Is Clubhouse The Next Big Social Media?
If you were to mix together a speaker series, a reddit thread, a Masterclass, and a PTA meeting, you would get something close to the new social app Clubhouse. While it may sound like a strange combination, it's proving to be a winning one. The platform has recently been gaining immense popularity among individuals all over the world, even attracting high-profile names such as the likes of Oprah and Scooter Braun.
The app initially launched in March of 2019, right at the beginning of the pandemic. I personally didn't hear about the app until September of 2020, and didn't join until January 2021. However, from my first day on the app, I saw an immense amount of potential.
I truly believe that Clubhouse has the ability to be the next major social platform. It's new, it's different, it's personal, exciting, and seems to have limitless possibilities. While there's a possibility the app is just filling the void of interacting with strangers during the pandemic, recent stats suggest the app's trajectory is on an exponential incline. According to recent releases, Clubhouse has seen a surge from one million to two million active users in only a week. Furthermore, the app was recently valued at over one billion dollars despite not having any sources of revenue yet (sources include fortune.com & businessinsider).
The premise of the app is that it is an audio-based "drop-in" platform. Basically what this means is that all communication on the app is done via voice. If you want to engage in conversation, everything is done through audio - users quite literally speak to one another in real time. The only use of text on the app is in user profiles and the chat room title/descriptions. Everyone on the platform creates a profile, complete with their name, username, a biography, Instagram and Twitter, and when they joined.
Chat rooms can be created by any user and can center on any given topic. As the rooms are predominantly interest or topic-driven, users are presented with an incredible community-building opportunity. Additionally, with the intimate nature of the app's early stages, users are afforded high chances of networking, connection, experimentation, and learning.
When opening the app, users are met with a "hallway". This main landing page is an amalgamation of chat rooms that are currently happening that match up to the users interests. A set of algorithms read a users profile and try to suggest the most promising topics - the longer someone is on the app the better.
When entering a chat room, there are three tiers: speakers (which users commonly refer to as "the stage"), audience members followed by the speakers, and general audience. If a speaker has a green emoji next to their name it signifies that the user is a moderator of the conversation. Moderators have to power to pull others up on stage and are responsible for propelling the conversation.
Clubhouse is currently operating as invite only, which is brilliant for so many reasons. This allowed the creators to start off slowly, and organically build out the app over time. Beginning with a small group of beta testers, the founders could see what worked, what didn't, and what needed to be adjusted. Naturally, users who enjoyed the app would continue using it and invite their friends to use it. The app found a way to spread through word of mouth, which is an impressive feat. Personal invitations carry much more weight than advertising. This also creates a sort of inaccessibility - you can't just download and join, you have to know someone. Naturally, we as human beings want what we cannot have, instilling a greater sense of desire within the public.
In limiting the number of invitations users are given it also places a sort of pressure on who users choose to send invitations to. It's a sort of implicit pressure to bring individuals of a certain calibre, people who will use and improve the app. Furthermore, including who a user was invited by on their profile is a fascinating addition that works in a number of ways. On one hand, users are given credit for who they invite. This promotes inviting people one would be proud to have on the app. Hell yeah I would want credit for inviting Beyonce! It also increases accountability when sending invitations. It acts to dissuade users from inviting anyone who could be viewed as a liability - would you want your name tied to someone who breaks rules and harasses people?
Through choosing the have the app be invite only, Clubhouse eliminated marketing and promotional costs. Why would they spend money right now to promote an app not everyone can get on to? They have built a billion dollar platform without spending money on marketing. Without the app even being open to the public, they already have over two million active users. Beyond this, they have over two million active users and have not created an interface for Android or desktop yet. This means that everyone who is currently using the platform is doing so on an iPhone.
While the app is currently invite only, I still strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in checking it out download the app and make an account. Individuals are still able to claim usernames now even if you can't join immediately. Additionally, if you already have a number of contacts on the app, often times they will be able to "let you in" as soon as you sign up.
One thing I immediately noticed was the insanely high audience retention time. Basically this is a fancy way of saying that once you get someone on the app they stay on for extended periods of time. This is what YouTube uses in order to select which content to push to audiences. I would also venture that this will become incredibly important once brands begin using Clubhouse to market. In the first room I joined, one user said they'd been in the room for eight hours already. The other night I was in a room with a number of incredible YouTube content creators and I spent two and a half hours listening in as they discussed networking and content tips. When brands begin infiltrating the app, the undivided attention of audiences will absolutely come at a cost.
Clubhouse is in the midst of connecting individuals all over the world. Soon, if I wanted to practice my Spanish, I would be able to listen in on Spanish speaking rooms. When done carefully, this app can expose the general public to experiences and stories very different from their own. When moderated correctly, conversations will be a diversified group. This past week a Jewish member brought a Holocaust survivor onto the app to speak on their life. Thousands of people listened in, a feat that before was much less accessible to the general world.
I also find it incredible that the founders of the app have found ways to utilize the platform in order to improve it. Every Sunday there is a town hall where questions are answered, highlights are celebrated, and updates are explained. In a recent town hall the creators spoke on how they planned to roll out an initiative soon in order to get speakers compensated for leading rooms. This will add to the value of the app and increase general interest.
However, there are quite a few unknowns looking forward. How will the platform be impacted once the pandemic is more under control and general life resumes? How will the dynamic of the platform change as everyone is allowed to join, not just those who are invited? Furthermore, how will the app change when younger generations flock to the app for the opportunity to interact with their favorite Tik Tok stars? Will important conversations, like the panel led by the Holocaust survivor, begin to be archived so that they can live on forever?
If everything is handled correctly, I believe we could have the next big social platform right in front of us. What do you think?
Check out the full video of my thoughts: