January 27, 2021

So, What’s the Deal with “Clubhouse”?

Colin Reilly

Clubhouse is a new audio-based social media platform. Currently, the app is only available on iOS, but the creators confirmed this week that they will be working on an Android edition. In its own words, Clubhouse “allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world.” Here’s what it looks like, and how it works:

When a user joins the app (still currently invite-only) they are prompted to select interests, topics, and influencers to follow, and their feed is quickly populated with live, in-progress rooms they can hop into/out of as they wish.

In a room, users can hand-raise if they wish to be allowed to speak, or they can invite their friends to join the room. There’s no liking, commenting, or other traditional engagement capabilities, and the content is real-time only. No native recording or saving.

Users can also start a room of their own. The room type can be Open (anyone can join), Social (only for users you follow), or Closed (only for people you invite).

Users can add topics to rooms they start or leave them open-ended.

There is an “Explore” tab where users can discover more users and topics to follow.

A room can be scheduled in advance, and users can opt to be reminded when it’s about to go live.


So, why have you heard so much about it in the past week or so?

Clubhouse has continued to grow and generate buzz. While the app officially launched in early 2020, it had been operating in an uber-exclusive beta for much of the year while gaining outsized hype. By May, it was valued at nearly $100M on the strength of only 1,500 users. By December, it had reached over 600K users while still being invite-only.

While new, hot social platforms have a long history of not living up to their initial hype, Clubhouse has nonetheless started to draw the attention of marketers and the media, aided by its tremendous growth and early adoption by celebrities and influencers. Smartly, Clubhouse seems to have gotten ahead of the game by courting popular content creators from other platforms to help fill users’ feeds. If other networks are any indication, Clubhouse will need to continue to keep these power users happy ($$$) if it has designs on long-term success.

Simplicity is Clubhouse’s defining characteristic (for now): voice-only, atomized communities, few visible engagements, no direct messaging capabilities, ephemeral content, etc.

  • This sets the app apart immediately from nearly all competitors, which have all spent the past few years jockeying for position by adding more capabilities and mimicking each other’s features and functionalities (see: Stories, Reels).
    • TikTok, for instance, affords its users an endless array of creative tools. Its UI can be difficult to get used to, and such a wealth of content, trends, and capabilities can be daunting for new and casual users.

It’s still a work in progress: It’s important to note that the app still has plenty of growing up to do. Per an announcement in July, we should expect improvements in the areas of community moderation, in-app safety, diversity and inclusion, and additional feature development as the app inches toward wider release.

  • The absence of community guidelines and moderation tools in the app as it currently exists could rouse brand safety concerns. Any benefits of a first-mover activation on Clubhouse while the app is in beta should be weighed against these potential risks.
  • There have been reports of a dominant “tech bro” culture on the app, which has resulted in bullying. In July 2020, New York Times tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, an early Clubhouse adopter and evangelist, was herself the subject of harassment on the app at the hands of certain figures in the VC community.

Reserve your handle: The app is still invite-only, and invites are shared via SMS from current users. While we can’t predict how vital Clubhouse will be when it exits beta, your team should reserve a brand handle if you’re able to obtain an invite, just to be safe.


How Your Brand Can Activate

Ready to join Clubhouse but not sure what to actually do? Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing:

  • Real-time customer service. Give users or customers the chance to share feedback and reviews on products or services in real time.
  • Thought leadership. Whether it’s your C-suite executives, VPs, or anyone at your company, this is a good opportunity to give employees more authority and the chance to become thought leaders.
  • Behind-the-scenes content. This goes along well with the exclusivity aspect of Clubhouse! Offer exclusive BTS access and show folks what things look like behind the curtain of your brand, whether it’s talking about a new release, an upcoming promo, or the process of creating a product or service.
  • Themed rooms. Depending on what space your brand is in, host a “branded” or themed room where business influencers can discuss a larger topic. This could be anything from wellness and nutrition to finance and investing.
  • Networking. It’s a great way for brands to find influencers to work with as well as other brand partnerships.

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Tags: Best Practices, Influencer Marketing, Niche Networks, Real-Time, Social Media, Tools, Trends

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