Has lockdown social media app sensation Clubhouse had its day - or just found its niche?

·3-min read
  (Shutterstock / ViDI Studio)
(Shutterstock / ViDI Studio)

‘When I first joined Clubhouse, the world was still living life in lockdown and the only place we could socialise was online,’ says Simon Alexander Ong, life coach, business strategist and author of new book Energize: Make The Most Of Every Moment. ‘Everyone was talking about it and I spent a lot of time on it exploring rooms, connecting with people living in different countries and contributing to some fascinating discussions.’

Simon’s experience of the social media app is typical – it was a lockdown sensation, connecting people via audio discussions in virtual ‘rooms’ at a time when connecting in person was impossible. Another reason for its popularity was its enticing exclusivity – you initially had to be invited to join. Elon Musk entering the ‘house also boosted its profile. It became a key destination to meet new people and for businesses to engage with others from all over the world. Influencers came on board too, making money by hosting rooms on behalf of brands.

Clubhouse was launched in March 2020 on the Apple app store – just as the Covid pandemic took grip of the world – the brainchild of Stanford university graduates Rohan Seth and Paul Davison. By June 2021, it was valued at $4bn and clocked up a whopping 9m downloads. Late last year, however, monthly downloads had fallen to less than 1m, according to app analytics company App Annie (Clubhouse disputes this figure, saying it was 1.8m). What is clear is that as Covid restrictions eased and normal life resumed, people didn’t have the same time to spend on the app. I know people who were spending four hours per day on Clubhouse – clearly this isn’t sustainable.

The Clubhouse app (Clubhouse)
The Clubhouse app (Clubhouse)

But the download figures don’t tell the full story - Clubhouse still has a lot to offer for both individuals and businesses. It underlines the importance of voice as a successful marketing medium. Listening to someone’s voice you can tell so much - do we trust them? Are they knowledgeable, inspiring, entertaining or a just a great person to know? Hearing someone speak about their specialism makes us more inclined to connect and engage than if we are presented with a headshot and a written piece.

Ashley Shipman, James Burtt and Paul Abercrombie, founders of The Winners Club Clubhouse community, have a following of 40,000; the majority SME founders who engage with their tactical, actionable business content. Consistency is key to achieving such numbers, says Ashley. ‘We have done almost 400 daily “breakfast shows”, starting at the same time each day. We decided to treat the platform like a radio station and create programmed content format that would encourage listeners to come back daily.’

It seems Clubhouse has found its niche – or perhaps every niche in the world has found Clubhouse. There is truly something for everyone. Ukraine Sitrep room promises objective information the war and reached 1m unique user across Ukraine and Russia in just 50 days. The self-help trend for manifesting means The Secret Law Of Attraction room had 518 people hanging out in it last time I checked. And lazy teens might be interested in one called Please Help Me Finish My Homework. As for author Simon Alexander Ong, ‘I don’t use it as much now, ‘ he says. ‘But when I do, I’m using it far more strategically to share news about my book. It’s still a great place to connect.’

So what’s next? There have inevitably been other entrants into the social audio space (everyone’s getting a private room now, it seems) such as Spotify Live (formerly Greenroom), LinkedIn Audio Rooms, Twitter Spaces and Amazon’s upcoming live radio app Amp. Clubhouse, meanwhile, is evolving, launching new features such as search and scheduling tools. It’s (still) good to talk.

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