Chats are out. Conversation is in
Imagine a social media platform without likes. How about one without photos, or retweets, or vertical video? A social media platform where your comments last exactly as long as the time it takes to say them out loud.
If this sounds baffling to you, that’s just because you haven’t used audio-forward social yet. But the platforms are here, and they are set to get Vietnamese users talking. Apps like Clubhouse, founded during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, have grown to millions of users who flock to the platform for its virtual “rooms” which only allow users to participate by talking. Facebook has released a feature called “Live Audio Rooms” that mirrors this functionality (we will wait while you get over your shock), and other platforms like Twitter are working on similar products.
The concept of a voice-based social media platform didn’t spring out of thin air. Group audio call options have existed for a long time. In the gaming world, Discord provided a space for friends and strangers alike to gather in “rooms” to meet each other and have freewheeling audio conversations, often while playing the same MMO or shooter online. But Clubhouse is the first social media platform to center everything on the live human voice, conversations playing out real time, with no playback and no ability to pause while you are busy.
If you’ve never used an audio-only social media app, the concept might seem strange at first. No texting or commenting at all? I have to use my voice? Indeed, it’s not for everyone, but the nature of the app makes it personal in a way that the swampy apps like Twitter and Facebook aren’t, and so helps to spur more real conversations and less trolling. It’s harder to be toxic when you can hear someone else on the other end of the conversation. (Though, of course, not impossible.)
A platform perfectly suited for Vietnam
Although Clubhouse is relatively unknown in Vietnam (it is invite-only at the moment), it does have a strong following among the Vietnamese diaspora community living abroad, and is beginning to make inroads into the domestic population living here.
As an audio-only platform where strangers can interact, it mirrors the way life in Vietnam often takes place, especially on streets and in markets where the community vibe and social solidarity is palpable. Once audio rooms roll out on Facebook, we expect there will be an explosion of new influencers and celebrities who will take advantage of the new medium to connect with their audiences.
A new kind of influencer
Audio-only influencers don’t depend on slick photos, travel envy or thirst traps to get followers, which is something that distinguishes audio platforms from visual platforms like Instagram, or text-driven platforms like Twitter.
In addition, the fact that everything happens in real time gives a scarcity and authenticity to the interactions on these platforms. That viral video of the famous TV star arguing with her husband? Sure, everyone’s seen it. Open up YouTube and you can watch it again, right now. But the audio of that same star telling a candid story about what she loves so much about him? Well, you had to be there. You were either in the know, or you missed it.
An opportunity for brands in Vietnam
Clubhouse and Facebook Live Audio Rooms offer an opportunity for brands, too. It’s not too early to begin preparing. Much of the fun of live audio comes from being able to interact directly with people you’re interested in, using your voice. Part of finding success on Clubhouse and other platforms with audio will be to make key people related to your brand available for audio-only sessions.
Audio rooms like this offer a chance to educate and also increase brand engagement with consumers. Although it’s not clear exactly how the technology will develop or where it’s headed, we do expect it to become an important part of the social media marketing mix for brands that want to make a serious investment in Vietnam.