Anyone with a smart device has been feeling the grueling effects of social isolation and screen fatigue since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Recently, we have witnessed a flood of new “audio-social apps” and audio features on social media platforms, aiming to finds new ways to connect, curb loneliness and cut excessive screen exposure. What are some of these audio-focused platforms and where can pharma play a role?

Introducing new networks and features

PMLiVE provides a brief break down of the top players in the audio-social landscape.

In the summer of 2020, to stay-in-touch during the pandemic, a new audio-based, invite-only social media app, called Clubhouse, was launched that gathers people into audio chat rooms to discuss any topic imaginable. There are two groups: the talkers and the listeners. What is unique about Clubhouse from other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, is it is a ‘closed, hierarchical platform’ – a moderator oversees the discussion and possesses the ability to allow someone to either enter in conversation or boot out if appropriate. When Clubhouse first launched, it only had a few thousand users. Today, the audio-only social network has over 6 million users.

Clubhouse’s closest competitor is Stereo, a live broadcast social network where people have conversations in real time. Meant to prevent feelings of isolation and bridge the gap for healthy debates, users can freely tune in to discussions, explore topics, or join in conversations, either as a guest, host, or listener.

Twitter, although not remotely new to anyone, is looking to broaden its own platform amid these new audio-only channels, with its launch of Spaces, a group audio chat offering  where users can engage in safe conversations without the cumbersome 280-character limit. Like Clubhouse, Spaces also has tighter controls where creators of the discussion can invite others to join and only admins can decide who can speak.

Just like voice technology has become a booming trend over the last several years, audio social media has the potential to also make big waves in keeping connections alive. A growing number of consumers are becoming more and more comfortable using their voices to share and find what they are looking for and what is important to them, presenting a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to capitalize on.

How pharma can seize this audio-only social media trend

Fostering patient communities

Zoom saw astronomical growth during COVID-19, described as “one of the fastest growing apps of the pandemic, with meeting participants increasing by 2900 percent.” And while this platform has been remarkable in keeping geographically out-of-touch people in touch with one another, especially during an unprecedented event like a global pandemic, it can be a hindering, distracting platform for purposes of truly listening.

This idea of really listening is particularly crucial when gatherers on a platform are patients with serious, chronic health conditions who need a safe space to share their experiences and concerns about their health. Enabling connections via audio-only, invite-only settings can be creates this safe place where attendees can come to share, educate, fully listen, and make impactful connections with others in similar situations.

Establishing a ‘voice identity’ among pharma brands

While it may be a bit early for pharma to jump on the audio-social scene, companies can at least start thinking about their audio identity, asking questions like: what do we sound like?

According to an article by FiercePharma, pharma can and should explore audio branding; pharma can play a key role in this audio space by leveraging KOLs to discuss various health conditions and provider deeper understanding of related topics. Audio platforms can also be used as another way to gather key insights and create targeted messages to relevant audiences.

Marketers and advertisers should feel excited about the opportunities for experimentation and innovation that exist within these new audio-focused social platforms. As with most things on the internet, the safety of users and brands must remain a top priority and should always be taken seriously. Once it is, audio social media may become a key player in the future of social networking.