Social audio is the use of audio on social media platforms and standalone apps as the key method of communication. Think of it as a Zoom call without video. It’s connection via live conversation.
While Twitter had a go at introducing a live audio-only feature back in 2018, it was Clubhouse that really took the idea and ran with it in 2020. Mid-pandemic, at a time when many around the world were in lockdown and looking for a socially-distanced way to connect, the app ticked all the boxes.
The initial flurry of curiosity, combined with us all sat indoors, led to huge download numbers—which, as we learn to live with Covid, have not been sustained, leading some to question whether social audio was a flash in the pan. Yet it is still here, and the major social media platforms are all looking to see how to integrate audio—live or otherwise—into their apps.
So who are the key players and what sets them apart?
- Integrated into Twitter
- Up to 13 people (including the host and 2 co-hosts)
- Great for anyone who already has an engaged following
- Hit profile pictures to read bios and follow others
- In-app record and reply (available for 30 days)
- Ability to pin tweets within the Space discuss them
- Standalone app
- Ability to link to social media profiles
- Pin links in your live Room for discussion
- Has a music mode which reconfigures the app to optimize for music over voice, including stereo audio
- Chat available if taking the mic isn’t your thing but you still want to get involved
- In-app record and replay
- Just rolling out to those with creator mode turned on
- Meet people and make new connections
- Creation only available to Spotify partners: known creators, artists and athletes
- Search for and listen to livestreams in the Spotify app
- Join the discussion in the separate Spotify Live app
Other audio-led apps include:
- Wisdom, which has positioned itself as the platform for experts to act as mentors. The host can talk about their area of expertise to those who tune in to listen, or they can take questions from listeners—but just one at a time.
- Soundwave, which gives the opportunity for asynchronous voice message-based conversation. Racket which gives users 99 seconds to share an idea.
- Amp (currently US only), Amazon’s social audio offering enabling users to create a playlist of songs from the Amazon Music catalogue and host their own radio-style show.
- This new offering from Amazon is not so dissimilar to the well-established Stationhead app, which relies on the user’s Apple Music and Spotify accounts for the playlisting.
- A final mention goes to Falon Fatemi and Mark Cuban’s Fireside app which has a slightly different approach, giving a platform to a hand-picked selection of creators, supporting and encouraging them to create premium content regularly for the app.
So where do you start?
The first thing to figure out is why you want to create social audio. How does it fit into your marketing strategy? How will people discover your audio content? And do you have a call to action for them once they are in your social audio space?
Your “why” could be anything from, “I just want to give it a go because it sounds like fun,” to, “I would like to get more people to sign up to my mailing list, and this is a way of offering free content and signposting to that.”
Once you know why, the next thing to do is work out which platform is going to suit you best. Maybe you want to draw on the connections you already have on an established social media platform such as Twitter or LinkedIn; perhaps you want to build up a brand new audience on Clubhouse or Soundwave; maybe you want to position yourself as a first-mover and thought leader as Wisdom makes its way into the social audio world.
Remember that a lot of these apps are brand new and are still finding their way. If you start using them now, and they continue to grow, you could find yourself as a leader on the platform in a year or two. One thing is for sure: the platform where you feel most comfortable is the one where you will create the best content and make the most impact.
Whether its Twitter Spaces or Soundwave, social audio can be a live event that complements your podcast, your book, your newsletter, and more. It provides an international platform to discuss the topic you are passionate about and to showcase your knowledge. Consider it an interactive version of the content you have already spent time creating.
Above all—have fun with it. Social audio is still very new and there’s plenty of time to learn about it, try it out and grow with it.
Suze Cooper @profilehandle
Sound and audio specialist | Podcast audits