Social audio is suddenly the hot topic when it comes to social media. I think it’s great, because for the first time in at least 5 years, it feels like there’s some new to talk about in social media!
Social audio itself isn’t that new. Gamers have been using group chat functionality in apps such as Discord and Line for a few years now. But the idea of loading an app and having an audio chat with others is gaining momentum due to the explosive growth of Clubhouse.
Clubhouse really came along at the right time. So much of business success is due to simply being in the right place at the right time, and Clubhouse has become the app that a quarantined populace didn’t realize it needed, till we got it. What Clubhouse does is let you join chat rooms, where people can actually talk to one another! You join the chat room, and you can HEAR people talking, one at a time (ideally). You can even talk yourself, or create your own room, public or private.
Clubhouse launched in April of 2020. I didn’t start hearing anyone in my network really talking about Clubhouse till around October or so, and by the end of January, it seemed like everyone was on the app.
Clubhouse’s growth is going to have a ripple effect throughout social media. First, it will pull people off other social media apps. I’m noticing a lot of people that are active on Clubhouse saying that they are spending less time as a result on Twitter. Now I do think Instagram is actually benefiting a bit from Clubhouse taking off. Clubhouse doesn’t have a native functionality that lets you send a private message to another user. You can create a private audio room to chat, but you can’t yet private message them. To get around this, Clubhouse users are adding their Instagram and Twitter accounts to their Clubhouse profiles, and encouraging people to DM them on Instagram or Twitter if they want to talk privately. I am seeing more people on Clubhouse pushing DMs via Instagram than Twitter.
Second, the rising popularity of Clubhouse is going to lead to another company potentially buying Clubhouse, or at least trying to create their own version, adding social audio functionality to an existing site. Facebook is reportedly already working on a Clubhouse clone.
Will this put the squeeze on Clubhouse? https://t.co/trPeuZcq8N
— Social Media Today (@socialmedia2day) February 12, 2021
There’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not Clubhouse will last. I think what a lot of these pundits are missing is what Clubhouse will look like when everyone has access to it. Right now, the vast majority of Clubhouse’s members are early digital adopters, who have an iOS device. For those of you who are long-time social media users, do you remember what Twitter was like circa 2008 or 2009? Then do you remember what happened a couple of years later when the media and celebrities all discovered Twitter and took over? The experience on Twitter completely changed because the user base completely changed. The same thing will happen with Clubhouse. Maybe the change won’t be as drastic, but the experience we have on Clubhouse right now will NOT be the one we will always experience. For better or worse. We need to see what the environment on Clubhouse looks like after this growth spurt ends and when it gets rolled out to everyone to get a better sense of its long-term viability.
Now the obligatory ‘Should my business be on Clubhouse?’ portion of the post
This is one of the most common questions that all business owners or marketers want to know, if they should be on Clubhouse and will it help their business. I think the answer is ‘it depends’. First, you have to remember that Clubhouse is currently in a closed beta. That means the only way you can get on Clubhouse, is for a current user to send you an invite. Also, Clubhouse is currently only available if you have an iPhone or iPad. They are working on adding Android access, but that could be months away.
There’s a dirty little secret when it comes to social media hype: Pay more attention to what actual users of the social media platform say, and less to what marketers say. Marketers love to overhype any new social media site or app, and Clubhouse is no different. They go there, build a following, then proclaim it is the next big deal, so they look like a big deal for being a part of the next big deal. What’s different about Clubhouse is, a lot of users have been there for months, and some have already built massive followings.
So you’re seeing a lot of people with big followings on Twitter go to Clubhouse and host rooms with 30 people in them. While the guy that has 500 followers on Twitter has gone to Clubhouse and built a following of 100k, and they are hosting rooms with a thousand people. It’s actually one of the things I like about Clubhouse, that different voices and perspectives are being highlighted. You’re not just seeing the same guys with big Twitter or Facebook followings going to Clubhouse and getting the same traction. The influence on other platforms isn’t easily translating to Clubhouse, you have to work on it to build a following.
Having said all that, I do think there is an opportunity for certain business owners to make hay on Clubhouse. I’m seeing a lot of business coaches, PR agencies and a lot of influencers making moves on Clubhouse. On the other hand, if you are the CMO for a fast-moving consumer goods company, I don’t think you have a lot of opportunities to sell directly on Clubhouse. I think the way to approach Clubhouse is as a channel to meet new people and learn from industry experts. I’m having a lot of fun doing both, if you are on Clubhouse, please follow me, my name is @mackcollier, same name and avatar as on Twitter.
What is the future of social audio?
So we know that the popularity of Clubhouse is going to drive bigger social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to attempt to copy its social audio format, or buy Clubhouse outright. One of the key issues with Clubhouse is that the conversations in the rooms aren’t recorded. So if you aren’t in the room, you don’t know what’s being said and have no way to review what was said. Perhaps this will lead to Clubhouse offering recordings as a premium service down the road.
The reality is that both Twitter and Facebook are seeing a userbase that’s increasingly frustrated with the platforms, and looking for something new. It’s part of the reason why sites like Clubhouse, Parler and Gab saw such growth in late 2020, because Twitter and Facebook users were looking for other places to spend their time. Both Twitter and Facebook will be focusing on getting users back in 2021, you’re already seeing Twitter buy newsletter site Revue as a play to keep users on the platform. Incorporating social audio functionality will be part of their plan for winning back users and bringing in new ones.
I don’t think your company should be diving headfirst into social audio and apps like Clubhouse, at least not yet. Having said that, you should absolutely check out Clubhouse if you have an iOS device and you should be keeping up with the monetization moves that the bigger social media platforms make this year. 2021 will be a very volatile year for social media, and that will create some opportunities for your business.