“Pandora” Box of Enterprise Engagement? Music as a “social” media

What have I been listening to this week?

This week’s blog post was encouraged and eked out of me with the help of some classical 19th century Rimsky-Korsakov reverberating through Boston College’s Gargan Hall (my headphones, at least). I stumbled upon this song a few years ago when my piano teacher shared it with me as one of her favorites, and I was then able to return the favor to my roommates when Charlie White and Meryl Davis skated to it in last Winter’s Sochi Olympics. The song reminded my roommate of one she was singing with The University Chorale, which led to my meeting a friend and fellow member of hers, whom I befriended and later realized also played with me in BC’s pep band.

I chose to focus on music this week after my rediscovering this song on Spotify and learning of Prof. Kane’s small town experience during Monday’s class. My relationship to music, and to my friends’ music, got me thinking: Is music an inherently social form of media? Well, if social media helps social networking, consider the definition for “social networking” that Google generates:

  1. the use of dedicated websites and applications to interact with other users, or to find people with similar interests to oneself.
Great. Consider my relationship to the song above: it was shared because I had a similar interest to my teacher (piano) and it led to
  • my roommates’ interacting with last winter’s ice-dancing events
  • my meeting someone new with other, similar, musical interests to me
  • my roommates’ being introduced to my interest in classical music.

All done without an Internet connection. Much like Prof. Kane’s story of his telephone operator knowing his whereabouts due to a close-knit, offline, social network, I feel that music has the inherent nature of being shareable and of forging relationships and networks among listeners with shared tastes. (Further evidence? concerts have been bringing people together long before the Internet)

How does music work with (online) social media?

I started to answer this by looking at how one can choose to stream music online, and here is a very comprehensive blog I discovered that covers many of the different platforms. I chose to stick with Spotify as it is the platform that I use and with which I am most familiar. In essence, none of the streaming services are social platforms by themselves, but, as is the case with Spotify and Facebook, are connected to other social media platforms that allow for sharing and interaction. Spotify’s initial partnership with FB was less than fruitful, filling newsfeeds with what friends were listening to, doing little to look at the potential to forge connections between listeners. Now, however, Spotify is increasing its efforts to create “networks” for listeners, creating “Top Tracks in your Network” playlists from fewer, but more focused, followers. To read about Spotify’s latest social integration and their sifting and specializing of user-network listening behaviors, read here.
Spotify also produces weekly “top charts” on global and national scales, to promote both popular and newer music. I like the “Viral 50” chart, in particular. A song’s “virality” is determined by number of streams divided by shares, creating a place for newer artists and groups to be brought together and shared with a wider audience than the sharing of a few niche listeners could have achieved before the digital age.
 To depart from Spotify, there is a new music streaming platform that is seeking to be both a music platform/catalogue and a social networking site. Dropp.fm is introducing a platform that, like SoundCloud, allows users to publish and share their own music, while creating a community for users to share, follow, and (eventually?) comment on each other’s listening habits. For a more in-depth explanation of Dropp.fm’s features, read here.

Why should businesses be concerned with music’s sociability? 

potential for brands: 

People like to engage with music. It’s why we sing in the shower, in the car, with friends; why we dance to it; it’s why we share it. This engagement aspect holds great potential for social marketing and getting customers to interact with a brand and its personality. For example, look at last week’s interaction between IHOP and Spotify on Twitter:

 Not only is this a symbiotic relationship between IHOP and Spotify, IHOP is able to develop something that customers can listen to and spend time with (1hr, 18min), possibly forming better customer relationships through similar tastes in music.
Spotify’s own Tweets show the potential for consumer engagement. I especially enjoyed their Valentine’s Day promotion to discover the degrees of separation between you and your S.O.’s musical tastes:

potential for the workplace: 

Last week’s reading included Prof. Kane’s interview with the nonprofit MITRE Corporation, where they noted the internal use of their social platform, Handshake, helped social objectives beyond the goals of the enterprise. Specifically, they noted the formation of a cycling group among employees. Considered alongside Prof. Kane’s blog “Why Social Business Initiatives Fail” and its discussion of internal adoption of new platforms by employees, there is the possibility that an internal platform with a socially-oriented element could experience better adoption. Perhaps a platform that incorporates/partners with music streaming/sharing could pose a more appealing transition and adoption to employees having to learn new platforms. Of course, the question of whether music sharing and engagement would aid enterprise objectives would be dependent upon the company’s industry, objective, and culture; but music could be a frontier for effectively incorporating social networking into operations.


  1. Really well written blog post, Rose! It’s pretty hard to ignore the increasing use of music apps and websites now. I can see what other people are listening to on Spotify via Facebook and this actually helps me discover new songs, which further emphasizes the point that music and social media are a great combination. I actually really enjoy seeing other people’s playlists and hearing what they listen to in order to add it my music lists and tastes. It’s actually funny that this form of social media can be tracked back to earlier sites such as Napster (which to us, seems like forever ago). Your mentioning of the way companies are taking advantage of music in social media is also thought-provoking. I actually never even thought of that as a marketing technique, but as you say in your post with Spotify and IHOP’s interaction, this can be done. Always fun to see two seemingly unrelated companies tweeting to each other!

  2. Nice post. I think merging social with music changes the entire dynamic. It moves us from just being the audience to also being participants in making the music (i.e. lists, sharing favorites). Back in my day, we put together “mix tapes” of our favorite tunes, which became an art of itself.

  3. Music has always been an element for connection between people. It surprised me that companies use it too now to get closer to their customers. I think that music may not be easily used in a social context within the company. In small businesses it may help to foster the relations between employees (“Hey, you guy from the Marketing Department, who I usually never talk to! I saw that you like Bono as well!”). Those are very important for the productivity and “climate” within a company. One question at the end: Why do you think that music is a “Pandora Box” for enterprise engagement?

  4. Rose, I really like where you went with this post. A few things that you mentions really resonated with my own experiences. First, talking about Spotify and it’s social aspect, I really think they are doing a great job at incorporating Facebook (like you said!). This winter, I went on a mission trip and after getting back we wanted to share music that had an impact on our experience – Jamaican music, music from reflections, etc. Through Facebook, we were able to peruse each others’ playlists and were also able to create a shared playlist together – adding songs whenever we wanted. This social aspect was something that I had never been able to do and I was blown away by it. Second, I really like your connection to MITRE and the connection to the workplace. Each week, I have the opportunity to volunteer at Haley House Bakery Cafe. This week they had me research different music options for the cafe. Some of these services allowed you to insert your own advertisements or other companies that would want to advertise via the overhead speakers. They also allowed you to pick your music – one aspect of a cafe that could aid sales. These business features via music platforms really proves that social media is everywhere! Really great post!

  5. tcbcmba2015 · ·

    Music has been so under-served by the advent of social media. Prof Kane alluded to it – if someone could harness the power and excitement of creating and sharing a mix tap with a friend they’d be rich. The nostalgia and communal experience behind it is so powerful. Music was meant to be shared, one of the ultimate shared experiences people can have. This is the wheelhouse for social media and no one has quite figured out the right way to do it. Millennials live in a world where all they need to do to find, engage and “share” music is posting YouTube links. But music is so much more than that. There has to be a better way to interact communally with it – you know, outside of actually going to a concert hall.

  6. What a great post! I think you more than prove your point that music is social. I love Spotify, if for no other reason, because it allows me to access almost any song imaginable, but I think it is also great because of the many social aspects that you bring up. I love being able to see what my friends are listening to. Sometimes this helps me discover a new favorite artist, and sometimes it enables me to start a discussion about a song that a friend and I both like. I think your idea about brands using music as a way to connect with users is spot-on! I know that I tend to connect well with people who have similar musical preferences as me, so if I knew that a brand liked the same music as me, I might be more inclined to try them out.

  7. Wonderful post. I never thought of music being as being social but as I was reading this I realized just how social music really is. Although I do not have a spotify account I think it is a great way to connect through music. I always share music with my friends and family and I think it is a great way for companies to engage their customers. The way that people share music has clearly evolved with the development of different apps and I think it will be interesting to see different apps emerge that allow people to be social with their music.

  8. Great post, Rose. You are absolutely right when you say that music has a way of brining people together, and has been doing so long before the internet. I had never really thought about how businesses could use music to incorporate social operations. In my blog post for this week, I wrote about SoulCycle and how they have been extremely successful at building a digital community. I think a large part of their success is promoting their playlists on spotify, for a lot of people are motivated through music and get that connection on a deeper level. Like you said, music is something that is shared by people everyday, similar to tweets, posts and all sorts of things on the internet. I think you were really creative by connecting these two phenomenons, and how music is truly a social concept. Companies should definitely take advantage of this! Nice job.

  9. meganvtom · ·

    I loved learning more about the social aspects of Spotify in your post! I consider myself to be a regular user of Spotify, yet when I first registered my Facebook profile, I disabled sharing from my profile and never really took advantage of the social benefits. Additionally, I liked seeing the two other angles you presented. First, Spotify’s internal use of social data to create playlists and highlight trending music. Second, other company’s interaction with Spotify to enhance their relationship with their own customers. I’d like to learn more about how other company’s have utilized music and if this will become a more popular aspect of social media marketing. I hope Spotify continues to move away from overburdening users with posts and moves towards harnessing Facebook connections in a more targeted and useful way. As of now, it seems as if allowing Spotify to post on your wall is an all-or-nothing relationship.

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