What happened to Clubhouse?



Clubhouse was a big thrill. No doubt.

And you're probably here because you are wondering why a promising app is suddenly becoming extinct to a reasonable proportion of a global population.

While conducting a couple of research to have a strong basis for the downturn in Clubhouse's usage rate, I came across articles that attributed this situation to the revolutionary and crippling pandemic. Although, it's quite unarguable that the pandemic played an enormous role in Clubhouse short-lived success. However, I bet users who ran out of the intriguing experience Clubhouse once offered still remain hung on other mediums like popular rated apps Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

To disrupt the audio-only arena, Clubhouse was designed as a live-audio only software where users, then limited to iOS could create compartments called 'virtual rooms' hosting discussions ranging from politics, pop culture, industry conversations, Bitcoin, and diverse trendy topics. Imagine any conversation and the house has something attuned for you.

Due to its free audio live feature, some countries like China raised bans on citizens' usage of the app enforcing its policy and regulations due to extreme public discussions held on the platform. Before the Government's ban, some techie Chinese had virtual room conversations where they aired their opinions on the political status of the Nation.

Clubhouse, during its glorious launch, had thought leaders like hotshot tech entrepreneurs Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and maven TV host, Oprah Winfrey hosting conversations with the then, invite-only feature which pulled the masses in. Of course, this led to an adrenaline high on social media as the public got a hold of it. Just like the viral spread of the pandemic, Clubhouse went viral and it was then at the advantage of users of the iOS. Android users were kept at bay and they seemed to be excluded from the dopamine feeling associated with the app. People seemed to be talking about how great it was being a live audio-only service. To users, it felt like a more inclusive platform on the internet that required sharing your expertise, opinions, thoughts, and vulnerabilities on-air with relatable people across borders just with your VOICE.

Clubhouse had a  whopping Ten (10) million registered users and 500,000 virtual rooms created daily in less than a year!

But the thrill and high-flyer success came crashing down in a blink of an eye. Data shows that installation of the app presently records 962,000 on Google Play store. This is a wide divide. A wide disparity from Clubhouses' beginnings. And here, the question goes thus, what exactly happened to Clubhouse? What caused the baffling divide? What was the turnoff?

In Paul Davison's statement with Financial times on the current state of Clubhouse, he said:

"We’ve never tried to grow. We’ve only tried to not grow,” he said. “I think that when you scale online communities if you go too quickly, things can break.”

His responses were quite vague and he seemed silent on the recent incident. The Clubhouse team made significant adjustments on the note of the negative turnaround.  Although no optimistic results have been recorded so far, here are 5 deductions that account for the decline in user engagement.

       Consumer Behavior

Clubhouse had a receptive response from users upon its launch. The utility i.e. the service it offers collided with the moment - the global pandemic. There is something about human behaviour and psychology and it matters to a large extent in understanding user behaviour.

When the worse comes to the worst, especially in the case where people had physical restraints, every means of connection matters. People would ride or die with you. People want to explore at all costs and would leverage available options to satisfy their feelings/desire to connect.

Clubhouse surfaced in the heat of the moment and people bought into it because physical restraints were high. We were in the midst of a global lockdown and the first of its kind, an audio-only software appealed to the moment and fulfilled the need to connect via live discussions.

Once the lockdown was relieved with physical restrictions lifted, users once again streamlined their options to exceptionally great products leaving out the not-so-good ones. Clubhouse fell into the latter and as such couldn't weather the storm.

 

       Poor Product Management

Clubhouse's early stage is every startup dream. In fact, it is an unbelievable dream come true to have about 10 million users at a go in your first year. But that was Clubhouse's reality.

One missing link though. Once Clubhouse realised this huge traction, it should have taken prompt steps to manage its features. Without any ado, commitment should have been immediately made to expand its value proposition. The audio-only feature was a weak ground to garner loyal consumers.

One year later, other platforms like Spotify, Telegram, Facebook and Twitter started making moves on the social media chess game. As it seemed, the space is for the SMART guys. SHARP enough to recognise future patterns and SMART ENOUGH to make immediate moves on the board. Once Clubhouse realised this by expanding its horizon to Android users, including the chat, open virtual rooms, recording and clips feature, it was quite late.

Was clubhouse SMART enough?

 

       Competitors Fists 

The competitors' rage was wild after Clubhouse launched.

Clubhouse was an easy to copy idea and as a result, couldn't stand the test of time. Let's rewind to the case study - 'Coca Cola', a multinational beverage company. Coca Cola stood the test of time because none of the other brands could match the originality of its idea. Compare this to Clubhouse. The live audio-only feature was caught on by other social big guys - 'Facebook' who initiated its live room feature in April 2021, an addition to its already elaborate features, Twitter, after dismissing its fleet feature caught the wind of users' interest in live audio conversations and developed 'spaces' in May 2021. The same can be said for other platforms like Slack, Telegram, and, Discord.

The space became a fistfight and as an ideal user, would you rather stick to a platform with limited function or a platform with a wide array of useful functions? Got that? Exactly, you are probably still an active Twitter user because it fulfils your daily social demands and embodies several features to address them.

 

       Diversification

Profitable businesses, startups and companies are employing diversification to enhance their authority in their industries. Platforms like 'Facebook', and 'WhatsApp' including other chains of companies under 'Meta' remain relevant because they are consistently studying user behaviour, and developing additional features to complement their existing products. A quote by Fujio Mitarai, Chairman and CEO of Canon Inc. is supportive of this claim:

"Diversification and globalization are the keys to the future." 

If a business aims to build for the future, 'Diversification' is a workable strategy and any intending startup should put this in perspective.

The rhetorical question is, "Was Clubhouse designed for the future from the onset?"


       Weak business model 

A great business model has user retention at the core of its value proposition category. Clubhouse has a weak user proposition and it's not enough to retain steady and increased user activity. It ought to identify a promising market and then develop options to sustain interest and the value embedded in usability.

Observe YouTube proposition, YouTube creators create videos, and the reward system affiliated with this includes a number of subscribers, likes, engagements, community growth and payment options. Some YouTube creators even get sponsorship deals amidst other savoury opportunities. The same goes for normal users - they get curious about daily subject areas, they jump on the YouTube server and voila! Results come up. 

Aside from live conversations and creators' ability to host live events, what other reward system comes with Clubhouse usability?

Can Clubhouse be revived? 

It's a promising idea and if user research and necessary development is properly introduced, maybe it could be revived. Although with one exception, its comeback value must exceed obvious limitations. Apart from the above deductions, what other options do you consider pivotal to the decline in Clubhouse usage rate?

 

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