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

New app Clubhouse has garnered significant buzz for its audio-based chatroom environment, where users can join live conversations with people and topics they follow. Last month, Twitter announced its acquisition of Breaker, a social podcasting app, and quickly transitioned the talent and technology from the Breaker team to work on Twitter’s own audio chatroom feature, Twitter Spaces. Facebook has also reportedly begun to develop its own audio chat product. So far, expansion into audio-based social networking has focused on chatroom formats, but there’s plenty of room to grow into the broader world of online audio.

It’s no surprise that audio is popular. It’s a deeply engaging and intimate medium, typically with a captive audience that explicitly chooses to listen. It also fills a unique time in a consumer’s day — you can listen while cooking dinner or walking the dog, unlike more visual activities like watching TV or scrolling through a social network feed.

The social networks’ foray into audio can tap into that captive consumer audience by providing:

  • More feature/functionality to keep users in social media apps longer. Social networks have continued to see user growth steadily increase as consumers look to connect virtually or have free time during the pandemic. But consumer attention can be fleeting; as the social networks continue to chase new users and longer time spent in the apps, they will look to audio to trap users inside their social media apps for longer.
  • An alternative consumption method for users who don’t want to read or view content. Social audio spaces have big potential, with consumers seeking out 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 their time spent 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 those users — an understandable desire for social networks that rely almost exclusively on ad revenue. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have all notably prioritized new ad formats in recent years. Look for the social networks to test new audio-based ad formats that will draw attention from advertisers that have already seen some success with audio advertising elsewhere (e.g., podcasts or streaming radio).

What it means for marketers: As with any new ad format, new opportunities with media buying will abound. It’s also new content to create and production to manage; expect the social networks to be slow to incorporate any audio ads into their programmatic ad inventories. Before the hype carries you off to start an audio chatroom about your brand, revisit our social marketing playbook’s landscape report to help you determine whether your audience on social media actually wants to hear from you. And if you have questions, feel free to set up an inquiry with us.