Clubhouse continues to grow, what we can learn from it? Thoughts from a user growth manager in China
Admit it or not, clubhouse is the most popular topic within IT companies in the world recently. Its invite-only algorithm and audio-only mode opens a new gate for social media platform. Moreover, recently clubhouse was estimated as a unicorn with potential of $1 billion value; on Feb, Clubhouse claims to have over 10 million monthly active users on app. All these boost its to a ‘social media giant’ as twitter and facebook.
In china, clubhouse also raised a huge wave beyond IT industry, at least before being banned. Most of investors joined the community and started to dig a Chinese community within themselves. Unfortunately, clubhouse was banned from china mainland since 8th of Feb. Until now, no signal of recovery. This also brings an opportunity for Chinese companies, they know it’s their time to shine, or we can say, to copay paste. We’ll talk about how they performed later.
Use efforts to do the right thing.
Regarding Clubhouse itself, actually it’s different from some similar apps we thought such as Podcast, live streaming, etc. Clubhouse is a product wider and more precise. For now, Clubhouse is only available for iOS users, and only provide the main feature as live voice communication, based on two reasons:
1) R&D Team Scale: As a small startup, they are limited on Human Resources, not only on development, but also marketing, community and so on. So focusing on one direction with all effort would be a better choice than trying to build a wide platform for all smart phone users.
2) User Portrait: Clubhouse was firstly launched in US, specifically, IT professionals in SV. Analyzing users’ behaviors and their needs would be a must-do. A truth is most of developers and IT professionals are using iOS instead of Android, and their private time has already be taken from social giants such as twitter, instagram.
These factors guide clubhouse to be an app based on iOS users mainly, a communication feature which can be applied to casual situations such as cleaning, eating and so on.
Paul, the co-founder of clubhouse, said in one AMA about the prototype of clubhouse. He said the original plan was to build a voice message app, which allows users to exchange opinions. But along with the process of development, they found the gold: audio chat room. As the features has been recognized as the soul of Clubhouse, certainly they won’t change this feature in recent years.
Making money is always a problem
Another question which brings a lot of attention is about the monetization of clubhouse. Reviewing all social apps, most of them are not very successful on monetization, several models they’ve used: 1) ads; 2)tipping; 3)paid content; 4)subscription. For clubhouse, as their team said in townhall, they would try tipping function at first, as it won’t affect much about current product pattern. But there are still risks behind, like how to allow users do tipping, how to show tipping record to others.
As in short term, Clubhouse won’t add more monetization features, we may focus on tipping model today. Tiktok, a social media giant, trying to find their way to transfer traffic and users into money, also use tipping in some of their markets. At least for now, revenue is not as high as Bytedance thinks. Letting one user send money to another user means:
- Content is valuable: Content quality on the app should be high enough to convince audience to tip.
- Tipping is beneficial to both sides: Not only speakers can get paid, but also audience can get something in return.
- Speaker won’t be limited to tipping fees: Tips can be motivations, but can’t be the only reason for sharing.
All these are related to quality of content. However, a lot of users find that they can’t find interesting chat room in over 15 mins, which leads to a problem of info density.
Clubhouse provides with different ways to share opinions or exchange ideas. Voice socializing is different from words and videos. It’s less stressful than videos, but more powerful than words. You can speak while cleaning rooms, drinking coffee, or other things. In the meantime, you need to express yourself in real-time. As many rooms are under casual situation, the info density of speakers is relatively low. I personally listened to a room which was talking about ‘add I’m finished’ after speech for over 5 minutes. Why so? Clubhouse is not like podcast, speakers majorly talk without speech draft or main points. In another word, UGC does not satisfy audience’s needs.
A great opportunity in China? Don’t think so…
Even clubhouse is just a breve shine from US, Chinese still gather a lot of insights and innovate opinions toward this business. And no doubt, the copies of clubhouse has launched only few weeks after boom. So you may wonder, how’s things going? Here I’ll put some basic insights from what I learned:
Inke, a Chinese startup focusing on live streaming, launched it’s Clubhouse-like app on 11th of Feb, called ‘Duihuaba’. Except UI, the main feature and community are the same as Clubhouse. Inke asked KOLs and famous investors to hold conversations and speak. However, based on feedbacks, the quality of the product is not satisfying on many aspects such as voice quality, network and unexprected crashes. The app went off the shelf only 12 days after release, it’s a failure indeed.
Another competitor called 36Kr, a Chinese-based publishing and data company, released ‘Capital Coffee’ the same day as Inke. For app itself, there is no much to discuss, R&D team used less than 1 month to develop a product, what we can expect?
Both of chinese apps launched without defining clearly the localization plan and marketing strategy. Not every market can boost with celebrity effect, and not every market has a rock star like Elon Musk.
Regarding social apps in China, besides shortages of product sides, there are also many other aspects need to consider thoroughly: politics, sexual content, underground industry, etc.
Some Funny things on Clubhouse
- Someone gave birth on Clubhouse, on live.
- Outside of US, Germany and Japan are main sources where users come from.
- The team of Clubhouse still doesn’t have an office, that’s how startup looks like in real life.
- Agora, the company who provides audio server for Clubhouse, is a Chinese company based in Shanghai. Users are worried about info privacy, but Clubhouse hasn’t made an announcement yet.
- Live concerts on Clubhouse are famous and popular within Japanese and Black people community.
- Clubhouse official will emphasize the character of moderators instead of speakers in the future.
A team with ambition, still growing
Needless to say, Clubhouse is still at its very first phase, even it owns over million registered users. Recruiting and opimization would be the main part of Clubhouse team, at least in few months. Meanwhile, there are also parts they may need to pay attention on:
- Community. Until now Clubhouse doesn’t do much optimizations on communities. For example, you can find communities through searching, but can’t see rooms related to the community. Meanwhile, features of communities are limited, moderators can’t post, can’t PM followers, or hold a permanent room.
- Recommendation. Algorithm could be powerful, based on current content. How to find the best match for different types of users, are a big challenge. Clubhouse has already collected detailed info from registered users including career, hobbies, jobs, culture and so on. What the team needs to do is find a way to use the gold mine.
- Advertising. Finally the team will face a real problem of scaling up, how to attract users who have 0 knowledge of their platform. The answer is easy, by creating value for them and let them know. But the content may be hard to get, as rooms are separated into private and open, info are divided into pieces. How to solve? Maybe special methods can be used, let’s say online learning, live concert, radio FM. Then what they need to cover is how to deliver content to untouched users.
Even everyone including me is talking about Clubhouse’s disadvantages, futrue plans, we need to bear in mind that their team is still growing and there is for sure a long way to go. Let’s put some faith or hold aggresive words, see how things go.:)
Thanks for reading, glad to hear your voice!