Social Media

The Social-Music Year in Review

December 22, 2011

‘Tis the season for “best of” lists, especially in the music industry, with pundits pumping out their favorite albums and records of the year. We here at 360i’s Music Council – an in-house group created to explore the intersection of digital and music – have undertaken a similar endeavor. Through the lens of our favorite albums and songs of 2011, we explore the year that was in social.

Content Strategy: Text, photo & “Video Games”

2011 was a year where emerging platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr entered the limelight thanks to our collective penchant for sharing visual content. While Tumblr took a few years to build its user base, newcomers like Pinterest and Instagram have achieved almost overnight success. Instagram had 10 million users within its first year and Pinterest’s unique visitors increased ten times over in six months (from 418K to 4.5 million).

Artist Lana del Rey gained attention this summer through her song “Video Games,” which garnered 12 million views on YouTube in four months. The video features different clips that together speak about a Hollywood wasteland and snapshots of a forgotten, more glamorous time. “Video Games” and other songs provide context to her lyrics through a collection of clips within each video.

The takeaway: When it comes to content strategy within online communities, no single piece of content will build your brand; the entire collective of content tells your brand story. Whether you are an emerging brand or artist or a cultural icon, the best way to become a hit-maker on emerging platforms is to offer compelling visual content that tells your brand’s story over time.

Facebook “Watches the Throne” with new features

Two of rap’s biggest players came together this year to push hip-hop to the next level with “Watch the Throne,” a megawatt collaboration album featuring Jay-Z and Kanye West. In video for the lead single “Otis,” the duo destroy a Maybach – the industry’s longstanding symbol of conspicuous consumption – and turned it into something new and raw.

Jay-Z and Kanye weren’t the only big names to secure their spots as leaders and innovators this year. In September, Facebook introduced significant changes that alter way people curate, share and publish content within the world’s largest social network. The possibilities for brand awareness and exposure are endless as Facebook now allows enhanced social activities to become part of someone’s life story through the newly released Timeline feature.

The takeaway: Similar to the back-to-basics sound that made “Watch the Throne” so popular this year, Facebook is going back to what it does best – connecting people across the globe with new rich features that should secure its top spot for years to come.

“Within & Without,” Online & Offline

As brands began to reach scale across social platforms in 2011, the objective became less about growth and more about adding value to the community and fostering engagement. The pervasiveness of the second screen is proving how social can impact live events — whether through live-tweeting during televised events, creating a hashtag to monitor conversations, or putting together ancillary content to share across platforms. Offline experiences like these give a brand’s community access to what once was) exclusive content — suddenly everyone can feel like a VIP. Creating events that keep social in mind from the onset will help bridge the gap between offline and online, adding a rich layer of engagement and value to your communities.

Washed Out’s 2011 release, “Within and Without,” is one of those albums that gently fades into the background as you’re preoccupied with something else. Suddenly, the music jerks and grabs you out of nowhere, drawing you in to its amazing mixture of complex, moody rhythms. “Washed Out” never overwhelms or annoys, it simply moves along in gentle waves until it almost capsizes you with a wall of sound.

The takeaway: Much like a brand in social, it’s this grab for attention that makes bridging online and offline so important. Brands should strive to evolve their relationship with communities, so that when the time comes to grab them with a “second screen” experience or live-tweeting event, they’re more than happy to join the party.

“Rumour Has It” Twitter is still a big deal

British phenomena Adele finally began tweeting in 2011 in order to connect with fans following a throat surgery that abruptly ended her tour. (Previously, her management team ran the handle @OfficialAdele.) Adele promised to start tweeting if followers would help her increase awareness around the charity Drop 4 Drop.

In just six years Twitter has amassed more than 200 million active users – including artists like Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber, Rihanna and others using the platform to build a fan base or deepen connections with existing fans. Twitter’s recent interface redesign provides an improved user experience and more options for brands (including artists) to better express their overall brand identity.

The takeaway: Twitter’s 2011 updates allow marketers to curate visual and rich media content and provide even more visual sorting for brand tweets. Conversations are front and center, and the tone of voice is now more present than ever before, so brands engaging with fans are advised to do so with authenticity.


Now more than ever, conversations are going beyond brand-to-consumer, and consumers are leading discussions and talking to each other in the context of brands. No matter what type of brand you market (artist or otherwise), communicating a strong persona and voice will be a gateway for people to include your brand in their conversations across social platforms.

-Gabe Alonso, Steven Avalos, Rebecca Carlson & Tatiana Urriaga