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The Time Is Right For Clubhouse And Other Social Media Challengers

Social Media

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Every so often, a new app enters the spotlight and it seems that suddenly, everyone is talking about it or using it.

The Clubhouse App is invite-only, so despite being something that most probably cannot access any time soon, it’s making headlines around the world.

What is it exactly, how does it work, and why is it taking the world by storm — despite the fact that most users can’t even access it?

Clubhouse is not the only social media challenger seeing big growth right now, either.

Something is happening out there in the digital realm, previously dominated by a select few social media giants. Click To Tweet

Let’s take a look.

What Is The Clubhouse App?

The Guardian describes The Clubhouse App as being a hybrid of talkback radio, conference call, and Houseparty. It is an audio based social networking app with an interesting twist. Users can listen in on other people’s live conversations like they are podcasts.

Another unique aspect to this social app is exclusivity.

You have to be invited to join. While anyone who’s anyone can log into Twitter or Facebook at will, you cannot access Clubhouse unless an existing member invites you.

And users cannot simply invite just anyone on a whim, with only two invites allowed per Clubhouse account.

How Does Clubhouse Work?

So, once you’ve been invited, what exactly can you do with this app?

You select topics of interest and the app recommends users to follow and live conversation rooms that you can immediately join.

The more information you give the app on what you like, the more options it presents you with.

When you join a conversation room, you’ll find they’re quite similar to a conference call setup.

However, they only feature a few speakers, while the majority of users can only listen in.

Another area of uniqueness for this app is it keeps no record of past conversations. When conversations conclude, the rooms disappear completely for all users, and that is that.

It is an ephemeral social media app, whose content exists solely in the moment as users tune in.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that it is almost impossible to completely erase anything which occurs digitally.

One of the most prominent Clubhouse members right now is Elon Musk, and a YouTuber was caught live streaming his Clubhouse conversations.

The app also publicly showcases in-app connections on your user profile, such as which Clubhouse user invited you to the app.

The Origins of Clubhouse

How has this app gone from one of the only apps to fly beneath the radar of the Chinese Government while enabling free speech in the country for several months, to an international headline maker?

A lot of this has to do with its most famous user, Elon Musk.

However, it is important to note that even before his involvement, the app was growing in popularity. Let’s take a look at its origins.

Clubhouse has actually been around since April 2020. It was initially launched by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth. In spring 2020, it had just 1,500 users, and was worth $100m. However, it currently has millions of users and people are scrambling to buy invites. And it’s not even available for Android devices right now.

Entrepreneurs and elite members of the business community took to The Clubhouse app like water during a drought throughout the height of the Pandemic.

In December 2020, The Clubhouse app had 600,000 registered users. As of February 2021, it has over 6 million and counting. Click To Tweet

The Clubhouse app’s runaway success has social media giants scrambling to implement some of the live audio streaming functionality on their own platform. Discord launched Stage Channels. Twitter released Spaces. Slack, LinkedIn and Spotify are exploring their own live audio capabilities.

It is important to look at how this has happened.

What can we learn from this as app makers and marketers?

Even though it’s one of the buzziest right now, Clubhouse is not the only new social media app making strides.

Mainstream Social Media Has Some Problems

It’s pretty common for people to look at existing things and innovate as a response to their own problems. It is a time-honored entrepreneurial tradition.

For example, the creator of Bumble decided to make a dating app that changed the experience for women, after many women dealt with verbal abuse on Tinder.

While Tinder has been wildly successful globally, that doesn’t mean it’s without issues.

Right now, the main social media players are more or less Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, Twitch, YouTube and Twitter.

WhatsApp is more or less not used in the US at all, but highly popular throughout Europe, South America, and Asia. Many Americans may not even know what it is. Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram, however, are all owned by Facebook. Facebook and its subsidiaries by extension are notorious for their PR missteps when it comes to content moderation and user privacy. The general consensus amongst many users online is that using them is not about fun, and more about ‘Keeping Up With The Jones’.

TikTok’s rise to app super stardom caused many apps to look to replicate its success. Instagram recently unveiled Reels Remix, riffing off of Tiktok’s popular duet feature.

While still wildly popular (and very much still on the rise), TikTok has had its own brushes with controversy — namely due to its Chinese origins.

The Most Common Complaints

Complaints include that the sites are plagued with aggressive ads, sponsored content, spread misinformation, and harm mental health.

Many feel that Facebook is quick to censor POC or female users for posting bikini pictures, but slow to respond to the groups of people who use these platforms to verbally harass others and incite real world violence.

Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch are not problem-free either.

Twitter is infamous for its cancel culture mobs, which have only seemed to grow in fervor during the Pandemic, with many of us shut indoors with minimal outlets amid a strenuous, often chaotic year.

Major publications have been weighing in on these Twitter mobs for years.

Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok have come under fire as well for not doing enough to protect their young users from predators.

YouTube is also known for its lack of transparency on several concerning levels too.

It and Twitch are known to arbitrarily boot, censor, and abandon creators, some of whom LGBTQ+ individuals, and others who all feel moderation rules are unevenly applied.

Innovation Is The Natural Next Step

With any major innovation comes new problems that need to be solved.

Some of these are massive issues, such as collecting and abusing user information on a wide scale. Some of these issues are more subjective or impossible to reconcile.

Different groups of people simply have different ideas about what is offensive and what is acceptable, so it would be impossible for companies to instill policies that please everyone.

For example, right wing social media users made mass migrations to apps like Parler and MeWe because they felt mainstream apps were censoring their free speech.

However, at the same time, if you asked many left wing social media users, they would have likely told you that they are being censored for their views and right wing users are essentially allowed to run free.

Regardless of what the truth is here, large groups of ideologically opposed people both share the opinion that mainstream social media is failing them. Even those who are not part of these groups are looking for other options to escape the drama.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts and gamers have been flocking to Telegram, for example.

What Is The Solution?

This is a tricky question.

It is possible that massive social media apps used by everyone are doomed to fail. It is unlikely to achieve the general consensus that is necessary to achieve harmony within groups that are too large, or composed of too many different communities and idealogies.

You simply cannot please everyone, and that is exactly what major social media companies are expected to do.

It does speak to the need for more niche-driven apps to rise up and fill the void for users seeking more like-minded connection, not controversy.

It may be that smaller, more curated communities organized across different apps is the future of social media. Click To Tweet

In these situations, companies can be more responsive to specific users and meet their needs more effectively.

This is probably a big part of why Clubhouse is all the rage. Their brand presents a carefully cultivated air of exclusivity, at the same time creating a strong sense of FOMO in its would-be users.

Not just anyone can join. But if you do get in, you get to hear from the likes of Elon Musk, up close and unfiltered.

And, you’ve now got bragging rights, having been welcomed into The Clubhouse fold.

This helps to create an actual sense of community, rather than chaos and confusion. Here’s to that feeling lasting!

Final Thoughts

In all of the jargon, drama, money, and data, it is easy to forget why users flock to social media in the first place.

They want to connect with others.

Rather than enabling that, many users feel that social media companies are currently making this complicated, dangerous, and unpleasant.

Think about it.

In an ideal world for social media companies, using their apps and platforms would be a seamless part of life. Instead, reporting on their many mistakes is fueling several digital industries.

There was an entire Netflix documentary featuring the perils of social media on the very fabric of society.

Almost no one is entirely content with how they’re currently doing business.

As there is so much widespread discontent across social media, it’s likely that we will see numerous industry interrupting challengers arrive to try and address these issues.

Clubhouse is definitely a major contender.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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