Audio-Forward Social Apps

Clubhouse, Stereo, Lobby, Fireside, Spaces, Locker Room—these are some of the latest apps to launch on the social scene. At first glance, their common thread seems to be the audio-only nature of the interactions.

But it also seems likely that something else is at work here, that the world of the pandemic has favored the rise of apps that allow for spontaneity and serendipity (which used to be in greater supply in the pre-COVID world). Finally, by not requiring “screen time” in the traditional sense, they can deliver this value to an audience burned out on looking at screens all day long.

The core concept behind these new offerings isn’t that new—it’s basically an evolution of the podcast (which was itself an evolution of radio journalism and talk shows). Imagine a podcast where you can pipe up with your own idea or at the very least raise your hand to ask a question.

These apps are interactive, allowing everyday people to connect with one another in an audio-only format, having conversations at any time, day or night. Clubhouse may have made the concept popular, but there are similar audio-only apps that could supply a newcomer with additional functionality that fully realizes the potential of this new medium.

Right now, there seems to be an audio-first social app for every niche group: Lobby is the new version of Twitch for gamers on the go; Watercooler allows coworkers to chat with each other when they’re not glued to their desktops; Locker Room gives sports fans an outlet to vent about their favorite teams.

 

There is a crop of candidates that show promise for healthcare

 

Stereo is similar to Clubhouse, except it’s accessible to all iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded by anyone. You set up an avatar and can start joining conversations that are live or recorded. You can share your conversation on other social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and you have more control over who can speak during your conversation. It’s an interactive podcast where listeners can send recorded messages to the hosts and hosts can decide if they want to feature that listener as a guest during the show. 

Twitter is currently exploring its own audio-only feature called Spaces, but it’s still in beta and only allows up to 11 people to speak in a Space. Hosts control who can speak within the Space; however, there are only 3 settings: “Everyone,” “People You Follow,” or “Only People You Invite to Speak.” Anyone can listen and the Space can be shared on Twitter for anyone to join (you don’t need to follow that person on Twitter). Conversations are recorded and transcripts are available to download for up to 30 days.

Mark Cuban is in the process of launching Fireside, which touts itself as a “socially responsible” audio app but has not supplied any details about its features.

How might we use these services for customers?

 

Right now, monetization is limited to “tipping” hosts of shows (Clubhouse and Stereo), and there haven’t been any sponsorship opportunities rolled out for any of the apps. These services are still in their infancy and are focused on growing their audiences.

The potential value for the healthcare industry would seem to be in starting a conversation and cross-promoting it through paid channels like Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram. One scenario could involve a KOL announcing on Twitter that she’s creating a Space to speak to the lead clinical investigator of a trial to delve into the data of a recently launched product, and how the trial was designed to be inclusive across all kinds of patient types.

The conversations we create in these new contexts should be timely and newsworthy. If there is enough traction in any given conversation, we could explore creating a series of conversations and branding for people to follow or subscribe to on the chosen audio app. This would most likely be unbranded and would require some promotion of the conversation outside the app to attract an audience.

For now, the audio-forward app fervor seems exciting to a niche audience. The potential to stage interactive podcasts on emerging platforms like Clubhouse, Stereo, or Spaces could become an interesting option for a healthcare brand, but it will depend on the reach of the host and the quality of the conversation.

If you’re interested in creating an interactive podcast, please reach out to your lead account person. We can even create a Space for you to explore.

Please contact your account leads or ross.quinn@fcb.com if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the above.