Spotify’s test of a Friends tab on mobile hints at expanded social ambitions • TechCrunch

Spotify’s success with Wrapped, its year-end review, designed for social sharing, may be pushing the company toward building more social experiences directly into its mobile app. The company for many months has been testing different iterations of a “friends activity” tab on its mobile app, and investors have now taken notice. During the streamer’s Q4 earnings call earlier today, the company was asked to clarify some details about its social plans. Though Spotify CEO Daniel Ek declined to comment on the specific feature the investor asked about, he didn’t shoot down the idea of Spotify becoming a more social platform. Instead, he replied that social could become “a meaningful driver of creating an even stickier and more engaging experience” for the company.

The exec was answering an investor question about Spotify’s recent tests of a “Friends tab,” which appears in the app’s bottom navigation bar for some subset of Spotify’s users. Though only an experiment at present, the test already has gained many positive reviews from members of the test group.

On Twitter, for example, Spotify users have been asking the company to please add them to the test group if they didn’t have access to the feature, or have been complaining when they were removed from the test group and their Friends tab disappeared. Others have been asking Spotify when the feature would roll out more broadly.

So far, Spotify has not made any public announcements about its plans to launch a Friends tab on mobile, nor has it responded to testers’ questions.

The company, however, had signaled its interest in an expanded set of social features last year when it began testing a Community tab on its app. This variation offered a dedicated place to view what music friends were streaming on the app as well as what playlists they’d recently updated. Spotify’s desktop app includes a similar feature, but it has limited user access to that same activity on mobile devices.

At the time, Spotify confirmed to TechCrunch it was in the early stages of testing the Community feature and provided no other information about its plans.

Those tests have since evolved and the experience has been given its own “Friends” button in a prominent place in the app’s main navigation. According to images posted by testers, the Friends tab includes a “weekly picks” section at the top, in a Story-like format, followed by a feed of friends’ listening activity, much like you’d see in Spotify’s desktop experience.

This version still may not be the final concept, nor is there any guarantee that the feature will definitely launch.

On the investor call, Ek declined to comment on the Friends tab test specifically, saying the company runs a lot of experiments and “what you probably have seen is one of those experiments — and since we’re not committed to rolling that out, I don’t really have much of a sort of comment.” But he didn’t downplay the company’s interest in social overall, suggesting it remains an area of interest.

“We’re committed to creating the best audio experience for consumers and creators in the world. And obviously, social could be a meaningful driver of creating an even stickier and more engaging experience,” the CEO clarified.

The company, no doubt, has seen the traction its personalized year-end review called Spotify Wrapped brings to its service and wants to know if baking in more social features that are accessible year-round would have a similar impact.

As the company noted during earnings, its eighth version of Wrapped broke new records, as 156 million monthly active users engaged with its content — a metric that was up 30% year-over-year. Wrapped also boosted other areas of Spotify’s business, it said. The company saw its highest-grossing merch sales for artists to date during the week Wrapped was live. And it drove a 2.7x increase in visitors to artists’ tour pages, while also growing user engagement across all regions and demographics.

While Spotify’s Friends tab isn’t an introspective look at your own listening behavior, it would be another way to engage with friends in a social environment. One earlier version of the Friends tab even showed a way to follow other users directly in the app, in addition to tracking new songs friends added to playlists and those that they had “on repeat.”

Spotify needs to build out its own social experiences as the youngest generation of consumers is shifting away from using traditional social networks, where they build out a friend graph, to instead spend more time on entertainment apps, like TikTok — which has proven to have powerful influence over music charts.

Although Spotify hasn’t prioritized its Friend Activity features for years, it has maintained a close relationship with Meta for social integrations. Spotify users’ social graphs today continue to rely on Facebook — even though many Gen Z users don’t even have a Facebook account. The companies also worked together in prior years, including in 2021 when they partnered on a mini-player that would stream Spotify from the Facebook app. Facebook, however, competed with Spotify on podcasts for a brief period before discontinuing a series of audio projects to focus instead on its metaverse efforts.

Social is an area where Spotify may be hesitant to rock the boat, given Meta’s competitiveness with any company that tries to build its own social graph. But it’s an area that’s ripe for development, as Apple has repeatedly failed to build social products around music over the years. Plus, it’s clearly something many users want to see in the app and one that plays into Spotify’s overall goal of offering a personalized experience for music fans.

Spotify had no further comments on the Friends tab test.

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