Building a Sound Social Presence

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On the Inside

Companies can also use the technology for internal communications. Businesses are already adopting enterprise social software--applications deployed on top of traditional CRM and collaboration tools to enable file sharing through microblogs, wikis, shared spaces, and communities--so this is a logical progression, many assert.

Yiip, for example, is working to layer voice messaging into corporate social networking apps such as Salesforce.com's Chatter. Bollmann says Yiip's voice messaging capabilities can be applied to any business collaboration tool with open application programming interfaces.

"These applications provide enterprises with several advantages, including increased transparency, better communication of business ideas and information, flexibility, and performance, along with simplified operation," research firm MarketsandMarkets concluded in a recent report.

The benefit is the same whether the voice files are applied to sites such as Facebook or Twitter or to internal networks. "Audio is much richer than text in conveying emotion," Bollmann says. "When a sales team is hitting its targets, they can hear how emotionally charged the executives are. It's very powerful."

Ray Wang, CEO and principal analyst at Constellation Research, takes it a step further. Audio blogging, he says, "could be the new voicemail." Rather than calling team members individually and leaving separate messages for each, a manager could record a single message once and send it to all of the members of his team at the same time.

Back from the Brink

Voice-based microblogging is not an entirely new concept. It first surfaced as early as 2005, but many of the young companies involved at the time struggled to get off the ground as a result of the Great Recession.

Today's voice file-sharing market landscape is much different, with dozens of start-ups and a few original players that managed to stay afloat during the lean years now competing for the ears of consumers. Bubble Motion, a Singapore-based firm launched in 2005, was one of the pioneers. It originally made its name as a voice messaging app that enabled users to send voice clips to each other within text messages. About two years ago, the company moved from the one-to-one voice messaging model to a service called Bubbly, which it positions as "Twitter for voice," enabling users to blast voice messages to all of their social media followers at once.

These Twitter-like status updates currently make up about half of all "bubbles" from Bubble Motion's 25 million subscribers. The service is reportedly adding about a million new users each month.

Audioboo has been around since March 2009. Its platform is used by more than 700,000 individuals, corporations, and charities across 220 countries, though the United Kingdom is still its largest subscriber base.

According to Audioboo executives, the company has stored or shared more than 1 million individual "boos," generating about 150,000 "listens" a day, up 200 percent during the last six months of 2012 alone. More than 70 million listens have been reported so far.

The market for voice-based microblogging "is starting to come alive again, and it might have some legs this time," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM consulting firm Beagle Research and a principal at research and analysis firm The Bullpen Group. "It makes a great deal of sense with the devices we have today. Most phones out today can accommodate this."

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