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The Influencers

Podcasts Are the Future of Social Media

INFLUENCERS: Critical Mass' Kat Nixon and Jill Zatka on why you need to listen to Paris Hilton

Podcasts Are the Future of Social Media

When Paris Hilton tells us something is hot, we listen. Especially when it has to do with pop culture or social media – she invented the selfie after all. Now, she’s declaring podcasts are the hottest social media format of the future. Is she right? 

Let’s look at the new social media app, Clubhouse: an invite-only, audio-based iPhone app, where you can listen in and join live conversations. For an app that’s only available for iOS, its growth has been impressive—over 10 million downloads from Apple’s App Store since May 2020. Twitter and Facebook have also announced audio-first experiences for their own platforms to mimic that of Clubhouse. Once mainstream platforms adopt this social audio format, they start to become the new norm. 

Hilton is capitalising on the audio trend, extending her connection with fans through a podcast, specifically with 'Podposts', 1-3 minute segments that mirror the content and interaction in a social post, but making that interaction more personal. She’s not the first to do this either – NPR’s “Short Wave” episodes tell you everything you need to know about science and creativity in 10 minutes or less, and Betches Media gives you 2-5 minute news updates with their “Morning Announcements” show – again, emulating the interaction you could have on an Instagram Story. 

So yes, podcasts as the future of social media is a thing. But why? 


1. We are content obsessed

Instagram’s success proved the value of visually focused storytelling. Users loved the bite-sized nature of each beautifully edited photo, and the endless, but curated, scroll through these easy-to-digest pics. So much so, that the average user spends nearly 30 minutes per day on the app (Source: eMarketer). It’s become less of an entertainment destination and more of a home base—the place we default to in our digital lives. So now, we need to layer on more content to keep us entertained. Enter audio, a content format you can absorb at the same time as visuals. Not only can you listen to audio while you scroll through Instagram, but also while you do your self-care routine, wash the dishes, go for a run, etc. In 2021, people expect to be entertained all the time, and audio presents the perfect multitasking entertainment opportunity.  


2. We are celeb obsessed 

Social media changed entertainment. Not just by providing a new avenue, but also by changing the way people in the entertainment industry interact with their fans. No longer just the tabloids telling their stories, celebs now have their own direct-to-consumer channel. Unsurprisingly, consumers freaking love it. More than ever, we can see behind the scenes to the private lives, activities and beliefs of our favorite artists, actors and reality stars. At first, we saw the snapshots celebs shared via Instagram pics or tweets. Then we started to know them even better watching their elaborate skincare routines or monologues on IG stories. But stories aren’t enough for the content and celebrity-obsessed public. We want more. We want personal. We want PODCASTS. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 1 hour of modestly edited stream-of-conscious chatter from our favorite celeb, we want in!


3. We are lonely AF

Whether a podcast host is a celeb or a journalist who realized that people are too lazy to read, the more listeners tune in, the more the host starts to feel like a friend. You like hearing how they’re doing, what they’re up to, and what’s on their minds. Even pre-COVID, loneliness was a growing epidemic among Americans, with 61% reporting feeling lonely sometimes, or always (up 7 percentage points year over year). Now, a year of pandemic-fueled lockdowns have really pushed us over the edge. As we’ve shifted to working from home, ordering in instead of eating out, and visiting over Zoom rather than in person, our social circles have become exponentially smaller. In this context, we’ll take all the new friends and casual conversations we can get – even if it only goes one way.  

 

What does it mean for brands?

At this point, brands should know they need to be where their customers are. Knowing that people are actively consuming podcasts and social media already, and that the future of social media is podcasts, brands should meet them in the middle—from taking a more traditional advertising approach, to incorporating podcasts into their influencer strategy, or creating a branded podcast, this trend of audio-centric experiences is one that they shouldn’t sit out on. 


Kat Nixon is associate strategy director and Jill Zatka is strategist at Critical Mass

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