Your captions aren't working. Write posts that attract fans!
When you’re writing a caption on Instagram, there are methods that achieve better results in attracting FANS and not just AUDIENCE MEMBERS. And a fan is someone who is there to stay. I want to talk about Instagram captions because out of the hundreds of musicians I have taught throughout the years, and many more I know as friends, the vast majority are looking at captions in the wrong way.
There are 5 common mistakes I see musicians making with their captions. I’m going to break them down today!
Mistake #1: Literally describing the photo in the caption.
It may sound strange, but your caption DOESN’T have to explain what is in the photo you post! If it did, our feeds would just be scrapbooks, and not platforms for connection. Realizing that Instagram is not a photo album is the first step to breaking through the “disengaged audience member” and turning him or her into the “loyal fan”.
If Instagram isn’t a photo album, what is it?
I’d say Instagram is actually more like a mini-blog.
On a blog, the posts focus on the written content -- the photography is a form of expression, maybe some clarification, or just visual content to break up the words. Even if you’re a photographer writing a blog, people are looking to learn more about the STORY behind the PHOTO.
For a musician, your music might be why people found you. But the stories behind your music are the reasons why they stick around.
Always think of how you can use your caption to share stories, rather than describe the content. Even if it’s just a promo shot of you, use that opportunity to talk about how you’re preparing for your next show, or what’s been your struggle with the current song you’re working on, or how you bought your first instrument.
Don’t confine yourself to scrapbook captions.
Mistake #2: Using Instagram as a bulletin board
How many of you have written THAT caption to promote your show? You know the one -- “Make sure you come out to our show on Friday! $5 cover, doors are at 8:00. This is one you don’t want to miss!”
Let me ask you this -- would a post like that entice you to get dressed, leave the house, pay $5, and find a parking spot to go to a show for a band you’ve never heard of or connected with?
It wouldn’t entice me.
Instagram isn’t a digital version of a show flier. It’s not a bulletin board. It’s a completely different medium than that, which a lot of musicians forget.
They don’t call it “social media” for no reason: it’s meant to be a social environment… a conversation... sharing stories… being vulnerable.
Next time you’re promoting a show, try and think of a way you can incorporate more of YOU into it. → Process, Reasons, Goals, etc. → Don't reiterate the facts, tell the story about the facts!
Mistake #3: Going for the cheap likes.
You might have the urge to share that Onion article, but I’d encourage you to resist posting memes, self-deprecating language, unrelated posts, or posts that otherwise go for the cheap likes on your profile. If you must share memes -- put them in your Instagram Stories instead!
Here’s something to think about: Are you trying to promote your music and your career, or are you trying to go for the cheap likes?
Likes aren’t personal, they aren’t eye-opening, they don’t teach anyone about who you are as a person. Likes aren’t meant for connection.
If we’re looking at this from a data perspective, let’s talk about ENGAGEMENT. You may know this already, but Instagram is leaning more towards preferring posts that have higher engagement percentages, rather than higher number of likes. SO the goal for your posts should be to get COMMENTS first -- comments are what bring your post more to the top of the feed, and they are what start conversations, of course! Getting likes is great, but if you don’t have an engaged audience, likes aren’t worth much, because they aren’t ACTION.
If you want to display your sense of humor, do it in your captions, or in Instagram Stories where you can use video to share more of your personality. I encourage you to be your true self, but remember that this is your professional account, and it’s not about sharing the latest Internet meme. It’s about connecting with your audience and building community.
Mistake #4: No call to action.
A call to action is a statement that invites some kind of action from the reader. Common examples would be “click the link in my bio,” “like this photo,” “comment below,” and so on. Typically, you want to make this ask super clear--you are telling the follower exactly what you want them to do. This can especially be true in sales copy.
It’s true that as musicians, we aren’t always SELLING something. Having a call to action on each and every post might not feel 100% right.
For us, it’s important to encourage engagement through interactive questions, storytelling, and yes, calls to action.
Find a way that works for you to ask your potential fan to play along. If you’re writing a post about your guitar that you’ve had since 7th grade, ask them, “What’s your favorite object from your childhood? Do you still have it?” Or if you’re talking about a particularly difficult passage you’re learning, reach out and ask for their tips on best ways to focus on a difficult task.
Occasionally, you’re going to have a show to promote, or an album to sell, or a music video to share. In those cases, you definitely need to include calls to action in your captions.
“Click the link in my bio to save your seat!” or
“Support independent musicians by buying my album on Bandcamp. Click the link in my bio to chip in.”
You CAN invite your audience to participate WITHOUT feeling phony, if you do it YOUR way.
Mistake #5: Forgetting WHO their audience is.
Have you ever thought about how many of your friends are also musicians? Probably a lot, right? So musicians support musicians and everyone likes each other’s pages and maybe even buys each other’s albums and share each other’s content. And after a while we might start thinking that those people are the majority of the people who follow us. We end up writing and curating our feed to nerd out with other musicians.
At some point, that has to stop. You have to bring other people into the mix! If your captions are speaking musician jargon, and they aren’t accessible to a non-musician, then you are isolating thousands of potential fans from feeling like they belong on your page.
Take a moment to picture your ideal fan. Who are they? What do they like to do? Where do they hang out?
Now, when you’re writing your captions, keep that fan in mind.
Here’s an example. Rock musicians tend to enjoy talking about gear, right? If you want to talk about your super-verb pedal and geek out about it, that’s totally OK! Maybe share what it does and how you use it. Show a before and after video. Educate that ideal fan you just imagined, and teach them about your equipment so they can learn something new!
The goal is to stop posting into an echo chamber for other people exactly like you, and start becoming more accessible to people who might find what you do to be fascinating. Those are the people who are going to become loyal fans.
If you’ve just heard these 5 caption mistakes that musicians make, and you’re feeling frozen on what to post, don’t worry!
I’ve got your next 30 days of social media planned out for you. Click here to grab your FREE 30-day content calendar, specifically for musicians. Use it wisely.
Pssst… You can listen to this in podcast form here: