Last year it was Zoom and Houseparty. The next app everybody's talking about? Invite-only platform Clubhouse.
Wondering what the Clubhouse app actually is? Yeah, you're not alone - everyone seems to be talking about it.
Imagine an amalgamation of Zoom, Snapchat, and LinkedIn and you'll get a vague idea of what the new social media platform is about. Users have compared the experience to dropping into a live podcast recording that you're actively encouraged to ask questions throughout. Sounds fun, right?
The unique new app live streams audio chats from celebrities, industry experts and sought-after entrepreneurs for 24 hours of the day. The catch? It's invite-only and only available to iPhone users. Plus, it's safe to say that after only a year of being live, it's already dividing opinion. But more on that later.
This exclusivity has seriously fuelled the excitement around the app. It feels like everyone and their aunt wants to be part of the Clubhouse 'crew'. So how does it work? Well, an existing user has to send you an invite. When you log on, you'll be quizzed on your likes, dislikes and interests. From there, you can join live 'rooms' with two or more speakers, and you're encouraged to comment or join at any time. This means app users have found themselves speaking directly to the likes of Elon Musk, Oprah, and Drake. Yep.
Given that it's the newest go-to destination for entrepreneurs, we thought you'd want to read about it. Sure, it's not quite as exciting as an IRL club where you can have actual, face-to-face interaction. But in this locked-down world, it comes a close second.
So, what is Clubhouse?
We've pretty much covered it above, but essentially, it's the latest kid on the social media block. The app's focus isn't on images, as with Instagram, or characters, as with Twitter, but audio, instead. Conversations on anything go, from controversial world politics, to career-boosting life advice, to COVID strategy.
The app is even getting a name for music-focused rooms. Just last month, auditions for Hamilton the Musical were hosted on the app, judged by presenter Oloni Dee and current Hamilton cast members Dujonna Gift-Simms, Karl Queensborough and Sharon Rose. Think The X Factor, but app-style.
One fun feature of Clubhouse you'll want to know about: nothing is recorded. That means you have to catch conversations as they happen, or you risk missing out. The idea behind the no-catch-up is simple: the app inventors wanted it to be a safe space where celebrities, professionals and amateurs alike could chat honestly and openly. With no way of quoting what's been said, anything goes.
When was Clubhouse first launched?
Good question. It was actually launched in March 2020 by American entrepreneurs Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth. It didn't take off for a while - look back to May last year and they'd garnered only 1,500 users and a worth of $100m.
But, partly thanks to Elon Musk's Clubhouse room earlier this year, it's become the latest 'thing' to be on. As of the beginning of February 2021, the app has over 2 million users and is valued at $1 billion - ten times its value eight months ago.
In his Clubhouse chat, Musk said that he believes context switching is a 'mind killer'. In his opinion, that's why Clubhouse is such an invaluable social media app. That is, it allows you to tune in to one context and stay focused without distractions.
How do you get on Clubhouse?
As above, at the moment it's invite-only, but the friendly and encouraging tone of the app means that, if you know someone who uses it a lot and is a fan of the app, reaching out and asking them for an invite won't be frowned upon. The worst that can happen is they turn you down. No harm done.
Fun fact, although we're not recommending you do this: invites are even being sold on re-sale sites like eBay.
Who's on Clubhouse already?
The beauty of the app is that it's a whole smorgasbord of entrepreneurs, celebrities, and professionals. There's the potential to meet anyone and everyone.
We've already mentioned Elon Musk, Oprah and Drake as users, but if rumours are to be believed, a whole load of celebrities, including Kevin Hart, Asthon Kutcher, Estelle, Jared Lato and more are on the app.
Ready to listen to some A-listers speak? Time to find yourself an invite.
Why is the concept of Clubhouse so exciting?
According to doctor Nimrita Bassi, founder of digital social media agency Marketing Essentials Lab, this one's important. "They got their referral strategy just right, making the app feel exclusive and desirable," she shares.
CEO of social agency South Coast Social Clare Groombridge agrees, emphasising how clever this marketing has been. “It has an exclusive, cool standing," she shares. "Its premise, which hasn’t been seen at this scale before in the world of social media, allows users to listen in to conversations, interviews and discussions on various exciting topics that may not have been covered before."
It benefits both your social and business life
As a social media platform, its sole purpose is to connect people, but the sheer wealth of topics covered on the app make it super helpful for elevating your professional life, too. The app is definitely one-of-a-kind in this regard and positions itself as an invaluable tool for those looking to use their lockdown time to learn.
"I believe if you know where to look that it genuinely could be the most value-led platform for entrepreneurs and small businesses owners out there. You can hear from CEOs that would normally charge thousands for consultancy and courses, giving out advice for free," media expert and editor of About Time magazine Angelica Malin shares. "The global reach of the platform is very alluring, and I've found some genuinely great connections through it," she says.
Unlike your other regularly used social media apps - think Instagram, Twitter or Facebook - Malin points out that Clubhouse is audio-only. This could take the pressure off after a whole day looking at your reflection on Zoom calls, she shares.
"After a year of constant Zoom meetings and IG Lives, I'm very into a platform that I can use without having to look remotely presentable. It makes me want to use the platform even more, because I don't have to think about what I look like when I'm speaking," she explains.
It offers an even playing field
Ah, this all-important point. On Clubhouse, experts, peers, professionals and complete newbies all have the same user rights - that is, you can host, join, or chime in to conversations. If you're an independent business or at the start of your career, you're given the unique opportunity to ask some of the best in the business for their advice. Imagine that.
It's instantly connecting people while we're locked down
Eloise Varma, social media manager at Tribal Worldwide London, makes a good point here. Clubhouse has taken off at a time where, here in the UK, we're in our third national lockdown. Connection is getting rarer and rarer, and so any app that offers this is in a good position.
"Clubhouse feels like the next step in connecting people in a time when connecting is harder than ever, thanks to COVID. While the platform is still growing, it has already developed significant momentum, not just because it's shiny and new, but because it provides something for everyone," she shares.
How so? "Just today I was able to listen to a high-level debate led by the BBC’s tech correspondent, Rory Cellan Jones on the issue of Facebook, ask a question and hear some fascinating points of view from around the globe. Its on the zeitgeist on every level," she reckons.
We've educated you on exactly what the Clubhouse app is. Next question: should you try it?
YES - "Clubhouse has saved my maternity leave"
According to Karen Hudson, founder of Hudini Coaching and new mum, Clubhouse has hugely helped her mental health navigating life as a new mother during a national lockdown. She'd recommend it.
"I’m obsessed. Quite frankly, it has saved my maternity leave. Being able to engage in adult conversation without leaving the house is a blessing. Singing children's nursery rhymes is a joy, but I crave adult conversation. If I have a spare moment, I can hop on, join in, or simply listen to other people having an upbeat chat. I've heard loads of intellectual ideas on how to run a business. I even listened to a non-stop 24-hour music session and got the closest I will ever get to childhood hero MC Hammer. How cool is that."
"When you’re on maternity and mum guilt sets in, visual platforms like Instagram can leave mothers feeling insecure or frustrated their own lives don't feel curated. I personally think Clubhouse is a platform where women feel they can be totally authentic and get support. Quite frankly, they can be on the app surrounded by mess, with unbrushed hair wearing whatever they like, and no-one would know."
"On a business front, there are lots of wise words. I run a room on a Wednesday afternoon to give advice and tips to mums returning to work after maternity leave. Getting on Clubhouse can help them upskill, meaning they can then add value to other people’s conversations. What’s not to love?"
NO - "I find it sexist and won't use it again"
On the other hand, producer, comms and marketing consultant and journalist Annalisa S. Toccara has had some negative experiences on the app she wants to warn you about.
"I’ve been on it since December 27th. I had a strong love for it when I joined, avidly joining as many rooms as I could, however have seen a lot of bullying and sexism, and so now have a strong dislike for it."
"I decided to try it after seeing tweets with the hashtag #TheLionKingCh. It referenced a musical rendition of The Lion King which was performed live on Clubhouse on Christmas Day. The fear of missing out got to me, but I had heard you needed to be invited to Clubhouse, and I didn't think I knew anyone on the app. I downloaded it nonetheless and signed up on 27th December. It turns out signing up is a backway entrance into the app, and a friend let me in."
"My first impression of the app? Wow, this is amazing. I was immediately sucked in and spent hours listening to the various rooms on the app. I would wake up at 7am and be on the app by 8am, listening in and taking notes on the multiple discussions. I'd go to bed at 4am and be right back on it the next morning. One minute, I was having 'Breakfast with Millionaires', listening to Tai Lopez and other high achievers talk about their million-dollar secrets of getting rich; next minute, I would be in a room playing a drinking game. I was initially immersed in Clubhouse because I felt it gave me access to free knowledge outside of the app I would have to pay thousands for."
"But it's not all good. There seems to have been quite a bit of Clubhouse drama, from bullying, to sexism, to racism. Real-life oppressions are brought onto the app and seen played out in real-time. I have been in rooms where celebrities have ganged up and bullied black doctors who were educating on the COVID-19 vaccine to the point. On one occasion, a doctor who'd been bullied on Clubhouse then received death threats from the users on Twitter. She almost took her life and ended up in the hospital."
"I have also been in a room where a moderator has shared how he was kicked out of his room and was held to ransom to get his room back."
"I haven't used the app much recently because the buzz and the high of Clubhouse wore off. Cracks began to show with so-called billionaires not really being billionaires, and the room topics became much of the same. I use it to host my room topics and see the value in Clubhouse as a platform of education; however, it also displays a lack of accessibility and classism as it is only on iPhone right now."
What do you reckon? Are you keen to join, if you can get an invite?
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.