Listen Carefully: Facebook Unveils New Suite of Audio Features
Facebook and the “pivot to audio”
In response to the rising popularity of audio-based social networks, Facebook has announced a new suite of features to capitalize on industry trends and compete with growing audio powerhouse app Clubhouse. In the next three to six months, users can expect to encounter several new additions to Facebook, all of which are designed to highlight content created specifically for audio consumption.
Facebook’s roadmap for these new features comes with unique challenges that are not unfamiliar to the network. Difficulties with moderation, quality concerns, and the potential for the tool to be co-opted for illegal or controversial content are considerable roadblocks that the company is likely to encounter. Working in their favor, however, is Facebook’s significant audience size and proven track record for introducing new features, which may help them succeed quickly on a global scale compared to other budding competitors. Although it may be too soon to tell what the specific advantages and disadvantages of Facebook’s approach will be, there are several key takeaways that can help marketers prepare for future strategy decisions.
What are the new features?
Although not yet available to the public, Facebook has revealed three key features that will serve as the pillars of their new audio blueprint. Much like other feature expansions, it’s likely that we will see the following be made available to public figures and select test groups before becoming available to all users.
Live Audio Rooms
As the feature that most closely resembles the Clubhouse model, Live Audio Rooms will provide creators with an open-format audio space where they can share content and hold live discussions with users. To attract established content creators to this new feature, Facebook has also announced a digital tipping tool called “Stars” that will allow users to pay for live audio content they find entertaining and relevant.
This short-form audio feature is designed to serve as “snackable” content, allowing users to share and view quick audio clips displayed in an algorithmic feed. Described as “TikTok for audio,” Soundbites will include the ability to add filters and other audio effects for the purpose of sharing short-form audio entertainment.
With an expanded partnership with Spotify, Facebook will soon allow users to consume longform audio, such as podcasts and music, directly within the app. This new feature will provide content recommendations based on listening preferences and interests already associated with the user’s Facebook profile. Because users who integrate their Facebook account with Spotify will have access to all Spotify content, this will also expand the reach of not only the content itself, but the advertisers who are present within it.
What does this mean for marketers and brands?
As opportunities continue to expand for marketers and brands to reach audiences through audio-focused advertising and content, Facebook is working to position itself as the market leader. In addition to the 2 billion+ users already within the platform, the success of established spaces such as “Groups” suggests that there is already an existing arena for curated content that can easily translate beyond text and into the audio space. While Clubhouse has rolled out a beta version of its app for Android users, specific features such as chatroom creation and preference editing remain unavailable on all devices. Facebook has the additional advantage of an already developed app to accommodate both iOS and Android customers without such limitations in place.
It’s important that brands keep in mind the future potential for paid advertising and social listening capabilities that are associated specifically with audio-based content. Facebook is playing close attention to the importance of attracting and retaining key talent through subscription, tipping, and other monetization models, which suggests marketers may find a great deal of success through influencer and other branded partnerships. Insights gained from the Clubhouse model have demonstrated the potential for “virtual focus groups” and expanded social listening capabilities, which should not be ignored as more users and brands grow their audio profiles within Facebook.
If brands choose to tap into the potential of Facebook’s audio-based features, there are several steps that they can take to stay ahead of the curve in this key early adoption stage. Searching for relevant groups and joining the conversation is an essential step in building a presence in the newly defined audio space. It will also pave the way for the creation of branded or industry-related groups that can be utilized down the road to build awareness or develop brand affinity. Marketers can also position brands as industry leaders by tapping into existing spaces or niche groups where they can share expertise, answer questions, or simply engage with consumers on a more personal basis. The full benefits of exploring audio features on social media may be unknown, but by taking the first step of establishing a presence, brands can be prepared if and when opportunity arises.
As Facebook continues to expand within the audio space, we can anticipate there will likely be new challenges and opportunities for growth that brands will encounter. In the short term, marketers should approach these new tools with caution until user perception can be more accurately measured and Facebook can demonstrate the ability to replicate the audio-specific growth that has already been achieved by Clubhouse.
If Facebook can successfully moderate and distribute audio content to users, brands will have a unique opportunity to connect with individuals and communities on a more personal and curated level. Marketers should pay close attention to content creator partnerships, group creation prospects, and the budding potential of advanced social listening that may provide additional consumer insights and market research opportunities. Although the success of Facebook’s venture into the audio space will not be entirely predictable to begin with, brands can anticipate that the unveiling of these new features will only accelerate the opportunities for paid and organic social growth.