Voice – A Multi-billion Dollar Opportunity for Social Media

If you have not heard about audio-based social media platforms like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Facebook Live Audio, you are probably living under a rock. Humans, being social animals, need conversations. But the ongoing pandemic has made it a bit cumbersome to have them, just the right time for audio-based social media platforms to make an entry and take the internet by storm.

If the pandemic wasn’t enough to drive this growth, Tesla chief Elon Musk’s tweets about going live on Clubhouse added warp speed to it. According to Clubhouse CEO Paul Davidson, the app has 10 million weekly active users currently. Unofficial estimates put the startup’s value at over $4 billion.

Social Media Giants Late to the Party?

It is surprising how the incumbent social media giants missed this bus. After all, they spend a lot of time and money to identify the next growth opportunity to drive user engagement, which ultimately translates into ad revenue. But Clubhouse was not the first missed opportunity for them. Earlier, Instagram came up with stories which we now see across all social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn. TikTok also disrupted social media with short-format videos and Instagram was quick to follow. But while large tech corporations can get blindsided in identifying elements of their growth strategy, their reach and scale give them the privilege to be late to the market and still remain a leader.

Can Voice be a Revenue Engine for Social Media, Streaming and Messaging Platforms?

Audio-based social media has drawn interest outside of social media too. Apart from Facebook Live Audio and Twitter Spaces, music-streaming giant Spotify has launched Greenroom, gaming chat app Discord has launched Stage, and Telegram has tweaked its audio features for live voice chat. Other players like Racket, Fireside, Soapbox and Air Time are also attempting to capture value from more customized experiences.

While everyone competes for monthly active users (MAUs) and user engagement, there are several opportunities to monetize the ever-growing audio-based social media.

Paid and brand sponsored community rooms could open a revenue opportunity for audio-based social media platforms. YouTube already has a community of content creators who monetize video content. Instagram influencers leverage their reach for sponsored brand posts while Discord channels have done the same with information and file sharing. Voice is no different and seems highly promising to become the next growth avenue for content creators. How about Spotify being a platform for live singing?

Similarly, brand sponsored community rooms can foster new ideas for marketers. They can connect with customers and open new interactions that could lead to stronger brand loyalty. Brands can further leverage voice platforms for product launch, flash sales, brand trivia contests, promotions, and much more.

Additionally, millions of daily conversations could be a goldmine. Voice data could be used to reveal and index user interests much more precisely than other user data. Synthesis of voice conversations has the potential to unlock billions in ad revenue.

Audio-based social media thrives on the intimacy, originality and immediacy that voice interactions provide. At present, audio-based social media is at a very early stage and has a long journey ahead. It will continue to evolve and create several monetization opportunities across the social media and other connectivity platforms. But who wins the race will solely depend on scalability, time to market and product innovation.

Hanish is an Associate Director with Counterpoint Technology based in Toronto, Canada. He has 8+ years of industry experience in providing market research and strategic consulting across various industry sectors. He tracks developments in the mobile handset, telecom and IoT industry value chain. He brings in the vast experience of providing advisory services to OEMs & component manufacturers, network operators, private equity firms and technology companies. He played a pivotal role in helping Chinese OEMs set up their manufacturing base in India under the “Make in India” program.

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