Audio is a huge opportunity to engage your audience and create long-lasting relationships. People already gorge in audio content as the use of voice technology spreads like wildfire, with its popularity bound to grow massively in the next few years. I firmly believe an audio experience via any of the social media platforms, something that’s currently lacking, is just a matter of time of becoming reality.
However, audio cannot be another dimension where you post just for the sake of it. The accessibility it creates is about focus and the ability to reach audiences on their own terms, whether it’s on a light jogging session or while preparing a late-night snack. Hence, all of your content must be audio-ready to improve both its visibility and usability – something I aim to help you within the next few minutes or so. Here are some tips that center on social media which will hopefully help you stay on top of your game.
No one-size-fits-all approach
When you convert an article to audio or deliver content via a customized set of voice-first skills as two scalable means of audiofying content, your job is seemingly done. Not every content is a good fit for audio. There are certain similarities with tweaking any type of content in order to improve user experience, and audio is no exception.
One of the most important things (a lot of people will agree it’s THE most important thing) is to provide context. Audio as a channel doesn’t have the same benefit as visual media to paint an overall picture so this is something you have to get right from the get-go. Place clear context at the first place, developing details at the second.
To begin with, make your content concise but be sure to cover all the finer points. In other words, provide enough information so that your audience understands what your post is about. For some social media like Twitter, that’s going to be a nearly improbable task and you’ll likely have to work with what little you’ve got. As I said – not every type of content fits audio’s format and the same can be applied to the platform for that content – Twitter, in this case (for another very interesting reason I’ll mention in a minute or so).
However, social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn allow more content in terms of volume so you have to use that to your advantage by being descriptive. Use the power of semantics by using synonyms and related terms, particularly to avoid tricky situations like homonyms – words that sound the same but have different meanings. Another thing you can use is so-called “signpost” words and phrases (e.g. firstly, hence, in short, etc.) that help with the flow and entice listeners more actively through your writing.
Always keep in mind that one of the purposes of audio content is to create a complete picture of what is being said, enabling your listeners to appreciate your content as much as if they were reading it. Therefore, steer clear of long sentences. Audio flourishes, so to speak, on shorter sentences. By default, it’s more aligned to the spoken word which helps deliver optimal rhythm and pace. The last thing you want to hear is an entire paragraph’s worth of a sentence that makes it needlessly hard to get the message.
Why is all of this important? Because audio as a medium is very much linear. You don’t get the luxury of scanning the content quickly and checking back later, at least not in the same way as with text. Let’s not forget that listeners can find themselves in different situations, multitasking so if they don’t catch something, it’s gone. You want clarity and the best possible presentation to someone who can’t see what they need to know. And as conTech (content technology) progressively assumes a bigger role in content aggregation and recommendation, it becomes all the more important to deliver on audio’s promise.
The problematic parts
There are quite a few obstacles to creating content suitable for audio. Let’s quickly mention the obvious ones first: visual elements. Everything from photos to graphs and tables regularly used on social media doesn’t translate well to audio. Some elements can be adapted to a certain degree but the majority can’t – another reason why it’s vital to provide enough context.
Links on social media are also a given, considering its nature. If possible, avoid posts that feature a one-sentence summary of an article you are linking to. To a listener, that tells virtually nothing. There are options in text-to-speech software to skip links in the first place in order to avoid confusion.
Another problematic part are abbreviations, numerals, acronyms, and special characters that require proper phonetic and semantic representation. For the first three, it’s best to just expand into full words to avoid contextual problems (e.g. ‘ft’ can be fort, foot, feet while IV can literally be converted as ‘iv’).
Special characters are perhaps the most interesting section here as those are extremely prominent across social media and can cause special kind of problems. For instance, the almighty hashtag is routinely a stumbling block so you might want to skip them altogether. In some cases like email addresses, it’s better to put ‘at’ instead of @, while there are also some purely voice-specific things like putting a phone number in a specific format. Don’t be discouraged if you find something else – the technology is still young and being perfected.
Having audio is only one half of the effort
These would be the main content practices for getting your foot in the audio sphere. As witnessed, there are certain instances where voice technology affects the performance and usefulness of audio content. This is because the channel itself differs in the way the content is consumed compared to everything else. In addition, there are also moments where the technology is restrained and/or incapable yet of translating in a seamless manner from the text-based content.
That’s why it’s important to stick to tried and tested practices mentioned above for maximum effect when writing content on social. It’s inevitable that the social media platforms will join the ongoing audio revolution and enable an ”listen now” option (in addition to predominant reading) to appeal to the growing base of listeners. Some of these have close ties with SEO and voice search (topics that definitely deserve a closer look) so there’s an added bonus to creating audio-ready content by the book. In a lot of ways, these guidelines are generally good practice even if you are not aiming at audio as a way to engage and monetize your audience.