During the Covid-19 lockdown last year, virtual conversational and performance platforms grew in leaps and bounds. The popularity and traction of platforms offering remote collaboration capabilities such as Slack, Zoom shot up. But other non-corporate and more entertainment-leaning platforms such as Clubhouse (named joinClubhouse on the Appstore) became a part of the trends that formed out of the new culture.
The clubhouse is a drop-in audio chat available only for iPhones at the moment, where people could meet to discuss virtually with live-audio enabled. There are moderators, speakers and there is the audience that listens and can quietly leave a room for other rooms whenever they wish.
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It was, however, until the app began trending that a lot of Nigerians with iPhones began to ditch their other indulgences to listen-in to the two-way audio right from their phones. While some may argue that features on existing apps such WhatsApp group calls, Telegram calls and Zoom calls offer these features, there is a new level of organisation and order which Clubhouse’s moderation has brought into the conversation and drop-in chats.
Nigerians who were familiar with the audiobook platform – Audible and podcasts quickly found it fitting to stay connected in Clubhouse rooms listening to topics that serve their interests and biases. From participating in rooms where tech and business giants shared the secrets to their wealth to others, who engage in lucid competitions such as moaning for huge prize money, the Clubhouse rooms purred in reckless abandon. Between January and February, many Nigerian iPhone users flocked to Clubhouse so much that the company’s data servers began to crash momentarily from the weight of new users.
So what was the rave about? It is now common knowledge that early adopters of unique social media platforms have gone on to become influencers who most times command hefty financial benefit for their relative influence. It is in this same vein that the earliest Nigerians who got on Clubhouse were also trying to preserve ownership of ‘real estate’ on Clubhouse to themselves (by at least creating a username) before it becomes mainstream.
As an app exclusive to Apple users at the moment, it also became a status game as users came on to Twitter to talk about the things they have heard on Clubhouse. For Clubhouse, this was free marketing by “word of mouth” and it got many more iPhone users to onboard the platform.
There are a few other features emphasising the uniqueness of this drop-in-audio app. As audio is becoming more passive as is the case in traditional radio and with podcasts, Clubhouse offers a unique selling point of allowing feedback from the other end. This differentiator has great implications on how it outshines traditional audio in the near future. As radio and podcast become a version of passive audio, Clubhouse has already shown the practicality and possibilities of active audio.
In addition, as live audio cannot be edited nor deleted (because it’s not recorded), Clubhouse is solving a large part of the problem many other social media apps face with the immutable nature of its own content. Users have seen the bad sides of content that can be altered or deleted and so for Clubhouse, you only had to be there to experience the space or listen-in. The experience can hardly be transmitted or else a user experiences it, live.
Aside from the fact that many Nigerians who are on Clubhouse are on it to get entertained, a large majority are also there to network, build alliances, mark “real estate” territories on their path to influence, and also how to make money as creators on the platform.
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Clubhouse, in a February release, announced plans to release an Android version of the app and to also begin a model whereby Clubhouse could share a portion of the revenue generated from user content drive. This means that many of the earliest set of users, and especially Nigerians in the diaspora, in this case, will be qualified to make money from the appeal of their content on the audio app once the platform’s monetisation is complete.
Once the joinClubhouse app is available on Android as announced, it is expected that many more Nigerians will flock to the app to take advantage of it.
That is the exact moment the other possibilities of how the Clubhouse app can be harnessed for political mobilisation and education will be fully realised for the remainder of Nigerians yet to experience the platform.
Featured image source: Business Insider
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