Social Audio: what is it and how does it benefit B2B marketers?

Social audio is an evolution of social media that is focused on voice and sound instead of traditional text and images.

It offers a range of benefits for marketers, built on the principle that sound is more readily consumable than video or text, which leads to higher levels of meaningful content engagement.

Social audio really hit its stride a couple of years ago, when people needed ways to feel more connected during the forced isolation of pandemic lockdowns. Clubhouse was the great instigator, generating a massive 10 million downloads in February 2021, opening the door for other social audio innovators that quickly followed.

A fair few FMCG marketers out there are pretty excited about the prospect, and the benefits are starting to make an impression. B2B marketers need to explore how and why it could help them.

But what really is social audio, and how can it help your business?

The social audio lowdown

As the sonic version of social media, social audio can take a few different forms. Two of the most prominent ideas are recording-based and live-discussion social audio.

Recording-based social audio

This is people posting recordings of themselves talking about a topic. They then post that recording on a channel and other users can respond to these posts with their own audio comments. The whole thing essentially replicates the social media experience in sonic form, without any of those pesky character limits.

Think ‘voice notes on messaging apps’, like WhatsApp and Telegram, except they’re shared on public channels instead of person-to-person.

Live discussion social audio

This is where platforms host digital spaces in which attendees can talk, debate and discuss ideas with each other. Think of these like online town halls where live conversations take place.

A great example of this is Twitter Spaces. A host will create a space which anyone can join – but only the host, or up to two co-hosts, can designate speakers who can actually speak in the space. Everyone else is a listener until they request to speak.

So far, so social. But what makes social audio actually worth your time as a marketer? Here are a few good reasons:

It hits the sweet spot between text and video

Hearing a person’s voice evokes a stronger response than reading their words on a page, and the tone and inflexion give more opportunities to introduce nuance and meaning.

Choosing audio-based content over video means your listener can do other things while they consume your content, requiring enough attention to help get your message across but not so much that the consumer has to focus all their time on one piece of content.

This is critical for B2B marketers! These points make it especially handy for those busy folks who make all the big calls: 44% of senior decision-makers, including department heads, VPs, owners and C-suite executives make a concerted effort to listen to podcasts. It’s a channel not be ignored, or put as a ‘nice to have’.

It promotes positive engagement

When someone posts a text or photo on social media, anyone can respond with their own comments to counter their points or support their arguments.

But if you’ve ever seen an online debate explode in the ugliest ways, so much of what people write online can be misconstrued or misunderstood without the emotional capacity of vocal communication. That’s not to mention the delay between text responses that can move conversations on before you’ve had a chance to respond.

Platforms like Twitter Spaces can make the conversation that much more human and more balanced. People can hear what you mean from your tone of voice: sarcasm is more obvious and the emotional weight (or lack thereof) can be more easily distinguished. More ground is also covered with a more natural back-and-forth between speakers – a study found people are less awkward and more connected to other conversation participants when they speak to them, rather than send messages.

And on another level, posters might be less likely to be quite as inflammatory if they have to say things with their own voice – the cowardly troll community isn’t known as ‘keyboard warriors’ for nothing, after all.

It improves accessibility

It’s easy to forget that the internet is built on billions of pages of text – a report back in 2016 suggested that there were about 305.5 billion A4 pages worth of text on there. And it’s only gone up since then.

Great for those who enjoy reading, but not so much for those with dyslexia, for example. And for blind people, it can exclude them entirely from having input into online conversations.

Social audio is an inclusive alternative that makes social media more accessible by helping people who struggle with writing to communicate their thoughts effectively and in less time. It adds a new dimension for blind people to take part and be involved across the web, and for those with hearing difficulties; subtitles and closed captioning – including AI-enhanced options – can ensure they aren’t blocked from engaging with social audio – but only if done right.

If this sounds good to you, we’ve written a blog post all about the opportunities for business success through audio marketing.

And as soon as you’re ready to talk audio and how it can help you reach your own business objectives, Earnest would love to hear from you.

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(Header photo: Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash)