Is Social Audio the new frontier of marketing?

How relevant and effective is social audio as a way of marketing? Read on to learn about the advantages and how advertisers can take advantage of it.

Social audio refers to social media products that rely on audio to communicate with customers, and it can come in many forms, such as live conversation rooms, podcasts, voice messaging, and many others.

One of the most prolific social audio platforms available is Spotify which hosts around 2.2 million podcasts each year. In the US, close to 78 million people listen to a podcast at least once a week, and podcast listening is slowly gaining popularity in Asia, where people prefer listening to news podcasts. Aside from Spotify, other social media platforms have shown interest in cashing in on the growing popularity of social audio, with Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, Fireside, and Reddit.

Clubhouse is arguably the hottest audio-based social app, with more than 8.1 million downloads as of February 2021.

According to Martin Waxman, MCM, APR (Digital and Social Media Strategist) in his LinkedIn article, Clubhouse’s popularity is driven by exclusivity, availability, and timing.

“You need an invitation to join [Clubhouse]. Until recently the app wasn’t available on Android devices. And during Covid, we were all hungry for new ways to connect. Of course, there’s always shiny new object syndrome, which makes the platform even more attractive because it’s novel and you don’t want to miss out,” Waxman said.

Mr. Stanley Clement, Managing Director, Reprise Digital, said “Social audio has been around for a while now, however interest spiked lately with the launch of Clubhouse. With the invite-only exclusivity and initial availability on Apple, it became the hotspot for social influencers, brands, politicians and all those in between, who wanted to be part of something interesting, all jumping on the bandwagon to create rooms or discussion topics. Usage felt easy and there were no major restrictions; it was easy to be a moderator or be seen as a subject matter expert.”

Is social audio inferior to video?

Although some may think of social audio as inferior to video, it still has advantages. Social audio is ideal for listeners who lead busy lives but want to gain knowledge about specific topics. Since podcast listeners don’t have to worry about watching graphics, they can multitask by performing other chores while listening.

Another value that social audio brought during the pandemic is the sense of community it provides to listeners. The pandemic has forced a lot of people into lockdowns and limited social interactions. Participating in conversations through social audio can help people reconnect with others and provide them with much-needed social exchanges.

This can help level the playing field for small businesses because it is more affordable to produce. Unlike video advertisements, it audio doesn’t require expensive equipment. With the help of excellent scriptwriting, even a small company can produce a social audio advertisement that can compete with one that a multinational company makes.

Social audio as an effective marketing tool

So, how can advertisers take advantage of it and turn it into an effective marketing tool?

For one, marketing companies can sponsor podcasts or conversations that bring value to their products. Advertisers can also share their knowledge in podcasts or show thought leadership during conversations to establish their credibility. This way, becoming a sponsor will look more natural and acceptable to listeners. Advertisers can sponsor popular speakers who can easily attract a massive audience. This is one reason why Clubhouse quickly gained a huge following; they brought in high-profile guests like Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Turn your blogs into podcasts

Brands that have regular blogs can also start converting their blogs into audio format. This can work well even for small businesses because converting a blog into audio form is cheaper than creating a webinar or a video blog. Audio blogs are budget-friendly because they don’t require expensive cameras; brands can just superimpose their audio into a cover picture. By repurposing existing blogs into audio form, brands can increase their following because they will be luring in consumers interested in their blogs but are not too fond of reading.

The downside of social audio

Social audio also has its disadvantages, and it is crucial to understand these disadvantages so marketing companies can control them and come up with ways of minimizing their negative effects.

One challenge that it presents is the limited audience that it can cater to compared to video advertisements. If a company decides to sponsor a Clubhouse room, a room can only accommodate up to 5,000 people, far less than what other social media platforms can accommodate.

It also requires exceptional scriptwriting and voice talents for it to be effective. Unlike video advertisements that can count on excellent graphics to capture viewers’ attention, social audio advertisements need to be catchy scripts with captivating voice executions to hold the attention of listeners.

Mr. Clement also thinks that as a medium, it has the potential to develop as an interesting channel. However he said that “[Social audio] takes intense effort to make sure the content is one of quality and its presence sustainable. At this stage, I don’t think many brands have the bandwidth to spend on making this happen, especially when it’s to a focused group set. The question would always remain… how do you ensure value in every conversation?”

With social audio on the rise, advertisers and marketing companies should ask themselves if they should stand on the sidelines and watch where social audio is going or if they should launch themselves into the fray and outpace their competitors.