makes a judgement call that a user is not interested in seeing things from certain users as much as others. (Read: why you see way more posts from famous people you like than your Great Aunt Sally who follows just eleven people and only has two posts of her cats from last year.) In any case, this seems to be how it will all work for a while at least, so it’s important to fully understand the backend of how the algorithm functions in order to keep your account as relevant as possible. Keep an eye on when most users are online too, and be sure to post strategically at higher engagement timeframes. For example, you’ll probably notice that something you post at 8pm has a way higher like and comment count in a shorter amount of time than something you posted at 5am. It’s important to consider user behavior and the timing around that to know when to put what on your page. A little research and experimentation will go a long way until you find a rhythm that works well for you.
Hashtagging strategically can also help engage new followers on Instagram. Though you may think it makes sense to go broad with something many people are using, it actually doesn’t quite work that way. Taking the “little fish, big pond” approach can easily get you lost in a sea of millions of other accounts seeking the same type of attention. On the other hand, you also don’t want to go so specific as to alienate your audience and only capture a very small grouping of users, thus resulting in your post never getting any real eyeballs on it. The best bet is to use accurate and somewhat specific hashtags to whatever content you’re posting, and maximizing the 30-hashtag limit you’re allotted for the best chance of engagement. You can easily see how many other posts exist with the same hashtag, so utilize that information to gauge what you should be using, and try to keep track of what is and is not working the way you want it to so you can adjust accordingly for future posts. Also consider putting all the hashtags in the initial caption and not in the comment section to follow, as this will give you a better opportunity to come up on the explore tabs, and higher in the hashtag search listing.
Engage with other similar accounts on the platform as often as possible, too. This will help the algorithm give a better chance of showing your content to other users that have a history of liking those kinds of posts and pages as well. Like posts from other users that are similar to yours, and leave thoughtful comments, ideally ones that could spark a back-and-forth of some kind. This helps run up the engagement reading on that post, and increases the chances of your page displaying to other accounts.
Stories are a newer, fun feature designed similarly to the Snapchat app - allowing users to post quick snippet-type looks into their day-to-day activity. The main difference with story posts is that they disappear after 24 hours, so you’ll want to try to use these differently than you would a regular old post. Utilize features like tagging other accounts, stickers, GIFs and hashtags, and try to tease upcoming or current posts in an interesting way that encourages users to then poke around back to your profile and keep their attention. If you have a business profile, you can also get the metrics on how users are engaging with your story content. This info is extremely valuable to help you learn what people like, don’t like, pass on, or repeat view of - which will help you curate better content for the future.
Additionally, you can leverage geotags to help your posts and stories become organically discoverable. By tagging your location, it allows users to engage with posts within the same physical vicinity. Lots of businesses like doing this to help bring in customers and share new things that are going on. Consider geotagging locations for gigs, recording studios you’re working out of, events, and any other times you’ll want your fans to know where you are, where you’ve been, and where you will be soon.
Finally, take some time to create quality captions! This is your chance to showcase your personality, develop a brand, and encourage user interaction. Think of something interesting or clever to write about the post, follow it with some relevant emojis to make it fun, space it out a bit so it doesn’t look too cluttered, and insert your thoughtful hashtags at the bottom. Another way to engage with people is to add some “call to action” moments to your posts. For example, if you posted a video of you covering a Kings of Leon song, maybe add something like “One of my favorites by them. What KOL song do you like best from this album?” This will help get other users responding to your post, outside of just liking it or adding a single word or emoji as a response. The more users that comment, the higher the engagement, the better you do in the algorithm… and voila! You’re on your way to steady growth and earning quality, new engagement on Instagram. Hope this helps, and let me know how it’s going @XtineElise. ;)
Christine Elise Occhino (@XtineElise) is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for the music business. In addition to being a vocalist herself, she is the CEO of Elise Music Group, Artistic Director of The Pop Music Academy, and owner of Stamford Recording Studio. She is also the proud Founder & Executive Director of Hope in Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses music to help and heal those in need. Christine is a member of the Grammy Recording Academy, the American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers, and Berklee College of Music Alumni Association. She has experience speaking on many music industry panels, has been a contributing writer for music business publications for over a decade, and also currently hosts the music-based web series & podcast, Soundbytez. For more about Christine, visit XtineElise.com.