When we think of social media platforms, the likes of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter immediately spring to mind. For others, LinkedIn or TikTok may be more relevant as the ability to share images, videos, opinions and generally connect with others through online platforms has become commonplace in our lives.
Now, a new entrant seems to have stolen the spotlight and has everyone clamoring to be a part of an exclusive club. With roughly 10 million downloads to date and some 2 million downloads in January 2021 alone, according to Sensor Tower, the invite-only app Clubhouse has become a hub of activity in under a year. But what exactly is Clubhouse? And why is it attracting so much attention?
To learn a bit more about Clubhouse, we spoke to marketing leaders and social media experts to uncover the good, the bad and what it means for the future of online discussion.
What Is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is an audio-chat-based social network where people can discuss a variety of topics. Users can browse the homepage and decide to join a room, becoming part of the audience where a discussion is taking place.
Launched in April 2020 and currently only available on iPhone, Clubhouse operates as a podcast-chatroom hybrid. The makeup of the platform could see it become the preferred method for virtual panel discussions.
As marketing director at York-based development consultancy Netsells Group Bethan Vincent explains, Clubhouse isn’t merely a virtual free for all discussion like the comments section of social media platforms can sometimes become. “Only a selected number of people can speak, usually the panel, but people can virtually raise their hand to ask to talk,” he said.
As Katherine Calvert, CMO at Austin, Texas-based, Khoros describes it, “being in Clubhouse can feel a little like sitting in on a podcast recording, its magic is its fleeting and attention-demanding real-time nature.” While other social media platforms can sometimes steal your attention by enabling you to scroll through your newsfeed and see what you might have missed, Clubhouse does seem to grab your attention through it’s exclusive nature. “These conversations aren’t recorded or available for playback later, so you have to catch everything as it happens,” Vincent added.
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Why Is Clubhouse So Popular?
The discussion panel or audio-conference style that Clubhouse uses makes it different from the other popular social media platforms and the digital tools we’ve found ourselves using since last year. “Clubhouse is the anti-Zoom — there are no videos, no pictures, no slides,” added Calvert.
According to Eric Dahan, CEO of Los Angeles, California-based Open Influence, this lack of visuals is precisely what makes Clubhouse so popular as many choose to embrace a new type of platform that offers another perspective on what a social network truly means. “Oral storytelling and audio media has always been part of our lives, but text and image-based content have ruled media for decades,” he said.
But focusing on audio content isn’t the only thing making Clubhouse popular. The exclusive nature of the platform is also a crucial component of its success to date. “Clubhouse has leveraged the classic ‘velvet rope’ marketing technique to create an exclusive feel around its launch,” says Calvert.
As Dahan explains, we are witnessing a newfound appreciation for audio content due to the ease of access to smartphones. Not only does audio content provide an alternative to scrolling, but it also pulls us away from always staring at the screen — something which many people have been doing much more of recently.
Calvert points out that the phenomenon known as Zoom fatigue, which many people have found themselves experiencing, is another reason why Clubhouse’s audio-only format is advantageous. “There’s something incredibly soothing about being able to engage and participate without the mental processing power required from video casting.”
What Concerns Should People Have About Clubhouse?
Based on the current traction, Clubhouse should continue to grow in popularity and cement itself as one of the top social networking sites. However, despite its popularity, there are some things that people should be wary of.
“One concern is the lack of moderation on the emerging platform. This means that no one is regulating conversations on the platform, which can spread misinformation like fire,” said Dahan. Fake news and unverified statements aren’t new concepts for social media platforms, but the exclusivity and trust around Clubhouse could cause people to let their guard down.
Moderation is a definite concern but security and privacy are also critical as “there have also been incidents where audio chats have been taken off-platform and streamed elsewhere. It’s been advised that people consider Clubhouse chats “semi-public” at best,” added Vincent.
Clubhouse is an emerging platform in the process of enormous growth. Even more established companies can sometimes struggle with security and data management issues. However, no matter the platform, a certain level of caution should be maintained with the information we choose to share.