Why Are So Many Brands Entering The Crowded Audio Space?
As Clubhouse gained steam and opened up to larger audiences, several major brands were already working on their own audio platforms. Twitter has already launched Twitter Spaces, a similar audio-only format. Facebook is also launching Live Audio Rooms, and Spotify has already begun rolling out its audio app, Greenroom.
It can be easy to dismiss this as a move to cash in on Clubhouse’s success. But there is more to it than that. If we look at the overall strategy these big brands are taking; it is not just about releasing an audio chat platform. There is, in general, a stronger focus on audio as a medium for social engagement.
Facebook’s announcement talks about how audio is seeing a rise in use across their platforms, and it is in response to this, they are releasing a host of audio-related features. They are launching a set of audio creation tools that help creators record audio better. Facebook is also proposing short format audio content called Soundbites and Podcasts on Facebook. This is quite a significant push into this format.
This blog will explore why brands are making this push towards audio and creating more platforms in this crowded audio space.
Audio Is On The Rise: The Podcast Trend
Audio has until recently been a format that was restricted to entertainment and not really a channel for content. Podcasts were perhaps the first audio-only format to evolve and gain some level of mass popularity in recent times. Clubhouse showed us a very different way to approach audio. This can be seen as audio evolving as a channel and having more formats in its name, essentially following the same trend videos have.
Over the past few years, the number of podcast listeners has boomed in the US and globally. There are several platforms where creators can host their podcasts, and many podcasts have managed to garner engaged followers and even have monetization models that involve Patreon and other such subscription models.
The rise in the popularity of podcasts has caught the eye of experts. There is also perhaps now a greater appreciation of the benefits that audio offers. At the same time, most creators also recognize the limitations in terms of listener engagement and building follower bases. Social media is the favorite marketing channel for podcasts. The rise in the use of audio in communication and the popularity of podcasts has been cited as the reasons behind Facebook’s push into audio.
These new approaches to audio are seeing more traction, as more brands are now figuring out ways to incorporate this into their products. Telegram, Discord, and even Slack are working on incorporating audio into their apps. This trend is surely on the rise, and it is likely to have more brands and players tossing their hats in the ring.
One of the distinguishing features of Clubhouse has been the engagement it can drive. Despite being as digitally integrated as we are today, interacting with voice is personal. You tend to connect with someone better verbally than you do any form of written communication. This level of engagement is something that is not too common in the social media domain today.
Today, most brands are looking for ways to increase engagement on their platforms and help content creators engage their followers better. It is in this context that audio becomes an interesting format for most social media brands. Audio rooms acting as places to connect and discuss things is an attractive proposition, especially for brands like Facebook, which has been dealing with falling engagement rates and competition from new platforms and formats.
It Makes Sense From A Strategic Standpoint
Audio fits in quite nicely with the overall strategy for many social media platforms. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have been following the strategy of bringing in the best formats from other social media platforms and adapting them to their own social media platforms. Stories, the emphasis on video and live streaming, and short-format videos have all been added to most of the big social media platforms.
For brands like Spotify, making engaging and interactive audio experiences folds well into their overall strategy. They already have a place where listeners come not just for music but to consume podcasts too, and an app like greenroom can be a great addition to the repertoire of audio tools already available.
Whereas on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even brands like Discord, audio is a new format that can be added to the already existing formats. Unlike Clubhouse, which still has quite a long way to go in terms of the user base, the larger platforms already have a set of users who already engage with the platform. Audio is a new format that these content creators have available to them.
Clubhouse, being a pure format audio content platform and relatively new, has its cons. Even as it evolves, Facebook and LinkedIn can capture many existing users in this new format who haven’t yet heard of Clubhouse or haven’t tried it yet. This would be a considerable number of users.
FOMO: A Bit Of Experience From Short Video Formats
It can also be assumed that Facebook sort of missed out a bit on the short video format. TikTok had established itself as the pioneer and the largest in the space quite quickly, and other social media platforms took time to react to this change in landscape. This could also be associated with being cautious and seeing where the format goes.
Nevertheless, despite TikTok facing its set of regulatory challenges, Facebook has yet to fully capitalize on the short video format audience. Instagram Reels did manage well, but it still has quite a ways to go before catching up with TikTok.
This experience may have some bearing on why Facebook and other platforms are rushing into creating their own audio format channels. They want to get into the game early and establish some sense of parity in terms of the number of users compared to Clubhouse.
A New Model Is Evolving
There is clearly a new approach emerging, led by platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. This new model depends a lot on influencers and content creators to drive engagement on the platform. On these platforms, content creators have many tools at their disposal to create engaging and often viral content, which engages their followers and even brings in new ones onto the platform.
There are also many ways content creators can monetize their following and engagement through influencer marketing partnerships and even the more traditional formats such as ads. There are also memberships, ticketed events, and donations—and all of these monetization channels are creating revenue for the host platforms, too.
This format is a stark contrast to how Facebook or LinkedIn work, where content creators have to rely on paid campaigns to increase their reach or following. This influencer-led approach is vital, as it leads to the creation of great content and engagement, and it also generates revenue.
Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter see audio as one of the channels in which they can establish this model. Facebook has already announced that Live Audio Rooms will be opened up to celebrities and content creators with ways to monetize their content available at launch. We won’t be wrong in assuming that this may be one of the more significant factors driving brands towards creating audio format channels.
What is quite clear is that audio is being taken quite seriously by the leading brands in social media today. As we discussed, there are quite a few factors that are possibly driving this decision, and it is most likely a combination of some of these factors that are prompting this call.
Whatever the reason, the success depends on how this is executed and how it can be weaved into existing feeds and pages. It would also depend on the quality of content on these new platforms. The differentiator is likely to be having the best content creators on the platform. Clubhouse has shown that audio works, and there is a lot more to explore here. How these new formats from the leading brands perform will be keenly watched by social media enthusiasts around the world.