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Building a clubhouse for India - A playbook

If you are not a twitter tech fanatic, this app is doing crazy waves in the Silicon Valley. You can read more here & here. It is fascinating, some have called it the app that will revolutionise social, some believe it will die down as more people enter. I find myself somewhere in between, maybe in another post I will tell you why. But for now, If I were to build this app for an Indian context, what would I do?

Clubhouse works because of its exclusivity, a very well known virality hack. This also means like HQ trivia once it all dies down, it could not go as well as one would hope. So even though the easiest way to get traction & money is to just copy that tactic & give exclusivity to big folks here in India. I am proposing that you don’t. Well unless you want to raise money & figure it out along the way. It is just that I have been part of this virality craze, it dies & you have no idea what to do next. You will throw money into ads & pay people to be on your app, but you go nowhere with this. So I would say pick a user persona, go deep into it & figure out if people really want to talk to one another. I say this because the people that would otherwise be on the app (tech folks/VCs) are only there because it’s hip & new, in a few months you wont be. You will just be dead. Yeah, I am being extremely cynical, because just picking an app & hoping it works elsewhere is not the way to build anything sustainable.

This is not to say, that you should not focus on tech folks, you can if that is what you want, but go deep into this vertical. Ok you picked your people, now what? Set topics. Virtual meets happen because there is already an agenda in place. I know Clubhouse is defined as a party place, but you dont randomly show-up to a party, you go because the people there are those you like or want to be like. Emulate this. Discuss controversial things like - “Microservices are the worst way to build” or helpful topics like - “Server spends - Optimised. War stories”. India needs content, we discuss usually on top of things, so give them a direction to talk about & make it catchy! A Buzzfeed article on audio.

Clubhouse here doesnt have to be off-record only, it can be a medium to create content. This strategy could work, considering Instagram also lets you edit photos and didn’t push you to post there in its early days. Let the author have the ability to allow listeners to snip their content, share and download it on other social mediums, make sure to add an auto audio - “powered by YOURAPPNAME” at the end of all the clips for brand recall.

Looking at Youtube’s usage stats or any other medium where you can be a listener or creator you will see a pattern emerge. The listeners always outgrow the creators, it almost the law of social apps. Earlier in your app, this is excatly what you must avoid. You’re at a party talking to people, they need some feedback, why else will people talk to you, when they could well, write a blog about it? Make sure everyone is a speaker at some point. You can be very talkative or to the point speaker, but you must engage. The whole premise is built on people wanting to talk to each other. Of course eventually your app will follow the norm, but not right now. You want people to be there & discuss with their peers/friends.

Keep the momentum going. You are essentially building a community, you want people to share things even after the conversation is over. Build a messaging service within the app (the obvious ones) or leverage your Oauth. I assumed you would authorize people through their other social profiles, to minimize friction ( So I guess that is another thing to do), when you do this, build a network through it. Get people to converse outside the room they were in. Say - “Hey @vindytalks would you like to connect with @personIdontfollow and take this further”. It is okay to take me outside your app, you are not there to get me to give you all my hours, you are there to make how many ever hours I give you meaningful. If I find value in these conversations I am coming back exactly here.

Everyone wants a podcast. People like having 1-1 conversations in podcast style and build on that. It is very hot in the user persona I chose as an example here. So what if you could do just that? If people had conversations & could publish the entire thing on your app, like a social media/audio? site. Give the ability for people to do exactly things they want to with no friction? A podcast with no mic, no invite & no cold emails.

Get the non-hype people. Find people that are known, but haven’t really spoken a lot on podcasts interviews, videos etc. When you have given 300 webinars/talks you are really saying the same things. You want something fresher. You want to say “Hey I heard this from @vindytalks and this was so cool I had to share” (Yeah I self brag because who else will ;)). You want people to feel like they are discovering talent/ people who never were found before.

There are so many more ideas that could stem within each one of these sectors, pick something from here or otherwise, but please dont build a copy-cat version of what exists. It will not stick and will get you nowhere after that 1-week hype or when this lockdown ends.

Published 27 Apr 2020

Always looking for learning opportunities in product and life.
Vindhya C on Twitter