For many years, visual-focused platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have dominated social media. However, a new medium is on the rise and set to disrupt the status quo: social audio apps. These include platforms such as Clubhouse and Discord that allow users to communicate through channels on different topics.
According to data, social audio apps experienced a drastic rise in growth, with over 20 million downloads in 2021. The social audio platform Clubhouse is leading the wave with over 15.3 million users worldwide.
So what’s behind this explosive growth? When the COVID-19 pandemic hit back in March of 2020, it led to an increase in indoor time and a desire for users to find new media to engage in casual, intimate conversation while respecting social distancing. Users started to skyrocket when tech gurus such as Elon Musk began using Clubhouse to engage with their audiences.
Now, startups and established companies are racing to build the next generation of social audio apps, all targeting different niches. But, whatever other bells and whistles you include, your app’s success will largely be determined by the quality of the audio itself. Without crisp, clear audio, you’re just re-inventing walkie-talkies. High-quality audio will improve the user experience and create a product that gets users to come back for more.
Why Audio Quality Will Make or Break Your Social Audio App
Since social audio apps revolve around verbal communication, you can’t neglect audio. Here’s how the audio experience has a drastic impact on the quality of your social app users’ conversations:
1. High-Quality Audio Helps Re-Create a Real-Life Interaction
You must do your best to make the user conversations of your social audio app feel natural and intimate. However, a common complaint about online communication tools is that they lack the personal connection that comes with real-life interactions.
That’s where optimizing for audio comes in. By leveraging features such as spatial audio (which we’ll go into later), you can create immersive, natural conversations that make participants feel more engaged, just like in real life. Users will be able to hear the sound coming from all around them as if the person behind the screen was in the same room.
2. Bad Audio Makes Your Content Untrustworthy
Bad audio doesn’t just make communication more complicated for users. It can also negatively impact your audience’s perception of your talk.
To put this theory to the test, a study from the University of Southern California (USC) and the Australian National University (ANU) presented two scientific conferences on the same subject to participants. However, one conference had high-quality audio, while the other one had low-quality audio.
Participants then had to rate the credibility of each speaker’s research, even though they used the same talking points. The result is that participants were more likely to view the research as untrustworthy when the conference had low-quality audio than when it used high-quality audio.
3. Bad Audio Creates a Bad User Experience
When your social audio app’s sound quality is tinny or distorted, it leaves users distracted rather than fully engaged.
Let’s say that a researcher is using your social audio app to discuss a complex topic such as neuroscience. As they’re explaining the effects of brain plasticity on adult learning, there are background noises that keep popping. Because of this, listeners miss important details and quickly feel lost during the talk.
Or, let’s say a group of friends living in different cities decide to hop on your social audio app to reunite, but the audio keeps glitching. They won’t be able to understand each other and may not have a choice but to give up on the call.
4. Audio Quality Impacts Your App’s Awareness and Reach
Outside of impacting the individual product experience, the audio quality of your app influences how well you can boost awareness and acquire more users to your platform.
If you plan on creating an app that allows users to save conversations and post them on other platforms, then high-quality audio ensures that your discussions are worth listening to (and high-quality recordings also serve as a marketing tool that encourages new users to join the conversation).
On top of that, high-quality audio will help you attract big-name influencers who aren’t going to tarnish their brands by using an app that sounds like a CB radio.
4 Key Components of an Exceptional Social Audio Experience
So what does optimizing the audio aspect of your social app consist of? Here’s what goes into building an exceptional audio experience for your social app users, along with how Dolby.io API solutions help you build these features:
1. Spatial Audio
Spatial audio allows users to hear sounds from all around them, just like in real life. It helps create a more immersive experience for users and makes them forget that they’re behind a screen.
Spatial audio works by replicating the function of the human ear when using headphones. For example, if a car passes by on your left side, it will take a few microseconds for the sound to reach your other ear. It’s the same principle that helps surround sound in theaters make it feel like you’re part of the movie’s action.
Another benefit of spatial audio is that it helps separate overlapping voices during calls through advanced sound signal processing. As a result, it leads to less awkward and more productive conversations.
As part of the Dolby.io Interactivity API suite, you can instantly apply spatial audio as part of your social audio app with just a couple lines of code. It’s all thanks to advanced sound signal processing technology that makes virtual calls sound more natural and separate overlapping voices.
Check out the video below to get a sneak preview of what Dolby’s spatial audio feature can do for your social audio app’s calls:
2. Network Resilience
Maintaining a high-quality internet connection is vital for effective communication on social apps. Otherwise, the result is glitchy audio that makes it extremely difficult to communicate.
The thing is, some of your users may not have access to a good internet connection. And at a time when people are turning to social audio apps to stay in touch with loved ones they can’t see in person due to travel restrictions, maintaining a stable connection is table stakes.
Thankfully, the Dolby.io APIs come with advanced network resilience to help users connect. They help maintain high-quality audio even when the user is in challenging network conditions and make it less likely for glitchy audio to occur during social audio calls.
3. Noise Reduction and Suppression
There’s nothing more annoying than having a discussion with someone and having background noise and other auditory nuisances disrupt your calls.
With Dolby.io, a couple lines of code is all you need to get rid of distracting noises such as dogs barking, kids playing in the home, or construction work happening outside. Its built-in advanced noise suppression technology quickly identifies any unwanted noises within the call and reduces their impact for clearer, more productive social audio calls.
4. Loudness Equalization
Along with noise reduction, loudness equalization is key to effective communication in social audio. It automatically keeps the sound levels of each call participant consistent and identifies when different people are speaking.
The Dolby.io Interactivity APIs come with various advanced technologies to ensure that your social app has the best voice processing possible. For example, it includes Server Automatic Gain Control (AGC) technology to ensure that all sound levels in the call are consistent.
That way, people won’t have to adjust the volume as different participants speak during social audio calls. It helps keep social audio calls clean and engaging.
Don’t Neglect the “Audio” in Your Social Audio App
Conversation with our friends and family is important for our well-being, even when we’re thousands of miles away from each other. By making audio a priority in your social app experience, your app will attract users and stand out from the flood of Clubhouse copycats.