The Future of Social Interactions?

By: Smriti Modi

And why is everyone including Elon Musk joining Clubhouse.

I got my coveted invite and joined Clubhouse recently, likely the most talked-about App this week. I spent 4 straight hours listening to it, joining in and ‘peacing out’ of diverse ‘rooms’ in the App. I get why it is SO engaging. There’s no single powerful trick, I believe it has a lot going for it.

Clubhouse describes itself as a new type of social network based on voice—where people around the world come together to talk, listen and learn from each other in real-time. Now, I am not wise enough to predict if Clubhouse will be the next-big-thing. But I do believe all these great aspects or say, features of Clubhouse is the direction in which our social interactions are heading:

The appeal of Live. Real-time.

Live is not just a new marketing buzzword. This past year, Live Shows on social and eCommerce sites have proven very successful in marketing and selling stuff. But we were ardent consumers of Live content long before. Since the onset of media. Live Sports and Live News have always been the most-watched content on Television. Before technology could support Live broadcast, we heard Live events and commentary via Radio. The appeal of being part of something in real-time is unparalleled. The digital world has caught up to it, and it is here to stay.

All discussions in what Clubroom calls ‘rooms’ are happening in real-time and do not get recorded. The only way to get that information is to be present in the room at the time. We all would agree that the energy of a live discussion (even if you’re not chiming in) is way higher than a podcast. Moreover, it’s never a monologue, giving everyone the opportunity to share an opinion or ask a question. 

The sweet-spot medium. Audio.

The written word is thousands of years old, but the spoken word far precedes it. Every single one of us is genetically equipped to pass on and absorb information by using our voices and ears. The last decade or so has been a visual overload and there’s enough evidence now that content consumption is moving towards audio (The rise of Audiobooks, Podcasts, and all the tech giants investing in voice-control Apps). When text is too little, video is too much, audio seems just right.

Listening in on Clubhouse the past few days, reminded me of the intimacy of the spoken word. I joined a room discussing books and heard this lady talk so passionately about her favourite book, painting a picture through her words, I simply closed my eyes and entered her world. It was mesmerising. Intimacy is rare and precious in today’s internet landscape.

The best part though, it’s much harder to be nasty and inappropriate when you’re talking to someone, not just typing. So, I hope this will keep the trolls in check and make the internet a more decent place. More practically speaking, lower bandwidth areas that struggle with video will find audio more appealing for those reasons.

Networking. Democratization of contacts

Overtime social media became more about connecting to old friends, rather than connecting with new ones. Or, at best connecting with your 2nd-degree connections.

In some ways, Clubhouse is putting the networking back in ‘social networking’. Many users of the App are making instant connections every day. “Chatted with a well-known Silicon Valley angel investor, listened to a music mogul, and spoke with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, all in a day.” - One of the several tweets that talk about its effectiveness.

I was listening in on a room yesterday discussing – ‘Predictions of the Social Audio Market’. Jeremiah, one of the moderators wrote this brilliantly researched piece on the topic. It was an extremely stimulating conversation between people working on audio-based technology and solutions. Then just like that, Guy Kawasaki chimes in and promises to make some connections. 10 mins later, an extremely diverse group of people with origins in Nigeria, Eastern Europe, America and India are discussing inclusivity – broadly, how much or how little inclusivity will audio-only communication promote. Incredible.

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Future growth depends on access to information and platforms like this which democratize contacts. Clubhouse, for the most part, gives everyone the opportunity to come in and pitch an idea to investors, or discuss observations with industry experts whom they could never be in the same room with, otherwise. and more. And shouldn’t that be the way to go?

Caveat - There are moderators in every Clubhouse ‘room’ and of course if you’re in a room with Elon Musk (which I was ;)) you may not get a chance to speak. But there are plenty of small niche rooms with incredible people, where everyone who ‘raises their hand’ gets to take the stage. I even spoke my almost incoherent Mandarin while a hundred people were listening! They were extremely kind and patient :)

No filters. Or, fewer filters

Well, this is a function of going audio-only, and it is significant. You are more real and can focus clearly on your thoughts and mind when you are not worrying about your outfit, the zit on your nose, the messy background you are in, or your baby coming into the frame. Right? Clubhouse had brought back the spontaneity of real-life interactions. You don’t have the pressure to make a smart point in an intelligent discussion, you can be in the room and just listen in.

As a listener, it removes the unconscious bias of how the speaker looks. So, fewer filters. Because well, even if everyone’s speaking the same language we all do have different accents. And there’s likely a large set of people self-conscious about how they sound.

Exclusive. Curated.

First, as a marketeer, I know nothing is more effective than the FOMO, that comes with an ‘invite-only’ app! So excellent job there.

That apart, from a user point of view, curated, smaller groups are certainly more meaningful. There are plenty of useful ‘rooms’ in Clubhouse right now with just 20 – 50 people. Participating in such intimate groups is a lot more constructive and less intimidating. I don’t know how long they are going to continue this though, or how will they keep it intimate if there are millions of people on it.

Let’s wait and listen!

Connect with Smriti Modi on LinkedIn. 

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