Everyone is talking about Clubhouse right now. But what exactly is it, and should you even care?
Clubhouse is a new social network based only on sound. No photos, no chat, no comments, no nothing – just sound. Just people talking. Think of it as a live podcast, or as a radio station where anyone can start a radio show on the spot.
You simply start a "room", and then start talking about something. You can invite people to listen in on your conversations, or you can invite people to join you "on stage", which lets them contribute to the conversation.
Let me share one example to make this come alive for you. Two weeks ago, my business partner and I hosted a Clubhouse room about corporate innovation. We just started talking about our experiences as innovation consultants, and before we knew it, over 100 people were listening in to our conversation. People started raising their hands, and some came up on stage to share their own experiences and perspectives. Suddenly one of our clients entered the call, and he shared what is was like to work with us on a past project. All of this happened organically, with very little planning – just like conversations unfold in the real world.
This illustrates why Clubhouse is so popular: it generates serendipity. Unexpected things happen all the time.
The other day, all of Norway's music elite congregated in a Clubhouse room for a chat. Suddenly someone started a jam session in there. Guitar, piano, beats. Someone singing. Before you knew it, a song was made. Then some dude said he works for one of the country's biggest music festivals, and he booked this impromptu band to come play at the festival, right there on the spot. Then another guy said "I make merchandise for bands for a living. I'll make you some sweaters with your band name. Anyone wants to buy some right now?". He sold 30 sweaters right then and there. The Clubhouse serendipity machine created a song, a band, a concert, and band merch, all in under an hour, without any plan behind it at all.
In a pandemic time where many of us aren't exposed to the regular serendipity of everyday encounters, Clubhouse fills a void. Which leads me to another driver of its explosive popularity and growth.
Clubhouse could not possibly have been luckier with their timing. The app launched in April 2020, just as COVID-19 hit the Western world. Then it was in a very closed beta for months, accessible only to the tech elite crowd in Silicon Valley. The app was developed in parallell with billions of people around the world getting more and more lonely and isolated.
Then they opened up the floodgates in early 2021, as more and more invites were made available for people to join the app. Unsurpringly, millions of socially starved people joined in droves.
A friend of mine called Clubhouse "a blessing". He is an extroverted guy who has been socially understimulated for almost a year because of the pandemic. He had a year's worth of stuff to say pent up inside him.
Then, enter Clubhouse. Enter the release! He has been on it for over 5 hours every day for the last two weeks, talking, talking, talking, and soaking up the social energy of these group conversations.
We're starved for conversations in general, and for deep and meaningful ones in particular. This has been true for a long time before the pandemic – 15-second sound bites on TV makes it impossible to get to the bottom of real, complex issues, and long-form podcasts have risen to fill the void.
Podcasts are fantastic, of course. They let you listen in on spectacular conversations between deep thinkers and domain experts. But podcasts are one-way communication channels. Some people speak, and everybody else listens later. There's no back-and-forth, no collaborative conversation going on between the speaker and the listener.
Clubhouse changes that. It makes long-form, real-time conversations collaborative in a way that hasn't really ever happened before.
In what other context can you interact in real time with a panel of venture capitalists, space explorers, longevity experts, or professionals at the top of whatever field you are interested in? I can't think of any.
If you listen to those experts in podcast format, you listen to a somewhat scripted and pre-planned conversation. When you listen to them on Clubhouse, you get a much more raw and real experience, because it is happening in real time, with no editing of an audio recording. It truly feels like something different.
The real-time format creates incredible FOMO, fear of missing out. If you're not part of the conversation right here and now, you'll never be able to hear it.
In this respect, it resembles radio stations before every radio show became available on demand after the initial release, or TV back in the day when you actually had to watch a show when it aired. Remember what it felt like when you missed an episode of the show that EVERYONE else had seen the night before?
The on-demandification of all forms of media seems to have ushered in a counterbalancing trend towards ephemerality, things that disappear if you don't consume them here and now. Snapchat's disappearing images is the obvious example, but even Netflix is experimenting with live streaming shows (albeit just in France for the time being). When too much entertainment and information is available on-demand, we can get overwhelmed and seek out the ephemeral and the here-and-now. When we need a break from the scripted world of podcasts, we seek out the spontaneity and randomness of Clubhouse.
Just like real-time TV and radio, what you find on Clubhouse is, to be blunt, mostly noise (from personal experience, I recommend staying away from rooms called "WOKE OLD LADIES NIGHT!!!!", for example). But if you know where to look, there are countless gems to be found.
I recommend curating your Clubhouse feed with intention. Follow smart people who share your interests, and join a few clubs – you might be surprised by the quality of conversations you'll soon find yourself being part of.
This app is still in its very early days. The very first hype might be going away soon, but there is plenty of room for Clubhouse to grow, and for smart people to grow their Clubhouse following with it.
With that following, comes plenty of opportunities. Le me share one example from my own experience. My business partner and I collectively have got roughly 2000 Clubhouse followers over the course of a few weeks, because we host and moderate innovation-themed rooms a few days a week. We also put up a landing page to collect email addresses from people who are interested in the same topics, which attracted 250+ new contacts (and counting) into our CRM system. That's 250 possible clients, collaborators, friends, or employees.
It would surprise me if we don't get at least a few new clients directly from our conversations on Clubhouse this year. Whether or not you have anything to sell or promote directly, you too can use Clubhouse to connect with interesting people and bring new exciting opportunities into your life. Just start talking – but make sure you have something valuable to say.
My good friend Fredrik summarised Clubhose with four simple words: "this is social media!"
Fredrik is right. Clubhouse feels like a place to actually connect with real people, not just with their digital avatars or profile pictures. It is a place for something truly paradoxical: intimate conversations at scale.
There is something special about talking directly to each other, with our real voices, just like humans have done for thousands of years. If you're convinced, please join the conversation.
See you on Clubhouse!
(PS: Clubhouse is still invite-only. I have some invites left, let me know if you'd like one)
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