Joel Davis, co-founder and CEO of Mighty Social, offers five key pieces of advice brands looking to improve discoverability and engagement through voice search.
Today’s social media landscape is dominated by video supported by text and images. These visual mediums are ingrained in our psyche. Yet voice is rapidly stepping up to become a major disruptor in how we search, discover and share information.
Voice makes complete sense: the average human can speak 150 words per minute, but only type 40 words during that time. Voice conveys emotion, tone and subtleties that text is unable to capture, and it allows users a hands-free, eyes-free experience.
From a marketer’s perspective, voice enables consumers to re-frame their searches, make them more granular and readily share more context around their query. So, instead of typing in “local printer”, for instance, a similar voice query normally goes into more detail, such as: “Where can I find a local printer who can print event badges overnight?”
Google claims that voice searches are 30 times more likely to be action queries than text searches. In essence, people want to find places and buy things through their digital assistant. Standard desktop searches, on the other hand, may indicate that people are simply looking for information, whilst mobile searches and voice searches are more likely to be from people who are trying to do something specific with the information they have to hand.
The cross-platform measurement company comScore estimates that 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020. Gartner predicts that 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by next year too. 2018 was the year voice-enabled devices hit a one billion-sold mark and it’s not only about smart speakers. This adoption wave is spilling over to all IoT-connected devices, from voice assistants on smartphones to smart watches.
As voice search continues to gain traction on traditional text queries we are seeing the boundaries between social media, entertainment, communication and marketing increasingly blur.
Facebook’s new range of devices, Portal, meshes social media with Alexa’s personal assistant capabilities that can control smart home devices, run routines and load any of Alexa’s tens of thousands of Skills.
Meanwhile would-be disruptors are testing the water with innovative models, such as HearMeOut, a voice-based social network that centres on 42-second voice recordings.
To get a better idea of the disruption marketers face only requires doing a (voice) search to identify emerging new ecosystems.
HearMeOut has already targeted the Connected Car space, which they believe is a natural fit for a voice-based social network, and, as voice infiltrates our homes and continues to push text aside in our messengers, it feels only natural that it is now getting social.
As voice puts a new customer-facing channel on the map for marketers we are likely to see more voice-enabled devices combining digital and physical realities. This will make room for truly contextual interactions with consumers.
Just think of voice ads, which, unlike their static text or image versions, will enable actual conversations (albeit limited). This approach to advertising is interactive, engaging and highly effective for brands. It could become the epitome of personalisation, literally taking customer interactions to the one-on-one level. Ordering a pizza on a live TV sports night or finding a local plumber to fix a sudden emergency may become a marketer’s dream of bringing those sought-after micro-moments to reality.
So as voice gains more traction what do marketers need to do to harness it? Let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors that will improve how voice search enables consumers to discover and engage with a given brand.
Voice content is perceived as being more personal and even more informal than text-based content, and the inflection in the user’s voice adds nuances that mere text, albeit accompanied by emojis, can’t really convey.
However, whilst voice search is faster, more convenient and more accurate, marketers need to bear in mind that conversation is the basis of voice search. As a consequence, content needs to have natural-sounding language. Picking up different accents and intonations still has some way to go and brands who refine this will be able to engage more readily and rapidly.
The long tail keyword
Voice search queries are usually longer than text searches and they are generally characterised by a question – typically three to five keywords long and starting with who, what, when, where, why or how. Harnessing this shift in search means going from a focus around a specific keyword, such as “skis” to long tail keywords such “Rossignol giant slalom men’s skis”.
When a marketer is targeting a long tail keyword such as this, they can more accurately predict the searcher’s intent. With a clearer understanding of what the user is searching for, they can better tailor their content to those people who actually want their products or services.
Creating high quality content that is seen as informative and authoritative enough for Google to select can create an opportunity to be the answer to the questions voice searchers are asking. This starts with understanding search intent to create content that directly answers searchers’ queries. AI is now capable of tracking what type of queries people tend to search, which allows it to tailor responses to users accordingly.
The key for the marketer is to find out what their audience wants and repurpose it in ways that they can consume this content, irrespective of the platform, device or format.
Keeping up with expectations
There is no doubt that voice is set to become integral in more complex, multi-step activities. Voice search queries typically fall into four categories: general information (30%), personal assistant (27%), local information (22%), and fun and entertainment (21%).
To make the most of this, marketers need to consider the user experience across the entire journey. This means being at least a step ahead of the consumer, anticipating their on-the-go scenarios to adapt their messages to fit in with what the consumer really wants. A new era of flexible, agile marketing is already emerging to keep step with these consumers.
Given that 62% of US voice-enabled speaker owners are using them to make a purchase, adding a voice interface option to the customer journey makes sense. It should enhance the way marketers can accurately target audiences and, as a consequence, reduce media wastage.
Connecting consumers with the brands they already love and helping them find new ones to engage with is about ensuring your brand’s voice is clear, concise and always listening.
As technology breaks down the barriers between brands and consumers, voice is one of the most impactful ways to date of closing the gap. It does mean that marketers need to continually re-purpose the way they want to engage with consumers or they might miss a golden opportunity.