10 Reasons Why You’re Failing At Instagram

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If you missed the memo, Instagram is hot. Everyone thought that when Facebook bought it for a billion dollars three years ago that it would lose its cool factor and the kids would leave. Everyone couldn’t have been more wrong. With more than 300 million active monthly users, it has surpassed Twitter. And nearly half of all Instagram users are under 25. It’s important. There are now famous Instagramers making a living off of sponsored Instagramming (from brands). Artists need to learn to use (and love) Instagram now more than ever. It has officially become a must-use social network for artists. And if done right, it can grow your fan base more than Facebook or Twitter.

Like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is a community. You have to learn what is accepted and what is looked down upon in this community. There is proper etiquette that must be followed or you will be shunned. You wouldn’t go to a funeral in a Hawaiian shirt; you wouldn’t mosh at a folk concert; you wouldn’t wear a wetsuit to a backyard pool party. Don’t use Instagram like you use Facebook, Twitter, Vine or Snapchat. These are separate communities and there is different etiquette.

Instagram has become one of the best ways to promote shows, new songs and videos. But don’t over do it! A good rule of thumb for Instagram, only 10% of your feed should promote or sell something. Of course, when a tour or album release is looming, you’re going to be promoting a lot more frequently, so make sure you balance that period with a long stretch of time where you’re not promoting anything.

Here are 10 reasons why you probably have very few Instagram followers or likes.

1) You Don’t Show Your Face

Unless you’re a photographer, designer or foodie, people are following you because they want to see YOU. Your fans are following you because they want a deeper glimpse into your life. But they need to be reminded that it’s YOUR life and not anyone else’s. My mom taught me a valuable lesson that holds true here: always be in your photos. Anyone can gram a photo of the Eiffel Tower. We’ve seen it before. But no one can gram a photo of the Eiffel Tower with YOU in it. Sure, not every photo you gram needs to have your face, but make sure the majority of your photos do. A prospective follower will click through to your Instagram feed, if they don’t see good looking photos of your face (or STUNNING photos of shots you took), more times than not, they will click away without following you. Show people your damn face!

2) Your Photos Are Shitty Quality

You’re an artist, be artistic! Follow musicians, photographers, actors, artists, designers, and other influencers with lots of followers and see how they gram. You’ll start to notice that most of their photos are high quality, great looking shots. Yes, as musicians you have lives that people like a glimpse into, but take some care in what you’re gramming. Try to gram only the best. If Snapchat is for a play by play, Instagram is to showcase the best of the best.

How do you find these famous Instagrammers to follow? Well, first follow musicians and celebrities you admire in the non-Instagram world. Their accounts will lead you down a rabbit hole to many other cool accounts. Also, you can google “Famous Instagrammers” which will bring up some fun lists.

3) You Don’t Have A “Thing”

Models get followers because they’re hot and people like looking at them. Hot girls in bikinis get tons of followers (as long as they continue to gram hot photos in bikinis). That’s their thing. There are meme accounts like thefatjewish, fuckjerry, betches, girlwithnojob and beigecardigan that gram funny memes. That’s their thing.

You’re a musician, so gram photos (and videos) of you (or your band) doing music things. Recording, practicing, performing, touring. People like to see you in your element. Get your photographer friends to shoot great photos at your shows or take videos of your rehearsals. The higher quality the better.

You can have multiple things. Maybe you love dogs. So gram photos of dogs and music. Pets always kill on Instagram. Just see tunameltsmyheart. Maybe fashion is another thing you love, gram photos of you in fashion forward outfits. Or regram other amazing designers/models. If you love coffee, gram about your coffee travels. Your fans will gain a deeper understanding (and loyalty) the more they know you. And if they also loves dogs/fashion/coffee they will relate to you on an even deeper level.

Make sure you have a theme to your Instagram account. It should “feel” like you or your band.

4) You Aren’t Tagging

Always tag everyone (and everything/everyplace you go) in your photo (if they have accounts of course). You will get tagged back when you’re in others’ photos. Some may regram you and tag you back! This is the best way to grow your follower base. It’s like collaborating on YouTube or Vine or being an opening act. You’re exposed to a completely different audience (and given the stamp of approval of that influencer).

5) You Include Links In the Comment

If you haven’t realized this, Instagram does not allow links in the comments section. This is one of the reasons people love Instagram – no link bait. So don’t put a link in the comments! You look foolish. The only acceptable place to put a link is in your bio. You can always change this out. And the best way to promote a link is by mentioning that the link is in your bio. Or a fun hack is to put “link in bio” as your location.

6) You Aren’t Sticking To A Schedule

Once you gain followers, they will expect a consistency from you. If you gram every day, make sure you continue to gram everyday. If you gram 3 times a day, fine, do it every day, 3 times a day. Whatever your frequency, stick to it. Don’t gram 5 times a day and then wait 2 weeks and then shock your followers with 6 grams in an hour.

7) You Aren’t Using Hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to be discovered within the Instagram community. Try to find creative hashtags that don’t have a zillion photos already. If you’re in rehearsal tag #rehearsing #drumming #guitar #loud. If you post a 15 second cover snippit of “This Is How We Do It” tag it #oldschool #90s #monteljordan #fridaynight

But don’t over do it! Including too many hashtags makes you look desperate for followers.

8) You Aren’t Interacting With Your Audience

Don’t use Instagram (or any social network) as a megaphone. Approach it more like a telephone. Listen to your audience and respond. You don’t have to respond to every single comment, but make it a habit to respond to at least a few. And click through to some of your followers’ profiles and like/comment on some of their photos.

You can actually network on Instagram. Follow other influencers who you admire and comment on their photos/direct message them. They’ll take notice and may follow you back and potentially start up a conversation with you.

9) You Aren’t Editing Your Photos

Sure, Instagram offers some pretty neat filters and simple photo editing features like brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, color, sharpen and shadows. Explore these built in features, but also check out some excellent photo editing apps like Afterlight, Snapseed, VSCO Cam. Also, if you want to add text, look into Instaquote and if you need to change the size of one of your photos or videos, check out Instasize, CropVS, or ImageRotate. And sometimes if you can’t choose between just one photo, use Collage.

10) Your Account Is Private

The moment you decide to become a musician, you accept that you will give up a bit of your privacy. Whether you open yourself up in your songs or on Instagram, the public is getting a much deeper glimpse into your life than they do most “normal” people. In 2015, musicians need to have a PUBLIC Instagram account. Making your Instagram account private is like putting your songs behind a paywall. No one is going to purchase an album from an artist they don’t know without hearing a single song, and similarly, no one is going to follow an Instagram account without checking it out first. If you want a private, personal account to show off your baby to your friends and family, but don’t want to show off your baby to the world (thank you!), then create two accounts and make your personal one private. Your musician account MUST be public.


Some (non superstar) musicians who are using Instagram quite well are Halsey, vöx, Dustin Hatzenbuhler, Cam, Rachel Platten, Ingrid Michaelson and Todd Carey

Do you have your own favorite Instagrammers? Post them in the comments.

Photo is from @tunameltsmyheart Instagram

7 Responses

  1. Sam

    So basically just fuck around with your phone all day and just do music as kind of a side thing. …and say things like “gram” a lot. Gotcha!

    • Anonymous


      Not sure why you’re worried – 3-6 hours a day devoted to maintaining social media (you can’t just gram, you know – you need FB and Twitter and whatever else too), coming up with content for it, and responding to everything leaves you plenty of time for music. Plus, you make money from all your high quality, entertaining tweets and grams…. oh. wait…..

    • Boltron

      I bet you are an old school musician from the 80’s 90’s that hates technology and doesn’t use Facebook or instagram. Your band probably doesn’t have any followers. I am going to take a wild guess and say that you are either a guitarist or a lead singer, or both and play in a Metal / Heavy Metal / Rock band, or something like that.

      It takes two minutes to take a picture while you are in rehearsal and post it on instagram, that’s all you gotta do, not come here and complain.

  2. Devon

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