Why Is It Still So Hard to Share Audio Files in Social Media?

Despite audio's resurgence, it remains a tough format to share

While continuous advances in social media and mobile technology have warmly embraced the sharing of photos, articles and videos, audio has been left in the cold—despite the recent resurgence of podcasts.

The absence of truly direct ways to share audio files, whether they be songs or podcasts, via Facebook and Twitter has left musicians and podcasters scrambling for workarounds in order to avoid the dilemma faced by application developers—fighting for attention in increasingly crowded app stores (mainly iTunes) and hoping for discoverability via search engines.

For the most part, podcasters must resort to sharing links to their content, which does not endear them to social network users, who are often reluctant to click through and leave their networks for other environments, nor to the social networks themselves, as they tend to prioritize "native" content, or content uploaded directly to their networks.

Workarounds do exist. Twitter's integration of audio cards from SoundCloud presented podcasters with the opportunity to post their content directly to that social network, but there are pitfalls there, too.

Tom Clancy Jr., host of The Info Junkie Podcast, feels that the time spent maintaining a profile on SoundCloud takes away from its benefits.

"SoundCloud is awesome, cost-effective and easy to use, but … it's yet another profile to have to manage and upkeep, with its own comment system, reputation and tracking," he said. "By allowing people to link through to its content (via other platforms), it reduces the need to post comments or have an account, which reduces engagement, which reduces the need for SoundCloud as anything more than just a media host, which can't cover the bills. All of the extra trimmings that it has with inline comments on posts are just clutter and not meaningful to the listening community."

Meanwhile, Ken Reid has found SoundCloud to be a useful tool for his TV Guidance Counselor podcast, saying that he uses Libsyn for his RSS feed—which delivers his podcast to outlets including iTunes, Stitcher, PlayerFM and Podbay—but he also taps SoundCloud to share TV Guidance Counselor to Tumblr and to embed audio players into other websites and message boards.

"The multiple-hit approach seems to be more effective, and I get listener feedback and responses from all of them," he added.

Facebook emphasizes native videos in its news feed algorithm. So what does that have to do with podcasts? Plenty, according to Omny Studio, which created a feature that allows podcasters to upload their content to the social network in the form of native videos.

Mitch Secrett manages Omny Studio's relationship with Em Rusciano, whose Deeply Shallow podcast reached No. 1 on the iTunes podcast chart for Australia. 

"During the promotional process, Rusciano noticed that the audio links that she was sharing with her large Facebook audience weren't being engaged with," Secrett explained. "We realized that the Facebook news feed algorithms were pushing the audio links down in priority for her audience, especially when compared with the native Facebook videos she was sharing. As a result of the integration we developed, the native Facebook videos generated by Omny Studio helped Rusciano get around 10 times as much engagement on Facebook with her teaser clips."

And Podbean allows podcasters to include large play buttons along with their Facebook links, which may make users feel like they're not leaving the Facebook environment. However, those podcasts do not receive the same favorable algorithm treatment as native Facebook content.

What other steps do podcasters take to maximize engagement?

Reid said he crafts different messages for each social network—"My post on Instagram is going to be different than on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc."—and he creates in-depth descriptions of each episode so that all topics or people discussed will be found via search engines like Google.

While trademark lawyer Anthony Verna would welcome more robust sharing tools on Facebook and Twitter, he said of his Law & Business podcast: "With the right software on the back end, any podcast apps should be able to find them. Word of mouth is how it spreads. It's hard to spread four links for every episode you create."

Koop Kooper, host of the Cocktail Nation podcast, relies on strong communication with listeners.

"I personally think the dialogue between fan and producer is the more important part of the equation. Gone are the days where you place an ad and everybody comes running," he said. "You need to develop a relationship with the audience. Just the other day, I did a show on Tubby Hayes because a listener asked me to. She then thanked me on Twitter."

However, perhaps the most vital piece of advice for podcasters came from Clancy: "Bottom line: Do podcasting because you love it first, and work toward making it a business once you get good at it," he said.

"The effort required to promote is more than the effort required to record, but without a decent-sounding podcast—without a natural flow, good content and a solid library—no one will want to jump on your bandwagon, no matter how attractive you make it. So, build a better bandwagon, then tell everyone about it later (but be prepared for some serious sweat equity investment)."