The rise of digital audio: the phenomenon of Clubhouse and the success of podcasts launch audio marketing

22 April 2021Reading time: 4 min.

From podcast marketing to the new Clubhouse social network, the audio format is becoming an increasingly popular and effective form of communication. Hence, many people are looking for solutions to integrate audio marketing into their digital strategies.

3 million downloads from September 2020 to February 2021, of which two in the first two months of the year, and 6 million users, for an estimated value of one billion dollars are the figures that explain the extent of the Clubhouse phenomenon. Everyone’s talking about its success and many are wondering what’s behind the boom of this new social network.

Let’s reflect on what’s happening right now. Recently, phenomena like voice technology, podcasts, audiobooks, and app voice messages have become, albeit differently from each other, part of our new communication habits. This reveals the enormous potential and numerous advantages of the audio format. Today, people are looking for comfortable, immediate, fast, and realistic forms of conversation and use of content. This is exactly what the audio format can offer. 

Intercepting and satisfying today’s needs is what lies behind the success of products like Clubhouse and, more generally, audio marketing. 

What’s audio marketing?

What do a podcast, a radio advert, or an audio article have in common? Simple: they’re all audio marketing activities. 

We could define this concept as a set of marketing initiatives and strategies whose output is audio content. 

Audio marketing makes voice the means to achieve promotion and sales objectives. But not only that: this type of content can also go beyond pure and simple advertisement and tap into awareness, brand reputation, engagement, loyalty, etc. 

The digital audio boom 

Data

Although the current digital universe offers various types of content and more and more cutting-edge platforms, simple audio has returned to dominate the logic of communication. The year 2020 was excellent for podcasts. According to the Ipsos Digital Audio Survey, podcast listeners increased from 26% to 30% in the 16–60 age group. Italian podcast listeners totaled 13.9 million with a 15% increase over the previous year. 

The year 2020 also recorded a significant boost in audiobooks with +94%, which led this format to be worth 7.4% of the entire publishing industry (Source: Nielsen). 

Smart speakers represent another category that fueled the growth of digital audio last year. We’d already talked about voice technology as one of last year’s new trends and the incidence of voice search in consumer habits: by 2022 55% of people will have a smart speaker, and it’s expected that the use of voice commands will soon become an everyday thing for many users. 

The power of audio communication

Think of the radio: the audio format has been around for some time and, indeed, we could define it as one of the oldest means of communication. So, what’s caused this sensational success? As we mentioned at the beginning, the answer is in the historical context. We live in an increasingly frenetic world and often experience the so-called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). This and the overexposure to an unmanageable quantity of content and information make multitasking and time optimization two priority objectives. In all this, audio, with its ability to accompany and act as a background to the routine and daily commitments, becomes the one and only means capable of responding to these needs. 

Furthermore, audio content makes communication more intimate and realistic. It gives a sense of closeness which, given the current scenario, is a feature that the user appreciates and searches for. 

What’s Clubhouse and how does it works?

When it comes to audio marketing, two things probably come to mind: podcasts and the Clubhouse social network. 

We’ve already talked extensively about the former in this post, deepening their functioning and numerous advantages. On the other hand, the web has widely buzzed about the second one. This application allows for discussing only and exclusively using voice messages in thematic rooms, where participation varies from a handful of people to several thousand. People can register to the platform by invitation only or being put on the waiting list and let in by an actual user. To further accentuate the social network’s aura of exclusivity, the founders have begun to invite some of the best known and most influential personalities of the international media scene, fueling curiosity and interest. 

Exclusivity and audio format are, therefore, the two keys of the Clubhouse boom that have distinguished this social network from the others. 

The race for digital audio: the alternatives of Twitter, Spotify, Facebook, and more

Companies, social platforms, and tech giants have started a real rush to digital audio after the success of Clubhouse and podcasts.

  • Spotify recently bought Megaphone, a company specializing in podcast advertising
  • in December 2020 Twitter launched Spaces, voice chat rooms that, unlike Clubhouse, can also be accessed by Android users

How to integrate audio marketing into your strategies

If you’re thinking that only a company with a large budget can afford to leverage audio marketing, then you’re wrong. There are activities and strategies that you can start implementing—even with a limited budget or a small-step approach. Here they are: 

  • develop a strategy and content plan to kickstart your podcast series. This doesn’t require expensive equipment or specialized audio engineering skills. Podcasts are quite easy to create and several platforms can help you develop them totally for free. 
  • optimize your web pages for voice search. So go for longer phrases and keywords. In fact, when users turn to the voice assistant, they tend to use sentences that are longer than single keywords.
  • also make your content available in audio format. If you have a blog or a site with particularly long articles, be sure to also make their audio version available to meet the needs of users who have little time and prefer faster solutions.
  • create a branded playlist and share it with your audience. This activity may not fit every type of business, but you can try to find original ideas to do it. On the other hand, who would’ve thought of a playlist to cook pasta? Yet Barilla did it with excellent results. 

Conclusions

Many companies still don’t get how to integrate audio content into their marketing plan and adapt this format to the image and objectives of the brand. Further, the duration of this phenomenon is uncertain and many fear the risk of a meteor effect. 

However, the growth of audio phenomena is there for everyone to see. Clubhouse may turn out to be a short-lived phenomenon—but what matters is the spark it triggered and the need for the context it grasped. This brought out all the advantages and the potential of the audio format. 

This article was written by

Paola Bergamini

Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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