What on earth is Clubhouse?
An introduction to a new audio-based platform, the latest Silicon Valley unicorn and the darling of the elite.
An acquaintance sent me an invite (supposedly much coveted) for Clubhouse a few days back. I check out all new apps, discarding most in a few minutes. On day one, I ended up spending three hours on the app, limited only by the fact that activity on the app is still largely on US timelines and one needs to sleep/work.
So, what is Clubhouse?
That’s a pretty accurate description of my experience. I have been in a range of rooms linked to marketing, innovation, personal branding and the quality of speakers have been world-class.
So, how does it work?
Once you get in (it’s iPhone only and invite-based), you can search based on your interests and find clubs. The range of clubs is truly amazing.
Once you click on a club you land up in its active room (will explain in a minute):
Usually, someone thinks of an idea of a club, defines a broad area and invites known experts to be moderators for the club. In the above example, the name of the club is ‘Money Mastery-Millionaire Mastermind’. They then think of a topic for the day and set up a ‘room’. In this case, the room is called ‘Why you need a digital or physical product’.
The first block of people at top are in what’s called a ‘stage’. The folks with a green star next to them are the moderators. The next block are people like me who have joined the group. As you listen, if you find the conversation rich and have a question to ask, you raise your hand (see bottom right of pic) and usually the moderator will pull you up on stage and you join a queue. People ask questions, the moderators answer and move on to the next guy. If you don’t like the conversation or need to do some actual work, you ‘leave quietly’. And everything is in audio, the app doesn’t record anything and the room disappears when the creator ends the conversation.
What is the point?
If you are curious by nature, this is a great place to be. I have heard some very interesting conversations, picked up some really useful tips on areas I am personally not so strong on and need to learn about (for example, how to market my consultancy on Linkedin).
If you want to network, this is the place. You click on people’s faces, see their profile and follow them. If you can ask a few intelligent questions, people start noticing you and they start following you and that leads to direct conversations. You can even be pulled up on stage as an expert because the moderator heard you speak in some other room and feels your experience is of relevance to that room. That is a big chance for you to build your own reputation.
And sometimes, if you get lucky you can actually get business. I was in a marketing club room the other day and this lady from UK, who writes copy for real estate, was talking about how she had set up her own website and wanted to expand and find new business and disarmingly admitted she had no idea what to do next. Initially, the moderators gave her advice on the usual social media tactics but as she interacted you could see her communication skills were really good and that conversation ended with two of the moderators asking her to connect with them as they needed copy writing skills for their businesses!
Is it all milk and honey?
Nothing really is and Clubhouse, just getting to a year, has had its share of controversy. And as with any popular social media app, it is to do with moderation. This Verge article explains the roots of the blowout between New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz and the investor Balaji Srinivasan. More importantly, the article gives us the history of one its founders, Paul Davison which perhaps is a pointer to what lead to the fracas. From the article:
All of that feels like necessary context for understanding how Clubhouse found itself at the center of a now much-discussed conflict between New York Times reporter (and friend of The Interface) Taylor Lorenz and the investor Balaji Srinivasan. When Lorenz joined a conversation about herself in the app — one in which she would eventually be accused of playing “the woman card” in complaining about harassment she was receiving on Twitter and elsewhere — she could not have reported it even if she wanted to.
The reason is that Clubhouse does not allow users to report harassment or other violations of its terms of service through the app. And Lorenz, who wrote an enthusiastic early profile of the app in May, told me she has been besieged by Clubhouse trolls. The app offers no ability to block users, and so some users are changing their profile pictures to Lorenz’s antagonists to taunt her while she uses the app. Screenshots of beta tester forums that I obtained show users begging Clubhouse’s founders to, among other things, write comprehensive community guidelines. (Its published terms of service are largely just legal boilerplate.)
The app is powering on, with Adweek advising brands to get on to it:
I believe brands are going to be all over Clubhouse in a few months. Some faster. The platform definitely has its pitfalls, but there is a very real opportunity to provide value to your community that brands will salivate over.
The platform is special. It allows for deep engagement, conversation, even intimacy. What director of social media out there doesn’t want that? Earning 60 seconds of your audience’s attention on TikTok or Instagram is nice. Earning 60 minutes of their time is something different.
And the money seems to like what they are seeing. Andreessen Horowitz announced a Series B funding of $100 million, reportedly making it a unicorn ($1b valuation).
Not bad for a year’s work.
Have a great weekend. And good luck with the invites.
I am a partner at Accelero. We deliver growth ideas, tested for market fit, at speed.
Hey Suprio, I loved to learn about how people are building business and value outof this - I haven;t yet explored or come across that. I think a lot of what's getting CH traction at present is its elitism. With its iPhone limitation, and the appeal to the ego, it has curated a certain brand and quality that everyone tries to maintain. As it goes the Quora way, it's to be seen how the product value changes as more noise enters the interface.
I, for one, have yet to find utility beyond podcast value from here. I think the 2-way communication that is the core strength here, is yet to be unlocked, in my limited experience.