The Social Media Report #20

Telegram, Tencent and *checks notes* Capital Coffee move in on audio social

In this week’s edition we take a look at the break-outs in audio social, and the impending anti-competition investigation that seeks to protect social media innovation. We also have as usual my must-read articles of the week.

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Audio-only social media broke out this week, with a range of tech brands big and small rolling out new services in the wake of the Clubhouse craze. Tencent (which owns WeChat, and is China’s version of Facebook), Alibaba (China’s version of Amazon) and Xiaomi (China’s version of Apple) are all testing audio-only chats, according to reports by Bloomberg from China. Less prolific tech brands are also getting in on the audio boom, including 36kr, which has launched Capital Coffee, which resembles Clubhouse in its functionality almost completely.

But it’s not only in China where Clubhouse clones are taking off. Messaging app Telegram also rolling out audio chats. The Voice Chats feature is relatively new inside Telegram, launched first just three months ago, and this week the messaging app rolled out Voice Chats 2.0, which has features such as voice chats being in groups, link sharing for chats and raising your hand to speak. In other words, it’s also doing a Clubhouse.

Telegram has 500 million users, compared to Twitter’s 350 million. There has been much said about Twitter’s emergent audio social network, Spaces, which I’ve had the privilege of being given early access to, but which has felt pretty empty compared to Clubhouse which is bristling with buzz. It’s places like Telegram, and of course China’s upstarts, that pose a greater threat to Clubhouse’s first mover advantage, than Twitter Spaces.

Clubhouse is the app still making all the headlines and attracting the high profile buzz. Just this week, for example I was able to tune into a limited access live chat with Mark Zuckerberg and Daniel Ek, I hosted two events myself, and noticed some milestones made by the high profile hosts on Clubhouse, such as Abraxas Higgins’ 9am In London club reach 20,000 followers (Abraxas for me is the poster child for audio social media in the UK).

You can copy features, but you can’t clone buzz. And that’s what still stands to Clubhouse’s advantage. This is not *all* good news for Clubhouse, though. The imitation game will continue, and while Clubhouse broke through, critical mass could win out.

Many questions, and opportunities, still remain. A people flock to the function of audio social, there is ground to be made by brands, figureheads and upstarts in carving out an audience. Safety is still an issue, too, something inherent in any live, online discourse, and evident in Clubhouse and elsewhere too. And how will regulators and lawmakers keep up? Larger tech brands will use their muscle to keep startups out of their patch, and that kind of behaviour is being watched closely by the authorities.

In the UK this week we saw reports that the CMA, the government department responsible for preventing anti-competitive activities in business, reportedly preparing an antitrust investigation into Facebook “within the next few months”, to do with the social network’s use of data to keep ahead of competitors. I hope for Clubhouse’s sake that it has protected its IP in some way, because it could be really only a matter of time before audio social becomes ubiquitous, and Clubhouse gets lost in the noise.

My must reads from this week

Here are the stories that I have been reading this week.

Virtual worlds







  • I spoke about audio social at Bristol Creative Industries, and Dan Martin was kind enough to publish this thorough write-up.

  • Back at HQ, Battenhall is up for some awards this week, namely the Global Social Media Awards and CIPR Awards, for our work for NHS England and we’re shortlisted for Consultancy of the Year 2021 at both. Fingers crossed :)

The Social Media Report is written by Drew Benvie, founder & CEO of Battenhall, The Drum, CIPR and GDXA’s social media consultancy of the year 2020.

You can follow The Social Media Report on Twitter at @TheSMReport. Suggestions for stories can be emailed to Thank you for reading, and see you next time.