What's So Good About Clubhouse?

By Freddie Haydn-Slater

You may have heard about a new social media app, making (audio) waves in the online community over the past few weeks. Clubhouse, the drop-in audio app released in April 2020 allows users to create or listen in on virtual “rooms” and hear conversations taking place in real-time.

Elon Musk has been pumping Dogecoin on it. The cast of The Lion King Musical entertained 5,000 people on it. And marketers are using it to discuss the latest industry trends. Its user-base has grown exponentially in the last few months as more celebrities and outspoken entrepreneurs sign up and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Why Should I Care?

The new invite-only app has been gaining attention as a pseudo-exclusive virtual space to hear about all kinds of interesting topics in real-time. Once you have an account, you can dangle those coveted Clubhouse invites to your LinkedIn network as a solid flex. Social clout aside, Clubhouse gives you the chance to hear from people you care about, talking about topics you care about.

“Cool,” I hear you say, “we have podcasts for that…” And, well, yes. But Clubhouse offers you something more. You can explore the various “rooms”, drop in and out of conversations in real-time and ‘raise your hand’ to let the speakers know that you have something to contribute. It’s more engaging, more immersive. Kind of like a bunch of virtual TED Talks but with optional audience participation and more spontaneity.

How Do I Get an Account?

I dont want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members. Groucho Marx

You need to be invited to use the app. So, first of all, you need a friend. That might be easier for some than others, but it shouldn’t be too difficult if you look hard enough. As long as your friend has your phone number (and the app of course), they can send you an invite. Once you receive the invite text, you can use the link provided to download the app and create your own account. You’ll then receive two invites to share with any of your contacts. The app is currently only available on iPhones, so Android users will have to wait a little longer.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

But its the second mouse that gets the cheese. — The Second Mouse

So, what does this potentially disruptive new app mean for the social media landscape? It might be too soon to tell, although Twitter has already announced a similar feature called “Spaces” on Android devices. And since Clubhouse is only available in the App Store, they’re giving the bigger companies a chance to sink their FAANGs into the space.

Clubhouse may have already amassed an impressive 10 million users (as of the time of this article), but they still have a lot of catching up to do, especially with other social media giants racing to create their own versions of the latest social media innovation.

Whats the Downside?

If you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself. — George Orwell

Attempts to protect your personal data may feel like trying to push water uphill with a rake. Although some companies are taking additional steps to protect users’ privacy. For example, Google no longer sells ads based on individual web tracking, and Apple will soon make it possible for users to opt-out of data collection practices, making it harder to target people with Facebook ads (but we’ll save that for another blog post).

For Clubhouse, the outlook for privacy isn’t looking good. When users sign-up to create an account, they must agree to share their list of contacts on their phone with the app so they can invite a friend. So even if you never download the app, if a friend of yours does, Clubhouse gets access to your information. While attempts to conceal our online identity can feel a bit Sisyphean, we should always be diligent with our online activity.

In addition to privacy concerns, Clubhouse also presents issues around freedom of speech and censorship. We don’t need to cast our minds back too far to find examples of inflammatory speech and its consequences.

It isn’t all dystopian doom and gloom, however, the majority of people using the app are clearly enjoying the opportunity to participate in more discussions, learn new things and stay connected at a time when it’s quite hard to do so.

TL;DR

Clubhouse, the new invite-only, audio-only social media app is the hot new Silicon Valley creation. While it’s an exciting proposition for staying connected, on-trend and joining conversations in real-time, it also poses some privacy risks and questions about free speech. Are you ready to dive in? Or will you wait and see before joining the Club(house)?