HearMeOut App: The Future of Social Media?
I’m always on the lookout for what’s the next trend in social media and influencer marketing. So when I heard about the HearMeOut app, I had to check it out.
What is HearMeOut? This app bills itself as a voice-based social media platform, for both iOS and Android devices, that allows users to record, post and share 42-second audio clips to the app. It can be used hands-free, eyes-free in Ford cars enabled with SYNC AppLink technology. In March 2017, HearMeOut was introduced into the U.S. market (Cision PR Newswire, March 9, 2017).
In summary, to me it's like a cross between Twitter and podcasting with its tweet-sized audio posts. So here's my HearMeOut app review from using it on my iPhone in the real world.
HearMeOut App: The Pros
Built With Automobile Use in Mind
The app's membership in the SmartDeviceLink (SDL) platform for connected auto technologies (Cision PR Newsire, March 20, 2017) and early relationships with automakers, such as Ford, could bode well for its future.
Hands-free, Eyes-free App Control for Some, But Coming for All
Because I don't own a Ford, I can't speak to how Ford car's SYNC AppLink system works with the app. Sadly, I wasn't able to play posts through Bluetooth or other connections on my 2015 model year car's infotainment system speakers, even though the posts were showing up on my car's information screen as regular podcasts.
Also, I was only able to use it hands-free, eyes-free AFTER tapping the drive mode icon on the posts and people I wanted to listen to. But at the January 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, HearMeOut announced that they would be launching an Internet of Things (IoT) device that would enable steering wheel control of the app in cars without the connected technology (ProactiveInvestors Australia, January 5, 2018). I will be watching for more on that.
Richer Social Media Experience with Audio
Someone’s voice conveys so much more about how people are feeling and how they feel about what they’re saying than any text, photo, or emoji can. Of course, video conveys even more. But in the interest of keeping people’s eyes and hands off their phones, audio is the next best thing.
Showcases Personality Making It Great for Speakers, Musicians and Entertainers
Like Instagram and podcasting, it could provide a great forum for users who have a strong brand or personal identity. This makes it a great choice for speakers, musicians and other entertainers to quickly, easily and frequently showcase and share their audio talents.
Lower Investment for Users and Listeners
I love the concept of podcasting since it gives people the opportunity to consume content while doing other mundane things. But podcasting can take a significant investment of time to produce. And I’ve noticed that some of the popular podcasts are LONG, like 30 to 60 minutes. That might be fine for listening while doing your 30-60 minute workout or commute. But during the workday, I want to consume content quickly. Even a string of 42-second audio recordings can be listened to in a few minutes, not to mention that it can take only a few minutes to record and post them.
User Interface Has Similarities to Other Social Networks
The heart (or like) and comment functions will be familiar to Instagram and Facebook users. Twitter also has a heart (like) button, though replying to tweets is a bit different; however, it's similar enough and would not be a stretch for a Twitter user. But I wonder how you would "like" or comment on a post while keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, even if you have Ford's SYNC AppLink technology. (If you have a newer model Ford and have tried this, please comment with your experience!)
Reposting Is Allowed and Sharing Is Easy
Unlike Instagram, HearMeOut offers reposting of other people’s post recordings on the app itself. Again, that makes it great for speakers, musicians, and entertainers. As well, sharing to Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, and email is very user friendly. Plus, the tests I’ve done with sharing to Instagram, Facebook Page, and Twitter were successful, even though Twitter doesn’t show a photo preview and is just a text tweet.
Like Instagram and Twitter, hashtags are allowed and can be found in search. However, hashtags I’m interested in seem to have few posts. That could be good or bad. Bad in that there could be little interest in my topics on this platform. Good in that I could position myself as a pioneer and thought leader here.
Potential for Integration with Voice Assistants
I could see potential integrations with voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, etc. Similar integrations are already available for Twitter and Facebook social posts on Alexa. Unlike mechanical voices that might read regular social posts through already available integrations, the HearMeOut posts are the voices of the real people who created them. So we'll hope these integrations become a reality.
The HearMeOut app is like a cross between Twitter and podcasting with its tweet-sized audio posts.— Heidi Thorne
HearMeOut App: The Cons
No Way to React or Engage Via Audio
If HearMeOut truly plans to be a social media network, there eventually must be a way for users to react (like), comment and share posts via audio. Otherwise, they can expect that very few people will actually engage with the app, other than listening to it. Comments and likes are the lifeblood of social. This is the major reason why I believe it’s more of a micro podcasting platform than a social network, at least at this point.
Will Have Competition from Podcasting
Since, in my opinion, HearMeOut functions more like podcasting than social networking, I believe it will have a tough time competing with more well-established and expanded podcast platforms on iTunes, Stitcher, etc.
People May Be Afraid to Record and Hear Their Voices
There are many people who are afraid to post audio or video of themselves anywhere online because they're just too self conscious. However, they may text message a storm on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. So HearMeOut, like YouTube and podcasting, will be a more likely choice for the extroverted.
It’s unclear from my online reading and personal experience what its revenue model is. There are currently no ads. Will there eventually be ads at the end of, or between, posts?
Self-driving Cars Could Make It Less Useful?
When self-driving cars become the norm (yes, that day will come eventually), the hands-free, eyes-free audio aspects of it may not be as useful.
Voice Assistants Already Integrate with Established Social Media Apps
A competitive force I see for HearMeOut is voice assistants, such as Alexa, which already have apps to read Twitter tweets or Facebook posts. So it will compete for time and attention with players that are already entrenched in people's minds. The value of hearing the post creator’s real voice on HearMeOut will have to be emphasized to make it worthwhile. And the ability to reply and engage via voice will have to be part of that equation, too. Otherwise, again, it's just a podcast.
Still Feels Like It’s in Beta Mode
In March 2018, Version 2.0 of the app was released (ASX announcement, March 2, 2018). Why, then, does it feel like it’s still in beta mode?
For example, as I write this, I am having a devil of a time trying to find a link to help or support documentation. Why? Because there isn't one on home or settings screens in the current iPhone app. But you can contact them via email. Yeah, that’s just what I want to do with a basic how-to question. (Not!)
And this is hilarious. I figured I'd go to the app's website to see if I could find the help info I was looking for. The "Help Center" page is about suicide prevention, cyber bullying, etc. What? They may be trying to be proactive with all the negative issues on other social networks such as YouTube and Facebook. But I just want to know how to use some of the app's hidden or unexplained functions! (Especially "circles." What are those?)
P.S. You can't edit a post, except for deleting it.
Hard to Follow and Find People of Interest... and for People to Find You
There are no “suggested for you” type suggestions (as you’ll see on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook), but it shows “trending profiles” which may or may not be of interest to you. I don’t think they’ve figured out this piece yet. I believe part of that is due to lots of users just posting their audio without any captions or hashtags (which I've seen a lot). Plus, many user bios are just pathetically cryptic or blank which doesn't help. And many users just keep reposting other people's posts (primarily for music), making it difficult to figure out what and who the user really is.
On the flip side of that issue is that the system won't be suggesting you to other users either. So unless users are following a hashtag that you're using and stumble upon you, organically getting followers is tough right now. Even if you repost your audio clips on social media, your non-HearMeOut followers will have to join the app and follow you. Many may just listen to your posts on other social media sites and not make the leap to HearMeOut. (BTW, if you're looking for me on the app, I'm at "Heidi Thorne.")
Music Oriented, Which is Good and Bad
Personally, I see this as a great opportunity to share audio content of all kinds. Unfortunately, most of what I find is music, music, music. So I hope that over time there will be more spoken word content creators joining the fold. That's what will encourage comments and discussion, making this more of a social network. Music often just encourages "love it/hate it" type commentary.
Not Totally Hands-free, Eyes-free
Functions are not voice enabled, requiring tapping of the screen to launch and use. May be wishful thinking, but I hope they'll one day have voice controlled app functionality similar to the Amazon Alexa type assistants, even for the smartphone apps, not just in cars. This would also be a help to the disabled who require voice-controlled apps.
No Listening Stats?
On Instagram and Facebook Pages, users are shown the number of views of a post and/or people reached, along with the number of likes. On HearMeOut, you're just shown the number of likes. This is going to be frustrating for businesses who are trying to measure results. Someone can listen without liking a post. And with no easy way to give a like via an audio command, people who are listening to it while driving or doing other things might not have the capability to like it.
Could You Be a Big Fish in Too Small a Pond?
HearMeOut offers the opportunity to make a statement and become an influencer on an emerging, still uncrowded social network. But is it too small to gain any substantial results from your efforts? If, like mine, your topic isn’t well represented here (or yet), it will require a significant amount of promotion on other social networks to get people to join the network and follow you. Like all social media efforts, there must be an acceptable ROI (return on investment) to make it worthwhile.
Tips for Using the HearMeOut App
Tell Them Who You Are... Every Time
Say your name at least at the beginning, and maybe again at the end, of your post recording since people may remember hearing what you say, but can’t remember you said it. Reminding them of who you are can build users’ awareness of you and the content you share.
Remember this (and all podcasting) is today’s version of radio. Those of you who remember radio DJs back in the day, how many times did they mention their own names and the names of their shows? All... the... time! Take a tip from the pros and do the same.
Fill Out Your Bio!
Completely fill out your darn bio! It's even more important here than on other social networks because your posts are audio, making it difficult to figure out what your channel is all about without it. As on all other social networks, I don’t follow people who don’t have a complete bio. A live link to your website is allowed.
Share Your Posts on Existing Social Networks
Since sharing is easy, share your posts on the well established social networks to get more mileage. So far, my posts have gotten more mileage on Instagram than on the HearMeOut app itself. That could change as my following and the app grow.
Decide on Your Goals for the App
You need to decide if your want HearMeOut to supplement or supplant any current podcasting you do. I’ve heard some user posts that promote regular, full length podcasts. That could be a good use of the app. However, some users might feel cheated since they may be expecting a “real” post from you on HearMeOut, not just an advertisement.
So is this a ground floor or grounded social media marketing opportunity?
Could this be an opportunity to get in on a ground floor social media opportunity similar to the early days of Twitter? I’m not sure about that, even though I love the concept of a hands-free, eyes-free, voice audio-based social network.
Though some of the functionality (likes, comments, etc.) is familiar, creating audio posts will be a new skill for many users to learn (it does take practice). As well, I think it’s too similar to podcasting, which is another crowded space. Unfortunately, I think the social media space is too crowded and competitive.
While the automobile integration is fantastic, the real proving ground will be in everyday, everywhere use with smartphones. And it's not proving to be a big draw. Update, October, 2020: The network only has 800K subscribers, not even 1 million in the years since its launch. Compared to even the smaller social networks, most of which have at least 100 million users, it's received very little traction.
But I gave it a shot in a minimal way. (Luckily, the 42-second posts made that possible.) If it does evolve into something else or something bigger one day, at least I’ll already have a presence before the hordes arrive.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Heidi Thorne