Just a couple months ago, we wrote that social audio platforms (and the opportunities that come with them) are here to stay, and would keep growing in size as 2021 went on.
To say they have is a sheer understatement.
Literally the day after we released that blog post, Slack Huddles were officially available to use, “the audio tool that lets you have a real-time conversation with someone in Slack instead of typing out all of your thoughts.”
Social audio platforms are in the spotlight right now: With everyone not only working remotely, but often needing to simply communicate with friends and family remotely due to COVID-19, social audio platforms have reached a pivotal moment.
Voice-based platforms have been crucial this past year. Research has shown that understandably, this past year has taken a toll on peoples’ mental health, and there is an increased need for support during these disastrous times. Screen time usage has gone way up. Being able to have conversations in real-time without staring directly at one’s phone is a great way to connect with other humans. In fact, there’s also research that shows it’s actually easier to comprehend emotion when the interaction is voice-only as compared with video chatting. (You can read about that and more cool audio research here.)
What is so special about social audio? “In sum, social audio platforms provide an authentic way to interact with people and brands. The human voice is mankind’s oldest and fastest medium. Hearing people’s real voices touches us and can help build new connections in a deeper way,” writes Daniel Schwenger.
Let’s jump in to discussing three more platforms that will be important in the future of voice-based apps...
3 Promising Social Audio Platforms
Using social audio platforms offer both short and long-term oriented benefits — whether you’re coming from a marketing perspective, networking with potential clients or colleagues, or looking to make new friends and strengthen relationships.
These platforms are “baking the immediacy and rawness of audio into the core experience, making voice the way people connect again. From phone calls to messaging and back to audio — the way we use our phones may be coming full circle,” writes Tanya Basu for MIT Technology Review.
Related reading: The Rise of Shortform Audio Podcasts
Keep in mind the vision for Twitter Spaces while reading about these new promising social audio platforms. Rémy Bourgoin, a senior software engineer on Twitter’s voice tweets and Spaces team, describes it: “Spaces [should be…] as intimate and comfortable as attending a well-hosted dinner party.” He adds, “You don’t need to know everyone there to have a good time, but you should feel comfortable sitting at the table.”
1. Discord Stages
Discord is almost too perfect of a use case. Of course, voice chat is Discord’s main feature: The app already offers voice channels, which usually allow everyone in them to talk freely, depending on channel permissions. “It’s been that way for years, offering gamers a crystal clear, seamless voice chat service that blew the functionality of in-game chat services out of the water,” writes Taylor Hatmaker.
In June 2020, Discord announced a new slogan: “Your place to talk.” Tanya Basu writes, “They began trying to make the service appear less gamer-centric. The marketing push seems to have worked: by October 2020, Discord estimated 6.7 million users — up from 1.4 million in February, just before the pandemic hit.”
And now, they’ve launched Stage Channels. They are designed to only let certain people talk at once to a group of listeners, similar to Clubhouse. This is a more practical approach to structured events like community town halls.
“Stage Channels will be useful for stuff like voice-based AMAs and interviews, book clubs and even karaoke. The new channels will capture activity that’s already happening on Discord, making it way easier for anyone who runs a server to host formalized conversations without needing to mess around with a bunch of granular user permissions stuff,” Hatmaker continues writing.
2. Reddit Talk
In fact, Reddit Talk is technically still in testing mode, and isn’t widely available yet as of August 17, 2021.
“Based on Reddit’s description and images shared by the company, Reddit Talk appears to look a lot like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and other social audio products. Talks will “live” within subreddits, according to Reddit. During the initial tests, only subreddit moderators will be able to initiate a Talk, and Talk hosts will have the ability to invite, mute, and remove speakers. While only mods can kick off Talks in the beginning, anyone on iOS and Android can listen to one,” writes Jay Peters.
Understandably, moderation is a concern, as it has been an issue for Clubhouse. “Reddit is starting small and giving access only to moderators first. At some point in the future, mods will be able to bring on trusted community members as co-hosts,” continues Peters.
Sarah Perez reports from TechCrunch: “While the overall style is very much Clubhouse-like, Reddit has added its own touches. For example, users can react to speakers using a different set of emojis than you might find on rival services. Reddit’s product images today showed reactions that included popular Reddit designs like a rocket ship, the Reddit alien, and the diamond emoji, among others.”
And as for use cases? “Reddit suggests the new audio features will make sense for things like Q&As, AMAs, lectures, sports radio-style discussions, community feedback sessions or even just hangouts.”
3. Slack Huddles
As mentioned earlier, Slack Huddles was officially launched the day following our previous blog post all about popular social audio platforms.
Ron Miller writes for TechCrunch: “‘Huddles is a light-weight, audio-first way of communicating right in Slack. [It] recreates the spontaneous and serendipitous interactions that happen outside of scheduled meetings,’ Tamar Yehoshua, chief product officer at Slack explained in a press briefing yesterday.”
Additionally, the new tool includes real-time transcription — a great win for accessibility.
It aims to mimic being in the office. There’s a clear use case: Some catch-ups and tasks only take a few minutes, and simply don’t need a weekly 30 minute meeting scheduled. “It’s hard not to wrap this discussion into the future of work, and indeed Slack’s future as part of Salesforce, which bought the communications tool for $27 billion last year. Work is changing and Slack is looking to be a broader part of that solution, whatever the future holds,” Miller writes.
The Most Exciting Part of Social Audio Platforms…
Of course, the key component of any social audio platform is the audio.
And what will set apart these platforms, catching peoples’ attention further, and helping forge close connections? Clear, immersive audio.
Related reading: The 4 Most Popular Social Audio Apps in 2021
Have a listen to the difference sooner rather than later.
Remember the earlier thought of social audio platforms aspiring to be like an “intimate and comfortable dinner party” and think about how spatial audio fits in here. (What is “spatial audio”? A fancy way of describing audio that sounds like it does in real life: Natural and immersive.)
This all being said: There is actually an easy solution now for social audio platforms to integrate spatial audio. High Fidelity’s Local Spatializer is available for native mobile apps — Clubhouse recently implemented it, too.