My musings on whether this new social media platform has legs and worth experimenting with
The new hottness in social media is an iPhone-only app called Clubhouse.
Since it launched in April 2020 people have been talking about it mostly as a place where VCs were hanging out and being all exclusive with each other, a veritable privileged white male circle jerk.
So I ignored it.
Until last week that is, when curiosity finally got the best of me and I accepted the invitation from my longtime friend and mentor Genevieve Bos, just to see what it’s all about.
What is it?
First of all, let me give you a quick explanation of what Clubhouse is. It’s an app that could roughly be categorized as a kind of social media in the sense that you sign up and are encouraged to follow other members. (At this time it seems like there’s probably a million users signed up and the most popular members have thousands of followers.)
There’s nothing else exactly like it, so it was a little disorienting at first. Any user can create voice chat rooms on the fly, and when you sign up, people who it knows are connected to you are encouraged to create a room to welcome you to the platform. Indeed that happened with me, and I got an invitation almost immediately to chat from an old friend in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand how to react to the notification and didn’t figure out how to react to it in time, leaving me a bit confused.
Nonetheless, I started exploring the active rooms and listening in on the conversations. The rooms are identified by their title/topic and a truncated list of the people in the room.
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When you enter a room there’s a “stage” (just a grid of avatars) listing people that created the room or that have been invited to be able to speak to the room. This is all audio-only btw. No video.
The kind of conversation going on is kind of like what you might hear on a podcast. Lots of questions and answers. There’s generally someone acting in the capacity of moderator of a room. The rooms sometimes persist for many hours at a time, with a rotation of moderators coming in and out. One of the rooms I checked out this morning had been going for 13 hours.
In addition to individual members there’s a concept of clubs that you can follow, which are collections of members interested in a particular topic.
That’s pretty much it. Click on any avatar and you pull up a person’s bio, which is typically filled with the kind of information you’d find on a particularly enthusiastic LinkedIn user, peppered with emojis.
I think the idea is pretty slick. It tickles my fancy for new shiny things that didn’t exist before in the same ways that for instance Twitter and Bitcoin have done in the past.
A majority of rooms at any given moment have to do with startups entrepreneurship, with no small amount of topics having to do with millionaires or how to become wealthy via various means. These rooms are generally moderated by people heavy into the coaching and mentoring game. I don’t know if this is a natural outgrowth of it having been seeded with venture capitalists, or just that the topic is particularly interesting to the kind of tech early adopters that would enthusiastically adopt a platform seeded by venture capitalist users.
Maybe it’s simply due to the interests (tech, music, etc) that I indicated when I signed up, but most of what Clubhouse is serving up to me is that millionaire self-help entrepreneur stuff, bitcoin hype, or predominantly black rooms discussing success in the hip hop world. I’ve yet to find something super compelling to me personally in terms of the usefulness of the content itself.
So why do I like it if the content is not super compelling on its own? Not for the reasons you might think.
I’m liking it as background noise, kind of like the way I suppose some people listen to political or sport talk radio. Or maybe the way that some people consume podcasts now, while working.
And maybe that’s at the root of why I’m fascinated by this thing. If you had asked me a couple weeks ago to contemplate concentrating on work while listening to a bunch of people talking, I would have shuddered and told you you’re crazy.
Yet that’s not been my experience. I’ve found myself mindlessly entering rooms just to have some background noise on that’s not music. There’s some background thread(s) in my mind picking up on bits and pieces of the conversation, and maybe those threads would be busy distracting me with other stuff if they weren’t engaged in that manner. With the end result that I’ve felt amazingly productive lately.
The question is whether the effect will last.
Will I personally get more involved?
I think so. I’d like to experiment with hosting a regularly scheduled room, and then perhaps being the founder of a club. I love moderating panels at conferences and this is the closest I’ve ever seen to that experience. In fact, Clubhouse feels like a natural evolution of the conference event market in response to the pandemic. Like when I look at the content and what’s being discussed and how, it’s exactly what you’d expect as the evolution of conferences. I want to see if that can be exploited to create marketing opportunities for my personal and business brands in some way.
What about music?
Clubhouse is very much about conversation amongst groups of people. I think it’d be interesting to get music producers or DJs together to talk about the business, but I don’t see how you’d do performances as an artist in the way that people do on Twitch and other livestreaming media. Either way, it’s way too early to have any sort of critical mass of audience for any niche music like trance. The only music I’ve heard discussed is hip hop, which is about as mainstream as it gets these days. There is a German-language room that discusses music and club culture, but no idea what specifically talking about in there because I don’t speak German.
Have you played with Clubhouse yet? What are your impressions and how do you plan to use it to impact your life and business?
Hit me up in the comments with your thoughts.