How Artists Are Building their Fan Funnel Using Instagram

As more and more artists embrace Instagram to communicate with their audience how can they leverage their platform to turn followers into fans?

Happy Thursday! Thanks for opening the fifteenth edition of the Stan newsletter. A newsletter exploring fans and their bidirectional relationships with the artists that they love. As always suggestions and feedback are always appreciated. You can shoot me an email at

Instagram continues to maintain its reign as the premier social media destination. So what exactly on the platform is leading to increased usage? Instagram Live. In the last month alone, IG live has found itself the home for Tory Lanez infamous 'Quarantine Radio', Cardi B and Bernie Sanders catch up, Diddy's day long dance fundraiser, and way too many producer/musician battles to name. With such engaged users, how can artists leverage Instagrams current features to build and grow their own audience.? This article seeks to evaluate Instagram as a medium for connecting with fans. I will explore Instagram’s current features and how they empower artists to form deeper connections with fans. Lastly, I will touch on the recently announced new features to Instagram and my thoughts.

Fan and Artist Communication is Highly Fragmented

As technology and social media platforms mature, so do the ways artists leverage them to communicate. The continued rise of engagement on the platforms adopted by artists birthed a monumental shift in how artists were introduced to the world. What was previously a top down approach quickly flipped thanks to social media. In the past, record labels scouted and determined talent largely based off of the intuition of A&R's. Once scouted and signed the label would then invest capital, internal resources and leverage their network to do everything possible to propel their chosen artist to success. Now, thanks to advances in technology, artists can build audiences, release and distribute music and merchandise, without the help and cosign provided by a label for a fraction of the price. As a result a growing majority of artists are audience picked versus industry picked. Fans find an artist and help them rise to critical acclaim versus the past in which it was the opposite. Thanks to the shift in artist discovery, artists who want to reach public acclaim are best poised to do so by building a fanbase using the most engaged social media platforms. With Instagrams high engagement, global reach, and ease of use virtually every artist has a presence on the platform.

Why Instagram?

If finding an audience is a series of experiments Instagram serves as the best option to maintain a controlled environment. If your fanbase lives on Instagram how do you use its features to find them and keep them engaged?

Instagram Features and How They Help Artists Run Experiments

Adopting all these features consistently lends perfectly to an artists Instagram fan funnel.

What Makes Instagram Live So Special?

Instagram Live's ability to facilitate synchronous appointment viewing has been the driving force for its continued success. (The company reported a 70% increase in views between February and March) While the live feature can be enabled on other platforms (i.e Facebook) Instagram wins because users are so engaged on the platform that the likeliness of folks joining a live on Instagram vs. Facebook is higher. Instagram Live benefits from the overall success of the Instagram app. Many articles have been written on the success of "Verzuz" a format on Instagram live where two artists go back to back playing their most popular songs. To date there have been Verzuz battles between Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, Babyface and Teddy Riley, Ludacris and Nelly, etc. Putting the amazing music aside and the story that often preludes each song, a large reason "Verzuz" succeeds is because the viewer has ample time to find out that one is happening. Often announced a week in advance by the time Friday or Saturday rolls around fans are well prepared to attend and even casual fans have made a mental note to at least “stop by” so they can participate in the conversation. When going on Instagram Live the smaller an artists audience is the more imperative it is that they announce their live in advance. This way fans can make time for the live and even promote it leading to more viewers.

The ability for an artist to get introduced to a new audience every time they "go live" with someone is a really powerful feature that can grow their awareness while simultaneously deepening their relationship with their current fans. Since users are automatically notified when someone they follow is going live the more interactive a live is the more the more potential fans an artist is exposed to.

A Step in the Right Direction

Instagram has announced a few new features for creators on the platform that artists can begin to adopt including badges fans can purchase during lives, private video chats that support up to 50 people, and ads on Instagram Lives. While time will tell my immediate thoughts are that the private video chat is a really unique way for artists to reward and connect more intimately with their fans. Imagine if Meg thee Stallion did a private Instagram chat for the top 50 fan-pages that executed campaigns to attempt to get the Savage Remix to number one? I am unclear exactly how the badges will work in practice but while that form of fandom is widely embraced in K-pop, less fans in the Americas have adopted highlighting their fandom that way. While ads are a great opportunity for creators to make money, things get tricky when music is involved. I will revisit these new features at a later time.

Above All

Instagram can be a powerful tool for identifying and deepening relationships with fans as long as an artist is consistent and optimizes for a funnel where a viewer or follower eventually turns into fans. I will be doing some case studies on Cardi B and Tory Lanez who have successfully done this.

Read This

Naira Marley and the Evolution of Stan Culture [Really enjoyed this deep dive into the evolving Stan culture in Nigeria and Naira's fans specifically]

My Headphones

New Apartment by Ari Lennox (This song is feeling super timely, since I recently moved into a new apartment lol)

D (@denishakuhlor)