Audio-Only Social Networks Changing the Roles of Social Media Managers

Audio-Only Social Networks Changing the Roles of Social Media Managers

With apps like Clubhouse gaining popularity, social media managers are learning how to deal with yet another new type of platform.

Barely a year old and already valued at $1 billion, Clubhouse is the latest social media platform seeking to revolutionize how we communicate. The audio-only app launched in March of 2020 and exploded in popularity, going from a few thousand weekly users last year to over ten million weekly users this April, as reported by Business Insider.

While Silicon Valley’s latest unicorn is all anyone is talking about at the moment, the social media industry is famously fickle and prone to hyping up a product that is later abandoned. Clubhouse’s longevity is already under threat, with Twitter and Facebook releasing competing products that could take a bite out of Clubhouse’s impressive userbase.

Whether Clubhouse can survive against these social network behemoths is up in the air, but the app’s functionality and tech are likely to stick around. The future of social media looks—or sounds, more like—to be focused on audio, but what does that mean for social media managers? As more social media platforms are added, social media managers will need to adapt, pick up new skills, and roll with the punches. And, in a changing, audio-focused social media landscape, it’s not hard to imagine social media professionals who are comfortable on a microphone, hosting conversations, and engaging directly with the brand’s audience. 

Virtual IconsThis ever-expanding industry is beginning to include audio-focused social platforms. Image via everything possible.

The Future with Audio-Only Social Platforms

The future social media manager could be a mix of social media community manager, podcast host, and moderator. But, to get a better understanding we spoke with two industry professionals at Shutterstock.

I tend to think about the plethora of social networks like the different learning styles. Everyone has their preferred way of learning. Similarly, we all have our preferred way of engaging. So, do I think it is here to stay? Yes. Because, like all platforms, it has found its niche.

– Linleigh Master, Senior Social Media Manager at Shutterstock

Much like Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, and TikTok, it’s inevitable that bigger players in the industry will develop a competing product. Other times, as with Instagram, another company will outright buy the startup. These smaller startups can sometimes survive the onslaught of competitors who have the advantage of a large userbase and name recognition. Regardless, it’s the tech that truly matters. People discussing topics in front of a live audience that can also participate is the essence of Clubhouse. 

What I think makes it different is that it has (at least, at this time) no distractions. No visual cues that can distract us away from the topic—just honest, meaningful conversations. Sometimes, people just really need to be heard or realize that they aren’t alone when going through something difficult, so this may also give an outlet for people to empathize and support each other.

– Sabrina Medellin, Social Media Manager at Shutterstock

What Clubhouse Brings to the Table

Clubhouse Logo Clubhouse’s audio-only approach to social media is new, asking users to listen and chime in on a wide range of conversations. Image via TopRated.

The lack of images, text, and video pare down the contemporary social media experience in a way that hasn’t been done before. That’s the reason there’s so much buzz over Clubhouse. Apart from the underlying tech, it’s Clubhouse’s emphasis on building community that’s so effective. There are hundreds of niche clubs covering almost any topic you can think of. And, while that’s not new for the internet, it does provide a new avenue for people to learn and discuss topics they’re passionate about. 

With the future of Clubhouse looking bright and similar apps starting to gain popularity, it’s worth thinking about how brands will approach these new platforms. Ultimately, though, it’ll come down to the social media professionals working with and on the platforms day-to-day. 

How Audio-Only Skills Differ From Traditional Social Media

As the industry expands to include audio-focused social platforms, workers will need to adopt new skills to keep up. Just as social media managers had to learn to edit and curate images for Instagram, or come up with short, engaging videos for Snapchat, they’ll learn how to produce audio content. 

Medellin mentioned that “the social media industry revolves around change,” and that social media managers will have to learn new skills to keep up with the latest trends. She also recommended that other companies dedicate one social team member to audio, as their skills would be much more specialized than a traditional social media professional. Ideally, this person would have to be comfortable on a microphone, be able to moderate conversations, and be knowledgeable about audio production. 

However, not all companies have the kind of resources needed to hire or train an employee who dedicates their time to a single platform, leaving current social media professionals to pick up these new skills. While that may be the case and social media managers will have to adapt to a changing industry, the fundamentals of reaching an audience will largely remain the same. 

Apart from knowing the basics of the technical skills required to produce and edit audio-focused content, you need to first master the ability to craft a compelling story. So often in social media (still), brands are focused less on the story and more about the message, when really the script should be flipped. Brand stories should inform messages. Otherwise, your content will come across flat and uninteresting.

– Linleigh Master, Senior Social Media Manager at Shutterstock

Learning New Ways to Get Your Message Across

Woman PodcasterWith the rise of apps like Clubhouse challenging the social media industry, future professionals may need to pick up audio production skills. Image via Jacob Lund.

On apps like Clubhouse, where the conversations are live, it may be difficult to tell a cohesive story since the conversation has the potential to go off-topic quickly. But, a quick-thinking host can steer the conversation back on track to continue discussing the chosen topic. While Clubhouse doesn’t lend itself to posting pre-approved messages and curated content, there’s still room for brands to get their message across and tell their stories.

Learning to be comfortable on a microphone and knowing when to step in to stoke the conversation, or change topics, is a learned skill that takes practice. Those with the gift of the gab will no doubt do well on audio-only social networks. However, it’ll require more than being an interesting conversationalist—hosting and moderating these conversations will task social media managers to behave more like podcast hosts.

So, while the shift toward audio isn’t so big (yet) that every social media professional needs to learn these skills today, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to brush up on their conversational skills.

As social media professionals, there is no skill in the social media space that you, as a professional in the space, should not know the basics of. Why? Because our industry is built on a foundation of perpetual experimentation. How are you to grow and develop in the industry if you aren’t experimenting and broadening your skillset?

– Linleigh Master, Senior Social Media Manager at Shutterstock

For more social media tips and advice, check out these articles:

A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media AnalyticsDownload FREE Social Media Assets for Earth DayA Beginner’s Guide to Promoting Your Illustrations on Social MediaThe 50/20/20/10 Rule to Social Media Content Creation5 Reasons Why Your Social Media Account Isn’t Growing

Cover image via ioat.

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