Now, the club that everyone wants to be in is Clubhouse. A social network based purely on voice notes, Clubhouse is a platform for people from all walks of life to “talk, listen and learn from each other” in real time. Basically, it’s like participating in a wide range of live podcasts.
After launching in April 2020, the platform is still in beta testing mode, but in the past two months, it has started to become an increasingly hot topic in Australia.
And despite its claims that it is “working hard to open up to everyone”, the bouncer at the door of this club is currently only allowing entry through invites from existing users. If you don’t have that, you’ll have to bide your time on the (presumably long) waiting list.
What is Clubhouse?
On sign up, users are asked to select from a wide list of topics that they are interested in discovering more about. That’s everything from technology, business (or Hustle as they like to call it) and world affairs, to faith, relationships and entertainment. But rather than keeping these topics general, they are sub categorised into more specific interests to keep users engaged with the exact content they are looking for.
Users are then pointed to a selection of existing members and creators with similar interests, who they can follow. Through live “rooms”, users can listen in or partake in scheduled or impromptu conversations that interest them, and can host their own as a ‘moderator’.
It’s a place for discussion, debate and learning and, besides the very obvious difference in how content is shared on the site, it is not unlike Linkedin in terms of its ability to allow users to act as thought leaders.
What sets it apart from LinkedIn?
PR and brand communications strategist, Katie Martel, tells Inside Retail that Clubhouse provides a valuable opportunity to build a profile as a voice of authority in a particular field, in a way that is uniquely raw.
“What sets Clubhouse apart from these other platforms is it’s far more live, raw and real-time, so it’s naturally a more relaxed environment. There’s no hiding and no filters,” Martel says.
“It’s also a brilliant platform for building up your public speaking experience, without the fear of looking into an audience.”
Martel, founder of Croft PR and Katie’s PR School and co-host of the Thriving Business Podcast, has used the platform to discuss topics such as brand messaging, storytelling and content, and found it to be reasonably accessible.
“Anyone can listen in, bounce from room to room, and host or moderate your own room easily. All you just need your voice and iPhone – without the need for any other equipment,” she says.
One of the first striking things about the app is the icon. Instead of the usual coloured logo or lettering we’ve become accustomed to on social networking apps, Clubhouse spotlights a different member of its community with each major app update. The current face of Clubhouse is Bomani X, a digital strategist, guitarist and singer-songwriter that hosts a weekly music session on the app known as The Cotton Club.
His celebrity status on the app has helped him accumulate approximately 819,000 followers to date.
What does Clubhouse offer retail professionals?
Rosanna Iacono, advisor and managing partner at The Growth Activists, has also been exploring the platform in recent weeks. She believes that those that go in early and quickly establish a credible following, will gain some advantage as the platform grows.
“There is definitely an element of getting in there, going with the flow and watching how it evolves in order to identify the best way to extract value from it,” she tells Inside Retail.
When it comes to the lure of the platform for retailers, Iacono says it is about establishing themselves as authorities on a particular topic.
“They should think about it is how they might establish themselves as thought leaders on a specific topic and to be part of leading those conversations – for example on the topic of sustainability, inclusivity, or design creativity, if that topic is intrinsic to the retailer’s brand,” she said.
“Another more passive way for retailers to interact with the platform is to simply listen in to their consumers’ views on topics that are critical to their business or brand positioning.”
At the moment, the focus is on individuals rather than brands, though Iacono says the brands they represent “certainly benefit from the halo effect” of its leaders developing a strong professional standing on core topics.
Where is it headed?
As it’s still early days for the app, there are limitations in the user experience when compared to other platforms. Currently, users cannot send direct messages for example.
Iacono says it will be interesting to see how it evolves when it becomes less exclusive and new features are added.
Following the latest round of funding, Clubhouse confirmed it will be introducing products such as subscriptions, tipping and tickets sales, to help creators get paid.
“The founders want to make sure it doesn’t get overly commercialised as they do that,” Iacono says. “They want to make sure that the topics and conversations are still really high value to the audience. It will be interesting to see how it evolves in the coming months.”