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LinkedIn Starts Testing Social Audio Feature

LinkedIn is getting in on the social audio boom, testing a platform for real-time audio conversations. The new feature appears to offer audio-only chatrooms in the model of Clubhouse and its mushrooming competitors, which would fit with the professional social media platform’s recent spate of new content creation tools.

LinkedIn Listening

LinkedIn’s social audio would have the increasingly common setup of speakers and listeners familiar to Clubhouse users, with moderators able to bring listeners onto the virtual stage to allow them to speak. Where LinkedIn would attempt to stand out is in how a user’s profile on the platform would connect to their presence in the audio chatroom. Theoretically, that would make it easier for people to connect to find others they want to interact with professionally. It would also allow LinkedIn to incorporate the audio chatrooms into other aspects of the website, such as groups and events.

The variety of possible connections on LinkedIn is larger than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the company claiming five billion connections and a 50% rise in conversations over the last year among the platform’s 740 million members. The  Clubhouse-style social audio element isn’t out yet, but LinkedIn has only just debuted its new Stories feature of images and short videos with an expiration date clearly inspired by Snapchat and Instagram’s offers of the same concept. There’s even a new “creator mode” for LinkedIn designed to cultivate and boost influencers who other people want to follow.

“Sharing your professional journey in an authentic and engaging way is the starting point for connecting with the communities that matter most to you,” LinkedIn chief product officer Tomer Cohen explained in a blog post about the new creator tools that could just as easily refer to social audio chatrooms. “At the heart of our ecosystem is our creator community. People love to see creators give their take on what’s happening in the news or share insights into a specific industry — whether that’s a post, a video, an article, or even a comment.”

Audibly Social

LinkedIn’s social audio feature will be unique in some ways because of its connection to the platform as a whole, but it’s still part of a deluge of forays into the market. While Clubhouse, which cruised past 10 million users in late February, is the most well-known, startups like Quilt and Swell are nabbing investment and growing userbase of their own. And LinkedIn is following the footsteps of existing firms augmenting their services with social audio variants, like Twitter Spaces, Telegram’s Voice Chats and Slack’s still-developing version of the idea. Spotify decided it was worth spending money to pick up an existing social audio space instead, and just this week acquired Betty Labs, the startup behind sports-focused social audio app Locker Room. It’s also worth noting that LinkedIn is running the tests just as parent company Microsoft is rumored to be looking to purchase Discord for $10 billion partly because of its potential power in social audio.


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