The number of users on social audio apps has increased during the Covid pandemic, partly due to people spending more time at home, as well as the amount of information and ease and convenience of using the apps while doing other tasks in the house. For companies, this new marketing method has presented an opportunity to connect with fans in novel ways.
This article will focus on social audio apps that enable voice communication among users and will delve into how companies grasp user trends for marketing activities.
1. The Growth of Social Audio Apps
Audio media refers to media that broadcasts audio content, like the radio. Other names include audio media and audio broadcasting media. The illustration below organizes the various types of audio media.
(Figure 1: Types of Audio Media)
Podcasts: Audio files of recordings that are uploaded to the internet and made public.
Audiobooks: Services that read aloud books.
Internet radio: Radio that can be listened on apps or browsers.
Social audio apps: Services that allow not only companies, but also ordinary users to broadcast audio content. Characteristics include the availability of live broadcasting, collaborative broadcasting, as well as voice and chat communication among users.
Various categories of audio media are available. With people spending more time at home during the Covid pandemic, more users are multitasking while they work from home. As the data below shows, few users are focused solely on audio media. Most are engaged in some other task as they listen.
(Figure 2: Most users are engaged in other tasks while listening to audio media)
Source: MarkeZine. August 26, 2019. “Seeing is believing? Measuring the power of audio ads.”
The number of companies capitalizing on these changes and using audio media for marketing is also increasing. This article will focus on social audio apps like Clubhouse, which enable communication among users, and explore how companies are using the characteristics of this type of media in their marketing activities. As a sidenote, “personal radio social media” ranked 19th in the 2021 trend prediction according to Nikkei Trendy and Nikkei xTREND, which may be contributing to the rise in its popularity.
2. How Social Audio Apps Connect Companies with Consumers
Unlike Instagram and Twitter, social audio apps allow for multitasking. For companies, it’s an opportunity to increase connection points with consumers. Many services allow streamers to communicate directly with listeners, shortening the distance between users. Instagram Live allows users to leave comments and participate in collaborative streams with celebrities and influencers, just like social audio apps.
Though social audio apps lack a visual aspect, this means that people don’t have to dress up, lowering the bar for anyone looking to start. Social media services that have ample opportunities for streamers to connect with listeners make it easy for users to communicate with one another, building strong communities and allowing influencers and companies to promote conversations.
Let’s take a look at how audio media is used for marketing by using major services as examples.
(Figure 3: Comparison of various social audio apps)
2-1. Bringing users close with action functions
The various features and functions available enable streamers and listeners to engage in intimate communication. For example, many social audio apps allow listeners to leave comments and tips during the livestream. Each service has unique action functions that promote communication between the streamer and listeners.Below are some examples of action function
- Comments: Users can send text comments to the streamer. The streamer can then read the comment and respond to any requests. Some services allow listeners to leave comments in the form of audio.
- Stickers: Listeners can send reactions similar to the “Like” button in the form of stickers.
- Tips: Listeners can send tips to streamers during the livestream to show their support.
- Raising your hand: Listeners can communicate to the streamer that they would like to collaborate on the stream by raising their hand virtually. If the service allows for collaborative streaming, the streamer can then pick a listener and make them a streamer as well. This function is available on platforms like Stand.fm and Clubhouse.
Action functions vary depending on the service and platform. Each has varying degrees of intimacy in terms of the distance between the streamer and listeners. Streamers often use these functions to their advantage while streaming.
For example, Spoon, which allows anyone to stream audio content, is famous for its “TALK” function. This function involves users reading a designated script to create content that is read aloud. With Clubhouse, celebrities and famous businesspeople can respond to questions and engage in debates posed by listeners who “raise their hand,” creating a new form of collaboration. The chat function on Stand.fm allows listeners to send comments and ask questions during livestreams, promoting communication not just between the streamer and listeners, but also among different listeners.
By using these functions that connect all parties involved and by grasping the trends of each service, companies can communicate closely with individuals who are potential fans of the services offered by the company.
2-2. Creating communities with efficient use of broadcasting functions
The way communities are built also depends on which functions are used. Social audio apps include open streams, which allow anyone to drop in and listen, and closed streams, which are only available for paid subscribers or followers. By using both open and closed streams according to what kind of message you’d like to send to listeners, what kind of community you want to build, and how well known you are, you can engage in optimal communication.
For example, by using the closed streaming function, you can deliver content to core fans, including those who drop in frequently and those who have a high engagement rate. Atsuhiko Nakata, who is known for his “YouTube University” series on YouTube, uses the paid closed streaming function to stream “YouTube University on Audio” to his followers. The voice version enables him to create a more intimate community on Voicy.
Many users are also using the open room function on Clubhouse to stream at particular times and days of the week, just like television shows. This has led to listeners gathering on Clubhouse during the streams, just like how viewers gather around the television when a show comes on. Deciding on a particular day and time for streaming makes it easier to announce the stream and gather more listeners.
(Figure 4: The dates and times of scheduled shows are shown in the Clubhouse app)
2-3. Expanding communities by linking with other services
Many social audio platforms allow users to connect their Twitter and Instagram accounts to send notifications of streams and acquire new fans.
Most platforms allow users to display links to their Twitter and Instagram accounts. Listeners can jump to the streamer’s Twitter and Instagram account to view their previous posts and gain a deeper understanding, leading to more communication outside of the social audio apps.
Listeners can also share their favorite audio content with their friends on their social media accounts. By sharing on social media, companies can also acquire new fans through unexpected encounters.
(Figure 5: A tweet notifying users of an upcoming stream on Clubhouse)
In this way, companies can expand their communities by approaching users from various angles, such as increasing contact with fans by utilizing social audio apps and other social media platforms simultaneously and by utilizing different means of communication, including text and photos.
3. Case Studies of Companies Using Audio Services for Marketing
We’ve discussed how companies look at user trends on social audio platforms and use them for marketing purposes. Social audio is an emerging platform, so depending on how companies adapt, the possibilities are endless.
From here, we’ll discuss actual cases of companies using social audio apps and creating communities using audio media.
3-1. Voicy: Flier Inc. “Hiroyuki Araki’s book café”
This is an example of Flier Inc. opening and operating an account on Voicy. Flier was established in June 2013 and operates a website providing summaries of books. The company opened an account on Voicy.
The purpose of setting up an account on Voicy was to deliver information in a way that enables more people to absorb it. The combination of its service with Voicy was a no-brainer, given that Flier’s mission is to “expand the scope of learning.” The following are remarks by employees at Flier.
“The service of summarizing books at a glance may seem like an effective and even inorganic service. However, books are written by people. We thought about ways to convey the human element and stumbled on the real human voices on Voicy. We were hooked at how these voices expressed things as they were and felt that the platform would bring a lot of positive effects on the business.”(Yasushi Oga, Flier, Inc. CEO)
“We also have a secret Facebook group in which we communicate with listeners. We even hosted an in-person event the other day. Many people attended. We did a quiz that tested the listeners’ knowledge on the channel content. We were surprised at how much people knew. We’re very pleased at how we were able to create a core fan community by streaming audio.(Hiroyuki Araki, Flier, In
3-2. Clubhouse: NIKE “SNKRS”
The next case illustrates how Nike fans came up with a community called “SNKRS.”
(Figure 6: The “SNKRS” community within Clubhouse)
With Clubhouse, users are able to create communities called “Clubs.” The SNKRS club was created with the purpose of exchanging the latest information on Nike Jordan and Yeezy sneakers. Because Clubhouse doesn’t retain archives of streams, core fans are likely to use the space to exchange information. The SNKRS club was started by fans, but companies with fans of their own can also start their own community to communicate with them.
3-3. Clubhouse: NewsZero “Behind the Scenes with Yoichi Ochiai”
The last example is one that illustrates a commentator on television using Clubhouse to give listeners a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.
Yoichi Ochiai is a commentator on NewsZero, a program by Nippon Television Network. He talked about behind-the-scenes material in his own community titled “News ZERO room” while the show was on commercial break. He then returned to the show as the commercial break ended. After the show ended, other commentators gathered in Clubhouse and discussed the episode and talked about improvements for the next episode, as well as ways to fully utilize Clubhouse. By streaming on Clubhouse during the actual television show, viewers and listeners feel much more familiar with Ochiai, which in turn helps him and the show acquire fans, leading to higher ratings. Furthermore, since Clubhouse doesn’t produce archives of streams, listeners are enticed to tune in for information that can only be taken in at that specific point in time.
(Figure 7: A tweet by Yoichi Ochiai touching on the simultaneous broadcasting of NewsZERO and Clubhouse)
This article explored the possibility of social audio apps that connect companies with fans. The market itself is relatively new and developing, so the potential for use in marketing is unlimited.
With so much information everywhere in this day in age, users are forced to choose which information to retain. In this context, we suggest considering using social audio apps and voice media as a means to more closely and appropriately connect with target users.
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Irep Inc. is an award-winning global digital marketing agency based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our headquarters are in Tokyo and our network spans more than 20 countries. In Japan, we are ranked No. 1 for performance-based marketing. We also offer highly specialized market entry, as well as integrated marketing and localization services. Since 1997, our data-driven solutions have effectively led our diverse international clientele to continuous success in Japan, Asia, and beyond.