Can Clubhouse continue to grow as its competition rises, and will it be able to maintain its overall growth momentum into the future?
Will Clubhouse even survive when people have many more options to tune into live audio chats?
As per Clubhouse:
"[The funding] will allow us to heavily scale our team to support international growth, invest in localization and accessibility features, launch more programs like the Creator First accelerator to help creators get paid, invest deeply in discovery to help people find the best rooms, and continue to scale our support and community health teams."
These are the key elements of focus for Clubhouse right now. In order to keep users coming back, it needs to keep its top broadcasters hosting rooms, and to do that, it needs to ensure they get paid for their efforts. That's the focus of Clubhouse's Creator Accelerator program, which it announced last month, which will see that those who are selected for the program are provided with at least $5000 in guaranteed monthly income while taking part.
Clubhouse also needs to improve discovery - one of the key criticisms of the app, particularly in recent weeks, is that it's hard to find engaging, interesting rooms to tune into, in amongst the grifters and inspirational speakers that are gradually over-running the app.
"Even now, after spending much time in the app, I find many of the rooms boring, chaotic, self-indulgent, or, at worst, scammy. Some rooms, for example, are “silent” with the idea being that you join and follow everyone. They’ll then follow you back. Other rooms peddle vague ideas about entrepreneurship and becoming a millionaire, likely hosted by someone who isn’t actually a millionaire."
This, as Carman notes, is part of the established circle of life for social platforms - early users are lured by the initial buzz, then marketers and scammers come in, seeking to make money from the knowledge gap (i.e. brands want in, and they can sell their platform 'expertize'). That's then followed by brands looking to more directly push out ads and promotional material - and amid all of this, the platform starts to lose that early excitement, as it becomes more overrun, more diluted, and ultimately, the quality of the user experience declines in-step.
The way around this, of course, is algorithms, which Clubhouse acknowledges is a key area in which it must improve.
"It’s no secret that our servers have struggled a bit these past few months, and that our growth has outpaced the early discovery algorithms our small team originally built."
The problem, in this respect, is that Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms are already significantly more advanced, and more capable of handling the discovery element. They've already developed individualized algorithms to help guide users towards the most relevant content for them, which could, eventually, see their audio social offerings becoming much more engaging, stealing away Clubhouse's early audience.
Indeed, there are already signs that this is happening, in looking at the download charts:
That's not to say that Clubhouse can't win out.
As many have noted, a lot of experts predicted that Snapchat was doomed following the launch of Instagram Stories (to be fair, it did seem like it was at one point), while TikTok has been able to maintain its growth momentum despite Facebook looking to thwart it at every opportunity.
Clubhouse could follow the same path, and emerge as a significant new social platform, which will stick around for the long haul. But the challenge before it is significant, and rising. And unlike Snapchat and TikTok, Clubhouse's expanded opportunities, in terms of alternate functions, do seem somewhat limited.
But now it has more capital to put towards that development, and that could be enough to help it maintain and build on its initial foundations. And Clubhouse doesn't essentially need to have billions of users, it only needs enough to generate revenue, and establish a dedicated usage cohort that it's able to build from.
Which then, of course, brings us back to the initial queries - can Clubhouse continue to grow, amid rising competition, and will it be able to maintain its overall momentum in the face of challengers?
And then, the other big question - will audio social, as an option, maintain enough popularity in the wake of the pandemic?
There are some big 'ifs' in here, but many smart people have been willing to their money where their mouth is on the future of the app.
That has to count for something.