Slack Starts Testing Social Audio Features
Slack is dipping into the social audio space with a new pilot program for the kind of real-time audio chat functions of Clubhouse and others in the space. The social audio function is part of a larger expansion planned by Slack to incorporate more of other social media platforms’ elements after a year of exploding digital communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social Audio Slack
Slack’s social audio feature would augment the existing phone and video call options, adding a more casual option that doesn’t need someone to create a call or schedule a meeting. The result is like a Clubhouse-style audio chat, but with options for Slack’s visual elements as well. Having the rooms connected to Slack channels gives them a different flavor than Clubhouse, however. It actually looks closer to how Discord crafted its social audio features last year. As social audio is part of what jumped Discord to a $7 billion value and a potential $10 billion acquisition by Microsoft, it’s not surprising that Slack sees value in it too.
“Last year, we began prototyping and experimenting with a more ad hoc, spontaneous, audio-first way of communicating,” Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua explained in a blog post about new Slack features. “We quickly piloted with customers to see if we could reimagine impromptu hallway conversations—where a few people chatting could lead to a team discussion and help unblock an idea. It took off at Slack and now, too, with our customers piloting it. We believe this will lead to better work, bring more of a human touch to our office connections, and help teams spark innovation.”
Slack on Track
Social audio is only one of the experiments Slack is playing with right now. The new Slack Connect feature lets people send messages to anyone using Slack, even outside their organization. The company is also running pilots for what it calls “asynchronous video” posts, essentially a version of the time-limited stories on Snapchat or Instagram, shared to a particular Slack channel, supposedly as a tool to reduce the number of meetings.
That social audio is part of this major new feature package speaks to just how quickly and widely the idea has become popular. Whether or not it was a partial beneficiary of enforced working-from-home and limited in-person meetups, social audio has gathered a lot of momentum. Even as Clubhouse passed 10 million users in late February, the list of potential rivals continues to rise both from startups like Quilt and Swell and as a feature on established platforms like Slack. Twitter Spaces, Instagram Live Rooms, the new Telegram Voice Chats, and Discord’s social audio service all have their own twist on the concept. Slack’s focus on work communications and ties to existing companies could give it an edge in those verticals, but Slack’s popularity for text communications is no guarantee people will casually chat by audio on the platform to the same degree.