Clubhouse: Social Network to Market or Consume

by Augusto Cuginotti

I joined the Clubhouse this week. The strategy is to keep scaling the business and let people join by invitation. If you’re not there yet, you will be. After all, a market full of consumers sells more.

I joined in to see the portrait of today’s social networks. Gurus, CEOs, traders, coaches, marketers, startupers… doing self-promotion, sharing their “how to” to others in exchange for self-exposure: requests to follow, promises of magic solutions and rooms with names that sound more like clickbaits.

When in there you have two options, you can either run to teach something you know, create your “how to” room and focus on show your success (remember, you can do anything you put your mind into!), or walk around consuming content produced by others, paying with your attention, likes and follows. It is a marketplace and, again, you are the product.

At first, not unlike other social networks, there is a potential to be a space for connection and learning. Imagine you can find a friend while connected and have a virtual coffee, perhaps even share an idea, curiosity or hear what others have to say about your interests.

All of that can happen, but it’s not what actually happens in there.

In my many years of creating learning spaces using Open Space, it is simple to distinguish between two groups of participants: those who use the space to tell others what they know and those who use it to invite others to explore a topic they are curious about.

Which reminds me of a story, a colleague who went to live in New Zealand with his family, he was an experienced professional taking a sabbatical year. There he sat down in a traditional village to talk to the locals and, after telling them about his knowledge and discoveries, he heard back: “We’re not interested in what you know, we want to know what you don’t yet know”.

What happened to spaces like these? Where did they go? Certainly, not on social media.

And please let’s not take away the value that all the ‘how to’s can provide — I’ve been consuming them on the internet for many years — as of now I’m learning how to handle the clarinet without driving my family crazy and to operate derivatives thanks to a bunch of people sharing their knowledge on websites, videos, etc. They share and they offer their expertise. I also share my practice and offer my work. (oh, get my ebook before you go, OK?)

Hang on, but the whole internet has become a marketplace, hasn’t it? Maybe, but I’d rather search (go DuckDuckGo) for topics that interest me by visiting people’s/companies’ online spaces than watching an advertisement feed disguised as a social space for people to connect.

Why? Because I don’t want to get used to the idea that this is what a connecting space is, that the conversations we manage to have boil down to Facebook comment-bashing or generic compliments on our Instagram photos.

We are online consumers, but unfortunately that has been all we are. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Clubhouse, they are all marketplaces with their offerings: you. (and me, and your neighbour too)

Open one of those platforms now and pay attention to the companies and people looking at you, well, not exactly at you, but at the consumer that inhabits you. If we decide to continue consuming, let it be with that awareness.

And if you think there is more to these spaces than selling or consuming, what about bringing up something to oppose that culture? What would it be like to participate in a network without being a consumer or a promoter? Is it possible?

If someone makes a “how to” showing that it is, you already have a consumer right here.