A few learnings about the hypest social in town.
Unless you have been living in a secret bunker waiting for the pandemic apocalypse or in a secluded 240sqm water mill in the middle of the woods of the Marche region (aware I am getting quite specific here), you might have heard of Clubhouse in the past few weeks.
If not, these are the 5 basic things you need to know to sustain a conversation in your next Zoom happy hour chat:
- Clubhouse is a new social media platform based on audio;
- It has been launched in the spring of 2020, when a good chunk of the world population was starting to struggle with “screen fatigue”;
- Initially it attracted Silicon Valley folks, its fame then spread to US comedians and it is now reaching Europe. Elon Musk recently had a live session on it with Vlad Tenev, CEO of Robinhood (if you don’t know who I am referring to, you must be aware I really envy your water mill: can you keep goats? and beehives? it must be lovely, can I come visit?);
- It works on iPhone only;
- You need to get invited to access and all the cool kids are on it. If you are not, pretend you have an Android phone or you are not interested because of data privacy concerns or lack of puppies (both very valid reasons).
I got invited by my tech novelties and trends dealer Stefano Maggi, who hosted the inception session: “Discussing social audio on social audio”.
In order to be prepared to talk on this virtual stage, I spent quite some time on the platform lurking around, joining random rooms and listening to literally
E V E R Y T H I N G was happening there (I do have an issue with overachievement, I admit).
Here my first impressions, predigested in easy bullet points:
- US is way ahead in terms of content and usage of the platform (no kidding).
While American chat rooms are broadcasting shows quite similar to radio stations, with talks, interviews, games and (wait for it) content, their European counterparts did not get over yet the fact that they finally got admitted to Clubhouse. Hence an endless sequence of rooms done by my fellow compatriots feeling the need to use the microphone to basically convey the urgent message “we are on Clubhouse ergo we are cool”.
- You cannot escape your bubble.
If you thought this platform might have given you the opportunity to witness something new, virtually escape from your curfew and lockdown, think again. Once you join the app, you will inevitably start following the people you already know, basically recreating the bubble you have on the other social media, only in its audio form. -In fact in the Italian community there is currently a Friendfeed zombie revival, which makes my ears bleeds every time I stumble upon it.
- It is clunky, but can we get over it?
The app is still in its infancy stage, has still many flaws and missing functionalities. It is normal, given its recent development, but how long are we ready to wait to have the possibility to share a link? Or to signal the room host that we are there only to listen and don’t want to be invited on stage? Because even if Clubhouse is young, its audience has extensive experience with many other uberdeveloped social media. Its limitations might make it unique, challenging and interesting, but how long will it take them to deploy these missing functions? When will we get tired to say “the link I am referring to is posted as top tweet in my twitter account you can find if you click on my bio” (spoiler altert: me, pretty soon)?
- Diversity and inclusion are a challenge (no kidding #2).
The biggest flaw I witnessed so far is the ease, compared to other social media, to reproduce some toxic dynamics we experience in real life. Women get interrupted a lot while talking. Mansplaining is all over the place. The hideous “let me rephrase that” is also present. It is a medium where shy people have a harder time to share their point of view, because the whole process to jump into a conversation requires some determination. Which is a shame, because the loudest ones are not necessarily the most interesting ones.
- Marketers, please hold your horses.
Last saturday I heard a Brand Manager of a well known FMCG brand cheerfully stating that she was thinking to experiment some activations on Clubhouse for her business. On Clubhouse. Now. With maybe 6 mio registered users worldwide. Seriously?
If you are working in marketing I believe you should be up to date with the latest trends, but this does not mean that you should use all of these shiny new objects. Considering the hype around Clubhouse, it might be a good platform for a PR stunt, but for sure not a sustainable way to engage with consumers if you are a traditional FMCG brand.
Indeed, there might be some interesting alternative usages, but I won’t be spoiling them here, especially not for free :)
In a nutshell, Clubhouse is for you if you always wanted to be part of the cool crowd in high school. Join, check, move forward.