#CanYouHearMe: Story Listening in the Age of Social Media

Have you listened to the five track mixtape, “Watch the Stove” on SoundCloud from Hamburger Helper?


Released on April Fool’s Day with the goal of endearing themselves to their fans with such an elaborate stunt, “Watch the Stove” features tracks “Feed the Streets” by artists DEQUEXATRON X000, Bobby Raps, and DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip, and “Hamburger Helper” by artist Retro Spectro, along with other tracks by Daniel Davis and GenReal. To date, “Feed the Streets” has over 4,690,000 plays on SoundCloud.

Before social, most of advertising was one way: the brand spoke, and people listened (or not). Social media presents unprecedented listening opportunities. Advertising creatives and their marketing partners can listen to what people like, dislike, and desire, in general about topics, product or service categories as well as specifically about the brand they’re marketing.

Listening to its millennial male target audience’s interests on Twitter, Hamburger Helper’s in-house agency, The BellShop, would comment on hip hop news. And their audience responded enthusiastically because what the brand was tweeting came off as authentic. (Faking it till you make it doesn’t work when trying to connect to an audience. You have to be genuine.) To further connect to this audience segment, The BellShop tapped social influencers and hired emerging artists to create brand content for a mixtape.

The BellShop’s effort worked well beyond their expectations. Here are some fan tweets:

Two of the reasons this unique branded content worked are that the creative team was thoughtfully listening to what this audience segment enjoyed and serving up authentic content—they didn’t simply bark marketing messages or tweet ersatz parlance. They didn’t “speak brand”—they didn’t only talk about themselves. The creative team had a purpose beyond talking at people, to engage fans by leveraging their interests. And, the brand shared quality unique content. The mixtape is a hit.

To build brand community, brand buzz, and perhaps even reposition a brand, we need to listen to brand sirens, brand detractors, social influencers, and parse comments, data and behaviors on social channels. If you’re on Twitter, try searching a brandname or topic, such as, “cats” or “tacos” to see what people are tweeting.

Building a brand story is no longer only about crafting a creative one-way TV spot or print ad. To build a consumer brand or create momentum for a social cause or organization, advertisers must focus more on listening to empirical behavioral, social and sentiment data rather than scripting a slick one-way message based on previously set brand strategy or solely from intuition. In an industry that is known for messages that people avoid, imagine creating content for your brand that people seek out, share and play over and over again. Social media offers the opportunity to not be manipulative, to connect with people in a way that offers them a benefit—whether it’s information, entertainment or social good.


So whatever people are talking about is important. Listen.

T2895_500px_72dpi_3Read more from Robin Landa in Nimble: Thinking Creatively in the Digital Age:

In graphic design, creative thinking skills are undoubtedly important, but oftentimes the importance of critical thinking skills is overlooked. In Nimble by Robin Landa, discover how to develop a creativity that is strategic, and able to cross platforms, industries, or sectors. Find a creative thinking process that allows you to generate scalable ideas that are both sticky and stretchy. Learn how come up with ideas rich in not just quantity, but quality, as well, and develop a flexible mind ideal for visual communication, digital marketing, or social media. Find it in MyDesignShop.