For a period of a few months during COVID-19, Clubhouse seemed destined to become the next big thing in social media.

The audio-based network quickly became a unicorn with backing from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, leading to reports of a potential $4 billion Twitter takeover in April 2021, little over a year following launch.

But as the world opened up again, the novelty of a platform for holding conversations in virtual rooms wore off. Reports of people being scammed by room hosts perhaps had an impact, while the invite-only ‘exclusive’ approach in the early days – when it was only available on Apple iOS devices – may also have put off many potential future users.

The writing is not yet on the wall – it has 10 million users, after all – but increasing competition from the likes of Twitter Spaces is slowly relegating it to the status of also-ran.

“Hot off the heels of Clubhouse, the big social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter launched social audio offerings – signalling that social audio is here to stay,” Dayo Akinrinade, founder and CEO of Wisdom, tells BusinessCloud.

“Some critics cite Clubhouse’s dramatic decline in usage as proof that social audio is dead and limited to a pandemic trend. I think Wisdom is proof that social audio is very much alive, and Clubhouse may prove to be to social audio what Friendster was to social networking – the company that showed the potential but failed to realise it.”

Dayo Akinrinade, CEO, Wisdom

Akinrinade’s hint that mentorship platform Wisdom could become the Facebook of social audio – or at least a significant global player in the space – is grounded in a belief that people are now looking for a more substantial experience online.

“I believe the future of social audio is less about the ‘hustle culture’ found on platforms like Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse, where many people listen to promotional talks about the latest NFT, credit repair scheme or stock – and more about niche communities engaging in balanced one-to-one conversations on topics that matter,” she explains. 

“In a world lacking truly social connections – where the likes of TikTok serve up an addicting reward-seeking dopamine loop – we remain steadfast in our mission to make Wisdom a place for ‘slow’, substantive interactions.

“My hope is that Wisdom will be amongst the first to demonstrate the longevity and growth potential of the social audio format… I believe Wisdom is uniquely positioned to be the first social media property to popularise substantive, meaningful content and connections.”

Wisdom app

Wisdom (above), recently featured as Apple’s App of the Day, aims to democratise mentorship by providing an inclusive space where diverse people come together to have conversations that matter. Members – which number in the thousands rather than millions for now – can chat live with experts in dozens of topics from parenting, fitness and dating to startups, mental health and beauty. They can listen live or play back the recordings in their own time, with millions of minutes consumed, according to the company.

When a mentor starts a talk, others can queue up to ask questions. A timer keeps the conversation moving so no one guest can monopolise the conversation, making sure all voices are heard. 

Connecting with others in a meaningful way has been proven to make people happier, with deep conversations with strangers more enjoyable than small talk, the company claims.

“One of Wisdom’s most exciting new features is that we now make it easy to ask a question of any other community member and receive a voice reply,” reveals Akinrinade. “We are the pioneers of this simple-and-flexible Voice Ask-Me-Anything format, which allows our community to benefit from the illuminating questions of others and the answers of experts.

“The conversations and the answers are all recorded and saved to the member’s profile, creating a place where these talks and answers can live on and help people beyond the live moment.”

How female founders can overcome ‘invisible’ funding barriers

To keep it creator-friendly, answers are maximum one minute long and voice answers are shareable as social media posts – thus empowering creators to showcase their expertise and build authority.

Wisdom members spend five times more minutes per day on the app compared to Tinder and Bumble, according to the startup. The app is especially popular with podcasters who record their pods live on Wisdom and bypass the need for costly audio equipment. 

“Personally, I loved social audio right from my first experience: the medium feels authentic, as talking is one of the earliest forms of human communication,” says Akinrinade, who raised $2 million seed funding after launching the app in the UK, US, Australia and Canada in October 2021.

“For the consumer, audio can conveniently be enjoyed hands-free and the absence of a visual distraction frees the listener’s mind to ponder on the content, or multitask.

“For the creators, social audio democratises access to content creation by removing barriers: social audio creators don’t need to excel at taking beautiful pictures or be magnetic on video – all you need is your voice. 

“Compare the resources required to create a YouTube video, versus creating on social audio where all you need is a phone.”

Depop founder aims to fix ‘broken’ food industry