How innovative brands use Spotify to their advantage

Restaurants, stores, presidential campaigns, and magazines are making playlists on music-streaming platforms such as Spotify and Grooveshark as a way to foster engagement. You can, too.

This month, the Obama campaign tweeted about music, specifically about two bands—Chicago-based rockers Wilco and the ’90s pop/punk outfit No Doubt. It’s a strange combination of musical acts and, it might seem, an odd tweet from a political campaign.

It turns out that songs from those bands are among the 28 tracks on the official 2012 Obama campaign playlist. Staffers created the list via the music-streaming platform Spotify and, in the tweet, shared a link to the playlist. Ostensibly, the playlist is the music that campaign staffers are listening to, but beyond that, it’s another way for the campaign to engage with potential voters. Nearly 12,000 people have “subscribed” to the list.

Sweden-based Spotify is one of several digital music services that enable users to create playlists—it’s free and legal—and share them online. But these services aren’t only for music lovers. As the Obama campaign demonstrated, PR professionals and marketers can roll them into social media and marketing plans, providing another tool to build their brands and foster internal collaboration.

Spotify playlists submitted to have direct links that can be shared on multiple social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, where people “like” them. Users can subscribe to Spotify playlists, which can also be embedded on a number of sites, such as StumbleUpon and Reddit. Grooveshark, another music-streaming service, also enables users to create playlists and share them on various social networks.

For brick and mortar companies, the technology offers a chance to reconnect with customers.

Think of it this way: A customer drops in and hears the music playing in your shop or restaurant. Before the customer leaves, you share a link—on a business card or receipt, for example—where they can listen to a playlist featuring the music they just heard.

What was once nothing more than background music is now a brand-building tool. The music reminds customers of a delicious meal, an invigorating workout, or the sassy outfit they bought in your store. If you can harness the power of music so customers think of you every time they hear a particular song or artist, they’re going to be much more inclined to stop by again.

One restaurant using these services is Campo in Reno, Nev. In its newsletter, Campo shares a link to a playlist on Grooveshark featuring more than 50 songs heard in the restaurant. It’s a great way to give fans fresh content that’s different from the typical photos of food.

Of course, you don’t have to run a restaurant or retail store to use music-streaming tools. There’s the example of the Obama campaign and GQ magazine, which creates playlists via Spotify and posts them to Tumblr. The playlists feature music that people in the office are listening to.

Companies can also harness music-streaming tools to foster interest and engagement by featuring local performers. For instance, a bar where local bands play could build a digital playlist around a featured artist and multiple local acts and share it with customers.

Small businesses can build their reputation in the community by featuring local artists in a playlist. Similarly, large companies with franchises or satellite offices nation- and worldwide can encourage employees to create playlists with music that’s popular in a specific city or region. It’s a powerful way to use digital tools to build real-life engagement.

Allowing employees to build these playlists is not only a great tool for PR outreach, but also an effective way to unite franchises and boost morale among front-line workers. For instance, a clothing store in Los Angeles might compile a playlist based on its employees’ tastes. That playlist would then get passed to the New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Chicago stores; soon a bond is created, and all the stores want in on the action. Making employees feel connected to their workplace means they’re more likely not only to stay with the company, but also to feel excited about their jobs.

Ultimately, digital music is another tool for brand-building and internal collaboration—a tool that’s unique and fun for employees and customers, alike. Try floating the idea at your next meeting.

Constance Aguilar is a Social Media Strategist and Account Manager at Abbi Public Relations where she oversees client strategy on social media channels and traditional media. You can follow her on Twitter @ConnieAguilar and read her blog posts on A version of this story first appeared on SmartBrief.


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