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Everybody is listening – by UM Qatar’s Irem Limnili Angun

All ears are on the rise of social audio, writes UM Qatar’s associate director of strategy, Irem Limnili Angun

Social audio has been one of the hottest topics of 2021, and it will only continue to grow in 2022. This term is not an entirely new phenomenon; however, it is set to muscle into one of the hottest spaces in media. Clubhouse hit the scene at the very right time in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic kept people around the world at home trying to avoid videoconferencing fatigue but starved for human connection.

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The Clubhouse app was invitation-only back then, but it grew slowly and steadily over time. As a result, other platforms that already had established audiences saw an opportunity due to its growing popularity, including powerhouses such as the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Spotify that jumped into the fray and developed their own versions of audio-only venues. Clubhouse has since revealed huge live audiences with Oprah Winfrey events. TikTok unveiled many partnerships for brands. Twitter Spaces announced a ‘record-and-tweet’ option. Facebook’s Live Audio and Spotify’s Greenroom were also launched. Even Amazon has been rumoured to be launching a live audio service. Diversifying this further, voice chat has been popular in gaming for decades, allowing players to communicate in-game, and the phenomenon has spread to external platforms such as Discord, which has evolved into a comprehensive voice chat and streaming platform.

Besides global platforms, there are region-based platforms in the Middle East, and social audio has kept its popularity. 1.5 million downloads out of 10 million globally of the Clubhouse app during the first half of 2021 were in the Gulf, Israel and Lebanon, according to the analytics firm Sensor Tower. Sango
is a social audio platform that was built for the Middle East and North Africa region, while Yalla is a Chinese-founded audio message app that has been popular in the region since 2016, headquartered in Dubai.

The social media platforms that use audio as their primary channel of communication are described as the ‘Goldilocks medium’ by Jeremiah Owyang, a tech analyst and investor. He stated that, “Text is not enough; video conferencing is too much; social audio is just right.” Therefore, there are numerous benefits for companies to use audio to generate engagement because it is truly mobile, comfortable to consume and allows for multitasking while listening, resulting in attention spans that are often longer than other forms of digital content.

What does it mean for brands?

Over the upcoming months, social audio will be a battleground for brands as it is going to be part of the content strategies in 2022. This isn’t a passing fad but a consistent, lasting trend that’s here to stay. Social audio is redefining engagement methods and brand-community relationships. It’s not only about prospective partnerships and sponsorships; aside from that, marketers can use social audio to communicate effectively.

There is great opportunity for several use cases around social audio, including thought leadership, influencer marketing, branded chats, social listening, virtual events, and so on. However, instead of plunging in headfirst, marketers should tread carefully and focus on conducting experiments.

Creating bonds

Social audio platforms are among the most intimate venues for businesses to meet with communities, forge bonds and establish long-term relationships. Remember that, like social media communities, social audio communities will appreciate a corporation that is open to dialogue and adds value to the community. So, inviting significant opinion leaders, celebrities, influencers and specialists to participate in the discussions can be beneficial to creating a local content strategy and contributing value to the community where your audiences matter. Audio can help you build closer relationships with your customers and humanise your brand.

Product releases & announcements

The latest updates and product releases can be shared, and even Q&A sessions can be organised in a more conversational and intimate way. Adding to this, social audio platforms are great places to encourage user-generated content by starting a dialogue and creating conversations to drive user engagement. Take Oreo on Twitter Spaces. There were 13,500 people in this Space alone who learned about the two new flavours of Oreo coming in 2022. This not only generated further buzz for the brand but drove both engagement and organic seeding opportunities. Sounds very tasty.

Market research

Moreover, social audio could be an alternative and easy way to conduct quick market research to better understand consumer behaviours and motivations by encouraging the community to start generating discussions about your brand or product, as consumers have always had an appetite to share their thoughts, feelings and personal experiences to be heard and understood.