What is Clubhouse? Why you should be on it?
Getting to know Clubhouse
Clubhouse is currently an “invitation-only” social media app that focuses on voice (audio only) conversations. NO TEXT! And it only works on a phone. The app was released in April 2020 and has been downloaded 13 million times within a year of its release.
The best way to describe Clubhouse is that it’s a hybrid between Twitter (you can follow people based on @usernames), podcasting (audio only), and live Zoom meetings/webinars (where panelists can discuss topics). In other words, Clubhouse is an audio-only, live conversation chat room.
These conversations can happen in a private room (only people you know or invite), in a club-centric room (only people that belong to the club), or in a public forum (anyone that follows you, or any of the speakers/moderators, can enter the room).
For a step-by-step breakdown of Clubhouse, check out this video below:
Making the app invite-only and IOS-only for the first year of its existence might have been a deliberate strategy to make the feeling of inclusion and participation a more “intimate” experience, possibly making the users feel a sense of belonging to an elite class. However, these restrictions might have also been created to curtail the growth of the platform and reduce the number of spammers that potentially jump on the platform, which both diminishes the experience for users and bogs down the servers, reducing the overall performance. So, we suspect that there will be a continued invitation-only structure to how people access the app initially, but as they grow and possibly look to become a public company, or purchased by one instead, there might be added pressure to make the app more “public.”
Once you are officially an active Clubhouse user, you can actively invite a user via TEXT message, or accept a new user that installed the app and has your contact information in their mobile phone’s contact list.
Your contact list plays a VERY key role in Clubhouse, which uses the cell phone numbers in your contacts as an indicator that users know each other. Most of the new users are accepted into the platform this way.
The other interesting nuance about this is that whoever invited you or accepted you into Clubhouse will be listed in your profile as the person that “nominated” you. So, the feeling of private membership is felt throughout the platform.
How it works and app features
Here are some Clubhouse features to explain how the app works:
Club: This is essentially a group of people united around a common theme. Generally, a club is started by one user, but can be administered by several people. The club, itself, is a passive entity – you can either be a MEMBER of the club or a FOLLOWER of the club. Typically, clubs are a permanent entity that grows over time – one of the biggest clubs is Startup Club, with more than 400,000 followers and more than 50,000 members.
Room: This is where everything happens in Clubhouse. A room is basically where the live conversations happen. Started by any user, rooms can be private or public, and generally have a topic that drives the themes behind the conversations being had. Rooms are generally temporary, but a room will stay active as long as there is at least one moderator actively attending to the room.
Moderator: The person that starts the room is automatically the moderator, and he/she can add more moderators. A moderator has the ability to invite people, bring people up to “the stage” (speakers), add other moderators, and/or end the room. All moderators are speakers, but they can mute themselves and not be part of the conversation, if they wish.
Speakers: These are the people that are allowed to speak inside an active room (some speakers are moderators as well, but they could just be speakers). Generally, when someone is risen to speaker or moderator status, all their followers are notified that they are “speaking in room X.”
The stage: While this isn’t a term you see inside the app, speakers use it to describe the area where all the speakers are listed. Generally, when you are “on stage,” it means you can speak on demand (there is a mute button that you can toggle at any time).
Club member: A member of a club can create new rooms that are exclusive to that club (and invite all the club members and followers to attend). A club member can also schedule a future room that’s connected to that club.
Club follower: A follower will be notified when a club-centric room is started, but he or she can’t initiate rooms linked to that club.
What can you NOT do in Clubhouse? (And why this is good)
Currently, you can’t do the following things inside Clubhouse:
- Create multiple accounts. In theory, you can, but you would need to have multiple cell phones to be able to do this, so this decreases the amount of fake/spam accounts.
- Direct Message. You will NOT be able to connect directly to any user inside Clubhouse and text or send direct messages (DMs) directly to users, which is a blessing. LinkedIn users know the pain that DMs represent from people always offering to sell them stuff.
- Record or repost recorded content within the app. It’s live content, so there is a huge FOMO
- Be in multiple rooms or conversations at the same time.
- Chat, comment, or use any sort of texting.
All these restrictions make the app a very unconventional social media app. It almost feels like it’s an “incomplete app,” as you find all of those features as a standard functionality in any new social media app that is created. HOWEVER, there’s beauty that lies in this unconventional feel – by simplifying the functionality, users focus on conversations with other users.
Your profile contains your name, username, picture, number of followers, people you follow, clubs you are a member of, and other items that are really important. Here are those other items:
- Twitter account: You can link your Twitter account, allowing other users to click on it and open your Twitter profile.
- Instagram account: You can link your Instagram account, so that other users can click on it and open your Twitter profile from there. Note: You can DM via Instagram.
- Bio: This is the free-form part of the profile, where you can write whatever you want, including websites and emails.
- Give money: Some users can enable monetization via Clubhouse by giving people the ability to send money directly through the app – a process some call “donations.” However, it’s unclear how this will work long-term as a business model beyond just the casual donations.
I will discuss why the profile is so important a little later on.
Starting a club
After participating in several rooms, Clubhouse will allow you to create your own club. My suggestion is that you participate in many rooms and build a follower base, so that you can have a group of people to be able to invite into the club right at inception.
Many people have a difficulty growing their clubs from zero because they start without momentum. It’s also good to have an idea of what people talk about, want to talk about, and for you to discern the opportunity or gap, in order to figure out what to make your club about. You should stay away from creating clubs that are mainly focused on promoting your business.
Aim to build a community first, and then the business will come.
What can Clubhouse be compared to?
Clubhouse is kind of a revolutionary app in this space. While the concept of live voice-only conversations is not new, the overall structure of the invite-only and simple club/room setup is what has made it all so possible. The other thing that is worth mentioning is that the audio-filtering technology makes everyone sound very similar in voice/microphone quality, so it feels like all users are in the same “room” when conversing. It’s certainly a small nuance but, I think it greatly contributes to the popularity of the app, and the overall audio experience is VERY pleasant.
When it comes to getting live conversations in either a private or public forum, Zoom would probably be the largest contributor. But, with Zoom, you need to pay for a large meeting or webinar account if you want more than a certain number of people to participate. For the time being, Clubhouse is free. The issue with Zoom is that there is great inconsistency in microphone qualities and how people use their microphones, so every speaker in Zoom sounds so different. This is something that Clubhouse tackled early on!
In terms of sheer user base, Twitter is the biggest competitor to Clubhouse. Twitter has a beta version of a similar app called Twitter Spaces. It works very similarly, with the audio experience almost the same right now, and you get to leverage your existing Twitter followers. However, it does not have the adoption that Clubhouse has at this point, and you will see MANY well-known individuals in Clubhouse that are not yet using Twitter Spaces, even though they already have a larger audience in Twitter. In many ways, Clubhouse users are anti-Twitter, where they are looking to have more intimate/sincere conversations, rather than all the nonsense associated with Tweets.
Discord is the largest voice/chat app that Clubhouse is compared to, but since Discord has text and direct messaging, it enables another form of communication, which is what Clubhouse users want to avoid.
Many Clubhouse users do not participate or speak in any rooms, and use it as a “live podcast” style of platform, where they consume the content as a passive participant the same way most people view podcasts. Many people I know claim: “I learn a lot from Clubhouse rooms and speakers.” This is similar to how many people use YouTube and follow creators. The comments section would be the closest thing to the live conversations you experience in Clubhouse.
Why should YOU be in Clubhouse?
It depends on whether you want to promote your personal brand or just want to learn from others.
Your personal brand: It’s true that you can get your voice heard by creating videos in YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms that allow live video. However, you will probably only reach people already in your network that already follow your content. Clubhouse is very new and very young in the market. Many users are still curious about finding thought leaders and experts to follow for new information. This is still an open field to start creating a new kind of following.
Podcasting is already a good alternative to Clubhouse in order to provide your personal brand with your voice and thoughts, but I think there’s a great opportunity to marry both activities. Many podcasters are already doing rooms in Clubhouse, so that they have a chance to interact with their audience – something that a traditional podcast feed can’t provide.
Networking: When you participate in spontaneous conversations with random people, the networking possibilities are incredible. The pandemic certainly made it more difficult for people to meet in person, and all the traditional social media channels have so much information to scroll through that it’s hard to find the right people to connect with. Clubhouse is creating some significant shortcuts into making connections with others in this live environment.
Learning from others: Many Clubhouse users not only “listen” and learn from the knowledge and experience of the speakers, but also from what people are “thinking.” Even though there is a small number of users relative to the adoption of the other social media giants, it’s an interesting sample of the population at large, as well as a great place to understand trends in the marketplace.
If you’re an entrepreneur and want to understand who your customers and potential customers are, and what your market opportunities will be, the bottom line is that you MUST pay attention to the conversations people are having. The traditional text-based conversations are usually missing the subtleties and nuances of a one-to-one voice conversation, where people are much more inclined to say it all, rather just a small part that fits into 280 characters (Twitter’s limit per post).
It’s not a coincidence that when most CEOs are asked for advice and/or what made them successful, the common answer is, “We listen to our customers.” In a B2B world (which I am, as both an entrepreneur and an accountant), I am very much interested in what people have to say because this helps me become better.
Give Clubhouse a shot. I would love to know what you think about it! If you are a fellow QuickBooks® user, join our club, or follow me @hectorgarciacpa.
I will be hosting a major Ask the Expert event in partnership with QuickBooks and some special guests in June, so make sure to follow me to be notified when the event goes live!