It’s the invite-only, celebrity hyped, social media platform that’s got everyone talking. But, with new apps often failing to make a dent against the goliaths of TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat (Vero anyone?), does Clubhouse have the practical or entertainment value needed to go the distance?
Twitter is about words. Instagram’s thing is beautifully curated photos. And for Clubhouse, it’s audio.
Moving away from visual rich-media, Clubhouse offers a more intimate listening experience, based around shared interests and controlled, closed rooms.
Once you’re in the platform, you can tailor your experience by choosing topics that interest you. The app will suggest ‘rooms’ where conversations about these themes are happening. Users around the world come together to talk about anything from gardening tips to buying bitcoin. You can either lurk and listen or raise your hand and be brought ‘onto the stage’ to ask a question or share your thoughts.
It’s a bit like being present as a podcast is being captured – you can join in on the action. But, unlike our experience of non-stop webinars in 2020, nothing is recorded.
Users say they like the ephemeral quality of these fleeting in-the-moment conversations and the authentic way they build connections between Clubhouse members.
As lockdown savaged our social lives and pushed us deeper into a digital-first world, much of 2020 was spent in a state of doomscrolling induced burnout. Both our work and home lives became structured around Zoom schedules and we collectively felt both intense screen-fatigue and a chronic lack of spontaneity – two things that the Clubhouse experience manages to mindfully remedy.
Being able to pop into a room and just listen to interesting people about a common passion or – if the mood takes you - raise your hand, say something and get involved helps quench the thirst for interaction and connection. But it’s the ability to put the phone down and avoid the webcam while having those conversations that summons a potent mix of novelty and nostalgia.
Fans praise the platform’s ability to facilitate genuine, authentic conversations in a space that feels fresh. Stripped back functionality allows for the conversations to be front and centre and the openness of rooms helps bring a sense of democratisation.
We are certainly lonelier in our lockdown lives and seeking a break from the monotony. This might help explain the rapid acceleration of Clubhouse’s popularity and the vast amount of time users say they are spending on the platform.
Clubhouse is still in Beta and access is invite-only. While this is a wise way to test the waters in terms of functionality and security, it does put limitations on the types of groups that might form.
Many rooms focus on the type of money-centric entrepreneurial hustle-culture that LinkedIn is often derided for. While there are plenty of other interest groups and themes to dive into, the dominance of these topics can make the initial experience a little off-putting until the algorithm starts to serve up the content that appeals to you.
As with all social media platforms, it's important to check out what the terms and conditions say about privacy and security. As we've seen with Whatsapp, end-to-end encryption doesn't offer much reassurance if data and security promises are broken by the platform providers. So, as is good practice online generally, it's worth being mindful of what you share.
As the platform grows, we may come to see more spaces emerge for internal comms and employee engagement practitioners to come together and share advice and experiences. The no-record policy makes it easier for Chatham House rules to apply in a well-moderated room. We are already seeing these spaces work well for HR professionals.
In terms of the influence a platform like Clubhouse can have within organisations, we may come to see the value of smaller, camera-off virtual spaces in situations like focus groups, to allow people to feel safe enough to share their thoughts about more sensitive topics.
The popularity of the platform shows that there is a hunger for connection, and appreciation for a platform that allows it to happen in a more stripped-down way. People linger longer for the conversations that add value – be that entertainment, advice or shared experiences.
Without the bells and whistles of video, graphics and newsfeeds, it’s the quality of the conversation that drives engagement: something we in IC know to be fundamentally true.
Listen to our World Changers podcast for a great conversation on the topic, with Tony, Jacey Lamerton and expert guest Kate Forgione.