What is Clubhouse - and is it really the 'next LinkedIn'?

man using clubhouse app

Social media networks pop up all the time, and it can be hard to know which ones to jump on. It wasn't so long ago that people were excited about Foursquare and Vine, and look how that turned out. Now a new player has entered the market, and is generating fevered discussion about being the next big thing for businesses.

Just as companies are starting to grapple with TikTok, a new app has appeared with a very different profile. Clubhouse posits itself as a network for people across the social spectrum, and is thriving based on its highly exclusive group of members. But is excited chatter about it being 'the next LinkedIn' really true - and should your business be getting involved?

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is the newest tech unicorn you may never have heard of. Launched for iOS only in April 2020, Clubhouse has been called the first ‘audio social app’. The idea is that users start by picking the topics that most interest them, e.g. business leadership or US politics. The app then provides them with a list of active voice calls around a single talking point, which they can hop into and join in with.

Much as Zoom benefitted from the coronavirus pandemic, Clubhouse has energised people who are otherwise stuck at home, and have more time on their hands. The app has become famous for its invite-only approach to membership, and frequently hosts conversations including celebrities and business leaders such as Bill Gates, Drake, Elon Musk, Kevin Hart and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev.

As of December 2020, the app had over 600,000 registered users across the world, proving particularly popular in the United States, Germany, Japan and China (until it was blocked by the Great Firewall). The company is currently valued at over $1 billion, and plans to add a variety of new features, including ways to support content creators through donations, and new ways to engage with the calls.

The popularity and format of Clubhouse have been compared to the rise of podcasts. Like a podcast, users can choose to listen to a discussion in real time, and are not required to participate. The difference is in the exclusivity of these audio calls, and the fact that you are hearing people’s thoughts (including those of celebrities) live and unedited, not pre-recorded and packaged.

Why is Clubhouse proving so popular?

The appeal of Clubhouse for individuals is obvious. Members of the general public have a chance to communicate and listen in on conversations with a raft of stars, and experience what could be the start of a popular new social network. There’s also a sense that Clubhouse is a more relaxed and less negative take on social media, where people can talk without the harassment than sometimes comes from other platforms.

The appeal for businesses runs along similar lines. If you secure an invite, you could end up talking shop with a major player in your industry, or from the business world in general, getting valuable advice as a result. If you end up in a call with a celebrity, the coverage of the call (users are free to record calls and republish them) could give you ample free publicity.

Even if you don’t get to meet Elon Musk or be mates with Bill Gates, there’s still a lot to recommend the app. With topics on almost every subject imaginable, and conversations that often get into the weeds on issues, Clubhouse is (thus far) a positive place for conversations. It offers users the chance to discuss their thoughts on a topic and talk through problems or challenges with likeminded people in similar positions.

How do I get a Clubhouse invite?

Unfortunately, Clubhouse is invite-only, with the initial wave of applications having been sent to high value CEOs and celebrities. However, some have filtered down through the business world and from various influencers, and so it’s not impossible to find an invite. It may be that someone in your network of contacts is already using the app, and could let you in.

By signing up to the app on iOS, you can find out if any of your contacts are already using the platform. If they are, it’s a simple matter of getting in touch with them and asking very nicely for an invite. There’s no requirement to use it, and no limit on how much or little you contribute - if you want, you can just listen and not talk.

From our initial experience, it seems that young professionals and business owners from centres of commerce (e.g. London or LA) are most likely to have already come across the app, and may have an invite to spare. However, the onus is on them to ensure that whoever they invite is a quality addition to the platform, and does not risk breaking their terms of service!

If you can’t find anyone who can secure you a Clubhouse invite, or don’t have an iPhone, don’t despair. Clubhouse have announced that they are working on an Android app, and plan to end the invite-only policy as they move out of beta. How they navigate this process while retaining the unique appeal and accessibility of the platform remains to be seen.

Will Clubhouse be the next LinkedIn?

LinkedIn has been around for 18 years, while Clubhouse has been around for just one year, so it’s unlikely LinkedIn is going anywhere soon. The platform is still the best place for networking due to its huge reach and wide range of features, which allow you to connect with individuals and grow your network organically. It’s also uniquely useful for advertising, as it’s more widely used by business people and professionals than other social networks.

What Clubhouse might preface is the rise of audio-based social media. While podcasts and video streaming are now well-established, the idea of public audio calls that you can jump in and out of remains relatively new. It may be that as Clubhouse expands, it can grow to dominate this niche, and create a larger network that implements elements of other social media platforms with audio-driven discussion.

The odds are stacked against it, however. As previously mentioned, many tech giants have come and gone as their apps or services fell out of favour. The prime example may be Vine, the short video app acquired by Twitter. While the restrictions and marketing of the platform led to its demise, the app TikTok has picked up from much the same place it left off, and is now the dominant social media network amongst young people.

One major competitor to Clubhouse is Twitter. Having retired Vine several years ago, the company has been quick to fashion its own audio-only service called Spaces. The Twitter Spaces app is now available on both iOS and Android - beating Clubhouse to the punch - and boasts a huge in-built audience of Twitter users, as well as planned new features, including moderators, guest lists and scheduling options.

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