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Clubhouse is the brand-new social media app that has gained a huge amount of following in recent months. But what is Clubhouse and what does it mean for businesses? We speak to UMi Investment Executive, Laura Ferguson, who has been using the app since January.

What exactly is Clubhouse?

Officially launched in April 2020 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse is an audio only social media app. On the platform users can host, browse, and listen to live virtual discussions.

As well as being audio only, another factor making Clubhouse stand out from the crowd is that none of the rooms are recorded. If you want to take part in a room, you have to be there live as it happens.

This might seem like a strange strategy, but it’s clearly one that’s working for Clubhouse. The combination of ‘fear of missing out’ alongside some incredibly high-profile members (Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Jared Leto and Mark Zuckerberg are just a few who have been actively using the platform) has triggered exponential growth for the app.

In December 2020, Clubhouse had around 600,000 monthly users – by February 2021, this had grown to 10 million.

This huge uptake is impressive considering the fact that Clubhouse is still in its Beta stage of development. This means users can only join if they have an invitation from somebody already using the platform, and the app is only available on iOS. But fear not android users, Clubhouse is developing a version expected to hit Google Play Store in the next few months.

Clubhouse’s tsunami of new users isn’t just good news for its developers, it’s actually making for a better user experience all round, according to Laura Ferguson, UMi Investment Executive, who has been using the platform since January:

“My first impression of Clubhouse was that it was very US centric and it took me a while to find quality rooms within the app," she explains.

“But over the last couple of months there has been a big uptake and I’ve made some great connections. I now co-host a Business Scotland club. When I first joined there were only three people from Aberdeen, and maybe 10 from the whole of Scotland. Now the club has more than 200 members and it is constantly growing.”

How it works

Anyone wanting to join Clubhouse needs to have an invitation from somebody who is already a registered user. If you don’t have any connections with an invite to spare, there is an option to register your name and details and be put on a waiting list. This also gives you the benefit of reserving a username before the wider rollout of the platform.

If you do have both an invite and Apple device, the sign-up process is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve set up your account, Clubhouse asks you which conversation topics you’re interested in. The many options shows the diversity of conversations happening across the platform - from identity, arts, and wellness, to hustle, tech and knowledge. There’s also a search option where you can explore topics, people and clubs.

Once you’re in the app, you’ll see your ‘hallway’ which lists the live rooms currently being held by people you follow. To join a room, all you have to do is click on it and you’re in. There is also a calendar option that can be used to see more ongoing and upcoming rooms you might be interested in.

When you join a room, you immediately hear the ongoing conversation live. Rooms work like conference rooms, with a few people speaking and most people listening. Participants listening in rooms can raise their hand (unless the host has disabled the function) to be invited to the stage where they can speak.

It’s really easy to start your own room. You just tap the ‘start a room’ button and select what kind of room you’d like to start. There are three options – you can either have a public room where anyone can enter and hear your conversation, a social room that will only be open to the people you follow, or a private room where you can invite specific people. You can go live straight away or schedule your room for an upcoming date and time.

What it means for businesses

Analysis from the Audiense Resources Library revealed that from October 2020 to February 2021, the top bio terms being used on Clubhouse were ‘CEO’, ‘Strategist’ and ‘Founder’. The top interest listed was ‘Business’.

This shows that despite its creative entertainment side, Clubhouse is predominantly a platform for business people to network, build brand identity and establish themselves as trusted industry experts.

Laura explains more: “Clubhouse is about building relationships with people. You want people to see that the discussions you’re having are coming from a place of knowledge and experience.

“The app is an incredible networking tool, but you need to remember to continue the relationships you build off the platform too. If I connect with someone on Clubhouse, I’ll connect with them on LinkedIn straight after the discussion.

“Clubhouse is great because you meet people who you would never usually network with otherwise. Since joining the app, I’ve connected with people in India, the Middle East, even Silicon Valley!”

Pros and Cons

No app is perfect. So, what are the main pros and cons of Clubhouse?

The audio only nature of Clubhouse’s content definitely makes for a more intimate and interactive experience and allows users to feel more present in the room.

“The fact that it is audio only makes it really relaxed,” explains Laura. “You have the option to just passively listen or actively interact in any discussions.”

But users should choose the rooms they enter carefully.       

“Like with any social media platform, there are a lot of ‘sharks in the water’,” Laura warns. “Sometimes you see ‘join our room and follow our sales plan and sign up for our service and you’ll all have Lamborghinis within two weeks'.”

She continues: “It’s also important to do some due diligence on anyone you meet on Clubhouse before you connect with them off the platform. You need to make sure people are who they say they are!”

But a big bonus for users is that Clubhouse provides the chance to establish yourself as a leader in your field on a global stage in front of connections you might otherwise have never got the chance to make.

“A lot of businesses are on Clubhouse because they want to grow their network and are possibly looking to do joint ventures or projects,” Laura explains. “So it’s a great spot to instigate collaboration.”

“It also gives businesses the opportunity to give back to others without asking for anything in return,” Laura adds. “There’s a lot of people on the app who are there to add value to others without the intention of taking anything, so it can also be a great place to learn new things.”

There’s a lot of noise on the platform at the moment, so it’s important for new users to explore and understand how the app can work for them.  

It’s also worth remembering that the app is still in Beta, and there is development work still to be done.

Things to consider

Clubhouse may still be in its infancy, but if its recent mammoth uptake is anything to go by, the future looks bright for this new platform. But competition is looming. It has recently been revealed that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Spotify are all in the process of developing audio only channels to rival Clubhouse.

In response, Clubhouse has just rolled out a payment functionality where listeners can ‘tip’ creators as much as they like. With 100% of the money going to the creator, this could keep users on the Clubhouse app, even when other services emerge.

Laura certainly thinks the app is here to stay. “Even when face-to-face networking resumes, Clubhouse is still going to be incredibly popular because it’s so global,” she says.

“The sooner businesses get in and set up their own room and build their community, the more of a following they’ll build and the more chance they have of turning that into sales.”

So, if you can find an invite, Clubhouse is definitely worth exploring to maximise your chances of success on and off this exciting new platform.

You can join Laura on Clubhouse every Wednesday at 12pm for the weekly Business Scotland networking room.  

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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