In 2018, a study found that more than 118 million smart speakers were in US homes, a 78% growth from the year before. In fact, another study found that 71.8% of consumers expect to use voice technology more in the future. From reminders, news, and weather updates to podcasts and audio conversations, voice content has contributed to a new wave of tech disruption and reshaped a variety of industries.

Influencer marketing was one of them. The video devotion era was followed by the audio explosion, turning creators towards a new universe of content, less empowered by aesthetics. Voice allows creators to build in-depth connections and closer relationships – while offering brands new possibilities of co-creation. So could the future of the industry be voice-based?

How brands have embraced the power of voice

Brands have moved beyond podcasts and their advertising potential. The fast pace with which voice technology has evolved made it easy for them to jump into this new sphere, offering consumers new ways to connect and discover powerful relationship channels.

It means brands can now translate their personality in audio – branded playlists, notification tones and smart speakers are just the beginning here. Many businesses have already embedded voice features in their websites, offering users voice search options and digital assistants to help them make better purchase decisions – or sending audible real-time deals by email.

But it’s not only about convenience. The use of voice strategies allow brands to create an intimate connection through voice recognition, linked to a full branded ecosystem. In that sense, AI plays a major role in helping brands scale voice strategies and tailor them, also contributing to better rank the company when allied to SEO guidelines. It’s a new perspective of marketing.

Parallel to this revolution, 2020 has indeed established a new moment for social audio companies, taking audio content to a whole new level. Podcast revenue continued to grow last year, followed by the emergence of live conversations – an audio trend that led social media giants to make impressive efforts towards more engaging and exciting voice-based experiences. It didn’t take long for brands to be active on Clubhouse and enhance the customer relationship with exclusive live rooms. Spotify and Facebook are, of course, following the idea and getting ready to support businesses’ – and influencers’ – content production.

Where do influencers stand in the scenario?

If voice technologies contribute to shaping closer relationships, influencers have the power to accelerate this journey. Considered an industry based on trust and authenticity, it’s not hard to understand why influencer marketing strategies are taking advantage of the voice format to bridge the gap between followers and brands through more reliable messages.

Podcasts have quickly raised a new category of creators, or podcasters, who bring topics to the table with spontaneity and broaden their reach with easy-to-consume content. Again, AI development brought new partnerships possibilities to the industry, as brands can go after influencers to use and reproduce their voices across different platforms and features. In other words: voice technology expanded influencer marketing beyond the social media territory.

Yet, the popularity of Clubhouse has brought up a new wave of voice-based content creators who leveraged the app’s new approach and managed to gather very loyal communities. Nothing new here when we look back to the old era of radio. What stands out though, is their reach and potential for branded content. These audio influencers help spread the voice-power phenomenon and build a devoted audience, getting real-time feedback about any topic. Moreover, their influence goes beyond these platforms: many business executives have become audio influencers.

Audio x video: what does the future hold?

From the brands’ perspective, test and learn is the mantra to follow. Businesses need to dive deep into each of the formats to see which fits their brand and audiences best and invest smartly in the right one. On the other hand, keeping an open and agile mindset to embrace new technologies is key to decision-makers willing to drive competitive innovation.

At the same time, creators tend to embrace the multiformat option. Influencers who manage to produce both video and voice content with quality and equal focus on data insights will be able to improve their performance and address their followers’ expectations – as well as set more effective branded partnerships.

In fact, voice technology has shifted digital marketing in different ways, but mainly content production. There are especially attractive features when it comes to communicating messages through audio: the format is versatile, flexible, intimate, and entertaining. And with the establishment of AI as a reality, businesses are to have even more possibilities of reaching targets and creatively partnering with influencers on innovative projects.

However, it’s not looking likely that video production will slow down. Visual production is at the core of 80% of marketers’ strategies as they are yet excellent tools to connect and provide consumers with immersive digital experiences. The visual appeal can not be replaced. Not surprisingly AR and VR are to drive major marketing strategies in the next few years, also leading influencer marketing to great changes and merging formats for once. Simply think of how both technologies can embrace audio and video content in one go. It is unlikely marketers will need to opt for one or another.

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