A Beginners Guide to Audiograms: Sharing Audio Content More Easily On Social Media
As podcasters, as people working with audio content, we all have one problem in common: how to get our content shared on social media. Compared with pictures or videos, audio sharing (especially a full podcast episode) is clumsy, often nothing more than someone posting a link and saying “hey, click on this link and check out what's there.” In an era where video plays on people's Facebook or Twitter feed without them even clicking on it, this is a hard sell.
Apps such as Clammr and Anchor, and even Twitter's embedded audio function, offer some solutions to this problem. More promising, something that is truly a fresh approach to audio sharing, is Audiogram. If you haven't heard of it (and no, I am not talking about the graph result of a hearing test), you aren't alone. While some big names in publishing have been experimenting with it since summer 2016, very few independent podcasters seem even aware of its existence.
So What Is Audiogram?
In essence, Audiogram is a program that converts a short audio file, a caption, and a background image into an .mp4 (video) file that can play directly in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as any other piece of video would. It was developed by New York Public Radio WNYC and the coding was released free to the public in 2016.
Here are two examples of what a rendered audiogram looks and sounds like:
For more examples check out this link
The basic program has 13 preset Themes, but the background image, caption, placement of caption within the box, color, and wavelength style are all customizable (more below).
The moving wavelength is one of the neat signature features of Audiogram. It's not only compelling to watch, but clues people in to the fact that there is sound, and not just a still picture with text on it. Remember, this is an .mp4, so while it plays automatically in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as you scroll through your feed, the sound will be off unless you click on it. The dynamic wavelength encourages that click.
The default setting for an audio file is 300 seconds max, but under two minutes is recommended. In any case, different social media platforms have different video length restrictions, so you don't always have a choice. Twitter is 2.20 seconds max, Instagram 60 seconds, and Facebook is 45 minutes (don't try to make an Audiogram of this size, though!).
So far I have been using audiograms to introduce or promote new and old episodes with a short excerpt, and to release sound experiments (such as this piece on singing frogs).
Some producers are also using them to talk about current events, promotions, or other short topics that won't be developed into a full episode but which they would like to share with followers.
One of the particular advantages of Audiogram on Twitter is that you can bypass the 140 character limit by having text on both the audiogram image, and in the Tweet body. You can also link to a webpage so that in the same Tweet you can share both a streaming audio excerpt and a link to the full episode. You can even remind people at the end of the audiogram to click the link after listening.
My own experiments with Audiograms these past few months show a response 3-5 times higher than for a regular Tweet (as measured in impressions, retweets, media views, etc.), and stronger engagement on Facebook as well. I have just started to use them on Instagram but reactions have been positive.
How to set Audiogram up:
If you do decide that Audiogram sounds like something you would like to try, remember that while the coding is open source, this doesn't mean it's a piece of free software you can just download and use straight out of the box. There are detailed instructions here for getting Audiogram to work, but unless you are a programmer it will likely be beyond your skills. Best to just hire a freelancer to set up a website (the screen capture below gives you an idea of how it looks for me) and host that site on a remote server. I used Rob Savell and in total, including a year of hosting, I was charged US$140.
If you want to add custom background pics (they must be 1280×720 pixels and saved as .png files) it's more involved and you'll need to get detailed instructions from whoever sets this up for you. Don't let this scare you off, though: I have no programming skills but have had no problem going into the coding, tweaking options, and adding fresh images for every audiogram I make.
Alternatively, if you know you will always be using the same image or small set of images (such as your show graphics) and will just be changing the text each time, then you can ask your programmer to add these for you at the start.
WYNC is working on improvements including a subtitle function. This may sound a bit odd (reading a podcast) but it's the way we consume video content now, playing with the sound off to see if it interests us before diving in. The more podcasting can be seen and consumed as any other piece of media content out there, the more it will be consumed and shared, and the better for us all.
If subtitles interest you, also check out Shortcut from This American Life. It's like a supercharged Audiogram, though at the time of writing you could only use it for sharing content from the show. However, TAL is working on open-sourcing Shortcut. Subscribe to their list for updates.
So how are you dealing with social media sharing of your audio content? Have we convinced you Audiogram is worth looking into, or have you found something else equally promising? Let us know in the comments.