Many of us have depended on the company of our phones over the past year – and considering we’re still in the middle of our third lockdown, it’s safe to say that our love for the Appstore won’t be changing anytime soon.
While the growth of household names like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter isn’t anything to scoff at, one app in particular has quickly shot to the top of the start-up charts in recent months: Clubhouse.
The brainchild of Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, the newly dubbed “Unicorn Startup” has joined the ranks of AirBnb and Uber in reaching an estimated value of $1 billion since its launch last March. Last month recorded over 10 million weekly active users; an incredibly small number in relation to the app’s current value, but one which only suggests that Clubhouse’s value will continue to skyrocket.
But what is Clubhouse? How does it work?
Clubhouse is an audio-only discussion platform that blends together elements of talkback radio and conference calls, with users able to listen in to live conversations, interviews, and discussions as well as start their own. The topics of discussion vary, covering anything from tech and business to books and fashion (users are encouraged to select their interests when they first join so that the app can recommend people and conversation rooms to follow).
Users join a “room” to listen to a conversation and once finished, the room closes. The conversation will disappear afterwards too; none of the conversations are stored to let people listen in later and recordings are highly discouraged.
Clubhouse is currently a members-only platform, meaning you need to be invited by an existing user before you set up an account. Existing users only have two invites to give out when they first join, making Clubhouse one of the most private and elitist apps out there. However, one of the creators’ goals by the end of 2021 is to open the app up to more users – meaning we could be seeing the app even more in the future.
Celebrities, influencers, and big names in various industries have already tried their hand at the app, including Tiffany Haddish, Drake, Virgil Abloh, and Elon Musk. Musk in particular made headlines in February for his conversation with Robinhood CEO, Vlad Tenev, which maxed out the room limit of five thousand listeners and was livestreamed to YouTube.
And while brands can’t join, sell products, or advertise through the app just yet, this hasn’t stopped the fashion industry from trying out Clubhouse. Alongside Abloh, fashion giants such as Dapper Dan, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Alessio Vannetti have made themselves comfortable on the app. Beauty and fashion influencers like Jenna Rennert, Marianna Hewitt, Tina Craig, and Susie Lau have also since tried to amass a following.
Clubhouse is quickly becoming a hub for networking within the fashion industry. Forget LinkedIn, Clubhouse is the place for discovering new talent and getting your voice heard by big names.
The role of the influencer on Clubhouse is slightly different compared to other social media
platforms, however. With a new app comes a new algorithm, and Clubhouse completely obliterates the usual content-throwing practiced by Instagram and TikTok. Rather than rely on recommendations, users are encouraged to search for what they’re interested in via the explore page; influencers can’t rely on an algorithm to pitch their content to new users, instead they have to build from scratch.
Clubhouse encourages people to listen rather than just see, meaning there is a lot more pressure on the voice of the influencer. For the visual-heavy industry of fashion, it’s a bit uncertain how users can use Clubhouse to its full potential. It’s been argued that brands should do exactly what the app suggests: listen. Clubhouse allows for brands and companies to better understand their target audience by listening to the prominent conversations, values, and issues that arise in the current moment.
This model works both ways too, as Business of Fashion noted that designers, influencers, and brands could find success on the app by communicating their values to followers. For example, Prabal Gurung and Phillip Lim joined Susie Lau, Tina Craig, Michelle Lee, and Bryan Yambao to discuss the #StopAsianHate campaign – creating a piece of content that captured a lot of attention for its reflection on current social issues and impact on the fashion industry.
However, Clubhouse is not without its limitations. Memberships aside, the app has faced issues regarding the spread of misinformation and bullying, as well as concerns over the live aspect of the discussions. Anyone listening can request to join the conversation to ask a question, but you don’t know what they could actually say once they’ve been allowed on. Being live, nothing can be edited out, making awkward interactions common if not inevitable.
Nevertheless, Clubhouse should be praised for its initiative to get a conversation going beyond an Insta caption or 60-second video. Getting a live audience involved allows discussions to be opened up in real time, and without the distraction of a moving screen or overzealous presenter either.
Clubhouse could be the future of networking not just for creative industries, but for everyone. As a direct line to the people on top of their game at the moment, it has never been easier to reach out, shoot your shot, and really ask those burning questions. With more and more people signing up to the app every day, it’s only a matter of time before the small circle of Clubhouse members becomes a global community.
So, we suggest you continue listening, thinking, and learning, and keep an eye out for that Clubhouse invitation.
Words By Charlie Colville, Graphic By Millie Pollock