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What is Clubhouse? Clubhouse is a voice-based social platform where, instead of communicating via typed message, people have real-time conversations. People find topics by following people or “Clubs,” or can scroll the home screen to see what people are discussing in rooms at that moment. There’s no text component, including DMs.
If you spend any time in marketing or PR groups, it’s been impossible to avoid curiosity and chatter about a new app called Clubhouse.
Available only on iPhones (for the moment), and currently only allowing new members via invites from people who are already on the app, Clubhouse has garnered a lot of hype, even though the vote is split about whether it’s the next big thing or yet another short-lived experiment.
Should you be on Clubhouse? That depends on a few things:
- First of all, do you need to be exposed to new opinions and new people for your job?
- Second, do you have questions that your normal circles of friends and colleagues can’t answer?
- Third, are you more of a believer in open or closed social networks?
- Fourth, do you have lots of time in the day to participate in audio chats? Because that is the only way the app functions.
At the moment, the professional philosophy of Clubhouse centers on open networking — meaning, people are open to speak to and potentially connect with others who are not part of their existing circle, nor even within two degrees of separation. This leads to a general level of excitement along the lines of:
You might wind up in a room with [Grant Cardone/ Tiffany Haddish/a ‘Shark Tank’ investor] and they might hear your pitch and want to become your investor or business partner.
It’s not the kind of thing that could potentially happen to a regular shmo since the early days of Twitter, and although there’s been little research to follow up on these conversations and find out how many deals actually went through, the allure is powerful.
But really, what you’re more likely to get out of Clubhouse is exposure to people who are discussing anything from Bitcoin to TikTok strategy to commercial real estate investment to the state of the events industry, with every imaginable level of expertise… from a complete lack of it to, on the other side of the spectrum, a leader in their industry.
Sometimes, the conversation has value (even if that’s just a good laugh) and sometimes it doesn’t, so you go on and find another.
How does Clubhouse work?
The setup of Clubhouse is an endless choice of “rooms” that function like conference calls or — hearkening back even before that — like party lines. You find out about rooms based on who you follow, and/or the interests you choose. If you set up your phone to allow push notifications, you’ll get a notification when someone you follow has scheduled a room or is inviting you to join. Also, when you log onto the app, there’s a little icon for updates, and in there you’ll find scheduled upcoming rooms that you may want to join. Finally, if you’re just browsing, you can go from the main page to Explore and browse other rooms.
Once you click on an interesting room name, you are IN a conversation. (Beware if you’re browsing this late-night or around people who are studying/working quietly.) People who are “on stage” can speak at the discretion of moderators. People in the audience cannot, although they can raise their hands to be called on stage. When you first enter a room, you will likely be in the audience unless you know a moderator who pulls you directly onstage.
The app is easy enough to use, and still so small that you can find interesting people to follow by looking at your friends, or people you admire, and seeing who they follow. Most people have filled out their bios to the point where you can figure out where they work and what their interests are, as well as their other social handles.
You can also get updates on conversations by following certain clubs, which all describe their purpose, audience, and regularly scheduled events.
Most rooms in Clubhouse are open, so you can join at will. You may not be able to participate, which makes the experience more podcast than interactive chat, but at least you’re not stuck outside requesting permission, as with a Facebook group.
While you have to pop into a lot of rooms to find something intriguing, you might actually stumble into something enlightening, or information-packed, or at least good for a laugh. Since the app is social as well as business, rooms proliferate just to discuss topics like dating, sports, or what’s for dinner that night.
Rarer, but still easy to find with concentration, are rooms where legitimate SMEs hold hours-long spontaneous panel discussions. For example, on the Friday evening after a turbulent week in the stock market, investment professionals from Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs came together to give candid thoughts on Reddit traders vs. Wall Street.
Early on a Saturday morning, the CEO of Social Media Examiner may be found doing “open office hours” where he provides 5-minute brand positioning workshops to entrepreneurs with no social media presence. Most weekday mornings, a group of real estate construction managers, engineers, contractors and other CRE experts gather to talk about the projects they now own and give advice to newbies who want to buy, rehab and hold properties.
This may be a passing thing, but it bears pointing out that currently, Clubhouse’s larger “business development” and “wealth-building” rooms are dominated by coaches and growth hackers, independent financial advisors, gurus, and all manner of people who claim to be millionaires. All of them also claim to want to share their hard-won knowledge and wealth with random people on the internet for no reason other than altruism. Most of this comes down to selling courses, so if you aren’t looking for that, move on to the smaller rooms.
The other thing that has caused some backlash from a business perspective is, any member can open a room and name it whatever they want, without having any verified expertise in the subject matter. You may enter a room called “Experts Talk Stocks” only to find someone talking about his sneaker collection. This is one of the UX challenges unique to an audio-only real-time platform.
The other frustrating quirk about Clubhouse from a UX standpoint is that, if and when you do want to connect with someone outside of a Clubhouse room, you cannot DM them on the app. You must DM them either through an email (if provided on their bio) or through another social media app — typically Instagram or Twitter. However, some people actually think this is a positive since it helps cross-pollinate and thereby build their other social media accounts.
What kind of content works on Clubhouse?
- Obviously, radio and podcast personalities have migrated with great success because the formats are so similar — the main differentiator being with Clubhouse, you can “open the phone lines up” (i.e., bring people from the audience to the speaker stage, at any point).
- A lot of YouTube SME hosts are also experimenting with Clubhouse since collaboration happens fluidly and instantaneously. Topics that don’t require anything visual, but do benefit from other people chiming in (i.e., niche news, commercial real estate advice, financial gossip) can gain traction quickly.
- If your business publishes Q+A content, either in written format or podcasts, you can easily turn it into a Clubhouse conversation, as long as you pull in the people with the questions (assuming here that you’ll be the one with the answers).
- Long-running threads on other social platforms about a specific business need (i.e., what’s your favorite discovery platform for brand ambassadors?) can be turned into a Clubhouse panel where product marketers can pitch their service to an audience of potential customers.
The bottom line
Is it worth knowing about Clubhouse? Yes. It may well become the replacement to podcasts in the same way that TikTok is replacing YouTube.
Is it worth actively being on right now? To some extent, probably. It’s entertaining, and it helps to address the sense of disconnect that so many of us have struggled with over nine months of stay-at-home orders and remote work. Perhaps the popping into rooms just to eavesdrop doesn’t fit into your workday — and that’s OK — it doesn’t mean the app has no potential for you.
If you can coordinate a small group of colleagues from outside the app to join you in a room, now is a great time to experiment with hosting a discussion. Everyone’s in experimental mode, so people are forgiving if the programming isn’t smooth and rehearsed.
With the level of interest, funding, and waitlisted would-be users that Clubhouse has, its potential seems big enough to merit any marketer or brand owner to at least have a peek around.