Cutting through the noise: is the social media audio trend here to stay?

Amy Houston

The Drum Social is a weekly column from The Drum’s reporter, and former social media executive, Amy Houston covering the latest social media trends, strategies and insights. Follow Amy @AmyCLHouston and join in the conversation #TheDrumSocial

The rise of the audio social trend has been one of the most talked-about social media advances in the last year. With new apps like Clubhouse and big players such as Twitter and Facebook all battling to be heard, does the future of social media really lie in audio? The Drum’s Social Media Executive Amy Houston chimes in.

Audio messaging is nothing new. From WhatsApp to WeChat, users have embraced voice messaging as a quick and personal way to communicate for years. This notion, as well as the result of a year of isolation and screen fatigue, has paved the way for a flurry of audio-first social media apps.

Spring of 2020 saw an exclusive invitation-only app enter the space – Clubhouse. The timing of this shiny new app could not have been better, with Clubhouse potentially filling the gap left by the absence of in-person events. In the era of social distancing, this networking tool generated a loud buzz in an industry where people love to tell stories.

Clubhouse leans into an aspect of social media that leaves users with the fear of missing out. Once the conversation is over, the room is closed, and the live audio chats are gone. Celebrities, marketers, entrepreneurs, and even some mere mortals such as myself have used the app for a wide variety of events.

As with any new social media trend, there have been highs and lows along the way, with a fair few controversies blaring in the media this week as well as a string of new competitors. It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse continues to grow.

Perhaps learning from Clubhouse’s trials and tribulations, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are now all on board the audio social journey. Facebook’s Clubhouse clone ‘Hotline’ is in the beta testing phase, while Twitter has been rolling out and testing ‘Spaces.’ As of last week, LinkedIn confirmed it is to introduce an audio room feature.

As social media managers and marketers, how can we navigate these exciting spaces and potentially incorporate them into our future strategies?

Like with any new social media tool, it's all about knowing your audience and assessing if it's a good fit for your organization. With audio apps, I believe there is huge potential for brands to carve out their own niche community, and potentially win business along the way. Figuring out what your audience wants to have conversations about and demonstrating why they should listen to you is a good place to start.

As humans, we love to share things we’ve heard – be it a song on the radio, good advice from a colleague, or even a bit of gossip. Telling a story is part of our everyday lives, so as marketers looking to promote a service, product or event there’s a huge opportunity to connect with people in the audio space. Be consistent and create something of value.

When considering using audio as part of a marketing strategy it's imperative to weigh up exactly how inclusive and diverse these spaces really are. Clubhouse by nature promotes an ios-exclusive ‘members only’ approach, while Twitter Spaces is starting to roll out the hosting function on both ios and android.

With access to some of the brightest minds in the world, audio-first social interactions are a brilliant resource for advice and collaboration. In the same breath though, accessibility in the audio space has a long way to go for users who are hard of hearing, without live automated captions people with minimal to severe hearing loss cannot engage in conversations.

Social media has come so far over the past few years, and with new tools being developed all the time it feels like an exciting time to work in this industry. Trends sometimes come and go but, in my opinion, it's loud and clear that the audio trend is here to stay.

When we asked The Drum's social media community to weigh-in on the audio trend, Gavin Matthews, Director, Kalua shared his thoughts:

''Over the last year, we’ve seen a notable rise in clients wishing to use audio across their social channels, and we’ve produced a number of campaigns to land on social in different ways. Similar to radio, audiobooks, or podcasts, a piece of audio without visuals can entice you in and engage with you at a much deeper level, and that’s really powerful in digital channels when used correctly. An engaging piece of audio could be a simple, remotely recorded brand ambassador or a fully produced binaural soundscape – there’s a lot of opportunities to deliver something very different to your users with just audio on social.''