Attain for the celebs: what Clubhouse can be taught from TikTok

Every social media network gets the influencers it deserves. In the vibrant new Silicon Valley app Clubhouse, where users congregate in audio chat rooms, these are venture capitalists and tech founders. They may be decades older and far richer than the teenagers who typically jump onto new platforms, but they’re just as eager. If they have their way, the clubhouse will become a global phenomenon.

The first signs are promising. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance in the clubhouse this month, the response was enthusiastic. The surge in users trying to listen appeared to be causing glitch, which meant the event had to be restarted. Tesla boss Elon Musk caused a similar stir days earlier. He has since announced that he will appear on the app with rapper Kanye West.

Celebrities are a shortcut to attention, but they don’t guarantee people will stay here. I joined Clubhouse a few weeks ago but I got bored of the format quickly. I’ve already lost the habit of checking the app to see what happens. This means that I will not appear in the number of the “active user” that social networks and their investors are obsessed with.

Although it’s less than a year old and only has two million active users a week, it is reported that some supporters have rated Clubhouse as a billion dollar company

The video sharing app TikTok, on the other hand, is still addicting. Celebrity is not the same here. When US reality TV star Kylie Jenner started using the app to run sultry promotions for her makeup brand, the comments were friendly but firm. “Somebody tells her how this app works,” wrote one user. “This is not Instagram.”

Jenner heeded the news and switched to a playful imitation of her famous sisters, but her 27 million following on TikTok is puny compared to the 215 million who follow her on Instagram. TikTok’s biggest stars are regular users who joined early. Its most popular creator, the teenage dancer Charli D’Amelio, has four times as many followers as Jenner.

None of this is accidental. Venture capitalist Blake Robbins recently discovered an interview with Alex Zhu, co-founder of the TikTok-like app, who was asked to explain his theory of new social networking. Zhu, who later became TikTok’s boss when his Chinese parent bought ByteDance, said social networks needed early adopters to be young, creative digital natives with the time to spare. But it could only attract this group by giving them a reason to abandon existing popular platforms. That reason, he said, is the opportunity to become a star. and later TikTok opened up new territory beyond established platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Instead of addressing already successful creators, new ones were supported and tips for creating content were given. A number have become mainstream successes. Vegan chef Tabitha Brown has starred in Old Navy ads. D’Amelio has a Hulu series, book, podcast, nail polish collection, and – ultimate teen rights – her own Dunkin ‘Donuts drink.

The benefit of building a stable out of native stars instead of skydiving in familiar names is loyalty. Consider the likeness of Snapchat, once thought to be a potential Facebook killer. In the mid-2010s, Snapchat enthusiastically courted Jenner. Your use of the app attracted public attention and encouraged other celebrities to set up accounts.

When she lost interest, the damage was brutal. Her tweet for 2018 “Sooo, does anyone else stop opening Snapchat? Or is it just me … even though it’s so sad? “Was blamed for Snapchat’s parent company Snap’s stock which took more than $ 1 billion off the company’s market cap in a single day. It took more than a year for the share price to rise again.

This is the risk Clubhouse faces in continuing to use big names to attract new users. A lot of hype – and money – depends on the success of the app. Although it’s less than a year old and only has two million active users a week, backers like VC firm Andreessen Horowitz are said to have rated it as a billion dollar company.

That brings it into the realm of the unicorns – startups that are seen as so promising that they guarantee sky-high values ​​and are expected to cash out early investors with huge profits. Facebook, now a $ 770 billion company, took two years to reach such heights.

It will not be easy to live up to the inflated expectations. It makes sense for teenagers to dodge an app that consists partly of a conference call and partly of LinkedIn. But Clubhouse can still develop its own early users to build a loyal audience. TikTok’s success suggests that local stars are better choices than moody celebrities.

Elaine Moore is Lex’s assistant editor for the FT

Follow @FTMag on Twitter to catch up on our latest stories first. Listen to our Culture Call podcast where FT editors and special guests talk about life and art during the coronavirus era. Subscribe to Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen.

Comments are closed.