Clubhouse could be the next big thing in social media

Suzie Shaw, managing director at We Are Social, ponders whether the newcomer on the social networking scene could become a big player.

You might have heard about the ambitious newcomer in the social space, Clubhouse, and thought “do we really need another social network?” Well, as Australians now spend a third of their time online using social media and are early movers with newer platforms like TikTok and Twitch*, it looks like there definitely is an appetite for what’s next.

Clubhouse is a new interest-based social network, with a unique twist: it is entirely focused on real-time audio and, unlike other platforms, doesn’t feature any text, images or videos. They define the app as “a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations” about topics users are passionate about. By joining ‘rooms’ created around interests, members can tune into conversations with strangers from around the world about common interests, expand their network, and have impromptu, serendipitous hangouts with thought leaders and celebrities. Right now, the app is still in beta, only available for iOS devices, and invite-only, which seems to be driving its frenzied rate of recruitment.

Clubhouse launched in March 2020, and quickly achieved a US$100 million valuation with just 1,500 users; less than a year later, it is now a unicorn, valued at US$1 billion. Most of its exponential growth has come in the past two months, as it went from a few thousand users to three million in January 2021, and has crossed six million registered users as of 1 February – after Elon Musk tweeted to his 46.2 million followers that he was going to be a guest of the Good Time show on Clubhouse. A truly impressive success, so much so that it has already been banned in China – joining the ranks of giants like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, all blocked by the Great Firewall; and, unsurprisingly, Facebook is already working on replicating its core functionalities.

Celebrities have been instrumental in raising awareness and interest in Clubhouse, with Oprah Winfrey, Paris Hilton, Tiffany Haddish, Drake, Kanye West, and even Mark Zuckerberg showing up on the app. Clubhouse itself has done an excellent job of giving visibility to their hosts. In fact, with each major app update, the app icon changes to spotlight one of the many members of the community, giving further visibility to its creators: in the past few weeks it was LA-based @IamBomaniX, host of the Cotton Club; now it has changed to feature @iamaxelm, a singer-songwriter from Mauritius, host of the Lullaby Club, where he sings the world to sleep every night. There’s currently no mechanism for Clubhouse to monetise the app, but it’s anticipated it will soon evolve to help creators on the platform get paid – including subscriptions, tipping and ticket sales, and a Creator Grant Program.

Clubhouse provides an interesting and unique space for brands and offers a number of different ways to establish a presence; a brand could collaborate with influencers on the app to create branded audio content. For example, Woolworths could co-create a format on fresh food, with a foodie. Since brands can sponsor an existing session, Westpac could identify a room focused on finance. Or a brand could host a cultural conversation about their services or category, so for example, Audi could convene a conversation about the future of energy. Or a brand could even craft their own weekly conversations by creating rooms featuring thought leadership and hosting open discussions with their communities. I’d certainly tune in to hear Netflix talk about the latest entertainment on their platform.

And finally, thanks to its two-way nature, Clubhouse could become an interesting forum for consumer research, as it provides an informal space for discussing relevant topics and gathering valuable feedback and insights in the process.

Given the rapid rate of penetration and people’s general sense of ‘screen fatigue’, there’s every chance Clubhouse could be the next big thing. So why not jump on and request an invite?

Suzie Shaw is managing director of We Are Social.

*Digital 2021 Australia, We Are Social & Hootsuite


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