We all have that one song that fits so perfectly into the soundtrack of our lives that we think it must have been written specifically for us. We listen, apply our own biases and filters, then feel all the feelings, taking ownership of the artist’s content, and incorporate it into our world accordingly. Jim-Bianco-hero

What if that song really was about you? If you filled out singer-songwriter Jim Bianco’s 69 question survey, you just might be right.

Jim Bianco, a Los-Angeles based singer-songwriter, is obsessed with eccentric characters. He’s built his career on drawing inspiration from unexpected places, and now he’s drawing from a source that’s been right in front of him for some time – his own fans. The ideation process for his latest album Cookie Cutter began with a 69-question survey.

The final result is an incredible conversation between Jim Bianco, 17 of his most engaged fans, and everyone who will ever listen to the music of Cookie Cutter—not to mention anyone who had a chance to listen to him serenade NPR’s All Things Considered host Audie Cornish.

Make your user a hero: Just as Jim Bianco made his fans the star characters of his songs, brands have the power to make their customers the heroes of their own stories. Inbound marketing and Web analytics company, Moz, does a fantastic job of doing this on their YouMoz blog.

As long as aspiring bloggers follow their super-reasonable guidelines, they can contribute valuable online marketing content to a huge community of like-minded Internet and marketing professionals. Jennifer Sable Lopez, Director of Community at Moz, has said that many a YouMoz contributor has landed a speaking gig or two through their contributions to the YouMoz community.

Be careful of letting your own imagination get in the way: Bianco’s first two versions of “Everything in Moderation,” the song he dreamed up for Audie Cornish were downright cringe-worthy, “Mm so naughty, Audie,” and “And with all things considered, I’ll be OK.” The difference between those versions and the final version was that he hadn’t taken her own story, her responses to the survey, into account yet. He just riffed on his preconceived notions and the radio persona through which he perceives her. He admits that approach was no good, so he dug into her answers and found a gem in a favorite saying of her father’s, “everything in moderation.” The lesson learned here, sometimes the user does know best.

Give them what they want by letting them tell you what they want: People don’t just want to be the stars of silly love songs, they love being able to feel like the things they consume, both in their personal and professional lives were designed with them in mind. Take ModCloth’s Be The Buyer program, which allows their customers to review designs, provide feedback and vote for the clothes and accessories they would most like to see for sale on ModCloth. This allows customers to make a creative investment in their future purchases and gives them a behind-the-scenes experience they cannot get from their favorite store at the mall.

As more brands begin to recognize that social proof is key to getting customer buy-in and easing the worries of uncertain prospects, we’re beginning to see less of a need for complete control over the content marketing message. This is good news, because when brands let go a little bit, their biggest fans and most engaged users are likely to be there, ready and armed with more than a few words to say.

This is a guest post from Kayla Hulen, Marketing and Communications Associate at Diverse Tech Services.

Image credit: Wikipedia