WHAT IS CLUBHOUSE?
A PERSONAL INSIGHT WITH MICHAEL DONALD
Clubhouse launched on iPhone in June 2020 and has hit the headlines recently when Elon Musk's appearance threatened to overwhelm its service and crash the app. With 3 million people now having downloaded the app, are there opportunities for everyone from established brands to start-ups to utilise the platform as the Covid19 recovery begins.
By Invitation Only
A couple of months ago I received an unexpected invitation to Clubhouse. All I knew was that it was an exclusive new social media app that a few celebrities use. Exclusivity is a strange thing. At its best, it is a way of limiting numbers to ensure a better experience for everyone who gets in. On the other hand, it has been used to discriminate against people who are deemed to be less appealing. Clubhouse’s exclusivity is certainly down to the former.
Due to the expense and technological challenges involved in developing and scaling a hugely popular new app, you can currently only access it on an iPhone. Hopefully, an Android version will launch very soon and this will help give access to the vast majority of global smartphone users.
The major caveat is that you must be invited. At the moment, anyone (with an iPhone) can download the app and register their interest and all-important handle, but they need to rely on a Clubhouse member inviting them or allowing them in after registering interest. The benefit of this system is that there is a strong sense that members are genuine people, eager to share their experiences rather than mysterious bots rolling out a political agenda.
An Audio-Only Platform
According to Clubhouse’s own very bio… “Clubhouse is a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations—with friends and other interesting people around the world. Go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”
Unlike other major social media apps, Clubhouse doesn’t rely on the written word, video, photos, or hashtags. It relies simply and intimately on audio-only. You don’t need to worry about how you look on camera, the position of your camera in front of a bright window, or children/parents/pets unexpectedly (and often hilariously) walking into frame, and since the app is currently only available on the iPhone everyone has roughly the same tools at their disposal. While Elon Musk’s name will garner a lot more followers than mine, it is a pretty level playing field once we unmute our microphones and speak.
Of course, like any rapidly evolving social media platform that relies on human interaction, Clubhouse has faced an array of criticism. Privacy and Security have been questioned due to the location of servers, how easy it could be to manipulate and publishing conversations outside of the app, and how it accesses your contacts, amongst other things. A quick Twitter search also reveals that Clubhouse invitations being offered for sale, which cannot be what the creators intended and will almost certainly lead end up as a scam. What the future of the app will hold may well depend on how it expands, and the inevitable monetisation of the platform will need to tread very carefully to preserve the traits that have been so engaging so far. The platform itself is quite simple and a few other social media giants have already indicated that they will be launching their own competing format.
Access All Areas
Like a huge percentage of the growing number of members of Clubhouse, I am still familiarising myself around the platform. Almost every conversation or room will have someone confess that “this is my first time...” and even more who are choosing not to out themselves as first-timers. I have listened in on random rooms, followed interesting-looking profiles and joined clubs. It feels like the most interesting conversations have been just stumbled upon and often revolved around people simply sharing their stories of success and failure. On this platform, without advertising (as of yet) these stories come across as supremely genuine and confessional insights.
The platform is in its infancy, it feels safe and is so easy to use, and as a result, contributors and keynote speakers who could otherwise prove quite elusive (or expensive) have been happily offering their insights very openly on the platform. Apart from the aforementioned Elon Musk, Oprah, MC Hammer, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tony Fernandes are just some of the people who have “walked in” to rooms and shared their stories from their life and industry experiences.
There is a tremendous opportunity for hospitality professionals to use this platform to share ideas and thoughts, especially now as the industry is getting ready to reopen and properly start on the road to recovery. There are so many inspirational hospitality leaders and their experience and storytelling could be so helpful at this time. Unlike a platform like LinkedIn, where the focus is on likes and shares, Clubhouse feels like a platform that allows people to properly interact on a more meaningful level. Earlier this week, I found myself speaking to industry sage, Mary Gostelow, owner and editor of The Gostelow Report, as she hosted her very first Luxury Hotel room. It was an honour and Mary was very generous in giving all of the attendees a chance to speak.
Join the Conversation
Inspired by her lead, and the hope that an open conversation may help someone in our industry strategise a plan for the next few months, I am going to host my first Clubhouse room next week. For anyone who has already signed up to Clubhouse, I would love to see you there and have a chat. I will post more information next week on my LinkedIn account and look forward to further exploring this platform together.
***Updated*** - 16th March 2021