Cloubhouse app

Real time conversions via audio in an app that brought together the general public with the likes of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and a swag of celebrities who couldn’t wait to get on top of the next big digital thing in the middle of a global pandemic.

So what went wrong?

1. Live audio is a feature, not an app

2. Marketers ruin everything

3. Something else was the next big thing

Live audio wasn’t new, innovative, or even wanted

Live audio is not an app

While 30 million people flocked to Clubhouse, today you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of million people on it now. And they’re not very active anymore. And one main reason is that what Clubhouse did wasn’t anything new.

It was essentially talkback radio through your phone. Not exactly ground-breaking. Not that any of us saw it that way at the time. And to be fair, this app was pitched at a generation that hadn’t exactly been served by traditional talkback radio that tended to be aimed at angry, ageing, middle-class white men who felt marginalised by a changing society.

As Clubhouse gained in popularity, other platforms started rolling out their own live audio features. First, there were the copycat apps like Fireside and Stereo. Then Twitter added live audio. And Facebook soon announced they would do the same. And then LinkedIn, probably the one network that could really benefit from this, jumped on board.

By this time, Clubhouse fatigue was starting to set in on the early adopters. If you weren’t online when something compelling happened, you missed out. If you weren’t in the California, New York or London time zones, you missed a lot. By the time sun was shining over Australia, all the best stuff was over and done. At least talkback radio records their highlight for podcasts. Clubhouse was 100% here today at 1 pm and gone by 2 pm.

The features of Clubhouse became obstacles to its mass growth amongst everybody but marketers. And they, I believe became the true downfall of Clubhouse.

Marketers ruined Clubhouse (just like we ruin everything)

Marketers ruin everything

Facebook was a lot of fun back in the early days. Connecting with old friends, playing silly farm games with new friends, and watching funny videos. And then it became a business marketing platform and the ads that appeared felt a little too creepy to those of us who didn’t understand remarketing and contextual advertising.

While Clubhouse never quite reached the point of monetisation before it began to implode, it became overrun by Bitcoin bros, Influencers seeking fame and marketers trying to build their lists and sales funnels.

I hopped into Clubhouse hoping to offer fun chats about business growth challenges, idea collaboration and support for those struggling with some of the things I had skills in. I guess I was hoping to be something of an early small business influencer on the platform. But each time I’d open a room, other marketers, influencers and social media managers hoping to hock their wares would flood in and within a few minutes, we’d have thirty experts and two question askers. It wasn’t fun for the listeners, the experts or me. After about a month of hopping on and off, looking for an opportunity to turn Clubhouse into something of a channel, I gave up. The land grab for popularity, rooms and clubs had descended into a “Who’s That” of get-rich-quick gurus, crystal-waving energy healers and motivational speakers quoting their own books.

The interesting conversations seemed too hard to find, the big rooms were too full of American accents and every third room seemed to be about how to make money on Clubhouse. It was a cesspool of spammers and scammers.

It turns out that something else was the next big thing

Something else was the next big thing

Clubhouse was not the next big thing we thought it might be. While it seemed perfectly pitched at a pandemic audience hungry for human connection, it fell from popularity very quickly. The universe hates a vacuum though, and those same people who flooded onto Clubhouse didn’t just disappear.

If you follow social platforms as closely as I do, you might have noticed that there was suddenly a rush of marketers and wannabe influencers back on to Instagram Reels which was really starting to pick up momentum on the heels of TikTok. And those same people were starting to pick up on the fledgling YouTube Shorts as well. Not that I think they are doing very well yet, but a million marketers who are hungry for something to replace their previous favourite platform must go somewhere and try something. So, it was back to short-form video. And that seems to be where they are staying for now.

Which begs the question… what’s next? There are some brave marketers who are heading for very niche networks in fandom (like gaming, pop culture and fantasy forums and apps) and while there is no obvious monetisation there just yet, they are trying out some cool stuff that is way out of my pay grade to understand just yet. There’s also a lot of moves into the idea of the “metaverse” which translates as something like virtual worlds. For those who remember Second Life, a similar concept called Soul has emerged from China where people are creating avatars and exploring “worlds” full of people with similar interests. It’s something that Facebook is exploring as well.

What does all this mean to the average Aussie small business? Not a whole lot yet. Things like fandom and metaverses are well beyond all but the most cashed-up marketing agencies and big brands for now. But there’s still a lot of untapped potential in Instagram Reels, Stories and IGTV, a tonne of space to do creative things on TikTok and heaps of room on YouTube to be doing some very effective small business marketing.

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Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Treeti Business Consulting, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.