Why Audio Is the Future of Customer Engagement

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Technology enables brands to connect with consumers like never before, and changing strategies to best utilize tech is a necessity. Bynder’s 2021 State Branding Report found more than one-quarter of those surveys were most concerned with how to successfully reach their audiences in crowded digital channels.

This worry drives innovation, but just because a marketing strategy is new doesn’t mean it’s effective. Think of Google+ accounts. Keyword-stuffed blog posts. The marketing department junk drawer is filled to the brim with marketing trends that never stuck. Now, it’s time to add static, one-way content to the mix.

What’s the problem with this content? For one, it’s more of the same. How can marketers expect to rise above the noise if they’re only adding more of the same airwaves? There’s no pizzazz. Everything’s controlled. Consumers want magic and excitement, not a carefully planned brand marketing strategy parading as something more off-the-cuff — 80% of viewers prefer to engage with live content rather than pre-recorded pieces, after all.

Certainly, forums such as Instagram and Facebook Live are more interactive. Socialinsider analyzed almost 4 million Facebook videos and found that audiences engaged much more readily with live videos: One successful broadcast can crush the engagement metrics of a social media video post. Yet the method is underutilized, as 88% of videos on the platform are prerecorded. Marketers are already behind the curve on audience engagement, and consumers are moving on to a different kind of interaction: audio events.

Related: Why More Brands Are Going Live With Their Videos (and Why You Should, Too)

Audio events to the rescue

Audio-based mediums such as Clubhouse have been having a heyday over the past few years. According to Influencer Marketing Hub research, about 700,000 Clubhouse rooms pop up every day and become part of the organically developing community. And this is Clubhouse on a bad day — at its height, the platform had almost 10 million monthly downloads.

While Clubhouse’s popularity has waned, other tech giants have risen up with their own iterations of audio spaces, such as Twitter’s Spaces. Launched in late 2020, Spaces claims to enhance the concept of tweeting via the inclusion of live voices. By mid-2021, Spotify had followed suit when its Greenroom hit center stage. Even LinkedIn is testing the waters of the audio scene.

This method is successful because audio streams still carry the weight of “presence” found at a live, in-person event. Users can jump into conversations or just take a backseat and listen in for the scoop. Usually structured freeform rather than with a set agenda, these audio events take on a serendipitous tone.

This isn’t just a trend. With the global health crisis, people have turned to audio to pass the time. A survey by Sortlist found more than three-quarters of people have increased their consumption of audio content over the past couple of years.

Audio is a new brand marketing strategy that can build thriving communities with everyone from hesitant prospects to raving fans, and companies would be amiss to let this opportunity pass them by.

Below are three ways for businesses to leverage audio-based communication events and get on the bandwagon before it gets anywhere near its zenith.

Related: Clubhouse Is Now Valued at $4 Billion, Thanks to Its Latest Round of Funding

1. Host exclusive audio rooms

Everyone likes to be the first to know. Depending on what platform you use, audio rooms can limit admittance to select participants. Therefore, they can serve as invite-only experiences to nourish brand loyalty. Even without a video component, participants can get a sense that they’ve been given special access to information not yet available to others.

Community-driven exclusivity has seen huge success with some big brands. Nike brings engagement up by rewarding members using its SNKRS app with drops outside of scheduled releases. Even when using the app, exclusive access isn’t guaranteed, which adds to the thrill of getting a pop-up notification that there is a pair of Jordans with your name on it.

Translate this magic to the audio space with live launch announcements and chatroom giveaways, and you’ve got a formula for marketing success.

2. Promote user-generated audio events

Customers treat reviews from other customers as more valid than company-constructed content. Knowing this, you may want to encourage existing happy customers to moderate or co-organize audio discussions. Don’t assume that this will happen without your input. Tint’s 2022 State of User-Generated Content report found that 6 in 10 people willing to pull together user-generated content want brands to be specific in terms of type and related parameters.

User-generated events have multiple benefits for branding. For one, bringing others into the content creation process allows for greater output and scalability. Furthermore, it can make audiences feel a part of the process. Allowing more people to engage in the brand, especially in creative ways, gives them a sense of belonging. This practice of social brand engagement will increase your number of brand ambassadors — from influencers and hired content partners down through their fanbase (who will eventually become a fan of your brand as well).

Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Harness Social Audio

3. Conduct Q&A research in audio chatrooms

A final way to get on this marketing trend is by using audio apps as a gathering ground for first-party information and research. Pop-up audio events can be effective environments for focus groups. Customers don’t just want personalization; they expect it. Talking directly to your audience can be quicker and more effective than guessing why a certain tactic hasn’t met the expected ROI. Bringing target audience members into audio events can be a source of innovation.

HubSpot recommends targeting existing audiences for focus groups, as those are often the people already invested in the brand. They may be the first to test new products and initiatives, so why not capitalize on that? Including them in the conversation grows their emotional bond with a brand and allows marketers easy access to a valuable trove of feedback. Going the route of audio rooms can help speakers feel more comfortable. After all, no one knows you’re lounging in your favorite pair of sweatpants in an audio-only call.

But there’s a bigger benefit to audio-only focus groups than not worrying about fixing your hair: Recent research found that groups with only-audio cues communicate and problem-solve more effectively than those streaming video as well. Eliminating the distraction will lead to fewer interruptions and better insights for your brand.

No doubt about it: Audio-based events are having a moment. Just make sure you don’t come late to this party that’s showing so much promise.

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