At a time when seemingly every social media app is trying to copy TikTok, West Hollywood-based Huddles is going in a different direction.
Huddles, formerly known as Clash, is pivoting away from short-form video feeds and focusing on group chats that let creators talk to—and monetize—their biggest fans. The social media startup rebranded itself last week, using the name of its group chat feature that launched in June.
The app will still include short-form video, but the company said it will remove its “sit and scroll” discovery feed—a feature common on other apps, from TikTok to Triller to Instagram. Creators will upload videos directly to their profiles or Huddles group chats. Fans can pay monthly subscriptions to access paywalled content and private conversations.
“Plenty of distribution platforms and companies are going to try to compete with TikTok, and we have no interest in playing that game,” Co-founder and CEO Brendon McNerney told dot.LA. Although most social media audiences are “passive,” McNerney said there are still “tens of millions of fans who want to actually engage and not just sit there and scroll endlessly. They do love creators, and they want to be in a room with a creator digitally.”
The decision to remove short-form video feeds may seem especially surprising for Huddles, given the startup’s background. McNerney was a creator on Vine, arguably the first major short-form video app. His startup acquired Byte, which was created by Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann and billed as a sequel to Vine.
But after launching the Huddles feature—which can include both public and subscriber-only group chats—the startup said it saw a surge in downloads and creator earnings. More than 10,000 people joined the app within days of the feature’s launch and some creators saw free-to-paid conversion rates of up to 40%, well above the industry average, according to the company. The startup quickly made the decision to center the app on Huddles.
The rebrand required a new name, logo, and updated website, McNerney said. The company, which has raised almost $10 million since its founding in 2019, has also begun more marketing and pursuing partnerships with short-form video distributors. That includes a recently completed deal with Meta, which allows creators to shoot video on Huddles, share it to Facebook and Instagram and link back to their Huddles account. The goal is to incentivise fans to follow their favorite creators onto Huddles. As the social media titans battle to build the biggest audiences, Huddles wants to be the place creators can better engage their fans and, ideally, get them to fork over some money.
To that point, Huddles is now leaning into monthly subscriptions as the primary source of creator revenue. Previously, the app formerly known as Clash emphasized “Drops,” which were essentially one-time tips. Creators have set monthly rates ranging from a couple bucks to $30 per month, McNerney said. More than 5,500 creators are now on Huddles and they have collectively earned more than $130,000, according to the company. Huddles earns money by charging fans purchase fees, currently about 10%, McNerney said.
When the app was called Clash, the startup noticed that fans would spend most of their time trying to send creators “FanMail,” a feature that let people request content, ask questions or direct message creators. That user behavior is what informed the startup’s decision to launch Huddles and ditch the Clash name and video scroll feed.
“It’s a bold move, but it's a step in the right direction,” McNerney said of the rebrand. “It’s a step to what’s already working on the platform. That's why we were so confident in taking the swing.”
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