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In a year that probably sucked for the majority Clubhouse triumphed over most despite the strange new world coming to light around us. Launching its live audio app amid a troubling worldwide pandemic in which it was sorely needed for communication meant it rose to popularity like wildfire. The invite-only, iOS-only quickly had over 10 million downloads. The success it saw was envied and clearly coveted enough, and now it appears every other social platform wants in on it.

Face-to-Face vs Clubhouse

However now the company is facing its biggest challenge so far. First of all, the pandemic is waning and now people are more interested to actually communicate face-to-face rather than through the phone. However, as Ashley Carmen put it at theverge Clubhouse competition could come from absolutely anyone without little effort and soon there will be tonnes of platforms that will be facilitating online audio chat. In case you haven’t heard of it, such giants as Twitter, Facebook (reportedly), LinkedIn, Discord, Spotify, Mark Cuban, and Slack have all launched or are currently working on their own attempts at social audio. Which means the space will get pretty busy.

Clubhouse

And as Ashley postulated on Twitter last February, social audio could wind up falling prey to Snapchat’s Stories function trajectory. When that first arose it was an awesome idea that changed social media interaction. It was quickly adopted by just about every other app and detrimentally so, to the company that pioneered the idea. So the concern for Clubhouse being swindled in the same manner is very real, especially as the post-pandemic world emerges. And social audio is shaping up to go that way. With the threat developing, it’s worth looking at where Clubhouse might actually run into problems.

Cubhouse is a shooting star and it’s wonderful

Yet, firstly: what does Clubhouse have going for it? It was the first social media that introduced us to social audio and that’s already something. There are already millions of users signed up to get access to social content, including headline-grabbing names like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and other celebrities. To add insult to injury, the Clubhouse platform itself is even being used by Tech CEOs giants to announce their own copycat projects! One example is, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield who is developing a similar audio app. His however will generate news and discussions bringing something new to the table that will perhaps be a little more difficult to replicate for everyone else.

Fortunately, in terms of user retention Clubhouse has a few attributes that may keep its client base loyal to it. People have built habits within and around the app, which is promising at least. 

The team behind it still has a few tricks left with plans to launch a creators program. This next-step venture should see users provided with extra resources for their future shows and the ability to make their own revenue.

Staff expansion

Another important measure the team has taken has been to expand its staff.  staffed up in just the past month. The company is rumored to have welcomed Fadia Kader to the team. The Instagram specialist has plenty of experience helping musicians to optimize their presence on IG. She will now lead the media partnership for Clubhouse with its creators and will no doubt make a big difference there in a similar manner. She has some great contacts and the know-how to push Clubhouse to higher heights. Not so long ago, Clubhouse has recruited Maya Watson from Netflix as their head of global marketing. This means, rather than relying primarily on word of mouth it’ll soon dedicate resources to promoting Clubhouse. These are all important steps to keeping Clubhouse interesting and thriving. 

But with some of the world’s biggest platforms, vying for competition Clubhouse could face issues. These social media giants have plenty of moderation experience and aren’t exclusive to iOS operation. They also have huge, existing user bases to push social audio features too. Some companies have already begun implementing social audio features live to millions. Twitter and Discord are two such companies and they are effectively employing a near-identical interface. So, if you didn’t have an exclusive Clubhouse invite or you lack an iPhone, social audio access is available to just about anyone without the need for Clubhouse association anyway.

It is clearly a dangerous possibility that Clubhouse could lose some of the big names that its platform previously has hosted once the bigger companies get the ball well and truly rolling. Spotify has already acquired Betty Labs who run Locker Room, a social app geared towards the sport-centric out there. They plan to give the app a revamp, a name change, and make it available on Android widening its coverage. It will no longer be just sports-focused and instead will include music and cultural offerings. Joe Rogan has been a presence on Clubhouse as a podcaster and despite Spotify stating that they won’t be looking to restrict hosts from using other social apps, the loyalty will eventually shift as time goes on. Such musicians as Bieber, who might have come to Clubhouse to debut music, now may turn to Spotify’s app instead to maintain relationships with the streaming giant. Celebrity allegiance plays a huge role in these matters, you may remember that Kylie Jenner tweeted that she rarely uses Snapchat, which actually resulted in a $1.3 billion revenue dop for the company. Clubhouse currently has a lot of VIP users but if the likes of Tiffany Haddish opt to go elsewhere, Clubhouse may find that the crowd simply follows suit.

Clubhouse needs to develop functionality

Some of Clubhouse’s competitors have specific interests in podcasting and on-demand listening. So it is unsurprising that they are looking to integrate a social audio feature. Clubhouse hasn’t really cornered the podcast market properly, unlike Fireside for example which has sound-effect input options, etc. Users of Fireside (co-founded by Mark Cuban can add music, effects, and record shows for a range of podcasting platforms. They can also use the Fireside app itself for later retrieval and playback. It sounds like Spotify will be doing a similar thing, utilizing its Anchor software for the hosting and distribution side of things. Twitter’s recently told The Verge that it was also moving towards letting its user base record natively in its Spaces. As for now, Clubhouse hasn’t developed such functionality, so its users can only join live chats which can be confusing to follow at times, if they join them midway through. Under live circumstances, every live platform suffers the same challenges in that respect. Clubhouse and its competitors need to work on some means of resolving it.

As we mentioned, Stories made Snapchat a huge success pioneering ephemeral content and authenticity on social media but once others embraced the format it was all downhill from there. Clubhouse now faces the same challenge. Snapchat had to work seriously hard to counter the move doubling down on its Android app, with a strong redesign, and aggressive marketing bolstered by forging content partnerships with other media and entertainment companies. It expanded its reach and competed with TikTok directly with Spotlight paying users revenue for their content and pushed its business advertisement campaigns. Despite all this effort, Instagram probably fared best with its Stories addition. As yet Clubhouse doesn’t push any ads or subscriptions, but that will likely come as they clamor to stay a self-supported platform. (Interestingly, though that its competitors, such as Facebook, already rule ad targeting, which is possibly making Clubhouse’s job of selling ads or access to the platform itself tougher.)

That said, the pilfering of social audio from Clubhouse to other platforms isn’t necessarily the nail in the coffin. If Clubhouse manages to keep itself on everybody’s lips and strengthen what it has then the format could still thrive.

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