Social audio set to soar as Facebook launches new tools
Following on from one of the most predictable moves of 2021, Facebook’s social audio play is now live.
Facebook is now officially rolling out its Clubhouse annihilator Audio Rooms and a podcast service across the US An initial group of podcasts will be available to listeners Stateside; Facebook says more will be introduced over the coming months.
“Live Audio Rooms on Facebook enable you to discover, listen in on and join live conversations with public figures, experts and others about topics you’re interested in.”
Hosts of Audio Rooms can invite any listener in the room to speak, which is an interesting twist on the existing social audio model and friends, verified public figures and followers.
There’s some flexibility here, too, because hosts can invite speakers during the conversations or in advance. There can be up to 50 speakers and a limitless number of listeners, creating new brand opportunities.
Audio Rooms are available to public figures and selected Groups in the US and iOS at launch.
Audience involvement will be important
Group admins can control who can create a Live Audio Room (moderators, group members or other admins). Within public Groups, members and visitors can listen to a Live Audio Room, but this access is restricted to just members in private groups.
iOS and Android users can find Live Audio Rooms in News Feed or notifications, and users can sign up to be alerted when a conversation you want to listen to goes live. When in the chat, listeners can enable live captions, raise a hand to request to join in and use reactions in real-time.
Audio Rooms could allow marketers access to a whole new audience across Facebook. It could also encourage marketers to drive their audience toward an existing Facebook Group or create one to spur organic reach and content marketing efforts.
We could see Groups growing in importance compared to Pages, which will still serve a purpose but don’t carry the variety of creative options that Groups do.
There is a valuable crossover for publishers and creators (influencers) regarding followers tipping Stars. Stars are the way creators can raise cash for themselves, a nonprofit or cause.
Listeners who send Stars are bumped to the ‘front row’, a place that highlights their contribution. Giving hosts a chance to recognise the contribution, and could even invite them into the chat as an incentive.
Podcasts are coming to your Feed
Facebook is also investing in podcasts.
“People can listen to podcasts while browsing Facebook, via a miniplayer or full-screen player experience with playback options, including with their phone display turned off.
People can listen to select podcast creators on their Facebook Pages, as well as in News Feed. You’ll have access to a diverse catalogue of podcasts and be able to react to, comment, bookmark and share your favourite podcasts.”
It’s good that Facebook will allow listening with the phone display turned off; otherwise, it could have landed itself in the YouTube situation where it becomes a pain to consume content on mobile.
Additional features will also roll out, like the ability to clip, create and share short pod snippets.
The social share aspect of snipping could be helpful, and it will give creators the chance to post little soundbites on their Pages or Groups to convert a few more listeners. Helping podcasters to get the word out far more effectively to billions of Facebook’s users.
Pages will be able to leverage their following to drive listens of podcasts, which will be helpful if the creator/producer has spent time building up a following. If not, now is an excellent time for Kiwi and Aussie creators to do just that in preparation.
Podcasts can’t be ignored
Podcasts are now big business in NZ and Aus.
According to several bits of research, in 2019, more than 320,000 New Zealanders downloaded audio or video podcasts across four weeks – an increase of 82% compared to 2016. 48% of all pod listeners in NZ are under 45 years old, 31% of Kiwis download podcasts.
Edison Research shows that 87% of Aussies over the age of 12 know what a podcast is, 25% have listened to one in the last month, 22% of 35-54-year-olds are weekly podcast listeners.
This data shows that consumption of podcasts is already sizeable and is growing fast. Brands and marketers have some advanced warning to prepare their Facebook presence for these new audio opportunities, and they should not let it go to waste.