Clubhouse: The New Frontier of Social Media
How is the content, product, and ecosystem driving growth
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Clubhouse has been around for a while now, but of late, it has started to permeate our culture.
For those living under a rock or on Android (don’t hate me, I'm an Android user too!), Clubhouse is an audio-only social network founded in 2020 and invested in by a16z.
It’s currently got 8M users, but it’s poised for much more. The early users have been from two disparate spaces — tech and hip hop. It was interesting to see their worlds collide. Now, it’s expanding outwards to other demographics across countries.
I know that a lot has already been written (and said) about Clubhouse, but I wanted to unpack my experience of the last few weeks on how the content, product, and ecosystem are driving its growth. Let’s go!
Three types of content that stood out for me were interview talk shows, casual conversations, and the pitching rooms. There might be more formats than these, but this is what I have consumed the most so far:
Interview talk shows
‘The Good Time Show’ by Sriram K. and Aarthi R. is one of the most well-known shows. In this format, there are a few moderators and few guests with usually no audience participation, given that the famous person is really busy.
This format gives the vibe of a free-flowing podcast and easily the most highly ‘produced’ out of all the types of content.
Elon Musk, Steve Ballmer, Ben Thompson on The Good Time show
Startup Bharat with Naval Ravikant and Balaji S.
Casual conversations are the ones in which Clubhouse really stands out. It is the kind of coffee shop, chai tapri (tea stall), or “clubhouse” conversations.
Bangalore startup scene and what Hardik Pandya is doing with the Indian Design Club
I always wondered if moving from a tech city like Bangalore back home to Bombay would lessen the network effects. But with Twitter and Clubhouse (and of course, the pandemic), I don’t feel that I'm missing out.
Indian comedians like Kunal Kamra are hosting rooms for general chat on news and politics.
It's useful to get a lens on topics and issues that people outside your bubble face.
Jumping into a room with Sahil Lavingia and unfiltered conversations
It really felt like I was in the same room as Sahil - exactly what a Clubhouse would allow you to do. It felt so refreshing to hear his thoughts on the questions asked.
Pitch rooms address the matching problem. Find partners, co-founders, or employees. Matching previously was always pixels on a screen - either in text, images, or video. Now pitching is through audio rooms where people pitch to each other.
Shoot your shot
This is personally nerve wracking for me, but props to the people who can do this. Sometimes it is cringe, but sometimes it is excellent, like the one pitched to Li-jin.
For hiring and startups:
Founders Pitch Fair in the Startup Club
Pitch on Clubhouse and continue the conversation on Twitter and Instagram DMs.
What Clubhouse excels at in the content:
It humanizes the person and the discussion
Talking adds nuance; text doesn’t convey tone
Gives opportunity for historically marginalized folks to participate and lead discussions
Product driving Growth
So, what are the product features that are driving growth?
You might disagree with their methods, but they’re working. In fact, there is no option to stop notifications; you can just pause them for a week. Unless you go deep into the settings app and turn off notifications altogether
FOMO as a service
Room limits drive FOMO
Elon Musk is coming on Clubhouse? Good luck finding a spot.I’m in a fourth overflow room for @elonmusk's interview on @joinClubhouse because the first three rooms are full 😅
While it may have been set for technical limitations, it turns out to be a feature and not a bug.
Synchronous nature drives FOMO, especially with no recordings.
So, you’re either a part of the conversation or not.
Then, there are the non-product content features:
Clubhouse founders doing weekly onboardings, dropping in on random rooms and participating
The attention that the founders are providing gives a good indication of its future success. This one is hard to fake.
Elon Musk can move markets, he can surely move the growth trajectory of a social media app.
a16Z's media might
A16z is less a VC company and more a media company. With its investments in Substack, Clubhouse and many more - it is the financial and influential figure behind its success.
You know you have a successful product when people are building an ecosystem around it, like:
Event pages - Luma
Bio generators (this one is hilarious)
Recorder - Clubrecorder (Fellow ODNC’er Toby Allen is pushing the envelope with this product)
New Paradigm of Social Media
The rise of Clubhouse brings me back to the iconic essay on 'Status as a service' by Eugene Wei. Rashi also talks about this in detail in her piece on Clubhouse in her newsletter.
To summarize, there are two principles:
People are status seeking monkeys
People seek out the most efficient path to maximizing social capital
If you missed the early wave of Twitter, Instagram, YouTube — Clubhouse offers that efficient path to maximize social capital. There are folks who have been on the app for 6 months now, having 1M+ followers.
It is eating into my time spent on podcasts and YouTube, and whether it is through Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces, the format is here to stay.
📘 Read of the week: What I worked on - Paul Graham (62 minutes)
That's it for today, thanks for reading!
What do you think about Clubhouse? Comment below and I'll reply to you. Give feedback and vote on the next topic here.
Talk to you soon!
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Great issue, I love the parallels that people are making about CH at the moment. And really curious about how Twitter spaces will do