Advice Clinic / Student Tips

Using Social Media as an Artist

20th July 2020

These days, artists are never just artists; those who are doing it DIY may also take on the roles of managers, producers, publishers, content creators, and even social media coordinators. You’re a multi-hyphenist, and of this, you should be proud. However, as somebody whose living rests on making connections within the weird and wonderful music industry, you should also be clued up on how to use the biggest, and most effective free marketing tool available at your disposal.

Over the years, I’ve managed the social media accounts of budding newcomers to the great big heritage oldies-but-goodies, and each one of them has required an entirely personalised approach to their social media marketing strategy. However, despite there being no one-size-fits-all strategy, this blog takes a peek at some of the universally artist-friendly tips I’ve picked up over the years…

#1: Be active and open!

Although it’s important to vet your feed once in a while (brush away the comparison and negativity), it’s not widely advised for active artists and songwriters to take year-long hiatuses from the social media game. If you’ve got a date of note approaching – a single, an EP, a feature, etc. – it’s important to be present across your chosen social platforms to remind your fans that you still exist. Whether that looks like a series of countdown posts, multiple live streams or just one retweeted meme per day is for you to decide.

Professional social media coordinators will tell you to post five days per week on Instagram and Facebook, at least twice per day on Twitter, and once per week on YouTube. This isn’t watertight, but it’s a good place to start!

#2: Be authentic and be positive!

Ever wondered why Phoebe Bridgers’ tweets keep popping up on your timeline? Or why Lewis Capaldi’s silly homemade content is also used by his label for his official advertising? These artists aren’t afraid to be themselves on social media! It sounds cheesy, but ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’. Fans can smell authenticity from a mile off, and content creation will flow easier when you’re not having to try too hard.

What does authenticity look like? Well, posting the silly jokes, the rants, the unfiltered selfies, the behind-the-scenes shots and the outtakes as well as the best bits will set you on the right path. Folk singer Izzie Yardley quoted a pearl of rather lovely wisdom in my recent interview with her: “don’t be scared to let people see you grow”.

It’s also important to consider positivity here: release-related angst is something we’ve all felt. The looming question mark above our heads on whether the song we’ve poured over for months will ‘succeed’ can cause cracks to show in our confidence. Chances are, you won’t get 100k streams in the first week – it might be disappointing, but focus on thanking your followers for the 150 streams you did get! Maybe a radio DJ didn’t say too much about your track when they gave it a spin, but at least they played it, right? It’s all grist to the mill, so tag the DJ in your story and tell them ‘thank you’ anyway (they might even give you more air time!).

#3: Engage with your fans, but don’t spam them!

It’s a trap we’ve all fallen into; the excitement of release day gets the better of us, and we repost every single thing everybody has to say about our new song in the space of 24 hours. But what happens when you run out of content? If you can, save some bits and pieces to post intermittently over the next couple of weeks, and keep stoking the flames every so often.

What’s more, if you’ve got more than about 15 Instagram stories up all at once, your followers will start skipping them entirely. Remember, your fans are smart, but we have no attention span whatsoever! Here are a few ways you can really engage us on release day and beyond:

  • Using the ‘questions’ sticker on Instagram stories for an easy Q&A
  • Doing a weekly livestream (engage with the viewers!)
  • Make your stories and posts beautiful, branded and varied with templates on free graphic design apps like Canva, Mojo or other free platforms
  • Film and photograph everything to give your fans an ‘exclusive’ look into your life behind-the-scenes
  • Using the poll options on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – followers can choose which songs they want you to cover, which content they want to see next, etc.

Some apps such as Planoly or Later will help you to organise your content in one place, and let you schedule posts ahead of time so that you can focus on what you do best. A personal favourite is Trello – you can easily find free Trello board templates for social media management on Google.

#4: Plan ahead!

If you’re about to release new music, jot down a plan for the timeline. My go-to is to prepare three weeks of content pre-release, and three weeks of content post-release.
This exact plan won’t work for everyone, but it’s a good idea to know how much content you need to prepare in advance; if I have six weeks to plan for in total, and I post five times a week, I need at least thirty pieces of content for the whole release campaign. Eureka!

Some content creates itself, like blog features or playlist placements or fan-made content, but you’ll do well to arm yourself with acoustic sessions, lyric videos, behind-the-scenes photos or just a bloody good selfie in advance, too.

That said, continue to be reactive – but not too reactive. Riding off the back of trending subjects is a great way to gain followers, and impulsivity (on Twitter especially) is much appreciated by fans who want to know your inner workings. However, use your discretion when taking this approach, and be mindful of whether your content could hurt or offend anybody before posting it.

#5: Collaboration

Remember that time Anne-Marie and Ed Sheeran filmed an acoustic cover backstage at a gig? Thirty-three million views! Ok, they’re both megastars, but you don’t need a fancy camera setup or a super expensive microphone to get more people watching your videos. Just add one human being to your usual setup, et voilà !

Cross-posting is when you collaborate with another artist, both posting the content on your social media pages. It’s a foolproof way to gain followers. For example, my music blog’s Instagram account gained 100 followers in five days because I was tagging all the artists I’d blogged about in my posts – they share the posts, their fans see, their fans follow me. Magic! The same goes for artists. Sing a song with a friend, tag each other in the video on Instagram and watch your follower count grow…

Every time you big up your artist friends on social media, that counts as collaboration too. It’s so important, arguably now more than ever, to support the musicians you know and love. A simple repost or retweet can do wonders for an artist’s confidence and career, so as the internet becomes ever more diluted with meanspiritedness and gossip, let’s continue to build each other up and use our platforms to catapult the best new music into a world so desperately in need of healing.

For further reading on social strategies for musicians, Burstimo and Adam Ivy are great YouTube channels to subscribe to, and I recommend Later.com for great blogs and freebies for brand accounts.

Author

Marnie Burt