Social Networks Want In On Audio

First, social networks conquered the text. Then they took control of the video. And now, the new frontier: audio.

The new app Clubhouse has gained buzz for its voice-based chatroom environment, where users can join live conversations with the people and topics they follow. Last month, Twitter announced its acquisition of Breaker, a social broadcasting app, quickly transferring talent and technology from the Breaker team to work on Twitter’s own voice chat room feature, Twitter Spaces. Reportedly, Facebook has also started developing its own voice chat product. So far, the expansion of voice-based social networks has focused on chatroom formats, but there is plenty of room for expansion into the wider world of online voice.

Not surprisingly, the sound is popular. It’s a very engaging and intimate medium, and it usually has a captive audience that explicitly chooses to listen. It also fills a unique time in the consumer’s day – you can listen while you cook dinner or walk the dog, as opposed to more visual activities like watching TV or scrolling through a social network feed.

The entry of social networks into audio can tap into a captive consumer audience by providing:

  • More features/functions to keep users in social media apps for longer. Social networks have continued to see a steady increase in user growth as consumers look to physically connect or have free time during the pandemic. But consumer attention can be fleeting; As social networks continue to chase new users and spend more time on apps, they will look to audio to lock users within their social media apps for longer.
  • An alternative consumption method for users who do not wish to read or view content. Social audio spaces have great potential, with consumers looking for more private or personal experiences than the broadcast nature of status updates or tweets. It’s also a timely addition for users who may be reducing the time they spend on visual feeds, as the pandemic has increased most consumers’ screen time.
  • Additional ad formats and inventory on social networks. As users spend more time in social media apps, advertisers can serve more ads to these users – an understandable desire for social networks that rely almost exclusively on ad revenue. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have all been prioritizing new ad formats in recent years. Look to social networks to test new audio ad formats that will draw attention from advertisers who have already seen some success with audio advertising elsewhere (for example, podcasts or streaming radio).

What does this mean for marketers? As with any new ad format, new opportunities will increase with the purchase of media. It is also new content being created and produced to manage; Expect social networks to be slow to incorporate any audio ads into their automated ad inventory.

To understand important business and technology trends through 2021, download the free Forrester forecast guide for 2021here.

This post was written by Senior Analyst Jessica Liu and Colin Colborne, and originally appeared here.

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