Recently I discovered Anchor and, I have to be honest, I found it pretty revolutionary. I’ll explain all shortly but first, let’s get some context. I’ve always loved audio as a format and, quite obviously, it’s had a big impact on my life. I now work in video production too, but sound is an equally massive part in supporting visuals to create a compelling and successful piece of content.

I love that social has gone visual. Photos and video are obviously hugely engaging and there’s a reason content marketing has gone in this direction. Indeed, research has found that tweets with images get 18% more clicks than those without, as well as 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets. Significant.

But one area where social media hasn’t successfully tapped into is traditional spoken word conversation. We tweet, blog, post pictures, publish podcasts and so on, but in most instances they lack direct feedback and engagement. How many genuine replies do you receive to your tweets?

Horses for courses

On a basic level, one of the problems with apps like Instagram and Snapchat is that you need to live a pretty ‘visual’ lifestyle for your content to be engaging! I’m not Casey Neistat, I’m not a globe trotting CEO and I’m definitely not a model. The fact of the matter is that the majority of my day is spent behind a desk or in a dark recording studio – not an ideal recipe for a blazing Instagram feed.

Sure I take breaks, go hiking, go to the gym, have a holiday once in a while, but this isn’t tailored to promoting my work. It’s a constant struggle for us producers. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to have a great music-based account, but it’s definitely more challenging.

Audio is, clearly, a format that I feel a lot more comfortable and at home with. First of all it’s much more practical than video in many situations, for example, listening to audio books on the go and podcasts while commuting. Music is obviously huge for many of us, and there’s something really special about spoken word. For example, I’m a big fan of Radiolab and the stories that they create.

The medium of sound also directly relates to my passion, which is a big one for me. I can visit my SoundCloud account and be instantly exposed to all kinds of music, information and stories from around the world, whether I’m at home, at the office, at the studio, exercising or traveling.

Audio is often simply more practical than video or images, for example, when you’re on the go, and Anchor allows you to listen in to replies and conversations in the background, while using other applications or while your phone is locked. This is unlike YouTube or many other video- or image-based apps, which has a lot of advantages.

The discovery

I’m a huge Gary Vaynerchuck fan and I’ve been soaking up his content over the last year. In a recent session of #AskGaryVee he talked about Anchor, a new social media app. With his track record of spotting networks and opportunities early, I downloaded the app without much thought. It was only this weekend that I actually spent some time with it and…wow…I was blown away. Everything about it instantly made sense to me, it resonated, and I could see its huge potential. I’ve always struggled with Snapchat for my line of work, but I get Anchor, I just get it.

A lot of people are describing it as an ‘audio Twitter’ and that’s fairly accurate. It’s essentially a microblogging platform that focuses entirely on audio, a kind of ‘mini-podcasting’. The biggest issue with steps like this in the past has been effective interface implementation and usability, but I’m extremely impressed by the initial stages of this application. It’s still not perfect and I have a couple of bug bears, but it’s a fantastic stab out of the gates.

Authentic revelation

The biggest aspect of Anchor that stands out for me is the level of authenticity across the network. To get their message out there, users are required to record their own voice, which adds a whole new level to social networking. It’s unavoidably real. Hearing someone’s point of view supported by their own voice increases the perceived authenticity, making the experience feel much more ‘social’ than the usual text/image/video posts that are so common. Anchor allows you to have real conversations with real people, creating meaningful, genuine connections (please excuse the ‘ums’ – I’m still pretty new to this and I’m working on it!):

Indeed, many people within the network have described it as something akin to a dinner party, where you meet, greet and get to know new people. Members consistently pose interesting questions on all kinds of topics, be it arts, technology, psychology, health, business, how they’re feeling, what they enjoy and their hopes and dreams. This has inevitably led to people building actual relationships with one another, and you immediately begin to care about your fellow users and their lives, just like, well, real life.

Getting involved

What’s particularly blown me away is the exceptional level of engagement amongst users. Whenever I pose a question or voice my thoughts, I get a response soon after. The current user base of early adopters are keen to engage, and it’s really given me a new insight into us as human beings and our innate desire to reach out into the dark, communicate with and relate to one another. Within a couple of days of membership I’m already starting to form friendships, and I’m not alone. Furthermore, from a pure marketing perspective, It’s far more effective to have meaningful interactions with a smaller number of followers, than less meaningful interactions with many who don’t engage.

The level of intimacy is distinctive, unique and addictive. Rather than sending a generic post out into the world, it feels more like leaving a voicemail for your friend, knowing with almost absolute certainty that someone else will be listening on the other side. In the current climate of noisy social networking environments this is pretty astounding.

In addition, when you listen to someone’s voice, their unique tone and character cannot help but come across, and you really get to know them. Anchor seems to be actively bringing people closer together. We all share similar wants, experiences and problems throughout our lives, it’s what makes us human, and Anchor seems to be able to uniquely celebrate and support this. It’s actually helping people – and that doesn’t just come from me – users all across the world have commented stating that it’s improved their self confidence, their ability to communicate and, incredibly, their listening skills.

Storytelling at its best

Another key aspect is the fact that Anchor creates an environment that cultures pure, organic stories. Storytelling is an inherent part of the platform, and it occurs totally naturally. It goes straight back to our roots as humans – sharing stories with others and becoming part of others’ stories. I’ve never seen another platform where users have the ability to engage and effect one another’s experiences to such a degree.

On top of all this, the ease of use surprised me. Sure, it’s a little clunky in places, but it’s early days. For the most part, the interface leaves me free to interact – it almost never gets in my way or slows down the conversation. Very impressive. Furthermore, the initial setup process is one of the most seamless and enjoyable experiences I have ever witnessed on any application, let alone social media. Sharing is also pretty straightforward, enabling users to send, link and embed conversations elsewhere. This brings about limitless possibilities in itself.

Initial reaction to Anchor

One of my first thoughts after the first day of using anchor was that it could really help people. Feeling like you’re on the end of a line with a real person has a huge impact. For example, what if someone’s upset, or even in a bad place? Having a community of people who may or may not know you, but genuinely care about you, your life and your thoughts, is massive. For example, it could be an incredibly powerful tool for organisations such as the Samaritans here in the UK – it’s much more intimate than sharing your thoughts on Twitter.

I’ve noticed that, at least right now, people on the platform are there to support each other, and are happy to share in the highs and the lows, joys and disappointments, of other users’ lives. This is incredibly powerful.

Going forward

The potential for uses and impact seems almost limitless at this stage. Indeed, I even reached out to the community to get their thoughts, which tangibly demonstrates how engaging and rewarding Anchor can be:

The mini-podcast element is intriguing. Podcasting is a fantastic platform (I, myself, am somewhat of an addict), but a number of people have expressed their frustrations at the lack of interaction that the platform enables. As listeners we are just that – listeners – we can’t engage in the conversation at the time. Sure we can comment on blog posts afterwards and in comments, but it isn’t quite the same as a traditional discussion. SoundCloud has improved things somewhat with chronological text comments, but nothing beats Anchor for this level of real-time interaction and engagement.

One thing that does concern me for the future is the level of noise (and I don’t mean physical volume). It’s one of the big criticisms of Twitter in recent years, where the sheer number of users has meant that it’s difficult to distinguish any meaningful commentary at all amongst all the shouting. Once you’re following 30 or more users, Anchor’s feed can get a little crowded and you begin to miss a significant number of updates. However, the developers may alter the algorithms at play in future depending on how things go. The team seem very open to suggestions and the creators themselves are extremely active, further adding to the value of the community.

Audio that matters

If you haven’t already guessed, I love this app. Not just because of what it can do, but because I firmly believe it’s a significant step forward in social networking and communication itself. It actually means something, and I think this has come as a pleasant surprise to everyone.

What are your thoughts on using Anchor? Have you had some great experiences too? If you haven’t used it yet, why not give it a try? You can download it for iOS in the App Store (it’s still in development for Android and will be released shortly) – search for me with ‘Luke Prosser’ and come say hi!

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