Hashtag Marketing and Music: A Case Study

Music is inherently social—an artform created by groups and enjoyed in groups, whether at a concert with thousands (or dozens) of fellow fans, or via a hashtag to give your social media circle a heads up on the next great jam. And if “sound stirs us at our biological routes”—think dilated pupils, an active cerebellum, rising pulse and blood pressure—it makes sense that those powerful reactions call out to be shared.

That makes music a prime candidate for a case study in hashtag marketing. Most data sources come in waves: a new report on consumer behavior, weekly polls for an upcoming election, or a batch of survey results fresh off the press. But the social media sharing of musical preferences via hashtag is constant. Not only are fans talking about the newest release and tweeting at their idols in hopes of a response, they’re also keeping others updated with their listening habits, song by song. And when they tweet about music, they often tweet using hashtags.

So what can we learn when we mine the music sharing patterns on Twitter? What insights are hiding underneath the massive wave of sharing that’s sweeping social about hashtag marketing—its best practices, and its potential pitfalls?

First things first: who’s on top?

By checking a list of some of the top artists in the world, we can see how sharing habits for their music ebb and flow over time. As you might expect, spikes occur when new albums are dropped (like Beyonce’s Lemonade), and when popular remixes appear (like a SoundCloud remix for Drake’s “4 pm in Calabasas”, which was later removed).

But fans hashtag more than just artist or album name when they tweet. They also need something in the Tweet to signify that they’re sharing music — and that’s where our case study gets interesting.

In our Smart Social Report: Volume 6, we dive more deeply into both SoundCloud and Spotify, mining a whopping 150 million pieces of social content. But for the purposes of this post, we’re going to zero in on Spotify.

Hashtag marketing on Spotify

Spotify embeds the #NowPlaying hashtag by default. Mining the Spotify data for top artists shared therefore yields a list of mainstream artists dominating the top ranks. And its decision to use a non-branded hashtag hasn’t dampened its hashtag marketing game — indeed, Spotify still sees a 16% share of conversation around #NowPlaying:

Spotify and SoundCloud both have non-branded hashtags — making them stand apart from other popular music sharing platforms including Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Slacker. Those services use branded social calls-to-action for their hashtag marketing, like #Pandora, or “I’m listening on @iHeartRadio”. And it’s worth noting that those branded hashtags don’t perform as well:

Not only do non-branded hashtags win in terms of volume, but they also rise above when you measure tweets per user. All music services have a different sized customer base, of course, but when we looked at the rates of social sharing per user for our Smart Social Report: Volume 6, we found that unbranded hashtags and calls to action still come in as the winner, by far.

So what's our #1 tip about hashtag marketing?

It’s all about (forgive us) #balance. Sometimes, your campaign or product release might necessitate a branded hashtag. But other times, you might still be able to command a compelling share of voice around a particular hashtag even if it is not explicitly branded.

Curious what else we had to say about hashtag marketing? There’s much more in our Smart Social Report: Volume 6, including tips on how high-level data views can offer unique insight and how multiple business models can find unique, successful homes on social. Plus, we’ve got four other chapters chock full of similar insights across a wide range of topics.

Basically? You’d be awfully smart (ahem, social) to download it — it’s fresh off the presses today.

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Jaime Netzer is Content Marketing Strategist, leading content operations in marketing at Spredfast. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly.