Clubhouse is an exclusive invite-only audio-only social network that launched in April last year initially to an invite only list of Silicon Valley venture capitalists and Hollywood celebrities. It has attracted even more attention in recent weeks with high profile rooms such as Tesla’s Elon Musk chatting to share trading app Robinhood’s CEO. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has checked out the competition by appearing in a Clubhouse room. It has already secured investment to give it a claimed valuation of $1 billion. One appeal of Clubhouse is it taps in to the intimacy, authenticity and creativity of the human voice. It reminds me of old school chatrooms and email lists, but with the warmth and personalities of human voices.
I foolishly rejected my first invitation last year as I’m an Android user and it is iPhone only. In December, it began to open up the invite list and more people I knew started to join. I then realised it was actually iOS only so I could use it on my iPad. It’s not ideal as it isn’t optimised so you have a tiny display in the middle of your screen.
The fact that Clubhouse is invite only and iOS only has drawn lots of criticism on other social media platforms where people believe the exclusivity doesn’t work in a modern socially inclusive society. I’ve no problem with the invite only aspect as that’s a standard way for tech companies to both test and develop their products before scaling and to create buzz and demand. I’m not at all tolerant of the iOS only aspect is it kills diversity and inclusivity. Apple might be the dominant brand in the USA but in most of the rest of the world it is Android which has a 75%+ global market share. It makes Clubhouse terribly American and Western as it is impossible for it to reflect the amazing talent in our world.
The big question of course is will Clubhouse last? After the hype has died down does it have a future or will it be crushed by one, or several, of the social media behemoths simply copying its features?
Clubhouse also has to compete with real radio. My early morning work is usually accompanied by the dulcet tones of Aasmah Mir and Stig Abell on Times Radio (who’ve won me over with an interview style that lets interviewees actually speak rather than the pantomime aggression prevalent on Today). Where Clubhouse can win against radio for simple background listening is because the rooms can be so relevant to my interests.
My opinion is it is too soon to tell how successful Clubhouse will be. I think the concept of audio social networks is here to stay. Clubhouse has proved it works. If it will be Clubhouse it’s too soon to say. Clubhouse’s big mistake is being an iOS only app in an Android world. It might have worked for Instagram way back when, but in 2021 appears to be a huge mistake.
- What is Clubhouse?
- Clubhouse rooms
- Get started on Clubhouse
- Clubhouse biography
- Network from your sofa
- Clubhouse for corporate affairs and B2B
- Clubhouse etiquette, lingo and tips
- Interesting Clubhouse rooms
- **** Clubhouse rooms
- Host your own Clubhouse room
- Clubhouse podcasts and recording
- Clubhouse hacks and discovery
- Twitter Spaces and other audio platforms
- Inclusivity and diversity
- Trolls and control
- Privacy and legal stuff
- Clubhouse vs. Twitter
- Marketing on Clubhouse
- Clubhouse resources
- Thank you
What is Clubhouse?
My analogy for the best way to understand Clubhouse is it is talk radio. With talk radio you find a programme on a topic you are interested in and listen to the presenters or guests and to people who phone in to ask a question or express an opinion. If you want to then you can phone it and take part in the show. Clubhouse is exactly the same except instead of phoning in you raise your hand to be invited on to the stage.
Just like radio Clubhouse is live. If you aren’t in a room when it happens, you can’t listen to the replay on the Clubhouse equivalent of BBC iPlayer. Being live gives rooms a feeling of immediacy and intimacy, but you’d be foolish to think it means it gives you more freedom as your words aren’t recorded. It’s easy to record a Clubhouse room and there is no way to stop it, even if it does violate the T&Cs to record or share it without informing people.
One of the best aspects of Clubhouse is the quality of people you can interact with. I’ve been in rooms with Kevin Clifton, Miles Brigstock, Damian Collins, Esther McVey, Sir Tim Smits, Jim Messina, Rory Cellan-Jones, Mike Butcher, numerous ‘Unicorn’ CEOs (companies valued at more than $1 billion) and more. I’ve been in multiple rooms with entrepreneurs sporting MBEs and OBEs. I’m lucky enough to know a few folk laden with honours, but Clubhouse rooms are more like being at a cocktail party where you can eavesdrop on people you wouldn’t usually hang out with.
To give one example. Damien Collins MP has been there to engage in a meaningful and detailed discussion about internet privacy and online harms, both issues he tackled as chair of a Select Committee in the UK Houses of Parliament.
In some rooms with ‘famous’ people I’ve been on the stage from the start, in others I’ve put my hand up to contribute or ask a question, or sometimes I’ve simply listened. That’s an exciting aspect of Clubhouse as previously I wouldn’t have had this opportunity or I’d have had to attend a physical event where they were speaking or on a panel.
One challenge as Clubhouse, or indeed other audio social networks, grow is that this intimacy with ‘famous’ or ‘important’ people will be diluted.
The biggest challenge with Clubhouse is it is incredibly hard to find the gems amongst a sea of rooms full of motivational speakers, mindfulness gurus, get-rich-quick merchants and other assorted weirdos. But the gems you can find are most certainly worth finding.
Another question is how do you fit Clubhouse in to your day? If you are on stage then that’s what you are doing and you aren’t distracted by something else. For just listening I’ve been using it in two ways. One is just listening to rooms in the background the same as I would listen to radio. The other is focusing on the room and listening properly.
The problem with listening in the background is that Clubhouse is more interactive than talk radio as the speakers can see you in the audience. I was invited on stage in one room when I heard the host say “… Stuart Bruce who is listening will have a perspective on that as he’s somewhat of an expert” as she invited me up. The only problem was that I didn’t have a clue what had just been said as I was listening in the background while writing an email.
The essence of Clubhouse are its rooms. These are where all the conversations take place.
Clubhouse feels a bit like the early days of Twitter in 2007 when I first started using it for myself and clients. Users are discovering their own ways to use it so different types of rooms are emerging. Some chat rooms are planned in advance and promoted on other social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Others spring up spontaneously and you’ll see an alert to say someone you follow has created a room. There are also lots of regular rooms that run at the same time every day or week. I’ve listed below some of the most interesting regular ones I’ve participated in.
It’s easy to pop into a room and listen quietly to see if it’s of interest. There’s a button that enables you to ‘Leave quietly’ which is odd as there isn’t a button that allows you to ‘Leave noisily’ 😅.
Get started on Clubhouse
Clubhouse user name
This is an important step. I always advise people to secure their user name on as many social media platforms as possible. This is one reason why the iOS only nature of the app is so discriminatory as you can’t even pre-register your user name without the app. On Clubhouse you are meant to use your own name. Choose carefully as I think you are allowed to apply to Clubhouse once to change your user name. I’d strongly recommend using your own real name and to use the same one Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms.
When you first get access you get given invites you can send to people. It is also possible to invite some people whose mobile(cell) numbers are already in your contacts without using an invite. The more you participate and interact on Clubhouse the more invites you get given. The key thing to remember about Clubhouse accounts and invites is they are linked to a phone number which at the moment can’t be changed (although Clubhouse claims to be working on fixing this). This means if you reserve your username and send invites you need to make sure it’s the right number.
When you eventually get your Clubhouse invite and sign-up you are invited to register your interests and to follow some recommended people. My tip is don’t follow too many of the recommended people as it just means you’ll be notified about lots of irrelevant rooms. I’m not entirely convinced the interests are much use either as they are either far too broad or just bizarre topics (which I suspect have their roots in iOS only and California!).
It’s important to craft a good Clubhouse biography. You’ll soon notice that lots of Clubhouse biographies use emojis. As with other social networks you start to build your biography by adding a profile picture. To edit your biography simply tap on the empty space just below your profile photo.
Remember that people will only see the first few words of you biography without needing to tap to expand it and see the full biography so choose those words carefully.
You can connect your Clubhouse account to Twitter and Instagram, but you can’t add hyperlinks to your biography which is a pain as although you can list your LinkedIn profile, blog or website people have to find it manually. Make it easy for people to connect with you by adding both Twitter and Instagram. I’ve been an avid Twitter user since January 2007, but despite having an Instagram account from the start I don’t use it much. I’ve still added both to make it easier for others to connect.
Learn how to use Clubhouse rooms
There are lots of regular rooms about how to use Clubhouse. Participating in one of those can be useful to help you learn how to use it, but to be honest I’ve covered all the main points you need to know in this blog post.
Network from your sofa
Love it or loathe it networking is important to many people in business. The pandemic means in-person networking is impossible and even when life resumes I doubt it will ever be the same again. In-person networking is geographically restricted so you end up seeing the same old people and not meeting people you’d really like to meet. The problem with online networking is the casual chat and banter you’d have in real life is hard to replicate in Facebook groups, Teams/Slack chats or any other text based community. Clubhouse brings the banter back.
Even if you don’t chat in the room you can spot people with interesting Clubhouse profiles and connect with them by clicking their Twitter or Instagram link in the app or looking them up on LinkedIn.
Clubhouse means you can join small, intimate rooms with half a dozen people having a chat or rooms with hundreds or even thousands of listeners.
Clubhouse for corporate affairs and B2B
Most of the hype and social media chat about Clubhouse has understandably focused on the potential for consumers, celebrities, entertainment and fans. However, most of my work is in the corporate communications, public affairs or B2B space where I think it has huge potential.
At the simplest level it is a fantastic way for companies to host virtual events and provides another channel for thought-leadership. The pandemic has meant we’ve all been trying to develop new formats and platforms to replicate real world events. I don’t think any have been really successful as none of them come close to replicating what for many people is the most important aspect of events – the chats in the coffee breaks and late night drinks in hotel bars.
I’ve participated in events hosted on all the big platforms, and they are all too clunky and complicated with limited scope for ‘forced’ interactivity. The beauty of Clubhouse is it is so simple to create and participate in what are actually quite interactive events.
A company or organisation could organise a conference and have a rotating panel of speakers invited on stage with members of the audience able to raise their hands to get invited on stage to ask a question or offer an opinion. It could even set up its own club so as well as a room for the main conference delegates could create their own rooms to discuss specific topics and issues.
If you’ve participated in an interesting professional or business related Clubhouse room you’ll already know it is effectively already a virtual round table. The round table format is already an effective format in the real world and Clubhouse is an ideal platform to do it in the online world.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity is Clubhouse is another platform for thought-leadership. Individuals within companies or organisations can use it to share expertise, knowledge and opinions. It provides an interesting alternative to people with expertise to share but who aren’t comfortable writing long articles, producing videos or engaging in exchanges on Twitter.
We’re already seeing this happen as many of the best rooms I’m participating in are hosted by thought leaders who are senior executives, consultants or journalists. As well as hosting your own rooms there is also the opportunity to be invited as a guest in a room. I’ve seen (and been involved) in inviting high profile people to Clubhouse deliberately so they can be a guest.
I’m often frustrated that LinkedIn groups don’t work better as all the best business and professional groups I engage with are on Facebook. Clubhouse has the potential to become a social network where people can engage with people who have similar professional interests.
Internal communications and employee engagement
Another idea is to set up a Clubhouse club exclusively for employees or another stakeholder group. Members could set up rooms to easily share their knowledge and expertise or answer questions. The informality of the format makes it much easier for people to participate than formal Teams or Zoom meetings.
It’s also not hard to imagine head-hunters hanging out in relevant Clubhouse rooms to listen to speakers and talent spot potential recruits for their clients.
Despite the claims of some in the PR industry media relations and getting earned media coverage is still an important channel for public relations (even if we know it’s only a small part of it). Just like Twitter you can use Clubhouse to develop authentic relationships with journalists. You can visit rooms where journalists, editors and producers are speaking and sharing valuable insight into what they are looking for
You can also speak in rooms where they might be in the room and you attract their attention. This applies if you want the attention, but is also a reminder that a Clubhouse room is a public space and what you say might be quoted elsewhere even if you claim to be speaking off the record. Clubhouse has a rather meaningless clause in its T&Cs one which says you shouldn’t “share information (on Clubhouse or elsewhere) that the speaker explicitly stated was to be treated as ‘off the record'”. This is clearly nonsense and has been drafted by people who don’t have a clue. Any professional PR practitioner will tell you that ‘off the record’ doesn’t exist and if you don’t want something repeated or shared then don’t say it.
Clubhouse etiquette, lingo and tips
In any new social environment you’ve got to learn the etiquette and how to fit in. Human beings have thousands of years of experience of learning how to socialise in real life but only 30 years of learning how to do so online. You know to behave differently if you are having tea at The Ritz, visiting a church, in the supermarket or down the pub with your mates. Social networks are the same as you have to learn the etiquette for each environment.
The hallway is in theory where you enter Clubhouse. The idea is you scroll through the hallway and see live rooms with details of the topic, the speakers and the size of the audience. Rooms in the hallway are public ones where you can enter and listen to the conversation on stage.
It’s like your main Twitter feed. But rather like Twitter’s main feed it isn’t a brilliant place to discover the best content. I never use my main Twitter feed as all the interesting stuff happens on my 30+ public and private lists which cover my personal and professional interests. Unfortunately, Clubhouse doesn’t support lists yet or anyway of sorting or segmenting people you follow.
If the hallway is of limited use for finding interesting rooms then the calendar view is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. In theory, I think it is meant to show you rooms related to your interests and the people you follow. In reality, it mainly shows you rooms that help convince you Clubhouse is full of c**p rooms. I have zero interest in cryptocurrencies or dentists. I am not a member of either African Women In Technology or the Dentists Club. I do not follow any of the hosts. There is absolutely no rational reason my ‘Upcoming for you’ tab should include rooms on ‘Let’s talk Cryptocurrency’ in the African Women In Technology club or ‘Dentists who invest – cryptocurrency’ in the Dentists Club, yet there they both are.
Owners and moderators
The owner or host is the person who creates the room. They can also invite other people to be moderators. Moderators are marked with a green star.
One tip for owners and moderators is to be respectful of your audience. One of my early Clubhouse experiences was to enter an interesting sounding room but as soon as I did so the host mentioned me by name and invited me on to the stage. No way. I was there to listen quietly not to chat to people I don’t know.
It’s different if you know somebody as then it’s fine to invite them if they haven’t put their hand up. A few times the host has invited me on stage as the conversation was getting flat, or they were getting the ‘wrong’ type of questions, and they trusted that I would ask or say something more relevant.
Speaking and raising your hand
Once you’re in the audience in a room then the owner or a moderator can call you up to become a speaker. You can also ask to become a speaker by pressing the hand icon to raise your hand. As a speaker you can mute or unmute your microphone.
Every room has a stage which is initially just for the owner and moderators. It appears at the top of the screen when you enter a room. Moderators invite speakers to join the stage.
The microphone icon can be confusing as avatars have a muted microphone unless the person is unmuted where rather confusingly the microphone just disappears. The natural instinct is to tap the muted microphone on your avatar to unmute, but that doesn’t work. To unmute you actually have to tap the microphone at the bottom of the screen. When you enter a room in the audience you are automatically on mute. However, beware if you are invited on stage as the default is unmuted. You need to quickly jab the microphone button until you are ready to speak. Unless you are actually speaking you should stay on mute to avoid background noise or feedback. Moderators can also mute your microphone.
Reset the room
If the host knows what they are doing you’ll sometimes hear them say I’m going to ‘reset the room‘. This means they remind the audience what the topic of the room is, how long it will last, if there are any rules or guidance for participating and any other relevant information. The purpose is to explain it to people who might not have been there at the start and joined later.
Refresh the room
You also might be prompted to refresh the room or confusingly PTR (pull to refresh). This means you should swipe down on your screen to refresh your display so you have the latest view of who is on stage and in the audience.
If you are in an interesting room, or hosting your own room, you can ping people who are online to invite them to join the room. You do this by clicking the plus icon where you’ll see a list of people who follow you or if you have a lot of followers you can search to find the right names.
Sometimes you’ll see people on stage flashing their microphones on and off. It is meant to represent clapping in agreement with what is being said. It is the only way to engage in a Clubhouse room so if you are just in the audience you can’t do anything. It also confuses some hosts as I’ve done it and the host has interrupted the speaker thinking that I wanted to interrupt and speak.
You’ll see some avatars have party hat icons. All this means is the person is new to Clubhouse and it is their first seven days. It’s mainly important if you’re hosting a room as they might need a little more guidance or help if you invite them to speak as it might be their first time.
Search and discovery
The search on Clubhouse is pretty useless. You can click on the magnifying glass icon and search for people or clubs, but I haven’t found it that useful. It also lets you click on interests to find rooms and clubs. If you are in a large room you can tap the three dots next the title and search for people in the room.
By far the best way I’ve found to find interesting people, clubs and rooms is to start by following a few people you know or are really interested in. Then click on their avatar and click on ‘Following’ to see who they follow. This is far more useful than looking at who is following them as it is their curated list of people they are interested in. It’s also useful to scroll to the bottom of their biography to see which clubs they are in. Another useful source is to click on the name of the person next to ‘Nominated by’ and start exploring who they follow and what clubs they are in.
Clubs are communities within Clubhouse which can be either public or private. In theory anyone can create a club once they have run three recurring rooms. Clubhouse also wants club founders to commit to hosting recurring rooms at regular time slots. If you are in a room you can get details about the club by pressing the green house near the top of the screen, which is where you can also join that club. You are reminded quite how early a start-up Clubhouse still is when you click this link to request to create a club as it takes you to a form created using Airtable.
If you’re in a room and spot a friend you can tap on their name and ask them to start a new room with you which means you leave the room you’re in.
When I first started using Clubhouse I felt bad about dropping into rooms and then leaving them again. Don’t worry about it as in Clubhouse that isn’t considered rude. Sometimes you might not find the conversation of interest, or someone might ping you to join another room. Don’t worry about it, feel free to explore rooms at will. That’s why the button to tap says ‘Leave quietly’.
Interesting Clubhouse rooms
I’m enjoying the serendipity of dipping into and exploring new rooms, but I’ve also started to find some regular hangouts. Ironically nearly all of the best rooms I’ve found have been through seeing them promoted on my existing networks on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Discovering good new rooms within Clubhouse is hard because there is so much dross in the hallway or if you search.
Several of them are regular weekly rooms and some of my favourites are:
Geekout Weekly – The Social Media Manager Hangout
This is spin-off from a successful weekly newsletter. It’s run by Matt Navara every Friday at 4pm.
Power of Purpose Midweek Leaders Talkshow
This a room which discusses purposeful business and is run by John O’Brien MBE. It covers everything from sustainability to impact on society and philanthropy. It runs every Wednesday at 5pm.
The Tech Media Show
Run by TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher MBE this is a weekly discussion with tech journalists about the week’s news that runs every Friday at 4pm.
Note that all these times are London GMT so the local time for you will vary.
**** Clubhouse rooms
I’ve already seen lots of moaning, twining sorts complaining that Clubhouse is rubbish and overhyped because its full of c**p rooms. They are right there are lots of rubbish rooms full of hustlers and weirdos. But the real world is full of hustlers and bull**** artists so just like the real world or other social media platforms what you need to do is avoid them. If you’re not interested in learning from a millionaire, wellness, mediation or starting your day on a high then just avoid those rooms.
Host your own Clubhouse room
It’s fantastic to explore and participate in rooms other people are running, but the real value of Clubhouse is to run your own rooms. One huge advantage of running a Clubhouse room is the entry barrier is low compared to other multimedia formats. It’s audio only so you don’t need to worry about appearance, lighting, framing shots or any of the complexity of video. Unlike a podcast you don’t need to worry about editing, hosting or distribution. Even the audio quality is expected to be brilliant as people are broadcasting from a built-in iPhone or iPad microphone although you can improve it by using an external microphone.
One disappointing aspect of Clubhouse is how the problems of the real world are transplanted to the virtual one. Dare I mention all-male panels? It’s one thing to host a room with two male or female presenters, it’s quite another to invite a larger panel of guests and not think about diversity. Although admittedly the iOS only aspect makes diversity incredibly hard if all the guests you ask reply to tell you they use Android.
One benefit of hosting a Clubhouse room compared to say a Twitter chat or Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) is that you remain in absolute control. Rooms are hierarchical and run by moderators who control who can come on to the stage. You can either invite people on to the stage or they can raise their hand to show they want to be invited. Crucially you don’t need to accept everyone, or indeed anyone, who raises their hand. You can check out their Clubhouse biography first. If you are doing a high profile or controversial room I’d also strongly recommend checking their Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles to make sure it matches their claims on Clubhouse.
Even the audience has a hierarchy as the people who are followed by any of the moderators appear in a separate section at the top. This makes it much easier to invite people you know on to the stage.
Now that I’ve participated in and run rooms I’ve got a much better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Top 10 tips for hosting a Clubhouse room
- Promote it outside of Clubhouse on other social media platforms and by email and messaging apps.
- It needs to kick off with at least a couple of people on stage to get the conversation going.
- Plan a clear theme so people know what it will be about and then make a list of potential talking points and/or questions.
- Keep steering the conversation back to the purpose of the room.
- Open the room slightly early as people who arrive and see it hasn’t started often won’t come back.
- Depending on the size of the room you might need a separate moderator to help manage it by doing things like watching for people who want to speak, moving speakers back into the audience and alerting the speaker if someone interesting or relevant joins the audience.
- I’ve seen mixed opinions on how important it is to finish on time. Personally, I don’t think it’s too important as I’ve been in some great rooms that have run over and I’ve appreciated it. I’ve also been in others where I’ve left because the moderators are trying to be fair and give people chance to speak, but quite frankly many of them weren’t worth hearing.
- Be a presenter and don’t be afraid to interrupt speakers if they are rambling or going off-topic. It’s your job to keep it interesting and relevant.
- If you are a moderator or host then learn and use Clubhouse etiquette and lingo.
- Clubhouse is new so lots of people still need guidance. As a presenter or speaker it’s a good idea to encourage people in the audience to tap biographies and follow people. Encourage them to do this not just for the people on stage, but also the people they follow and even people in the audience.
Clubhouse podcasts and recording
Clubhouse is live. If you’re not in the room when it happens then you’ve missed it. In some respects this is Clubhouse’s attraction. It’s like attending a real world live event. Stop! We haven’t done that for the last year and while we all want to get back out there it has also shown us how important recordings of live events are so we don’t miss them and can play them later.
Clubhouse isn’t designed that way. When a room is over, it’s over. Is that really what people want in a world where real-time TV has largely been replaced by on-demand streaming from BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ or Netflix?
I’ve seen lots of people saying it is against the T&Cs to record Clubhouse rooms. What it actually says is that you shouldn’t “record any portion of a conversation without the express written consent of all of the speakers involved.” This is why you’ll see some rooms where it says it is being recorded and there will usually be a red dot recording emoji in the title to make it clear to everyone that it is being recorded.
This means if you really want to you can record a Clubhouse room and make it available on demand later. It means a room is potentially a fantastic way to create a podcast. You run the room like a live radio show which you record. The raw recording can then be either simply turned into a podcast or edited into a shorter show with just the highlights of the conversation.
I’d say watch this space as I expect the recording of rooms for on-demand playback to be coming as a new Clubhouse feature. I was in a Clubhouse room where the panellists were talking about a conversation with Clubhouse co-founder Paul Davison who was talking about that very feature.
Clubhouse hacks and discovery
Did you know that Twitter didn’t invent hashtags? Hashtags were started by Twitter users as a way to make it easier to share and find relevant content. A similar thing has emerged on Clubhouse with ‘silent rooms’. Clubhouse doesn’t have a directory so silent rooms are a user generated hack. The idea is to set up a room on a specific topic or issue. The moderators start by explaining how it works such as how long it will last and to keep microphones off when invited to the stage. The moderators then rotate the people on the stage.
To be invited on stage you need to have completed a comprehensive Clubhouse profile. People can then browse the profiles to find interesting people to follow on Clubhouse, or can connect with them on Twitter or Instagram. It’s frustrating that these are the only options as for professional users LinkedIn would be far more useful than Instagram. The Clubhouse biography doesn’t let you create any other hyperlinks so you have to manually navigate to more useful sites such as LinkedIn, blogs and company websites.
Another great way to discover new people to follow is to use the audience hierarchy. When you are in an interesting room click on members of the audience at the top as they are the ones followed by the speakers and moderators. Reading their biographies helps you to find new people to follow.
Twitter Spaces and other audio platforms
Clubhouse isn’t the only audio social media platform in town. In a recent article on the future of social audio Jeremiah Owyang identifies 33 different platforms. The biggest name is Twitter Spaces, which is currently in an even smaller beta test than Clubhouse. Twitter Spaces is already ahead of Clubhouse in many of its features and because there is an established ecosystem for finding and following people then it has ready-made networks.
Twitter is also using its development muscle to rapidly introduce new features such as a new display of all the speakers and listeners with clear markers to identify speakers and hosts. Twitter is also looking at how to order the display of who is in the Space so for example in order of their number of followers. Another reason Twitter is able to develop Spaces so quickly is its infrastructure is based on Periscope (Twitter’s live-streaming video). Periscope is also a useful reminder that Twitter has done it before. Meerkat was a live-streaming video app that enjoyed a similar meteoric rise in 2015 only to disappear into obscurity when Twitter released Periscope and made live-streaming available to a much larger user base.
Some of the other social audio platforms that have either launched or are in development and are worth looking at include Discord, Fireside Chat and Stereo.
Inclusivity and diversity
Clubhouse has faced lots of criticism about how inclusive and diverse it is. The two problems are that it is audio only and it is only available on iOS.
The fact it is still only available on iOS massively discriminates against the 75% of mobile users who use Android. This isn’t just as simple as people choosing to use different technologies. The problem with iOS is it massively skews Clubhouse’s demographic to the USA and some other countries in the West. The USA is one of the only markets where iOS has a larger market share. In countries like India, and I think every African country, Android dominates massively with typically a 90%+ market share.
My own anecdotal experience is it has made it impossible to run any of the Clubhouse rooms I really want to as roughly four in five people I’d like to involve use Android. I’ve run other successful rooms but can’t do any of my ‘big’ ideas until Clubhouse releases an Android app. The rumour I’ve heard (from a reliable source who stresses he doesn’t actually know yet) is the Android app announced in January will launch in March.
The audio only aspect impacts a much smaller number of people, but is no less important. It means Clubhouse is inaccessible to people with hearing issues, which isn’t just people who are deaf. Interestingly Twitter has already tackled this issue in its early beta as Twitter Spaces has an option for live transcription. Technically it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for Clubhouse, which is why its silence on the issue is baffling. If its founders cared then all they need to do is apologise for not having transcription yet and add it to the product development roadmap.
Trolls and control
I’ve seen people expressing concern about safety aspects of Clubhouse and how to prevent abusive language in rooms. I think those concerns are mainly without merit. The Clubhouse community guidelines page has lots of information about how you can block or report users.
Clubhouse makes it easy for chat moderators to block trolls and report people. The level of control is higher than for most social media platforms as people can’t actually speak in a room until they are invited to so the moderator has absolute control. They can also mute someone as they are speaking so the only way for people to make problematic remarks is if the moderator allows them to. If you don’t like what is being said then it’s one tap to leave the room.
This level of control can be a problem in itself. When venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz were on Clubhouse to share their stories and offer advice to start-up founders they controversially blocked journalists from the room. Andreessen is well known for blocking reporters on social media so his behaviour on Clubhouse is to be expected.
Clubhouse isn’t perfect, but no social interaction in any environment ever will be. It is better than many.
Privacy and legal stuff
Every social network faces privacy concerns and Clubhouse is no exception. Some people are concerned that when you first set it up the app asks you to grant access to all your contacts. People also complain about rooms being recorded. Doh! It’s a public place, why would you say something you don’t want to be recorded?
Swedish data ethics expert Alexander Hanff has been through Clubhouse’s T&Cs with a fine toothcomb and is not a happy chap. His wide ranging concerns cover everything from end-to-end encryption to various concerns around alleged GDPR violations.
Personally, I’m fairly relaxed as it is a public social network where I don’t really expect or want to have much privacy or security (beyond my log-in details). I want my Microsoft Teams to be as secure as possible as it’s what I use for work and family. I see Clubhouse as more like being down the pub or bar chatting about professional issues where anyone can overhear, record what I’m saying, see who I’m talking to, take photos or videos or a whole host of other so-called privacy issues. I have zero expectation of privacy or security on Clubhouse so am not overly concerned that privacy experts are concerned.
Clubhouse vs. Twitter
It will be interesting to see how quickly Twitter can release Spaces for everyone as if it does so before Clubhouse releases an Android version then it could well win the race to become the dominant audio social network. All of the people that I want to participate in my ideas for Clubhouse rooms are already on Twitter. If we start running those ideas on Spaces, it’s hard to see why we’d want to switch, especially given the discovery and network challenges of using Clubhouse. The millions of new users swarming to Clubhouse are still absolutely tiny in comparison to Twitter’s global users.
The other elephant in the room is of course Facebook. In 2021 Facebook can’t do what it would have done previously and buy Clubhouse. It’s extremely unlikely either the US or the EU would allow it to do so as it stifles competition. What Facebook can do easily is to incorporate similar audio meeting rooms into its existing service.
Those of us who remember Vine know the dangers of creating a big presence and making a success of a new platform, only for competition and market forces to close it down. Focusing lots of attention on a new platform to become a dominant voice or ‘influencer’ can be rewarding, but it also has risks and dangers when the platform is so new.
Marketing on Clubhouse
The other interesting aspect of Clubhouse is it is so new it hasn’t yet been colonised by consumer marketing so isn’t full of the type of **** adverts and stupid stunts they’ve polluted every other social network with.
Many other social networks have become pay to play, ruining the very thing that made them good – namely that excellent content wins. At some point Clubhouse will need to make money so it’s inevitable the advertising folk will eventually arrive to ruin it for everyone. At the moment it’s still about quality content.
Clubhouse has already said it has plans for ticketing which is one potential revenue stream as it will mean content creators who run rooms and Clubhouse can both make money. The other obvious revenue stream is branded clubs and rooms. I can see how Clubhouse can control and monetise branded clubs, but rooms will be a different matter. The way rooms run at the moment means it is easy for someone running a room to get sponsorship without any need to involve or use Clubhouse technology as all it needs is an in room announcement and invite on to the stage.
Despite being less than a year old Clubhouse has already spawned its own ecosystem of support sites and apps. These are some I’ve found:
🧠 Official Clubhouse Knowledge Centre.
🚦 Clubhouse Glow – colour ring for your avatar
🔗 Clublink – optimised room links with graphics to show speakers, times etc
🖇Clubhype – creates optimised room links
📒 Host Notes – helps you manage rooms with RSVPs, agendas, sponsors, speaker tipping etc.
🔡 Ask Clubhouse – create a text-based chat board for Clubhouse rooms
🎵 Clubpad – sound effects for Clubhouse rooms
☄ Comet Events – creates a landing page for your Clubhouse room.
📊 Direcon – analytics and insights on your Clubhouse rooms (£$)
If you’ve read this far you must really want to know about Clubhouse. If you’re looking at it professionally then why not save some of your time and let me help you. Remember Clubhouse is a bit like the early days of Twitter, and I was there in 2007 helping senior high profile leaders figure it out and make it work. Please get in touch to talk about how I can help. We could even meet in Clubhouse.
Images are my own, JumpStory, StockUnlimited and Pexels.
Guide to Clubhouse for public relations and corporate affairs
As this is such a long blog post I’ve also turned it into a guide which is available as a PDF to download.