Promoting a brand is not easy--there's a lot of competition and a lot of digital noise on Facebook and Twitter. Now, imagine you're trying to connect with a younger demographic and your "brand" is an eclectic folk-rock band that has been around for over a decade. When you know fans can punch up Spotify on their phones and listen to anything they want, there's a problem. How do you let them know you're on tour, releasing a new album, or hanging out with President Obama?
That's a question the band members in The Lumineers have been asking lately. Their answer? More than any other social network, they've tapped into what has become the cult of Instagram. Beautifully framed photos shot with a splash of color, a sardonic quip and a few critical tags can catch on faster than any chorus, even the ones you play on the front lawn of the White House.
"As a band we tend to be on Instagram more than the others," says Wesley Schultz, the singer and main guitar player, speaking to Inc.com. "So often, pictures can tell stories so much better than words can. The other day, during the SXSL festival where we played the White House South Lawn, we took a band photo with President Obama. Seeing a photo of him and all us standing together smiling is so much more powerful than trying to explain how we'd met the president.
Schultz says these iconic moments tell a story, but the band isn't interested in oversharing on social--e.g., creating digital noise--so it's a perfect fit for their down-home style. Too often, a desire to promote a band becomes an exercise in constant posting, but customers (and fans) become quickly annoyed.
Schultz says Instagram is also more personal. When you view a photo, it seems like a more intimate experience --just you and the band. Interestingly, The Lumineers started out as a house band (that is, literally playing in houses) with no amps or sound system. That intimacy meant they could relate easier to fans, who in turn could spot anything that didn't seem genuine.
Another good match for the band's more personal, intimate approach is that they tend to move around constantly. Instagram and SnapChat are well-suited to this type of energetic approach, where the band might play multiple shows in cities on both coasts. At one time, The Lumineers had relocated to New York City and Schultz says that didn't really help them find new fans. It turns out, like with any startup, that "scaling" (spreading out geographically and with a wider net to reach a bigger audience) helps grow a following more than becoming what Schultz called a hometown hero exclusively. Expanding helps more people catch the fire.
Being genuine with fans has a downside, though. Schultz says The Lumineers are not as recognizable as other mainstream bands that emphasize their image on social media. "If you ever hear on a radio station 'win a date with a member of X band,' that's something we are never asked to do," he says. "We take mostly a grassroots approach to finding new fans. We play a lot of shows each year, and try to put the music before the image. As a result, we're relatively anonymous."
Of course, having President Obama as a fan only helps.