May 24, 2021Published by: Nicole Mezzasalma

The rise of social audio – and why you should care

This year has seen an explosion in the growth of social audio features, platforms and services. Fuelled by a mainstream boom in podcasts, voice-based apps such as Clubhouse have taken off, enabling everyone to host their own private social talks.

At Battenhall, we’ve been early adopters in the audio revolution, appointing a dedicated Senior Clubhouse Manager (me!) and covering the essentials of how to get the most from Clubhouse in a blog post. Since then, the app’s user base has grown from a few hundred thousand users to tens of millions – and it’s set to get a lot bigger with the announcement that it's now available for Android globally.

Unsurprisingly, this success has got the sharks circling. A new wave of more than 40 audio-based social channels platforms and services are available or scheduled for release in the coming months, including those from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently remarked to journalist Casey Newton that “audio is going to be a first-class medium… every once in a while a new medium comes along that can be adopted into a lot of different areas”.

So it was hardly a shock in April, when Facebook announced plans for its own Live Audio Rooms along with other sound-based services, including an in-app podcast player. Meanwhile, Twitter is moving fast, recently opening up access to its Spaces tool – improving the features and allowing users with more than 600 followers to host their own audio rooms. 

LinkedIn, Reddit and Telegram are also working on audio platforms and features to sit within their products. Even a platform such as Discord, which has historically been used by gamers, is now pivoting to become more of a general audio social app – and one that could rival the likes of Slack in the workplace.

So the question everyone seems to be asking is: should I get involved in social audio? And if so, which of the many channels available should I use? For brands in particular, navigating the myriad of options can be daunting, so I’ve pulled together some helpful pointers to help you get started.

1. Listen before you leap

It’s tempting to try out every shiny new thing, but as with any social network, audio content isn’t for everyone. Think about your strategy, your objectives and your resources before committing to hosting clubs, rooms, events or spaces. Do it right, and they can boost your reputation and business profile – but it takes time to understand the intricacies of each platform and what makes for a good experience in each of them. 

It’s also unfair to expect your existing social media team to be fluent in social audio as it’s a fairly new medium – so give them a chance to play around with it first, or seek help from specialists that can lead the way.

2. It's not a sales channel

If your objective is to increase sales by pontificating about your brand and product features and benefits, social audio is not the medium for you. Users in Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces expect interesting or meaningful conversations and added value, not sales pitches. Going down that route will quickly alienate existing and potential customers alike. Instead, think about how specific people in your team can build authority and share their expertise in creative ways.

3. The power of community-building

Your voice is a powerful tool: it conveys authenticity and gives your brand a personality, which makes it easier for you to get closer to your audience and customers. Social audio is a fantastic resource for community-building as it enables you to bring like-minded people together, and offer real value through conversations that engage and inspire. 

Designer fashion brand Versace, for example, hosted a series of Clubhouse conversations around female empowerment headed by its chief creative officer Donatella Versace. My personal favourite, however, was pet food brand Pedigree – it held a discussion about the impact owning a dog can have on a person’s mental health, and featured user profiles of dogs up for adoption in the US.

4. Audience growth takes time

Growing your audience can take a while. It requires lots of effort, quality content and consistency. Don’t expect to host one event and see your follower count shoot up; you need dedication and consistency when it comes to regular event hosting or participation, to establish yourself as someone worth following. 

On the other hand, you may already have an established follower base on Twitter – but as Spaces doesn’t currently offer anything other than a link in terms of discoverability, you may have a hard time letting your audience know an event is taking place without plenty of forward planning.

What does the future hold for social audio?

It’s early days, but the fact that so many platforms are putting in huge efforts this year, shows the appetite for the emerging format. One key way to make it a success is by empowering creators to produce interesting content on their channels, offering money and resources to help bring their ideas to life. Clubhouse, for example, has recently announced the 60 finalists of its Creator First programme, which will be whittled down to 20 after a three-week pilot period. Other platforms may well follow suit as the audio social war hots up. 

Most commentators agree that social audio is here to stay – it has a low barrier to entry, people naturally want to engage in conversation, and it enables you and your brand to build meaningful connections, which makes it a powerful medium. 

At Battenhall it’s a trend that we’ll continue to monitor and explore, in order to help our clients make the most of this space. If you’re curious and want to learn more about Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and other social audio channels, please contact us.

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