It turns out Nick Hornby was on to something with his novel High Fidelity, the tale of a lovelorn bloke who deals with his emotions by obsessively cataloguing his record collection. Having the freedom to experiment and innovate with different types of content through Madly in Love has taught us many things, but the most outstanding discovery is that Spotify playlists help young men find a voice when other emotional outlets seem too daunting.
Spotify was only supposed to be one element of a broader content curation approach on Madly in Love. Our starting point was that the site should collect mental health and relationships content from around the web – articles, videos, photos and music. We reasoned this would encourage young people to open up, share and support each other, becoming both a tool for managing mental health and a way of helping users feel less alone and stigmatised.
But, so far, at least, it’s our Spotify playlist campaign that’s stolen the crown from all these other mediums, attracting a gender split of 45% young men who are collating and sharing very personal playlists about heartbreak, loss, love and sex. This is much higher than the usual 33% representation of young men among TheSite.org’s users.
Music Helps Young Men Open Up
With suicide the biggest killer of young men under 35, we all know the consequences of allowing young men to bottle things up and under-represent in the emotional sharing stakes. So it’s always worried us that men make up only 33% of users. Young women find it easy to open up about their feelings and seek out help, while young men seem to find it hard to talk in live chat and on our discussion boards. And (until now) we’d never really cracked the problem.
Enter the Mix Tape
Music is a huge part of young people’s lives and the digital world. We know that social sharing is provoked by the desire to look clever or funny; a way of expressing yourself without giving too much away. Nobody wants to tell the world that they’re scared their mental health problem means they might never get a girlfriend; but saying it via the medium of Lady Gaga is less daunting.
The physical mix tape may be dead, but we aimed to bring this retro icon back to life, asking young people to submit a Spotify ‘mix tape’ summing up an intense emotional experience they couldn’t put into words. We offered prizes for the playlist that made the most sense in terms of narrative.
The incredible response showed how willing young people were to engage with this challenge; the volume of effort put into the playlists showed how fully it caught their imaginations. Madly in Love to date has 19 pages of playlists, many submitted by young men with – fanfare! – explanatory notes like this one.
- Spotify is wholly set up to share and distribute music – its API allows us to share its playlists on other websites and socially, giving us a relevant and fit for purpose campaign mechanism.
- Its a growing brand among our 18 -25 year old audience, and its platform allows us to deliver targeted promotions and communications to them.
- Its belief in the power of sharing music aligns with our own beliefs about the power of peer-to-peer sharing.
- We had good connections with the organisation’s communications team and their UK chief executive. This helped us sit down with them and formulate a campaign that would work well with their platform.
- We were also able, through this link, to negotiate a charity discount & a small gift in kind on advertising spend, and get some complimentary communications activity from them.
Testing the Campaign Concept
Before running the campaign we pulled together a small focus group from our ‘Depression and Anxiety Warriors’, a group of young volunteers who we consult with on mental health issues and service generation. Through their involvement we were able to test Madly in Love’s:
- Core messaging
- Campaign ask
- Campaign mechanism (testing barriers of entry)
- Promotional activity and selected targeting segments
This helped us sharpen our communications plan and highlighted barriers to entering the competition and the way to fix them.
What Have We Learned?
Madly in Love uses other ‘share’ mechanisms too but so far none have attracted the same level of excitement as the Spotify campaign. For this reason we will be using our success with Spotify to make some key decisions about the next iteration of Madly in Love.
We also learned that:
- We could have gone further and targeted just young men – in future we could use this targeted approach to greater effect.
- Young people respond to creative challenges that have clear boundaries (eg, an 8-song playlist) and capture their imaginations.
- Music works as a way of talking about personal things without having to get TOO personal. Could fashion do the same? Tattoos? Books?
- We’re a small charity – upload mechanisms we build ourselves are never going to achieve the smooth usability of better funded social platforms that people already know and understand. By using the Spotify API we were able to reduce barriers and create a better user experience.
- Manic Mondays – young people created most of their playlists on Monday. We don’t know why. Feeling inspired after resting at the weekend? Trying to cheer themselves up?
- Audio adverts worked better than expected with this age group and were less intrusive than we thought.
Beyond Madly in Love
It’s too early to talk about concrete plans, but it’s quite possible our Spotify discovery could mean radical change for Madly in Love – and perhaps our other services too. Now we’ve seen for ourselves the powerful effect music has on our audience, we’ll be building on our relationship with various players in the online music sector to see what unfolds.
Our new understanding about how to provoke user engagement through content-generation activities will also have an impact on how we manage future projects. It’s clear that rather than giving users upload tools and saying ‘share your story’ (eg via Youtube) we also need to support them to use existing online content in ways that tell stories for them.