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  • Marketing, Industry Trends

The new age of the watercooler: Community built on audio

by Khoros staff | Jun 30, 2021

In case you haven’t heard, audio has made a comeback — and this time, it’s interactive. Live audio platforms, including Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, are driving a renaissance of community-building on social media, evolving the way that we find and engage in niche moments and interests with those around the world.

If you’re like us, you spent the past year going from video call to video call, potentially wearing pandemic-purchase joggers, and you’re tired of screens — not to mention the constant effort to be polished from the neck up. You’ve looked for ways to make virtual connections with friends, family, and others and sought out new forms of entertainment. This perfect storm is one of the reasons the emergence of social live audio was timed so well.

Now that these new channels are becoming more established, brands, influencers, and subject-matter experts are scrambling to understand and master this white space. Feeling like you’re already behind? Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll take you through the current landscape, platform nuances, and opportunities to give you the best chance to take advantage of this exciting new space.

So, what’s the appeal?

Simply put, social audio allows people to make new connections, with no camera. You can join a live audio event, talk to a celebrity or a new friend from across the globe, and still be in your pajamas. There’s also no distracting live comment feed to try to keep up with; it’s only audio.

Live social audio has driven somewhat of a return to what social media was originally supposed to be all about: real connections. But unlike the original social media platforms (friends and family, university pools, etc.), we’re seeing community members connect with strangers around shared interests and experiences.

There’s something intimate about vocal communication. It’s one thing to be in a social group where you share your experiences and stories via text that you read; but when you hear these stories from someone’s voice — their real voice — it feels so much more authentic and real. There’s an extra level of vulnerability to (quite literally) voice your experience to a bunch of strangers.

Unlike other audio streaming channels like podcasts, there’s also a sense of urgency and FOMO, because each conversation is live and happens just once. If you missed it, you really missed it.

The current state of live audio platforms

The big question is, will it stick? Khoros Intelligence shows that although chatter about Zoom fatigue has dropped 26% in the last four months, mentions of Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces have continued to trend, with over 7.99M mentions on Twitter in the same timeframe — a growth of 348%. The appeal of each platform is similar, but each varies in both features and user behavior.

Earned mentions of Zoom Fatigue

Though Clubhouse saw continued decreases in downloads from February to April, the app is expected to see a 179% increase in downloads in June, with 79% of its total downloads so far being from users in India following its Android rollout, according to The Wrap. In a Clubhouse Townhall on at the end of February, the company shared that they don’t want brands making accounts; instead, they’d prefer brands make clubs in order to maintain the identity-based culture of the platform (keep in mind that these clubs must be tied to an individual’s account, not an official brand account). The app has expanded to Android, is allowing users to add their Instagram and Twitter accounts directly to their profile, and is heading for “general release sometime this summer.”

Though Twitter Spaces is still newer on the scene than Clubhouse, it comes with the benefit of having a large, established user base to tap into, and is available across iOS, Android, and desktop. Twitter has been working on ways to build features that will enable hosts to plan more efficiently and monetize their Spaces with Ticket Spaces, Co-hosting, and tune-in reminders.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Spotify have also announced live audio features on their roadmap, with Facebook’s beginning to roll out Live Audio Rooms and Spotify launching a new app called Greenroom.

Facebook Audio Rooms
Facebook Audio Rooms
Spotify Greenroom
Spotify Greenroom

In order to dig deeper into the landscape of emerging social platforms, Khoros conducted a nationally-representative survey among 1,635 social media users. We found that less than 25% of consumers have even heard of Telegram, WeChat, Houseparty, or Clubhouse — and even fewer use them. Additionally, Clubhouse, WeChat, and Houseparty have a disproportionately high number of consumers (33-55%) who indicated they tried the app at one point and then quit, compared to more established platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Usage of social media platforms
Frequency of social media use by platform

Moreover, while about a third of consumers say adopting a new social platform has no impact on their use of existing social apps, 20% of consumers say they’d leave if they discovered it was too similar to an app they already use. Still, 32% of consumers who have used a newer app said it made them wish their older apps had some of the new features.

While these points seem in contrast to one another, they indicate that many consumers like the features of new apps and want their older apps to adopt them — but if the content and the features end up being too similar, they’ll ditch one.

This trend in particular will be important to watch as existing live audio platforms release new features, and as newer channels enter the scene. As we found in our recent Smart Social Report, for Gen Z, exclusivity and uniqueness will always draw that initial attention but what keeps it is the ability to connect with real people.


Across the board, voice/audio has yet to be widely adopted by consumers, which is unsurprising given the relative youth of the format. Interestingly though, respondents rated this format as being more important than things like groups, reviews, shopping and even Stories.

Content + feature type: Importance vs use

The learning? Don’t sleep on your audio strategy for your brand. Which brings us to our last section...

Opportunities for brands

As brands determine the risks and rewards of investing in this space, it’s important to consider the nuances of each platform. It’s also important for brands to know what makes the most sense specifically for them and their social strategy. If you’re considering getting started, ask yourself these four questions:

  • Where does your brand have an established presence?

  • Where is your audience most active and engaged?

  • Do you have the resources to build and sustain a new channel?

  • Are there internal subject-matter experts or external partners that you could tap as spokespeople for your brand?

When testing this new space, lead with a people-first approach. This means keeping your community’s interests top of mind and finding your spokespeople or partners that can represent your brand, and determine the opportunities to engage.

There are at least three ways in which brands can benefit from investing in live audio.

1. It’s a new vehicle for interactive, real-time communication with customers

Live audio is a shift away from standard video conferencing and a new experience for virtual events and webinars, especially with future feature implementations like Ticketed Twitter Spaces and Co-Hosting. It’s also an opportunity to source real time feedback through reactions, live Q&A, and commentary using branded hashtags.

2. It can grow your community organically

Leading with partnerships with established moderators, influencers, and other brands can help you build your community base. And it can go both ways — if your brand has a large following, you can use it to build awareness for your thought leaders and help them to grow their own. Similarly, partnering with brands and influencers that have an established audience base can help to generate awareness for your own brand. On Twitter Spaces in particular, we frequently see brands host a Space, invite speakers, and mute the brand account in order to let their collaborators lead the discussion. For example, you could be in a Space hosted by The Circle and Netflix, but Michelle Buteau, the Circle host, will actually be the person asking the questions.

3. It showcases thought leadership on topics that are important to your brand

Employee advocates across levels can help you lead audio discussions and speak to your company’s initiatives and goals. This enables you to put a face (or rather a voice) to your brand. Strategic partnerships with fellow brands, non-profit partners, and subject-matter experts can also help to build your brand equity around important topics like DE&I and real-time cultural conversations. This approach, in particular, should be kept in mind as audio expands to more business-oriented platforms like LinkedIn in the future.

Since these platforms are ever-evolving, be sure to follow Twitter Spaces on Twitter and tune into Clubhouse’s Town Halls for the latest updates. While you’re there, follow us on Twitter @Khoros and join the conversation during our next #KhorosSpaces event.

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