15th April 2021

Clubhouse is the latest social media trend—but what is it?

Clubhouse is the new social network on the block. The USP? It’s all based on audio. Listening to a Clubhouse chat is similar to listening to a podcast, but the difference is that it’s live and time-limited.

Clubhouse has just celebrated its first birthday and bypassed the 10 million users mark, an incredible feat seeing as it only had 2 million users in January. It’s the brainchild of Rohan Seth, a former Google engineer, and Paul Davidson, who previously worked at Pinterest.

The app has a unique networking proposition that other social media platforms lack: users can have real-time audio conversations about their business/brand with influential players in the market, meaning they can create new leads faster than elsewhere.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk for instance, who has participated in live conversations on Clubhouse, is notably absent from other ‘professional’ social networks. Although he’s an outspoken voice on Twitter, the less structured nature of discussion on that platform means it’s near impossible to pick his brain or ask him a question. This is where Clubhouse becomes invaluable as a resource.

Exclusivity may also help to explain Clubhouse’s meteoric rise in popularity. You can’t just download it: you need an invite from someone who is already using it. Each user is given between 2-5 invites, so it’s still what is termed as a ‘closed’ social media platform.

Clubhouse users can follow interests and users.

How Clubhouse works

To use the app, you need to accept the invitation texted to your iPhone (sorry, Android users, though they are hoping to have the app ready for you this summer). Set up an account with a thumbnail image and bio, and then join ‘clubs’ that are of interest to you, personally or professionally.

When you open the app, you enter the ‘hallway’. This is where all the live chats that match your interests happen. Tapping one will add you to that ‘room’, where you will become part of the audience.

In each room there is always a moderator, who hosts the chat among those ‘on stage’. The moderator and speakers are the only people allowed to speak freely during the conversation.

Usually after the discussion has finished, the moderator will invite members of the audience to ask questions to any of the speakers on stage. They do this by ‘raising their hand’, like on Zoom or Teams.

This is where the user can actively participate. If you are are chosen to ask a question, your mic will be unmuted and you’ll be able to ask a question directly.

If you’re not enjoying or benefiting from a conversation, you can exit the room by clicking on the ‘leave quietly’ button.

Only those 'on stage' can speak during a Clubhouse session, but viewers can be called on to participate.

Why is Clubhouse so popular?

When conversations are finished, Clubhouse closes the ‘room’, and there is no recording or other way to re-listen to the conversation. Once it’s over, it’s over.

This goes against the social media convention of keeping the user on the platform for as long as possible, but it’s all part of the appeal.

What makes Clubhouse so compelling and addictive is that interaction is ephemeral and occurs in real time, just like an actual face-to-face conversation, so you’re not scrolling past content posted days or even mere hours ago.

Should my business be on Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is still in its infancy and corporate brand presences are scarce. Most users are individual professionals eager to learn new skills or build their own personal brand.

It’s still too early to recommend more than a cursory investment of resources, but if you do represent your business through your digital profile, you should definitely have a Clubhouse account for early adoption purposes.

With imitation being the best form of flattery, the heavy hitters of Microsoft and Facebook have already begun developing their own audio-only social networking features. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that new, next-big-thing social networks come and go; Clubhouse may yet be absorbed, bought out, outmaneouvred, or rebranded into a new entity.

Whatever happens, with the number of influential people signed up and using the app, from celebrities such as Oprah, Drake, and Jared Leto to VCs talking candidly about their experiences and industries, Clubhouse has come at the perfect time: a global pandemic, where physical gatherings and other conventional knowledge-sharing events are postponed indefinitely.

About the author

Michelle advises clients on digital best practice, trends, audience segmentation, and strategy for the online environment. With over a decade of international experience, she understands how to cut through newsfeed noise and generate bottom-line business results. Before life at 360, Michelle worked in the New Zealand Government and with the UK start-up community.

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