Let's talk about Clubhouse, the new audio-only social app taking Tech Twitter by storm. Not only is the app super addicting & exciting, it provides an interesting social experiment in the wake of one of the most socially deprived periods we've had in recent history. Here are a few quick thoughts on what founders Paul Davidson & Rohan Shah did to make Clubhouse so great and where they may struggle in the future.
In a world of meme stocks and ever-changing trends, we are constantly in a state of FOMO. Clubhouse does a nice job of playing into this, as conversations that take place in the app are as fleeting as their real-life counterparts. The app currently does not have a native recording option and some would say this leads to more freedom of speech. However, this makes things incredibly frustrating if you did not catch the conversation and are forced to read the highlights on Twitter the next day.
COVID has seen the onset of endless Zoom video meetings - we are constantly inundated with digital stimuli like never before. Clubhouse's audio-only experience and boycott of video enables the app to unlock a whole new audience of multitaskers & passive listeners to join in on the conversation.
Clubhouse makes celebrities and influencers more accessible than ever before. You just never know when Elon Musk, Joe Rogan, or Eric Weinstein will drop into your room and jump into the conversation.
As of now, Clubhouse is only allowing invited users to use the app. Creating a closed beta presents two main benefits to the growth of Clubhouse. 1) it creates the feeling of exclusivity - much akin to a long line outside a bustling new nightclub. This is an easy way to add fuel to the fire and create demand for a new app. 2) it allows Clubhouse to carefully shape the content that is created in the app. Users can accrue invites by actively participating in discussions and hosting new rooms, incentivizing usage and therefore driving more attention to the app.
Clubhouse caters to the entertainers, the performers, the orators, the off-the-cuff specialists. The more authentic/interesting/witty you are, the faster you will grow an audience. Human beings are experts at detecting BS and long-form conversations naturally discourage BS. This is one of the many reasons Joe Rogan's podcast has resonated with so many. Surprisingly, that is not the case with every social media we've had so far. We've all seen too many posts from virtue-signalers, status-signalers, clout-chasers, etc. However - on Clubhouse - the only value you create is what comes out of your mouth in the current conversation. There is no record of what you've previously said in other rooms, which grants users of the app the freedom to speak their mind freely, leading to open and honest conversation.
What makes Clubhouse different from other social media platforms – apart from being non-permanent – is that it has completely reduced the latency in which we get feedback on our ideas. This is especially important to stand-up comics, one of the driving factors for the early adoption of the app by comedians such as Leah Lamarr and Tim Dillon. This is familiar territory for them, as comedians have made a living from sharing their ideas on stages and receiving instant feedback from their audience. And now, with countless comedy clubs shut down across the country, they are transferring that same experience to the app. One example of this is "Clubhouse Stand-Up Show", a weekly stand-up open mic hosted by Lamarr, where other comedians can get on "stage" and try out new material for a few minutes. As with each new social media platform, time will only tell which content creators thrive on the new medium.
Clubhouse has already experienced issues with bullying taking place within the app, which is probably why they've been so meticulous with who they let on the platform (when the app first came out, founder Paul Davidson was personally greeting each user after sign up). As the app grows in popularity, so will the number of bad actors, spammers, and AI bots taking away from the user experience. How they handle this will determine how long they will retain their passionate user base.
In addition to spam, Clubhouse will eventually be exposed to the same public scrutiny when it comes to how they handle political censorship within the app. One could argue that audio-only social media platforms allow charismatic leaders to grow their following and spread their ideas faster than ever before. This makes Clubhouse attractive to the same political groups that have been kicked off of other popular social platforms in recent months. There is no doubt that these decisions will only get more difficult as Clubhouse scales their platform and influence.
As life returns to normal and vaccines start rolling out, our human tendencies will also return. We will want to go out to bars & restaurants with our friends, co-workers, and potential business partners again. This may also affect the way we interact online - hence, removing our dependence on audio-only social media. While Clubhouse is eliminating the need to be in the same city as someone to communicate with them, it is 100% still dependent on the amount of social energy we have left in the tank. As in-person social activities resume after COVID, there may not be the same abundance left to spend talking to your phone at the end of your day. It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse positions themselves for these inevitable social changes.
Oh boy, get ready. Clubhouse already has the attention of big tech and they are ready to pounce with the full force of their resources and users. Twitter has already announced their rolled out beta versions of Spaces. Facebook is rumored to be building their own competitor. How they adapt to their users and rollout new features will determine if they are more suited to the fate of MySpace or Facebook.