Twitter’s voice tweet and the rise of audio-based social media

Twitter recently rolled out a new feature to a limited group of iPhone users. The new feature, voice tweet, allows users to tweet with their voice. And it is part of a growing audio-based social media trend.

Twitter’s voice tweet and the rise of audio-based social media

Twitter recently rolled out a new feature to a limited group of iPhone users. The new feature, voice tweet, allows users to tweet with their voice.

While it’s only available to a few iPhone users, anyone on Twitter can see, hear and engage with voice tweets. "Tweeting with your voice is not too different from tweeting with text. Each voice tweet captures up to 140 seconds of audio", Twitter said. “Once you reach the time limit for a tweet, a new voice tweet start automatically to create a thread".

The new feature released on June 17 angered Android users. More so, the iPhone users that were left out. But 'testing a new feature' with a limited group of users is not outlandish on the social media platform.

Twitter has been testing a feature that "encourages people to read a linked article before retweeting it" only on Android. Just as it is "running a limited experiment on iOS with a prompt that gives you the option to revise your reply before it’s published if it uses language that could be harmful".

Twitter rarely tests new features across the board. They usually start testing using a selection of either users across all channels, all mobile app users in a particular country, one channel (e.g web), or one mobile app channel first (e.g Android).

When Twitter was rolling out its conversation setting, it tested it with a limited group of users on Twitter for iOS, Android, and For Fleets, and hiding replies, it tested it with users in Brazil and Canada, respectively. Schedule tweet was deployed on the web. Then, send tweets via DM and RTs with comment, was first tested with iOS users.

Running a limited experiment of voice tweet on iOS is precautionary. Although people still flacked it for lacking accessibility options like captions. "I do worry that if this becomes a prominent feature, deaf users will be left out", a deaf Journalist tweeted.

Twitter’s voice tweet: #AndroidVoiceMatter

It is pertinent to note that a Nigerian caught the audio bug before this global uptick. In 2014, Tomi Walker developed a social app, Orbi, that connects people through voice. But the project failed. Walker is currently the Head of Growth and Content at TQG Digital.

Similarly, in an Instagram post (now deleted) Nicki Minaj said she had mooted the idea for voice tweet in 2017. And it is believable because Chris Messina invented hashtag on Twitter.

voice tweet nicki minaj claim

There has always been a tussle between Android and Apple users. More so, on the micro-blogging platform, Twitter. Despite the advancement of Samsung, Oneplus and other Android OEMs, iPhone is still the ultimate status symbol. With the iPhone boasting a wide swath of users in the United States, Twitter's headquarters and major revenue driver.

Last year, Twitter re-introduced a feature that shows which client was used to make a post. The feature, tweet source label, has fueled the rivalry between Twitter for Android and iPhone. Thus, a closed experiment of voice tweet with a few iPhone users riled up everyone left out. Particularly, because the feature is cool (or seemed cool at launch).

Musicians and voice-over artistes have made voice tweets. Football banter is also better with voice tweets.

Twitter has explained that "keeping the experiment to one platform lets us build and test as fast and effectively as possible". But there are explanations for why the choice platform to test voice tweet is iOS.

First, iPhone users can cause social influence for voice tweet. And they have tried. Most Twitter power users are Apple fanboys. Seeing their voice tweets caused FOMO for others, especially iPhone users who are not part of the experiment. (A Twitter power user is someone that is particular about their tweets and how influential they are on and off Twitter.)

According to Hackernoon, iOS users work in marketing, media areas or run their business, and they earn 40% more than Android users. It's also easier to sell a product to iOS users.

Also technically, it’s faster, easier, and cheaper to develop for iOS. Because Android has different OEMs, devices and version of the operating system vary. Thus, it might take more time to test apps and new features on Android.

Audio-based social media is the next big thing

It is not clear whether the voice tweet feature would become prominent as it is. Because, barely a week after its launch, fewer people now use the feature. "How to use twitter voice note" has also tanked on Google trends.

In 2018, Twitter launched the audio-only broadcast on iOS. The feature allows iPhone users to “talk without being on camera”. It was touted as Twitter’s foray into the podcast hosting market. But it has failed to gain traction in that regard. People still prefer to broadcast with video.

In addition, audio has a myriad of attendant problems that might be daunting for Twitter. A social networking service without a dedicated accessibility team.

It is imperative for Twitter to restrategise so that voice tweet won't flop. One important change would be to broaden the scope of the experiment. Say, a limited group of iOS and Android users. Distribution is key to the success of any product. "A badly designed product with great distribution will beat a well-designed product that has a poor distribution", Walker recounted.

Over the past 16 years, podcasts and audio have been predicted as the next big thing. But that prediction is only coming true now. The number of listeners and content hours have been increasing year-over-year. By 2021, it’d be 112 million people and 15 billion hours of content. That is, about 1.7 million years of audio content.

During this period, a plethora of podcasting and audio aggregation platforms were launched. Notably, Odeo, which later morphed into Twitter, was founded in 2005. Anchor was founded in 2015 and became the go-to platform for creating and publishing podcasts. Last year, Spotify acquired Anchor.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, there's been an uptick in audio-based social media apps, too. Clubhouse and Roadtrip are some of the most popular apps. Now, whether a platform that combines audio—or podcasting—and social media stand a chance against behemoths like Facebook and Tiktok remains to be seen.

If Twitter gets voice tweets right, we can expect to see a boon in the audio-based digital market.

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