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Sound On Social

Music in advertising isn’t new, but with platforms such as TikTok pushing traditional content creation boundaries, the following explores how we should apply music in the creative we offer. 

 From the psychological behaviour behind why music makes us tick (tok) to the legalities and measurement implications of including music in creative, this is a broad introduction to the world of sound on social. 

The Psychology of Sound 

When we think about music in adverts, we inherently know that it has an impact on our reaction to the advertising, but we may be unaware of the science behind the why: 

“Different melodies, chords, or key changes in songs can elicit responses. For example, strings playing short and sharp notes in a major key were found to elicit feelings of happiness and excitement in 87% of respondents. Meanwhile, a shift from major to minor keys provoked a sense of sadness or melancholy in 83%, and 90% found acoustic guitar sounds to be caring, calm and sophisticated.” – Econsultancy,

There are three core reasons to use music in advertising from a consumer behaviour standpoint; these are: 

Music = Emotion  

Advertising has long benefitted from the introduction of music, John Lewis ads being the latest example of music that stormed the world. Because we are emotionally stimulated by music, we are more likely to remember the advertising. We use the same part of our brain to listen to music that we do to process memories. 

Music Drives A Story 

Music, on its own, is powerful but coupled with solid visuals representing the narrative’s pace and tempo, it is a winning formula. A study by Neurosight, which analysed over 150 ads to identify which ones are strongly correlated with long-term memory encoding (LTME), backs up the fact that music in TV ads becomes more memorable when it drives the action of the ad. For example, when the lyrics or the tempo matches what is happening on screen.

Artists Bring Notoriety 

There’s the song, and then there’s the persona. Using celebrity involvement means you’re not starting from ground zero recall; you already know the artist’s influence, and their musicianship carries memory triggers for the audience. Neurosight’s study also found that if a celebrity was involved in an ad’s final call to action, viewers showed 13% higher memory encoding levels.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, therefore, that the most significant platform boom of the last few years has centred around the world of music… 

TikTok: The new Hit Factory

It would be remiss to talk about music’s power concerning advertising and not mention TikTok.  

TikTok started life as an app called; the primary purpose? Lip-syncing. Since then, it has blown up. With over 1 billion downloads, TikTok is swiftly becoming one of the world’s most valuable start-ups. 

Sound is pivotal to a TikTok in a way it has not been for any channel since YouTube. TikTok isn’t just using hits, though… it’s making them too. 

Lil Nas X’s” Old Town Road” hit is perhaps the platform’s most famous success story. Having been removed initially from the Billboard Country Charts for “not being country enough” (read: too black), TikTok users created the “YeeYee Juice” meme, and the song went viral. All this propelled “Old Town Road” to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100

Since then, otherwise obscure or older songs like “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Flamingo” by Kero Kero Bonito, “Pretty Boy Swag” by Soulja Boy, and “Fake ID” by Riton and Kah-Lo have been given new life by the video app.

So how should we, as social media professionals, apply music to the content we create? 

Top Tips For Sound on Social Platforms

TikTok: Use sound always. TikTok is built on sounds; it works because of sound. All sound automatically auto-plays, and music adds to the platform’s discoverability.  

Facebook: Do some research. You may have heard that 85% of video content is viewed with sound off on Facebook, but this isn’t the whole story. Facebook is the only platform that lets you see how many of your users listen to your content with or without sound. This insight is pivotal in informing the creative. 

Instagram: A recent survey discovered that almost no one always listens to Instagram with the audio off contrary to popular belief. Therefore, on both Instagram Feed & Stories, you need to incorporate subtitles & sound-based cued in the creative. 

? Top Tip: Instagram Stories’ Sound On’ sticker turns the sound on when tapped. 

Twitter: Twitter has always been a text-based platform where sound tends to get overlooked. However, video content, specifically news, is still significant. It is also the channel where increasingly, content from other platforms (specifically TikTok) gets a second wind on Twitter. Equally – Twitter has just rolled out Tweets for your voice (like voice notes), so the sound is critical.

But are you even allowed to use music on social? 

The Legality of Melody

You can’t just use any music (or you can, but you run a risk) on your social content. So, what are the rules around music copyright on social? It’s not as clear cut as we’d like, but some principles are as follows: 

It’s blurry  

Most major platforms do not allow you to use copyrighted music to advertise a product or service without licensing it (often expensive). The complication in this rule is that many of what we create as marketers are not explicitly selling a product; it sits around broader community engagement. Some brands are comfortable running the risk and, especially on TikTok, participating or creating challenges that include popular music. However, brands that do so are running a legal threat and should do so will a full risk assessment of potentially hefty legal fines.

It can be costly   

The best practice for all brands is to license or commission music bespoke to the creative. 

Whilst cool for big-budget creative, we often rely on free or low-cost music sites for music for most of the content created for social. Luckily the platforms are here to help, with both Facebook and YouTube offering rights-free music options. 

It’s community-based 

Despite the ‘rules’ brands encounter, a ‘standard’ user can use music through Instagram Stories or TikTok without encountering the same legal repercussions. 

Consequently – the Instagram Stories’ music’ functionality is not available to ‘Brand’ accounts, but it is for ‘Creator’ accounts. ?‍♀️

BPM: Best Possible Metrics 

We know that music will improve the audience’s ability to recall and connect with the content we are creating. But what are some of the right measurement tactics for increasing our understanding of what isn’t working? 

The Scales of Measurement, based on efficiency and ease of implementation of measurement, help understand the effectiveness of music applied to social creative: 

  • Engagement Rate; You know this one. A great way of understanding how your audience is reacting to the content created. 
  • View Through Rate: Does music increase your average VTR? If so, which music? Are there specific genres that resonate with your audience? Measure this over time to optimise your approach accordingly. 
  • Ad Recall: If you’re amplifying your creative with the paid budget, try running an A/B test of either sound on / sound off or different music genres to get a feel for ad recall with your audience.
  • Brand Effect Study: Most prominent social platforms offer a brand effect study against an investment of paid media spend. Look at how brand favourability and preference uplift to any creative with music added vs that without. 

Hopefully, you now feel confident and ready to hit the dancefloor with social content and get the musical party started. If you want to hear more about how we weave in a multi-discipline approach to social first creative, why not cha-cha-slide into our inbox at