Facebook is looking to find its voice with the roll-out of a series of audio features over the coming months.
A new category of audio products and features serves as a battle cry to Clubhouse, the invitation-only audio platform that has generated significant word of mouth, as Facebook joins increasingly aggressive moves to bend the ear of listeners.
What is Facebook launching?
Over the coming months, Facebook will unleash a succession of audio-centric features, such as Live Audio Rooms for people to participate in live conversations – a direct ’homage’ to the popular Clubhouse app.
Reportedly ready for an April launch, the literal chat room also bears more than a passing resemblance to Twitter’s Spaces feature.
The full-throated embrace of sound waves also includes the launch of Soundbites, a utility for people to generate and share brief audio clips of their own making.
Both facilities are expected to be made available to a small number of creators in a matter of weeks with users also able to make money from either format, although Facebook hasn’t clarified if this will be open to anyone or solely established creators.
Last but not least, Facebook will also permit members to listen to podcasts without leaving the confines of the walled garden.
Why should marketers care?
Facebook’s enthusiastic embrace of a new medium of communication closely mirrors that of competitors such as the invitation-only Clubhouse app to enable natural-sounding, real-world engagements.
The resulting opportunities span the full spectrum of human speech, providing Facebook with a megaphone to amplify its utility as a home for speeches, lectures, conversations and conferences.
Calls to embrace sound have only grown louder since the imposition of lockdowns, while the rapid growth of Clubhouse has provided ample proof that public demand is rapacious.
Laying claim to his share of this growing market, Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge editor Casey Newton at the launch: ”Audio as a medium just allows for longer-form discussions and exploring ideas. You can get into topics that frankly are a lot harder to with other mediums. And audio, I think, is just a lot more accessible because you can multitask while listening.”
Zuckerberg’s ears doubtless pricked up upon hearing that Clubhouse has been downloaded 4.7m times since its April 2020 (according to Apptopia), with 3.7m of those installs occurring in the opening months of 2021.
Clubhouse operates using an ad-free model but offers marketers the chance to host events and discussions of their choosing, enabling them to target very specific audiences.
This has already been embraced by Pernod Ricard, which hosted a series of themed conversations to coincide with Black History Month, joining other brands such as Milk Bar, Kool-Aid and Politico which have built a presence on the platform.
The Drum’s own Sam Scott recently delved into the opportunities presented by this soundscape for brands by exploring the opportunities and the pitfalls of opening your mouth.