Social audio doesn’t sustain its lockdown momentum

Social audio doesn’t sustain its lockdown momentum

Marisa Bailey April 3, 2023

The Covid-19 pandemic saw the rise of social audio platforms such as Clubhouse as users strived to establish more meaningful human interaction whilst being stuck at home. However, in 2023 popularity for these platforms has dwindled and many others offering social audio elements have scrapped the features.

Let’s take a look at what contributed to the downfall of social audio platforms and predict if they’re gone for good, or will ever make a re-appearance. 

The rise and fall of Clubhouse

Clubhouse was the poster child of social audio, launching at the perfect time (March 2020) and seeing a huge increase in usage during the pandemic. But since then, the platform has struggled to sustain the growth it experienced and has now shifted its strategy to smaller, more private groups promoting a community and connection focus. By releasing Houses, users can create a private, invite-only club. According to Bloomberg, Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison explained that this move is critical to regaining the company’s growth and “retaining intimacy” with their target audience to attain a “close-knit community”.

Since then, many communities have jumped on the trend and added audio elements, but the demand for social audio today is not as popular as it once was during lockdown in 2020, indicating that the demand for these platforms was driven by lockdown restrictions, and now… the bubble has well and truly burst. 

a google trends chart showing the decline in popularity for clubhouse

Google Trends UK data showing the spike in interest in Clubhouse over the pandemic

Other social audio platforms have followed suit

According to Mashable, the launch of Clubhouse was so influential during the pandemic that many other platforms released similar features such as Twitter Spaces, Facebook Audio Rooms, Spotify Greenroom and Reddit Talk. As in-person connections have been re-gained in recent years, demand for social audio has dwindled, meaning many platforms have scrapped these lesser-used features. 

According to Social Media Today, Meta scrapped its social audio features on April 1st which allowed members of Facebook groups to join audio channels. Meta offered various social audio features such as Soundbites, audio-only rooms and short audio clips. Similarly, Reddit announced it would scrap its live audio chats on March 21st, only two years after they launched. However the company claimed that this was due to resourcing issues and not a lack of interest as the vendor they used to supply Talk is suspending their services, indicating even vendors have lost confidence in social audio. Reddit also has no desire to bring back the Talk feature in the future due to the dwindling interest in social audio platforms.

Yet some platforms are making social audio thrive

Despite the decrease in demand for social audio, Snapchat and TikTok are still betting big on, and flourishing thanks in part to elements of social audio. According to Social Media Today, Snapchat is adding audio elements, such as “audio clips for lenses, and sound sync for photo and video montage”. Audio clips will allow snapchatters to add trending sounds (one of the big winners of the social audio boom: think ‘Negroni… sbagliato. With Prosecco in it’) to their snaps. Sound sync provides the ability to create montages from photos in which Snapchat syncs the clips to match the audio of the selected song, creating interactive snaps and “video style clips from still images”. Snapchat is in a great position to continue offering social audio features as 70% of their users use their AR tools.

Social Media Today suggests TikTok are also still pushing social audio and are testing a “sound-on approach” using audio elements to increase engagement which aims to add an additional user perspective. According to Search Engine Journal TikTok has announced the launch of audio sounds for businesses which are licensed for “marketing and ad content”. Therefore making it more cost-effective for businesses who can now use licensed music in their TikTok content which can be used for “organic content and ad creation”. According to TikTok, 68% of users find remembering a brand’s messaging easier if it is paired with a song they like. 62% of those who enjoy the music will take the time to learn more about the brand because they feel they share similar tastes. TikTok has over 500,000 sounds businesses can easily find audio which resonates with their target audience to use alongside their content.

Many platforms have responded to the shift in consumer behaviour and scrapped social audio or changed their strategy, whereas TikTok and Snapchat have released more features encompassing social audio. For brands, it’s a careful line to tread, and the future remains unclear, but it seems elements of social audio are here to stay.

If you’re unsure about what a trending sound is, or how you could use them for your brand…

Marisa Bailey is a Digital Marketing MSc student with interest in reporting on the latest digital media trends.
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