Clubhouse is the current darling of the tech industry. But is Clubhouse for Tour Operators?
Shane sat down with a few tour operators to work out how it can be used by the sector
BY BEN FINCH
Clubhouse is the social, audio-chat app that exploded out of the traps in February after Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg appeared in discussions. After their appearances, it was downloaded five million times in just two weeks, according to App Annie, despite being invite-only and not available on Android.
But how can Clubhouse be used by tour operators, how does it work, and will it be around for the long term?
On this week’s episode of Tourpreneur, host Shane dug in with travel industry experts Christian Watts – Magpie, Mitch Bach – TripSchool and Nikki Padilla Rivera – Trip Kinetics, and some guests from their Clubhouse room, to find out what’s really going on.
Listen to Clubhouse for Tour Operators here:
Opinion is divided on Clubhouse
Christian has found himself a new nickname — Clubhouse — because he’s always on it, Mitch finds it invigorating, and Nikki really doesn’t love it. “This, to me, at the end of the day, is just one more social media platform. For me personally, that just means one more platform where there are the same few people taking up so much space,” she said.
However, her mind had been changed by the end of the chat.
Everyone else is still working out what it can be used for or having it on as background noise. Because it’s so new, and still incomplete as a platform, there’s an opportunity to build what we need out of it.
Mitch said: “I just think it’s a chance for us to make it what we want because the rules haven’t been written about what looks good on campfire in terms of a group size or content or topic, nobody knows and that’s that’s kind of invigorating.”
Breaking down barriers
Clubhouse has flattened the curve for everyone. Now it’s easy for a tour guide to be in the same room as a CEO and ask them a question in a way that may not be possible at a conference or webinar.
“It removes the sort of class barrier to interacting in this form. That might simply just be related to the novelty of it right now — that we have interactions here that we wouldn’t on a more sort of codified platform like LinkedIn, for example,” Mitch said.
The app would also give guides a space where they can discuss their own experiences. Operators already have these spaces, but guides have been left out of these support networks, Nikki said.
“I do see the opportunity, theoretically, to reach more guides specifically,” she said. “currently it’s hard for them to access many of the industry spaces that tour operators and everyone else have access to.”
“[Guides] didn’t have these forums that the rest of us have access to, they weren’t having those discussions [about coronavirus]. Guides are in such a vacuum, so I really really do hope that the more guides we can get on the platform that maybe this can be an easily accessible space for them long term.”
Everyone’s using it in different ways
While everyone’s exploring the main rooms and listening to people talk. Christian can have people chatting away in the background and dip in and out. Or he can treat it like an industry event, while trying to avoid the influencers. “It’s a conference,” he said. “It’s 1,000 of us, like at Arival, or 1,500 of us in the same property at any one time.
“There’s people on stage doing a high-level talk about LTAs and there’s a few sessions going on in the side rooms.
“There’s conversations everywhere — there’s two people in the corner talking about API standards and a group of five over there at the hotel bar talking about guide training.”
Mitch will use the silent networking rooms where no one talks. Focused on a particular topic or interest, you flick through the different profiles and follow the people you’re interested in. To him, this feels less spammy than the way LinkedIn works.
And Nikki has found some people using it for lead generation and can see ways to use it for recruitment. People had a clear call to action to get others to send them a DM in order to receive a pdf of what was being discussed. Would it be possible for operators to use similar techniques to find new customers on the platform without being spammy, she wondered?
The UX needs work
The search needs work, people should be muted as soon as they land on a stage, joining rooms is easy but creating a club is not, there’s no instant messaging and the push notifications are awful are just some of things mentioned.
Clubhouse is still in beta, and that means there’s a lot of functionality that is still to be built. The question for the app is whether they will be able to carry out that work after such an explosion in growth without annoying users who aren’t as loyal as those who joined when it was small scale.
Is Clubhouse going to last?
This is the question to which no one has an answer just yet.
Nikki saw it as a content problem — finding the right people to speak and making sure people are finding value. ”Right now, people aren’t sure what the value of Clubhouse is for them personally, so I think that’ll kind of make or break it.”
Mitch is “a little puppy dog with anything new and shiny.” He sees it as an opportunity to build something that people want because the rules haven’t yet been written.
And Christian wasn’t really asked, but he loves it already.
Clubhouse is struggling with retention and facing competition
Twitter Spaces, basically the same thing, is soon to leave beta and will operate on Android phones. Facebook are working on their own version. Discord are all like: “Over here! We’ve had this functionality for ages.” So there is soon to be huge competition in this space.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Clubhouse is already “losing steam”.
Weekly active users fell by a fifth in a three-week period from the end of February and to early March, they say. Angel investor Shaan Buri wrote a long thread on Twitter about why he thinks it’s doomed to failure. He thinks ensuring that there is always easily-discoverable, interesting, live content is a very hard nut to crack.
However, that is exactly the question that much of this Tourpreneur episode focused on: how to produce valuable content on Clubhouse?
If the app’s able to retain those users who are willing to wrestle with content production until they can make it work on the platform and are able to fix their UX problems in time, then they have a slim lead. If everyone else can catch up and get their own voice-chat products out soon, then the lessons we learned on Clubhouse will easily transfer to whichever becomes the most dominant.
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