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May 20 2021

The Rise and Fall of Clubhouse

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Clubhouse is the invite-only audio app that drove the social media world into a live audio-frenzy. Throughout 2020 and the beginning of 2021, Clubhouse was the place to be for trending conversations, insightful discussions and general business advice. Described as the “first AirPods social network” and “Zoom with a community”, Clubhouse initially experienced massive growth and download rates, with 10 million users downloading in February alone, despite only being available on iOS. 

Its popularity with consumers presented irresistible opportunities to brands who wanted to get in touch with their audiences in a more instant and personal way. Brands from all types of industries have hosted their own rooms and discussions or partnered with moderators and speakers to bring their brand to new audiences. 

In order to keep the authenticity of Clubhouse, the app developed its own creator program. Clubhouse Creator First provides select creators with equipment (if required), development support and brand sponsorship opportunities. The aim of the program is to help chosen creators create high quality content that will result in the creator being able to monetize their conversations. To help encourage creators outside of the program to make high quality content, Clubhouse introduced “Tips”, where listeners can tip their favourite creators.

Clubhouse

Considering the live and in-the-moment nature of Clubhouse conversation rooms and the sheer number of users in early 2021, Clubhouse was a great online space for brands to make announcements. This was the case with the NFL—the NFL partnered with Clubhouse to create a dedicated Club for live football-related conversations in Draft Week. Fans could drop into Clubs to follow live announcements, listen to exclusive conversations with athletes and coaches and be invited on-stage to ask questions. 

The success of the disruptive app caused other social media platforms to start working on their own versions or develop existing live features in order to compete. Facebook created its own audio suite called Live Audio Rooms; the feature is currently being tested in Taiwan. Taiwan is one of Facebook’s markets where public figures often interact freely with their Facebook followers. Following the initial testing stages, Facebook will integrate Live Audio Rooms into Groups and add its Stars feature so creators can monetise their audio content.

Clubhouse

Instagram has heavily developed its Live features to introduce group Lives and add the ability to turn cameras and microphones on and off mid livestream. This development gives hosts more flexibility during livestreams and removes the pressure of having to constantly look and sound a certain way; it provides creators with the chance to engage with their followers more freely. 

In order to keep up with the rising competition, Clubhouse finally developed a version for Android users. Clubhouse has been testing its Android version in the US and launched in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand last week. Android users in Japan, Brazil and Russia were first offered the app on 18th May, and it will be available to the rest of the world throughout 21st May. 

However, is Clubhouse’s move to Android too little, too late?

Why was Clubhouse a success?

1. It provided access to celebrities

One of the main reasons Clubhouse was popular with users was its ease of access to celebrities, CEOs and thought leaders. CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, hyped the app on Twitter and it became one of Apple’s most downloaded apps overnight. Since his promotion of the app, a seemingly endless list of celebs, entrepreneurs and politicians could be found on the app discussing a wide range of topics. Users could listen to Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Justin Bieber, Jared Leto, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others.

Clubhouse allowed fans to listen to and occasionally interact with (if they were brought on stage) with their favourite celebrities. Furthermore, the conversations were exclusive given their live nature. Clubhouse doesn’t record it’s rooms or conversations, so once they’re gone, they’re gone.

2. It offered a unique service and valuable content

Clubhouse, at its inception, was a relatively unique app. It’s main selling point that differentiated it from other social networks was its live audio nature. Clubhouse was an ideal space for people to talk and exchange ideas with no distractions like video streams. Regular Clubhouse users say that being in a room with a select few VIPs, and only hearing important people speak, feels much more intimate and engaging than other social platforms.

The moderators in chat rooms meant conversations were organised and productive. Hosts could mute and unmute speakers and participants had to raise their hands before being approved by hosts to speak. This keeps rooms relevant and more topics could be covered. However, users could also just sit back and enjoy the conversations if they wanted to.

3. It was exclusive

Clubhouse is an invite-only app, meaning someone who already has access to the app needs to send their friends a link so they can join too. This simple task created an illusion of exclusivity to Clubhouse. Paired with the fact Clubhouse doesn’t allow users to record chat rooms, users on Clubhouse were given access to limited edition and app-exclusive announcements, discussions and advice.

The invite-only model also means users had a higher chance of meeting and talking to like-minded people—very similar to being part of an exclusive club.

Why is Clubhouse’s popularity falling?

In April, the Clubhouse app was only downloaded 900,000 times—a significant drop from it’s 10 million downloads in February. In addition to this, Clubhouse has reportedly experienced a nearly 70% decrease in average monthly users. But why is this?

1. It was a pandemic-driven fad

Unfortunately for Clubhouse, the likelihood is because it is considered a fad. According to a Business Insider poll, 88% of 5,000 participants no longer used Clubhouse because it was a fad. 

Even though it is now available to Android users, many believe Clubhouse was such a hit over the pandemic because many of us were starved for conversation with other people. As life returns back to somewhat of a normality, people have lost the spare time they would have had to listen to Clubhouse conversations. Clubhouse’s live nature means listeners can’t listen on-demand like they can with podcasts.

With lockdown restrictions lifting, users can now gather with their friends and have conversations in person—there’s no need to listen to other people converse anymore.

2. Rising competition from established platforms

Many of Clubhouse’s user base will have been snatched up by high-profile competitors (such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) who have also jumped on the audio train. By developing their own audio capabilities, these platforms are shaping themselves into well-rounded social networks that can provide their users with everything they want.

In addition, these platforms are already well established and loved by social media users. They are all accessible meaning anyone can chat with anyone—Twitter’s version of Clubhouse, Spaces, launched recently to all Android and iOS users.

3. Too many notifications

Anyone who has used Clubhouse will likely have experienced the hounding of Clubhouse notifications. While notifications are important (especially considering the live feature), Clubhouse seems to have a notification for every possible app interaction. Clubhouse send a notification: 

– The moment anyone you’ve ever saved in your contacts list joins the app

– When anyone you follow in the app starts a room

-When anyone you follow speaks in a room

– When someone you follow schedules a future conversation

– When a conversation is scheduled for a club you follow

– If someone you know pings you to join a room

Understandably, the more you interact with members, clubs and conversations, the more notifications you will receive. Many users have commented on the bombardment of notifications being a nuisance, and while it is possible to reduce the amount of notifications, it’s not overtly obvious.

4. It has lost its exclusivity

While still running on an invite-only basis, Clubhouse has racked up enough users that it has lost its exclusive status. While the conversations are still live and in-the-moment, there are so many users offering the same information at a more convenient time; no one is worried they’re missing out on exclusive advice, announcements or information.

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