Picture: Pexels/Ron Lach
Picture: Pexels/Ron Lach

Every time I sit down to write this article about social audio I have to delay because I learn of some other change to the social audio landscape.

The biggest news around social audio from this week came with Facebook launching its own version, called Live Audio Rooms.

Now what does social audio mean and how can brands and marketers use it?

First, what is social audio? It’s exactly that – social networks built around audio and for now voice-only.

Why has voice marketing suddenly become so popular? Well, the broader world is rediscovering what those of us with radio backgrounds have never forgotten: the power of the human voice. You can hear when someone is lying or when they are disingenuous. You can hear their excitement, their joy, their honesty. You can hear when there is no buy-in or when there is uncertainty. There are no camera tricks, cutaways or makeup to help your voice cover up.

Audio and voice marketing has also seemingly exploded as people get tired of screens. We’ve just had enough!

We go to varsity on screens. We work on screens, we socialise on screens and then we need to go to screens to get entertainment? Enough is enough.

And we’re also looking for the human connection that voice gives in these “don’t touch me” times.

The biggest player in social audio until now has been Clubhouse, which had a stratospheric launch in April 2020 – the right app at the right time. Those who compliment Clubhouse enjoy it as it allows you to listen to very clever people talking about very clever things that you’re interested in. With no PowerPoint presentations.

However, at its worst you can describe it as “the worst people on LinkedIn being given a microphone”, as radio futurologist James Cridland did.

It’s somewhere in between that. If you’ve played around with Clubhouse, you would have found a range of topics from a range of different people. When done well it sounds like a group of colleagues talking to each other, like you’ve just walked in on a casual brainstorm.

The initial boom has naturally slowed, and its limitations have been exposed. It’s Apple iOS and invite-only and even if you do get past these two hurdles, people are finding that it lacks what makes social media work – the ability to share. We share because we care, we want people to know what we’re consuming, we want to look smart and funny and show that we have access to the best content. Not being able to do this limits the appeal. Clubhouse is live, like radio, but has a similar problem: once it’s said, it’s gone.  If you add a record option, it becomes like a podcast – but then does it lose its point of difference?

The new players in this space would have been aware of this. Twitter is the next most developed, with Spaces. An almost identical experience, but with no limitations and an existing base of potentially every single Twitter user.

LinkedIn and Reddit both have similar products in the works and a Spotify variant is floating around, and they will all benefit from massive existing audiences, users and ad models.

Which is why everyone is so intrigued by the Facebook option, not least because we understand the power of advertising on Facebook.

So how can you use social audio for your marketing purposes?

Loads of brands want to get into podcasting. It’s becoming hugely effective, but unless you work with the right people, it can be costly and time-consuming, and it can take forever to show returns in terms of audience. Social audio gives you the benefits of podcasts – knowledge sharing, brand alignment, loyalty, tapping into the audio wave – in an instant without much setup cost. Plus, the integration with the Facebook and Twitter version means you can mine existing communities and convert them to your audio content.

You can then use this for product launches, showcases and Q&As with customers – all in real time, with real people. No chatbots, no admins – just normal people chatting and even building an audience who consume your brands audio, who can then be activated for your eventual podcast.

I’ve seen a few beauty and alcohol brands use Clubhouse to replicate the salon or after-drinks camaraderie.

They sent followers vouchers to purchase the brand’s products and then join them on Clubhouse for reviews and discussions on the brand.

The big take-out:

The big take-out: Social audio gives you the benefits of podcasts – knowledge sharing, brand alignment, loyalty, tapping into the audio wave – in an instant without much setup cost

A great combination of fulfilling a need to connect that we all have but can’t do, allowing the brand to offer trial, drive sales and educate – all for a very low price and in an extremely uncluttered advertising space.

I also see more and more brands sponsoring rooms and chats by the platform’s top influencers. It’s amazing how quickly these platforms create influencers, and the more platforms, the more of them there will be.

The sponsorship route, though, goes against why these platforms will work for advertisers.

When did your brand last have a chance to talk en masse on your own platform to your own followers?

If you want to do that in audio you have to pay a radio presenter or voiceover to speak for you. You need to ask radio stations if you can speak to their audience and usually have to pay for that pleasure – in the hope that some of your customers are listening.

Social audio apps make it easy for a brand or marketer to get on a mic and talk to the people who matter to them live.

Give your brand a voice – your voice. Finally, platforms like Clubhouse, Spaces, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms and others allow you that. 

  • Paulo Dias is head of creative at Ultimate Media



Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.