How the Instagram Era Will Be Different

As Facebook continues to become a shell of itself in regards to an artist’s ability to connect with their fans, and Instagram continues to further itself as the frontrunner, there are some things that are definitely going to be different. Here are a few points that I think everyone should consider while heading in to this transition:

 

Type of content:  On Instagram it’s all visual.  On Facebook you had options for links or just text.  Those options don’t exist here. Sure there’s some text you can put at the bottom of the post, but how often is it actually being read?–Especially after the first sentence. Instagram’s algorithms penalize posts with text on them, and the more text, the less it’s likely to be shown to followers. So if you can’t communicate your message with the picture or video, then you’re really fighting an uphill battle.

Also, I’m not really sure how often people are actually listening to the audio of videos and stories.  Try to say it all with the picture or video with the idea that the corresponding text or audio probably won’t be consumed too. I know it’s tough, but it’s now the reality.

You need to make sure you’re posting to stories, not just the posts.  If you haven’t hopped on the stories train, it’s time to start.

At this point, it doesn’t really look like Instagram TV is going to take off.  Who knows maybe eventually it will, but for now the odds don’t look great. Everything about it is just kind of…awkward..  There’s no harm in posting to it, but I’d definitely concentrate on the stories and posts first.

 

Engagement:  You’re likely getting a lot more likes on your posts on Instagram versus Facebook, but you can’t really equate the likes as being the same.  It’s easier to like a post on Instagram and the content is easier to consume on the surface level. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a “like” on Instagram has the same value as a “like” on Facebook.

 

Shares:  The lack of sharing capability on Instagram definitely makes things harder to go viral or reach people outside of your current fan base.  There are obviously some discover/explore components on Instagram but it’s certainly not the same. You have to rely on your music, touring, and other outlets to reach people from outside of your following and draw them in. But trust me if they like your music and live show, they’ll come to you.

 

Promotional vs Personal: Learn from the mistakes of the Facebook era.  Artists put out way too much promotional content and not nearly enough personal content. If you go that route on Instagram people will tune you out and eventually unfollow you.  You have to take fans off the stage and shed some insight in to who you are as person. You can do this too much though. Just provide a nice balance.

 

Advertising:  I think this is going to be one of the biggest disruptions of the whole transition. The advertising capabilities on Instagram are vastly inferior compared to Facebook.  You get less bang for your buck and you can’t target people nearly as well…and here’s why. On Facebook people provide all kinds of information: gender, age, interests, location, current job, etc…so Facebook can do a great job figuring out who to target for your ad.  On Instagram, the personal information people provide is almost non-existent, meaning it’s impossible to target people as effectively. Make no mistake, this is a big change. It seems like we are entering an era where ad targeting and social media advertising will actually be less effective than it once was.

 

Could changes be coming?:  Part of me thinks that Instagram will be smart and keep the platform primarily the same, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if a few changes are on the horizon. As Facebook continues to dwindle, I think so will the money spent on advertising, so I think Facebook will look to recoup their revenue losses through revenue gains from an increase of advertising on Instagram.  But as I addressed in my previous point, they don’t have the personal info from their users to really drive those gains. So my prediction is that Instagram will start allowing users to provide more personal info in their bio. I guess we’ll see..

 

This era of social media is going to be different and in my opinion, not really in a good way.  I think there’s a good possibility, that we’ve already gone through not only the golden era of Facebook for musicians, but also the golden era for social media in general for musicians.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still going to be an immensely powerful tool for a long time, but I don’t know if it’ll ever be as effective at connecting artists with fans as it was 7 or 8 years ago…at least not anytime soon.  While there is certainly a gap in the market for a new platform to fill, the big 4 platforms are still big enough to keep anyone else out.

The drop in social media’s effectiveness isn’t just from the platforms themselves though, it’s also due to the fragmentation in our society.  How we connect, our culture, our society, how we consume information…it’s all completely different from what it used to be. And there’s just so much content out there!  How do you rise above the clutter? How do you stay connected with your fans in the era of ubiquitous access? For every facet that makes it easier, there’s one that makes it harder. That’s why I’ve been encouraging you for the last few years to diversify the way you reach your fans by building your following on email, twitter, and Spotify. The digital world is an unpredictable one, and right now it’s hard to be optimistic that things are going to return to what they once were anytime soon.  

I do think it levels the playing field a little bit for the indies versus the majors. The mainstream country artists are running in to the same obstacles, but the consequences of not being able to pay to effectively and efficiently market/advertise/connect to fans are severely greater for them. It’s easy to stay on top when you have the ability to constantly advertise your products in a controlled marketplace with limited advertising space.  But the doors to the marketplace have been kicked down and the advertising space is everywhere. But when everyone is advertising everything all the time and the advertising space is less effective, it begins to all be nothing but noise; even great advertising hardly stands out anymore. The consumers (fans) now decide what’s successful, not the producers (industry).

The good news is the demand for the product is staying the same (and in our scene increasing), so if you’re looking to rise through the masses and clutter, you have to make people talk.  Make them talk about your music, make them talk about your videos, make them talk about your shows. Make them talk on their socials and to their friends. Word of mouth has always been king, but now it looks like it’s the king, queen, and the rest of the court.  Your social media following and engagement is now just a product of how effective your word-of-mouth-factor is. People talking about your music can lead a lot more people to your Instagram, than your Instagram can lead people to discover your music.  That doesn’t mean a great social presence isn’t important.  Just that your music is probably leading the discovery aspect, and your social media presence is only maintaining it. The bottom line: It all starts with the music. It always has, just the smoke is clearing and it’s becoming more apparent now.

People are still going to listen to music, buy merch, and go to concerts. In fact, in that area it’s hard not to be optimistic; especially in our scene which seems to be growing.  So there’s still going to be plenty of opportunity out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a turbulent ride finding it.

I like to think about these disruptive transformations as one of two things: threats or opportunities.  They’re opportunities for people who can adapt and thrive and threats for those who don’t/won’t/can’t. Which one it becomes is in large part up to you!

Author: Chris Fox

Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I'am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.

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