Clubhouse – Is it the New Killer App or Is It a Waste of Time?

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  • Clubhouse was launched in March 2019 and has now reached over 2 million weekly active users.   What is it? Clubhouse is an audio app which allows users to join rooms that have moderators discussing specific topics.  Once you join a room you can request the mic to share a thought or ask a question. Currently it’s only available on IOS devices.

    Sound old school? Well, in fact the buzz is catching on like wildfire as the app is still technically in Beta and you need an invitation to join.

    Fortunately, current Clubhouse members receive a number of invitations they can share with colleagues and friends. It is actually easier to join than to schedule a COVID vaccine appointment. Once you request access through the app, your name will appear on a list shown to some of your contacts that are already CH members and they can invite you to join.

    Why the buzz? People are finding it refreshing to be able to share their thoughts in quick conversations and help others learn from their experiences. The platform is designed to help you meet new people, receive tips from experts in a variety of fields including self-help life coaches and deepen your relationships with people that have interests in common with you.

    There are many groups that address issues related to mental health, childhood diseases, starting a business and finding motivation to overcome personal and professional challenges. There are industry related discussions for musicians, videographers, marketers, scientists, creators, athletes, comedians, parents, entrepreneurs, stock traders, non-profit leaders, authors, artists, real estate agents, sports fans and more. People come to Clubhouse to talk, learn, laugh, be entertained, meet and connect.

    According to the Clubhouse blog, each night in Clubhouse, there are now thousands of rooms filled with people hosting game shows, recapping NBA games, singing opera, discussing philosophy, meeting other musicians, sharing travel tips, running support groups, and meditating together. They’re hosting daily talk shows, performing standup comedy, playing guitar and giving history lectures.

    In December, forty strangers who met on Clubhouse auditioned, rehearsed, and hosted a full-blown musical production for thousands of people that made national headlines. They are creating entirely new ways for people to come together, all through the power of voice.

    I have been on Clubhouse for a few weeks and I have to admit, it gets better each time I jump into a room. I have reconnected with colleagues, received great productivity tips and have expanded my exposure to numerous new ideas and people, all during my daily 5 mile walk. I also don’t have to fix my hair and make-up every time I join a room (Sorry Zoom).

    You will find celebrities, famous artists and performers jumping into rooms to join discussions.  Last night Elon Musk interrogated the CEO of Robinhood on the recent GameStop trading freeze. I have heard anecdotes about people spending all night chatting in rooms for over 12 hours.

    Here is where I put on my marketing hat and assess the pros and cons of participating in Clubhouse.

    It is easy and enjoyable to jump into rooms when you have spare time. As a branding expert, I do recognize not only the potential for gaining recognition by moderating a popular room, but also the potential time sink that it can entail. Moderators and creators are now receiving the most traction on the platform.

    However, if you have a job or a business to run, it can definitely impact your ability to spend the time necessary to showcase your knowledge and expand your reputation and visibility through Clubhouse. After all, it is not feasible for an associate to substitute for someone on the platform.

    Furthermore, there is currently no approved way that the discussion content can be saved, shared or consumed at a later date. In fact, recording discussions is against the platform’s Terms of Service.  Clubhouse also does not yet have a feature where people can direct message with each other. Presently, this is done through Instagram or Twitter. All of the social media sites are circling the wagons around Clubhouse as they are likely thinking of ways to copy the platform or buy it. Twitter is testing its voice chat feature called, Spaces.

    Here is the interesting part. The founders, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth recently published a blog post explaining that they raised a second round of capital and that the money will be used to improve the moderation aspects of the rooms and pay creators through either tips, subscriptions, ticket sales and a creator grant program for emerging creators.

    Right now, the WFH aspect of the pandemic has afforded many people the ability to participate in Clubhouse. Will this continue at the same pace?  Will the VIP experts with large followings on other social media sites be first in line to receive creator payments?  Will the “authenticity vibe” of the rooms degrade into excessive self-promotion or even cult-like rants?

    The Wall Street Journal just published an article describing that 70% of the top US “civic” Facebook Groups (Facebook has been heavily promoting its Groups feature) are populated by people spreading misinformation, hate, harassment and calls for violence.    Wow.

    Right now, Clubhouse moderators have no tools to control hackers and individuals that hijack a discussion.  The platform lacks security in many ways.

    The introduction of new features and security functions is a critical part of a platform’s evolution. I believe that the ability to engage in real time with presenters, speakers, moderators, performers and participants will ultimately cause a major disruption to podcasts, which provide static audio content and no live engagement.

    Rumor has it that Clubhouse is already developing recording capabilities so that a discussion can be archived and replayed.  They are also developing an algorithm to recommend rooms by category as users login.  Clubhouse needs to make conversations more accessible to the disabled and discoverable by participants.

    I expect certain rooms will attract sponsorship dollars from brands and associations will probably sponsor events through the platform in the future.

    Yes, I believe Clubhouse will be a huge game-changer with staying power.  Marketers should participate as soon as possible to leverage a first mover advantage.  I also expect Clubhouse to be bought by one of the leading tech platforms.  I vote for Microsoft/LinkedIn to buy the company. This will allow LinkedIn to have a unique feature that supports its professional development and content marketing functions.

    Imagine the issues that could arise, if Facebook acquired Clubhouse!  By the way, I learned from a participant in a CH group for marketers that Instagram is shadow-banning accounts that post about Clubhouse and use hashtags referencing Clubhouse. How surprising that Facebook would play this dirty. Shadow-banning refers to the practice where Instagram blocks posts from an account from appearing on its followers’ news feeds. The account itself is not suspended and the user is left wondering why the reach for their content plummets.

    Check out Clubhouse and email me if you need an invitation. I am off to expand my Clubhouse profile bio which should be about the length and depth of an optimized LinkedIn profile.

    Let me know if you are on Clubhouse and what think about its future. Please do follow me on Clubhouse. My handle is @robincolner.