A sound approach to engaging audiences on social media

The reason artificial fan noise is currently added to televised Premier League games is because audio plays a huge role in our enjoyment of visual content. Also, as an added bonus, it drowns out the sound of players calling each other clucking diving runts – or words to that effect – pre-watershed.

Before it was helping censor footballers’ more colourful language, digital audio was boosting engagement on social media. And, with the growth of platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse, sound is only becoming more important in this space.

If visuals keep your audience engaged on social, it’s often sound that grabs them first. The two work together. That’s why it makes us want to scream at an excessively loud volume when visuals aren’t living up to their potential because they’ve been let down by the sound element.

Far better than screaming in vain, we’ve decided to explain why sound is so important and key considerations when it comes to making the best use of it. This includes the platforms to monitor and the new ad formats and audio technologies to explore.

Sound is booming

Sound has always been important but it’s been having a bit of a moment during the pandemic. There are currently more than 850,000 active podcasts out there. Some 12% of UK adults, or 6.5 million people, listen to podcasts every week, according to Podnews.

Commercial radio has also grown in popularity. As people first adjusted to lockdown life, some 38% of listeners were tuning in for an extra hour and 45 minutes each day, according to figures from Radiocentre.

Media platforms have already responded to these changing habits. YouTube has launched dedicated audio ads aimed at audiences who are multi-tasking while consuming content. These formats ensure ad messages still land effectively when people aren’t looking at their screens.

Brands should take a cue from YouTube and consider how audio can enhance their own social media activations. Consumers are increasingly open to audio content. Brands should use this responsiveness to build engagement with their visual content.

The role of sound in key platforms

We’ve already explained in some depth why Snapchat is a really important channel for brands. One obvious way is that it enables brands to engage 200 million active and hard-to-reach users.

Less headline-grabbing but also important, almost 60% of users watch ads on the platform with their volume up. This compares favourably with Facebook, where 85% of video is viewed without sound.

Meanwhile, the hype around the new audio-only chatroom app Clubhouse is being noticed by other platforms. Twitter has announced plans to test Clubhouse-like voice chat rooms this year, with Facebook and Instagram also exploring audio-only features.

Building on this buzz is another audio-only app, Stereo. This is being dubbed the new Clubhouse and allows users to listen to live podcasts and join in the conversation.

When some of the largest and hottest social apps are prioritising audio-only engagement, it’s time for you to ensure audio is delivering results for you on social. The fact that large numbers of users are watching ads with their sound turned up on one of the most important apps equally proves the point.

3D audio

Given that you’re presumably now fully convinced of the value of audio, it pays to know about new audio technologies that can turbocharge engagement.

One example, best enjoyed through headphones, is 3D audio. This creates the sensation of different sounds happening around the listener.

Sony recently developed its own 3D audio format for its PS5 console. It claims that this is so powerful that gamers can hear where individual raindrops are landing in a game’s environment.

Clearly in a first-person shooter game, 3D audio offers the opportunity to create immersive – and possibly terrifying – experiences.

For brands, this also offers a powerful tool, allowing for the creation of immersive ads and social assets that draw people into the creative. Through 3D audio, a travel business could make the listener feel like they’re relaxing on an exotic beach holiday. Or, more up our street, it would be possible to recreate the feeling of cheering from the terraces on a cold, wet, windy night at Stoke.

Establish a sonic identity

However smartly you are making use of audio, you should also ensure that it always matches your brand tone of voice and identity, whether that’s excitement, authority, or energy. Your sonic branding and voiceover should be a genuine extension of your brand identity and values.

With Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all exploring audio-only features in 2021, this is a trend that’s here to stay. When you respond in the right way, tapping into consumer engagement with sound, while making smart use of the latest audio developments, significant results will follow. Your social assets will be able to deliver something that’s missing from the Premier League: genuine noise from your fans.