Facebook Live Audio Rooms Shows Promise, and Problems

Communities and businesses may find value in the feature

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook Live Audio Rooms is very much in its infancy, but it shows potential.
  • With many people using podcasts to learn, providing a live environment that encourages live audience interaction seems like a natural progression.
  • There likely will be many technical hurdles to overcome, in addition to the ones that already are being discovered.
woman using smartphone to listen to music

Narisara Nami / Getty Images

Facebook’s new Live Audio Rooms feature has begun a slow rollout in the US, which raises the questions: is it beneficial, and are people actually going to use it?

The main draw of Live Audio Rooms is providing Facebook groups with a new way to engage with their members. Hosts can create an audio room with up to 50 speakers, while a limitless number of listeners can attend and ask questions in the chat, request audio speaking access, etc. There’s potential here, from a business and community standpoint.

“Because Facebook Live Audio Rooms take elements of a live Zoom meeting and YouTube live (minus the faces), but adds collaboration and more control via permissions to the host who can listen and create their own audio rooms, there is a breadth of potential here,” said Emily Hale, social media analyst at Merchant Maverick, in an email interview with Lifewire.

Reaching an Audience

Engagement will be the biggest key to Facebook Live Audio Rooms’ success—if a community or business can’t use them to successfully connect to their audience, they won’t bother with them. Figuring out how to best utilize the features provided are the first step. For a company like Merchant Maverick, that means trying to provide members with helpful tools, such as expert-driven workshops and Q&A sessions.

“We're considering how we can use that platform to better connect and reach small business owners who are trudging through unprecedented challenges right now with seasoned experts who can connect with them through real-time solutions in volatile industries," said Hale.

Live Audio Rooms as they appear within the Facebook app

Facebook

Educational value and convenience are also potential draws for both hosts and their listeners. A lot of people listen to podcasts to learn, and the audio-focused format makes listening while performing other tasks much easier than with video. The same principle applies to Facebook Live Audio Rooms, as well, with groups being able to pull in members and outside guests as speakers while everyone listens in.

“If anything, I'm seeing the future of [social media] to be headed towards multitasking,” said Ben Wallington, CEO of Designerwear, in an email interview. “The social media contacts of today are busy driving, cooking, creating, and may not have time to do more mindless scrolling down, and so sites like Twitter and Facebook are seeing this opportunity.”

Ella Hao, head of marketing for WellPCB, also is excited about the potential, stating, “Facebook Live Audio Rooms allows our followers to tune into live broadcasts and contribute…our social media manager advises that we continue using it in the future.”

What if It Doesn’t Work?

Even with all of that potential, Facebook still has some hurdles to clear with Live Audio Rooms. Both Clubhouse and Spotify’s Greenroom have been available for longer and are fairly direct competitors, meaning Live Audio Rooms has an uphill battle ahead. Facebook’s own podcasts feature potentially could cut into the usefulness of Live Audio Rooms, as well.

“I think that the future of Facebook Live Audio Rooms will depend on where Facebook is headed next,” said Wallington, “If it still insists on being primarily social, as compared to sites like LinkedIn, the idea of audio rooms could work.”

Facebook Podcasts in the Facebook app

Facebook

Then there’s the matter of technological limitations. While the framework seems sound and planned out, there always will be unforeseen factors once a service is open to a larger user base. Will Facebook Live Audio Rooms be able to handle extremely large numbers of listeners when there is no limit? How does the host step in and regain control if the maximum number of speakers all begin talking over each other?

Hao revealed another issue with the design, saying that “it can be a little difficult at times when people have their phones on speaker.” With the problem of unclear speaker audio being on the user-end, it might be difficult for Facebook to find a fix. Certainly hosts always could ask those who are speaking to avoid putting their phones on speaker, but if they can’t or won’t, then it will still end up dragging down listeners’ experiences.

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