Last week, musical artist Beck announced that his next album, all 20 songs, won’t be recorded – he’ll only be releasing the sheet music. He took the ancient concept of music-on-paper and made it new; the release invites fans everywhere to create his album themselves. It’s a brilliant social campaign that will no doubt produce thousands of responses – and hundreds of thousands (to millions) of views. He’s doing everything right socially, and brands can learn from the example.
Conversations are genuine when topics matter to them and to your brand
Too many brands just want customers to talk, period. It doesn’t matter what they’re talking about, as long as they’re talking and the brand is there. You see it all the time in social. “RT if you can’t wait for summer!!” What does summer have to do with that candy brand? Nothing. What is the brand learning about consumers based on the conversation? Nothing.
Rather than spark meaningless chatter for the sake of chatter, brands should focus on creating conversations around passion points that relate to the brand as well as their consumers. Beck has invited fans to a conversation about his music – asking them to show him (and everyone) how they’d play it. He’s connecting with fans on a deeper level, and learning how they’d like the music to sound.
In the same way, brands should find the topics that authentically relate to the brand that their consumers are passionate about, and start conversations that strengthen that brand-passion connection. Additionally, the goal should be to learn something valuable from the conversation. An apparel brand invites consumers to discuss Fashion Week, and learns the styles they prefer in the process.
Ego capital sparks insanely sharable content
Sure, if Beck releases a new track, his fans will share it with their networks, or the smaller network of people they know who may like it. But if the fan creates the tracks (or content) themselves, they’re motivated to share it with everyone. Asking a fan to showcase himself plays to his ego – it says Beck truly cares what his fans think, what’d they’d create with the music he’s written. The fan is then invested in what he’s produced, and will want the world to see and hear it.
And once they’ve created their own versions, fans will want to see how others interpreted the music as well, and consume and share other fans’ versions. They’ll want to compare to see how their rendition stacks up. They may even find inspiration to tweak their own version again – looping them back into engaging with the album again.
Wherever possible, turn the conversations you create away from your brand and toward your fans. Encourage them to create the conversations themselves, and help them share them with others.
Early fan-involvement builds anticipation for later versions
Think of the pre-campaign buildup to Super Bowl ads. TV spot weeks before the game start building anticipation for the big reveal during the game. They set up a story so people want to know how it ends. Sometimes they even involve fans – “Vote for the new flavor and we’ll reveal the winner during the Super Bowl!”
Beck’s sheet music album is like that, but even more engaging. As fans release hundreds of versions of these songs online, the question on everyone’s minds will be, “That’s great, but how would this song sound if Beck played it?” When he finally performs the song in concert, finally releases an album, every fan who made their own version (or listened to someone else’s) will be dying to hear his.
Kickstarter creates a similar anticipation for products. Producers introduce their product and ask people to buy it before it’s even built. If enough people buy to fund the project, then it gets made. Buyers are invested in the product from the start – they want to see it succeed, want to see how it will turn out. Some producers even update buyers throughout the product’s evolution, and tweak it based on their feedback, making their investment even deeper.
Beck’s album reminds the world that innovation isn’t about technology, it’s about ideas – unique ways of using and changing the technology available. In the same way, “social” is not engagement. It’s not a connection with fans. It’s technology that, when used in innovative and authentic ways, can facilitate that fan connection.