I’m not good at this. How do I use social media to engage my fans?
If I could count the number of times Kenyan musicians have asked me this, I would probably run out of fingers – and toes.
It’s a valid question. As a musician, you know how important social media is. Everyone is on it and so should you. That’s where you build your brand, grow your fanbase and convince people to listen to your music.
But what do you do when there are so many social media platforms? And each one has its own rules and regulations? Where do you get time to update your all your accounts when you’re busy recording a new song or rehearsing for a show?
It’s tiresome and time-consuming; I know. It’s for these reasons that many musicians have asked me to handle their social media.
Thanks to the Covid-19 quarantine, you now have free time to create new music AND social media content. But social media is more than just doing random live videos every other day and sharing flattering photos with celebrity quotes underneath. There is so much more you can do to build your fanbase and connect with them online. Your success as an artist depends on it.
So how do you stand out when there’s already so much content online? Well for one, you don’t have to be active everywhere. Just pick your two favourite social media apps and focus on them.
Instagram is one of the most beloved social media platforms for musicians like you. It’s visual, fun and oh-so-versatile. You can tag other brands and influencers, get discovered using hashtags, share behind the scenes content through IG stories and share your music on IGTV. Plus your bio is the perfect place to highlight your latest project and link to it.
But other than these tips and tricks, how do you get your followers to actually click the link in bio and listen to your music?
Good news: You don’t need a special skill set or a digital marketing certificate. Anyone can do it. It’s all about translating who you are and what your music is about online.
Here are some examples of Kenyan musicians who are winning at social media. They have a unique personality that shines throughout their posts. And all of them have something to teach us. So sit back and let’s learn from the pros.
Bensoul could easily be crowned the King of Instagram. Papa Soul took over the social media app in February 2019 with his Lucy challenge. He engaged his fans from the onset by asking them to share covers of his first hit single. After reposting them on his page, Kenyan band Niuru won the most comments and consequently 10k shillings in the online contest.
But his winning streak had just begun.
What attracts you most to Bensoul is that his brand is on point. The Big Zaddy of the year is a self-proclaimed casanova who slips naughty references in his music and posts. He loves 420 (even made two songs about it) and shows off his funny bone with photoshopped memes and witty captions in sheng which most Kenyans can understand. You have to build your local fanbase first; charity begins at home.
This rasta with swag is also the star of the popular #MunchiesMonday IGTV series where he coined the phrases “timing muhimu” and “size matters” Every Monday, we watch him eat his all-inclusive meal which is incomplete without avocados that have gone to school. Because who doesn’t love avocado. And listening to hilarious commentary about an artist’s life.
His music is as alluring as his personality. He performs acoustic live sessions of his released and unreleased songs on Instagram Live. And short IGTV clips of his new music releases lure you to his ever-growing YouTube channel.
During his Qwarantunes series, he released a new acoustic track every Thursday to keep us company at home. It had to happen in his favourite month: April 2020. And we finally got to see the multi-instrumentalist on the keys as he belted out his smooth ballads.
Just from his social media, you can tell Bensoul is a great performer. This makes you want to see him live – whether online or at the next concert.
Of course, we can’t ignore the intervention from his music label Sol Generation. We are reminded by that crowing cock at the end of all his videos.
Bensoul shows us that being an artist is not just the music but also the personality. Build your brand and let your fans feel like they know you. Or at least a part of you.
Looking at Tetu Shani, he reminds you of a big brother. It’s not just his lofty height but also his growing wisdom. He is constantly watching what other Kenyan musicians are doing and dishing out advice whenever he has the opportunity to. Like he did on our way to his Upgrade Poetry gig in Nakuru.
Something else you should know: Tetu Shani is a magician on stage. He can make anyone stand up and dance, no matter the age. I’ve seen it for myself enough times. There’s evidence of his electrifying live performances at various events in Nairobi all over his YouTube channel.
But it’s not all glitz and glam for AfricaSun. Tetu is known for sharing vulnerable stories behind the music. Like how being broke after his Koroga Festival performance ended up with him writing Saidia Mimi. He also gives encouragement to other Kenyan artists with his personal quotes and life lessons. Yup, he understands the struggle of being an independent musician in Kenya.
Tetu knows how to connect with his fans intimately. He started the living room sessions where his fans invite him to play for them and their friends at – you guessed it – their living rooms. He also shares behind the scenes of studio sessions and rehearsal videos to keep them up to date and excited.
Since we can’t go out to watch him live thanks to cancelled events, he brought the music to us. He hosts the Tetu and Tugi show every Tuesday night on Instagram Live. It has a certain ring to it, right?
T² on a Tuesday is a fun show for the Tetu Tribe and the two Kenyan musicians. It feels like family time; everyone in the comment section seems to know each other. And it’s not just about music but also conversation.
In between the performances, Tetu usually asks his fans deep questions about life. This gives everyone a chance to get vulnerable. To feel connected.
And speaking of consistency, he has another show on Thursday called Writers Block. Unlike the previous one, this is an interactive songwriting session where he creates a song live and the Tetu Tribe helps him out. You get to see his songwriting process and hear his new songs exclusively before they are released, such as Prodigy.
Tetu is one of the Kenyan artists I know who’s intentional about building his email and contact list. Because you don’t own your following, only your contacts. And he’s been doing this religiously via social media and events.
Through his WhatsApp broadcast list, which I happen to be part of, you receive his new songs which are part of the ongoing #OSAMchallenge before everyone else. In return, he asks for feedback and more. For example, he recently compiled fan videos shot at home and released them with his March music release Always and April’s Always Remix.
What makes Tetu stand out is how honest he is about his music journey. And he takes you along with him. It makes you want to root for the alternative artist. To watch AfricaSun rise in front of your eyes.
He had planned to do a show on May 17th as part of his 2020 mission to fill up the Alchemist Bar by November. But Corona did not stop him. The virtual concert featuring his full band went live on June 12th.
By end of the lockdown, Tetu’s journey to 1000 will be way ahead. Cause all you need is 1000 true fans as an artist to be successful. And he’s halfway there.
He calls himself the King of awkward for a reason. The first time you see him you’ll probably ask yourself “Whose this guy with a wig on his head, singing topless on stage at Blankets and Wine 2020?” Not many guys have the guts to do both.
Welcome Kabochi. An alternative Kenyan artist who can make anything from electronic rap to ambient music with a Childish Gambino voice. His weird music is available on Bandcamp and SoundCloud. But Instagram is what has helped him soar.
In 2019, Kabochi started a series called #AbsorbedWednesdays. He’d release a new track on Wednesdays on IGTV accompanied by psychedelic pop artwork that he designed. Or trippy song visualizers that look like they were made by aliens.
As much as his art may seem alien, Kabochi is the king of relatability. He talks about real stuff in his music that young adults like us can relate to. No wonder Muthoni Drummer Queen is a stan, especially after he took part in her PerFORM music incubator program in 2019.
What makes Kabochi cool is that he does not talk to – but talks with his fans. For him, it’s not about me but we. For example, he occasionally asks them to get vulnerable on #commentsectiontherapy by asking personal questions. These end up being his most engaged posts. His page is where followers go to open up about their lives or read what others are going through and feel not so alone.
You can tell why he connects with his audience. He’s unapologetically weird and authentic. And has a loyal fan base always rooting for him.
When I see him in his wig, I almost can’t believe he’s the same guy I watched at Jamhuri Festival 2018 at Nairobi National Theatre performing in a Beyonce-like formation.
Vallerie Muthoni is the young boss with the mind of a hustler. At only 19, she already has two music projects out and is selling Legendary hats and Spicy SZN badges which reference songs from her Pisces SZN EP. I know, what?!
Her boss attitude is evident from her confident lyrics to her social media posts. Her Instagram, for example, includes photos of the fine Kenyan girl dripping in finesse.
The versatile Kenyan artist loves to flex all her creative muscles online. Whether it’s through aesthetic photo edits, freestyle raps or dance videos shot at home.
Coming up with her own lingo, her spicy captions are fun and fierce. Look, I’m even using them.
Vallerie is also the queen of doing the most. The tasteful Kilifornia 2020 after-movie filmed by CJ Pixels makes us miss Kilifi New Year 2020 all over again. And for her 2020 single Vitu kwa ground ni different, she released not one but four videos! Starting with a teaser video featuring her friends, the official black and white video which she directed, behind the scenes and an official dance video on YouTube.
The latter sparked the VKGD challenge. She challenged her fans to learn the dance moves which she choreographed and share videos on their accounts. Which they did.
When Brown Suga is not releasing or promoting new music, she’s throwing it back to her previous performances, event appearances and music videos. She regularly shouts out her team, her supportive friends, even her biggest cheerleader – her mum (mine too).
Whether you’re a fan or not, you got to love Vallerie’s style, hustle and confidence.
H_art The Band
Everybody knows they’re one of the most exhilarating live performers in Kenya. East Africa even. I knew it from the night I attended H_art Unplugged concert at The Alchemist in 2017.
You also know them for their quirky eccentric fashion that would turn heads. Not always in the best way. Nowadays, these three rastas are all about showing off the latest drip online and on stage.
H_art The Band know how to engage their diehard fans on social media in the simplest of ways. From “Comment with an emoji if you’re ready for a new video” to “Who is the trendiest today?”
We all know it’s Kenchez but that’s a debate for another day.
Their funny captions clearly match their onstage humour. But jokes aside, they also get vulnerable sometimes. Like when they shared how once upon a time they used to walk all the way from Kayoleshwa to Sauti Academy and back, way before they stole our h_arts in 2014.
Five years later, they finally released their debut album which we had waited for forever! They took this once in a lifetime opportunity to share scenes from their Made In The Streets Kenyan album tour. They also asked questions to get fan feedback about their music and merchandise.
It seems they listened to us. This year they dropped the music video for our favourite song. This is not before teasing us for weeks that something big is coming on 20th March 2020.
Elshaddai is their biggest song right now with over 2 million YouTube views in just 2 months. You cannot deny it’s such an uplifting song. They maximized on it by running #Elshaddaichallenge. Just like any challenge, they reposted videos of fans singing along on their page, even of Kenyan musicians Bien Aime and The Band Beca.
They went one step further and recorded an acoustic version of the beautiful song with live guitar and saxophone. Making us fall in love with El Shaddai all over again.
H_art The Band have their own phrases such as #TeamHart, and #Shoekran which is related to their breakout hit Uliza Kiatu. But they’re not all about themselves. Sometimes they shout out other GOATS such as Bensoul, Nyashinski, Sauti Sol and their new projects. Because they are elevating Kenyan music together.
Ever since she rose to fame with her viral hit Kasyoki wa Mitumba and her East Africa Got Talent performance, Serro is everywhere. Just like the other Kenyan artists on this list, she did a #KasyokiDanceChallenge to maximize on its fame. Yup, it always works.
Serro is a master at teasing and building anticipation. That’s how she made the big announcement of her debut album release. For the countdown to 30th May 2020, she decided to do something special. She openly shared the backstory and a one-minute teaser of every track from KUWE. And her hungry fans have been eating them all up.
Other than new music, she shares her blog and newspaper features – because we love to see people on the media. She is not afraid to highlight the incredible Kenyan music producers she’s worked with, from Mutoriah to Waithaka. Akia, produced by the latter from his Odes By Queens album, is about being emotionally unavailable even when you meet the right one. Which is something we can all relate to.
Serro is not only a storyteller through her Afrosoul music and music videos. Her IG stories reveal her music interests, everyday life and bubbly personality. And her YouTube performance videos with the Charactaz band at Uani by Serro and Cake Art Affair prove her outstanding stage presence. You almost can’t wait to experience that humour and charisma live once again.
Now, do you see? You don’t have to hire someone to do your social media. Not only do you risk losing money but also a deep connection with your fans. Unless you’re as big as Sauti Sol.
Since you cannot engage with your fans in person, why not do it online. Use this downtime to write new music, record yourself performing and share the stories behind your songs. Give your fans an exclusive sneak peek into your songwriting or production process. Flex your skills whether it’s singing or playing the guitar or freestyling.
You no longer need Google quotes when you can share your own story. Talk about your struggles as much as your wins. Let people know you’re human, just like them. By being vulnerable you allow others to open up to you.
Most of all, show off your unique personality. Be funny, be quirky, be serious, be naughty, be geeky, be eccentric; be whoever you wanna be. Whether you’re a bad boy or a nice girl, just be you. That’s how you connect with your fans.