Is Clubhouse Your House?

Elon Musk just made headlines appearing on a social app that isn’t even available for general use yet. Suddenly everyone is talking about Clubhouse, the invitation-only social app. Why?

You can’t see anyone’s face on Clubhouse. The only way you can interact with other members is to use your mobile phone to talk. Group conversations are organized around a seemingly random assortment of anything-goes topics ranging from “Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Occupy Wall Street” to “Intercultural Expat Relationships.” Some people find Clubhouse to be nothing better than low-fidelity talk radio. Others say it is addictive. According to thought leader Jeremiah Owyang, the average member session time on Clubhouse is an astonishing 90 minutes.

Oh, and there’s this: Drake, Diddy, and Oprah hang out on Clubhouse, and Elon Musk blew up the internet when he appeared on Clubhouse to talk with Robinhood co-founder and co-CEO Vlad Tenev. And investment firm Andreesen Horowitz has invested $100 million into Clubhouse

What’s going on here?

Clubhouse 101

First off, for the uninitiated, here are the basics:

  • Clubhouse was launched in April 2020 by software developers Alpha Exploration Co
  • As of December 2020, membership had grown to 600,000.
  • Membership is by invitation only. Anyone can claim a username and get put on a waitlist to join, though, by going to the App Store and downloading Clubhouse. 

If you are lucky enough to get a membership right now, you’ll discover it’s easy to set up a profile and get started. Clubhouse invites you to identify broad topics that interest you, ranging from music to technology to current events. From there, you can join Clubs (a group of users interested in the same topic, similar to Facebook Groups) and participate in Rooms, which are moderated group conversations also organized around a topic. You can either listen passively or raise your hand virtually and wait for a moderator to allow you to comment (which may or may not happen depending on how many people are in line ahead of you). The entire user interface depends on audio chat — think Subreddits but with members participating with their voices instead of their keystrokes. 

From there, your experience will likely consist of a potpourri of conversations. You’ll hear perspectives that will open your eyes to diverse views and life experiences – Clubhouse has already gained a reputation as a home for Black voices. You’ll hear thought leaders such as Brian Solis discuss consumer behavior and emerging technology. And yeah, you just might catch Elon Musk shooting the breeze. 

That’s it. Pretty simple. Not much more to it. No bells or whistles. No virtual reality headset required. No augmented reality. No special camera filters. Just . . . talk.

Why Clubhouse Is Hot

So why is Clubhouse so buzzy? Here are a few reasons:

  • Clubhouse is like a grab bag of ideas. You can jump in, sample some Rooms in progress, and jump back out if nothing appeals to you – the Clubhouse skim. Or you may latch on to a topic that you just cannot get enough of, moderated by someone who knows how to keep a conversation moving along, with known authorities in their fields contributing ideas alongside emerging voices. 
  • The audio-only format is appealing to an audience experiencing Zoom fatigue. Members can talk all they want without needing to worry about how they look. (Check out this post by Jeremiah Owywang, “The Future of Social Audio,” for more insight.) 
  • It’s the perfect multi-tasking tool. You can stay tuned into a chat room passively and get on with your life just like listening to music on Spotify. On your mobile phone you can leave Clubhouse and open other apps and still listen to a chat in progress. 

Is Clubhouse a Home for Brands?

Is there a room for brands to be on Clubhouse? Technically, no. Clubhouse is restricted to individuals, not businesses. But it’s clear that entrepreneurs and small businesses are getting into the game by having their founders represent them. Consider taking these steps:

  • Plan for the day when brands will be involved in Clubhouse. The app needs to monetize in order to grow, and some sort of sponsored content play with brands is likely on the horizon. Get a personal account, and nominate a small team of team members to do the same. Start learning from your own people in anticipation that someday brands will have a presence on Clubhouse somehow.
  • Revise your employee social media guidelines to include Clubhouse.
  • Learn from Clubhouse’s growth. There is something to be said for the value of audio-only content right now, as witnessed by the rise of podcasting. At the same time, Clubhouse is benefitting from the presence of celebrities, thought leaders, and authentic conversations about timely topics such as diversity and inclusion. 

To learn more about how to create engagement on digital, contact Asher Wren.

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