Social Audio Emerges as a New Healthcare Communications Tool

By: Kathleen Lange

The use of social media was already on the rise for both healthcare workers and patients before the pandemic. Since then, it has skyrocketed and taken on a new life for the use of peer-to-peer discussions, disease education, and information sharing.

Just when one app has become mainstream, another one emerges and takes over. In the absence of in-person conferences or speaking engagements—coupled by Zoom fatigue and the growing shift toward being “live” on social—a new type of communication tool has piqued the interest of healthcare providers (HCPs), Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs), and patient communities to come together organically: social audio.

Social audio apps are new audio-only platforms where individuals and brands can host and participate in different conversations. Two of the most popular social apps of this kind are Clubhouse (which is currently the third most downloaded app for iPhone) and Twitter Spaces. Yvette Wohn, an associate professor at NJIT and director of the Social Interaction Lab, told NPR she predicts there will be more than 100 social audio apps available for download by the end of the year. Clubhouse, for example, has “rooms” you can join to participate in different topics of conversation, often led by a key opinion leader (KOL). There are no videos or pictures; there is simply organic conversation, like a podcast that it isn’t saved in perpetuity. The app also lets users hear directly from people who may be typically harder to reach, such as celebrities and CEOs.

For HCPs and DVMs in particular, it is becoming a trusted platform for online information sharing and collaboration. It may be due to the phone call–style connection with friends, past and present, or the ability to forge new connections that happen just by chatting in the same room. These apps are now lending themselves to a natural and inviting environment that occurs in real time, fostering thought leadership regarding everything from clinical updates and news to patient experiences and education.

From industry leaders to communities built around NPs, PAs, and patient support groups, social audio is quickly growing in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry as a place for ideation and communication. What’s most exciting, arguably, is its potential to provide access to KOLs and industry experts, all in an organic form similar to an informal phone conversation. Think of pharma leaders and HCPs sharing information, or DVMs and pet owners discussing options for pain management.

As we start to navigate the new digital landscape and think about what it might look like moving forward, investments in social audio apps show promise to grow a strong, engaging, and thoughtful digital presence for both brands and people. The potential to help guide conversations and create a shift from the traditional email and long-form videos to platforms that are quicker and tell a story will be the future of new online habits as we look to share information across pharma and engage with HCPs and patients.

Kathleen Lange is an engagement strategist in Fingerpaint's Cedar Knolls, N.J. office. She may be reached at klange@fingerpaint.com