Facebook and Spotify have often said that sharing is an inherent human trait. I disagree.
Active vs Passive Sharing
ACTIVE sharing, when we deliberately take time and effort to share what we like, is a human trait. It demands attention on both sides, and increases the content’s value.
PASSIVE sharing, an automated feed of things we’re doing or engaging with, is not a human trait, its just annoying. It’s white noise, shared without thought or consideration, that decreases the content’s value.
But Spotify’s main social strategy, its automated Facebook feed, is based on passive sharing. Though this has brought the service to millions it hasn’t led to the sustained increase in new active subscribers that Spotify had hoped for.
Why? Because music is not enjoyed when shared passively. Though some of us may blast music from our teenage bedrooms or pimped out cars, it is not appreciated by those on the receiving end.
We want to scribble notes in CD’s and lend to friends, carefully sequence a personal mixtape or playlist, and write about the songs we love for anyone who’ll listen.
Spotify’s Current Sharing Options
Lets look at the current ways we can actively share music within Spotify.
Apps such as ShareMyPlaylist are promising, but apps will for now remain on the periphery for a niche audience.
The ‘Share’ button is the standard requirement of any website service, but is flawed. It prompts us to share to our audience on Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr, despite the fact we have followers on Spotify we are unable to reach with anything other than our passive feed. Why can’t I talk to these people, those who have actually expressed that they are interested in my musical taste? Yes we can share to individuals using the inbox, but these shares are brief and private. And the fact I can’t say ‘Thanks’ upon receiving a song annoys me more than I care to admit.
The ramifications of this approach are felt throughout the service, both in how it can grow and the perceived value of the service and music.
What this means for Growth…
According to Facebook’s Chamath Palihapitiya, there are four key areas when dissecting the framework for growth – Acquisition, Activation, Engagement, and Virality.
Acquisition and Activation, the users first sight and then getting them signed up, is well served by the Facebook social integration. The activation problem of having to download the app will be fixed by the forthcoming HTML5 in-browser player.
Engagement and Virality however, are suffering hugely from the lack of active sharing options.
Engagement, the users first experiences, worked well when new users were early adopters who didn’t need guidance. Now however, new mainstream users are frozen by choice, and need their hand-holding when navigating the entire history of recorded music. But with nobody to lead them, users do not get the most out of the service, and will leave unsatisfied.
But it is of course Virality, how a product or content is shared and spread, that is most adversely affected. Virality is key within the growth cycle, as it closes the loop and leads to the next round of acquisition and activation.
But thoughtless, passively shared updates do not generate intrigue in target users. There may be click-throughs, but the levels of acquisition and activation are not what they could be if these fundamental problems were addressed.
What This Means for Spotify’s Value…
Spotify’s ability to become a solid business model rests on users valuing both the product and music itself. Passively shared updates are inherently cheap, and thus hugely damaging.
Daniel Ek claims that the url will be the new mp3, but first the url must be bundled with more context, more easily, and with more flexibility. Users should be encouraged to add value to the music they want to share, by attaching their thoughts, feelings and sentiment to what is otherwise available elsewhere for free.
We want to actively share our tastes. Solve this problem, and Spotify’s growth rate will exponentially increase.
Read Part Two for my views on how to fix it.