Clubhouse Faces Big Competition As The Social Audio Market Heats Up

Clubhouse Faces Big Competition As The Social Audio Market Heats Up
Clubhouse blew the doors wide open for social audio. What happens when the other platforms all join the party? I’m excited to find out.
  • Clubhouse is no longer the darling of the social audio world.  
  • Clubhouse now faces strong competition from Twitter Spaces, Spotify, and LinkedIn.  
  • Cat Johnson sees an opportunity for an app that enables users to organize all the social audio rooms they’d like to participate in.   

On December 31, 2020, I had no idea what Clubhouse was. I kept seeing mentions of it in my Twitter feed and decided it was time to figure it out. 

A few minutes later, I was in. 

I immediately recognized there was something special happening in Clubhouse—and it wasn’t just me.  

Clubhouse has proven to be wildly popular. 

Launched in September of 2020, the app had 12.7 million downloads globally by March of 2021. The social audio platform, which offers moderators, guests and audience members instant access to conversations on every topic you could think of (and some you couldn’t), as well as people around the world, was—and still is—white hot. 

But, Clubhouse is no longer the darling of the social audio world. They now have big competition that, if Clubhouse were my company, would have me nervous. Here’s a breakdown of the newest players in the social audio world. 

Twitter Spaces 

Twitter recently launched Twitter Spaces, a “new way to have live audio conversations on Twitter.” Spaces is not yet available to everyone to host a Space (though anyone can listen in on a conversation). But it has a nice user experience, a commitment to including accessibility features and, unlike Clubhouse, will be available on desktop. 

Spotify 

Recently, Spotify announced the acquisition of Betty Labs, the company behind the live sports audio app Locker Room. According to The Verge, Locker Room will stay in the app store, but will be rebranded with a different name and have a broader focus on music, culture and sports content. 

With a focus on live music and access to artists for album premieres, Q&As and more, Spotify’s social audio tool will likely thrive in a niche of one, though I imagine other music-focused platforms will emerge. 

LinkedIn 

When LinkedIn created its own version of Instagram Stories, I was unconvinced the tool would take off with the LinkedIn crowd. Nothing has happened since then to change my mind. LinkedIn Stories just kind of sits at the top of the app, hanging out, without much activity. 

Will LinkedIn’s recently-announced Clubhouse-inspired tool be the same? 

I don’t think so. There’s an interesting opportunity here for LinkedIn—if they get it right. Most of my time in Clubhouse is spent in rooms about marketing, branding, entrepreneurship, coworking, remote work, women in business, and even LinkedIn. The overlap between LinkedIn and Clubhouse is huge, including daily LinkedIn-focused rooms. 

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    The LinkedIn social audio experience promises to be different from the competition because it will be connected with users’ professional identity, not just a social profile. As TechCrunch reports, the company has “already built out a platform that serves the creator community, which today has access to tools like Stories, LinkedIn Live video broadcasting, newsletters and more.” 

    Within Clubhouse, there’s talk of an option to link to your LinkedIn profile in your Clubhouse bio. When that happens, I think the floodgates will open for more LinkedIn users to jump into Clubhouse. So, the LinkedIn team had better hurry up. And their social audio platform can’t be a so-so copy—it’s going to need to stand alone as the perfect tool for LinkedIn regulars.  

    Because users won’t need to leave LinkedIn to listen-in on, start, and contribute to conversations, a nice slice of the social audio pie is theirs for the taking. As someone who is all-in on LinkedIn, I’m really curious to see what they come up with. 

    My Concern for Users 

    A few weeks ago, Clubhouse was a standalone. Now, they’re playing defense against deep-pocketed competitors. Unfortunately, I think we users are the ones that will suffer as our attention is pulled in even more directions. 

    Can multiple social audio platforms serve us?  

    It’s already too much trying to keep track of all the Clubhouse rooms I’m interested in, let alone syncing calendars across Clubhouse, Spotify, Twitter and LinkedIn. 

    I see a need here for an app that enables users to organize all the social audio rooms they’d like to participate in.  

    Social Audio on a Massive Scale 

    I do think that social audio is going to be massive. There’s something special about tuning into (and participating in) conversations with people around the world, whether I’m at my desk working or lying on the couch in my pajamas on a Sunday morning.  

    Clubhouse blew the doors wide open for social audio. What happens when the other platforms all join the party? I’m excited to find out. 

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