man sitting in front of microphone and laptop talking

Social Media’s Next Evolution?

Photo by Chase Chappell on Unsplash

Every social media platform started from a simple – and in retrospect, a tad naïve – ideal: to connect people around the world.

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen them evolve from simple text and images to text, images, video, live-streaming, and everything in between as they continue striving towards that goal.

Nowadays, though, it seems as though we’re going back to basics aka speaking to each other, even if that’s being done through audio-based platforms and features. We need to ask ourselves though: is this mere fad-chasing or are we getting a peak into the future of social media?

Since the arrival of Clubhouse, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and even Spotify have announced that they’re working on their own audio-only services. It’s easy to dismiss them as fad chasers attempting to get a slice of the market share, or even dominate and push out the competition. But if we look closely, we’d find that audio-based platforms – or at least platforms with more built-in audio features – would solve many of the issues prevalent in the socialsphere, including navigating around platforms’ default language: English.

Sure, most of the Silicon Valley giants have adopted multiple language options to cater to the multitude of cultures worldwide but in developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, where literacy rates are low, most people tend to use voice notes to communicate. Why? Because it’s easy, fast, and they don’t need to switch their local language keyboard and painstakingly type their messages to get their point across. This may sound confusing to English speakers who are well versed in the QWERTY keyboard, but it’s actually difficult for those who aren’t, especially given that keyboards of local languages have just recently been developed in the past decade and adoption rates have been low, with most people preferring to type their messages in their language using the English alphabet – a difficult process in itself.

In most of Asia, and especially in India and China, voice notes have almost become the default form of communication thanks to Whatsapp and WeChat, and the introduction of an audio-only platform would be more than welcomed by the nearly three billion people that inhabit it. With such a high potential for adoption, it’s no wonder that Silicon Valley leaders are incredibly eager to get into the market before it’s too late. The very simplicity of an audio-based platform would be a huge advantage in attracting new users. Beyond that, it has a massive potential for growth.

This shift will drastically change the face of the internet as we know it but there are many challenges that need to be ironed out before such platforms could be scaled.

What does this mean for digital marketing?

Would we see a major shift into audio ads, like those in music platforms such as Spotify? While that may seem logical, it would not be particularly effective for marketers. Most advertisements on the internet today are image or video links that take you to the advertiser’s website where you can directly purchase their products or sign up for their services. The effect is almost instantaneous, which works perfectly for small businesses. An audio-based advertising scheme would rely heavily on the consumers’ memory – almost like a radio advertisement. However, multinational companies that are trying to boost brand recognition or a feeling associated with the brand rather than a particular product would benefit greatly from audio ads; Coca-Cola for example.

Who will come out on top?

For music streaming giants and even podcast platforms, adding an audio communication feature or audio rooms would be a lot easier than it would be for text, image, and video-based platforms, as their infrastructure is already built around audio streaming. While this may lead to an increase in users initially, it’s just a matter of time before companies like Facebook, with their very deep pockets, develop a fully-functioning platform that rivals the streaming giants and take away their users.

All things considered, we can safely conclude that audio will be a huge part of social media in the future. It’s just a matter of time before it seeps into our everyday life and the sooner we embrace it, the better.

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