How Social Media Sees Audio as the Next Big Thing

Are you listening?

Key Takeaways

  • Twitter Spaces promises to be an audio-only addition to the platform with a "dinner party-like" feel.
  • Experts say audio-centric features provide average users a more intimate way to connect, and businesses a better way to engage with and build their following.
  • Some downsides of audio could be content moderation and its limited availability in certain situations.
High angle view of smiling teenage girl listening music while using mobile phone on bed at home
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Twitter officially announced it’s testing a new audio feature called Spaces that will allow Twitter users to talk to each other with their actual voices instead of through 280 characters or less.

While not the first audio feature Twitter has announced—the platform introduced 140-second audio tweets earlier this year—Spaces promises to engage multiple people in conversations with each other. Experts say they expect more social platforms to hop on the audio trend, since there are many benefits to the spoken word over the written word. 

"Audio is a unique communication tool in that it is arguably the best way to develop intimacy quickly with an audience," Kane Carpenter, director of marketing at DaggerFinn Media, wrote to Lifewire in an email. "There is something about audio that is more intimate than video and more engaging than the written word that makes it a useful medium."

What Is Spaces?

Twitter Spaces is only rolling out to a select few Twitter users (for now), but the platform has given some insight into how it'll work. 

Spaces can have a maximum of 10 participants, but there’s no limit to the number of listeners. The person who opens a Space has control over who can speak, and they also can remove, report, and block others. Twitter envisions the feature as a virtual "dinner party."

"Think of it this way: It's a Zoom meeting without the awkward video, and I predict it will catch on like wildfire," Emily Hale, social media analyst at Merchant Maverick. wrote to Lifewire in an email.

Outside of the "dinner party" comparison, the feature could be used as a new way to podcast or talk about specific topics, debut music, market products, and more. However, Twitter’s Spaces idea is nothing new—there are already many audio-centric platforms out there. Most notably, there’s Clubhouse, a virtual audio-only chat room app that debuted this past spring.

Man talking into a microphone while being interviewed in a radio show
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Daniel Robbins, the CEO at IBH Media, said he spends more time on Clubhouse than any other social media platform. 

"Many of the people on the platform will talk for hours, and I have never seen anything like it," he wrote to Lifewire in an email. "It builds a different connection, feels like a live interactive podcast, and creates relationships that feel like genuine friends. Plus, it is amazing how helpful people are in giving out advice on business and life." 

Is Audio the Future?

While social media was built on visual platforms that rely on photos, GIFs, videos, and more, experts say to expect more social media platforms to introduce audio-only features, because of the many benefits audio brings to the table. 

"If we think of social media as a tool, especially for businesses, to drive engagement and build followings, audio makes a lot of sense as the tactic of choice," Carpenter wrote. "As a result, I do think more social media platforms will introduce audio-only features."

Hale told Lifewire that she sees audio-only features being an excellent tool for private Facebook Groups. Carpenter added that for people who are intimidated by showing their face and going live, audio could be a great alternative to still establishing an intimate connection at a user-friendly level. With the increase in popularity of podcasts and audiobooks, audio is having a moment right now, since you can consume it passively while doing other tasks.

Happy businessman in a train talking into his smartphone
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However, like all things, some experts say there are certain drawbacks to audio-only on social platforms, especially when it comes to social media arguments.

"Users can either have a productive conversation or a heated argument in real-time, and only time will tell how this plays out over Twitter culture, which is already like stepping into a thousand different heated arguments simultaneously," Hale wrote.

The unfiltered and sometimes argumentative nature of using our voices to express ourselves could also pose a challenge to content moderation—how will platforms moderate audio content as it’s happening in real-time?

Another issue platforms will have to overcome with audio is its lack of versatility in situations where you can’t necessarily listen to anything clearly, such as on a crowded train during rush hour.

We’ll leave the platforms to work out these kinks, but until then, we’ll be listening.

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