Clubhouse and Social Audio Apps

Clubhouse is a new type of social app – a social networking audio app – that allows you to talk with people in front of a virtual audience of listeners. It’s been in development for a few months but has had crazy growth in the last couple of months as it’s become the hot new thing. Twitter (Spaces) and Facebook are both working on a Clubhouse style app for their platforms.

I was asked to join Leisha Grebinksi on CBC’s Saskatoon Morning on Friday, February 26th, 2021, to talk about Clubhouse.

You can listen to the segment here.

A few key things to know about Clubhouse as of February, 2021:

  • It’s in beta. That means it’s still under development and not considered “stable” or ready for the world to use. But it is very stable to use.
  • It’s invite-only. You’ll need to get an invite from an existing Clubhouse user before you can listen or talk in any rooms on Clubhouse. All invites are sent via SMS text message so you’ll have to be comfortable sharing your cell phone number.
  • It’s also iOS only. An Android version is coming in early 2021.
  • There’s no official word on how they plan to make money off the app.

How Clubhouse Works

When you join Clubhouse you set up a username and profile, much like any other social networking app. Officially it supports linking to your Twitter and/or Instagram accounts – but you can put whatever text you want in your bio. You can also specify your interests in broad categories of Entertainment, Places, World Affairs, Wellness, and more. This helps tune the Clubhouse algorithm as to what types of Clubhouse Rooms to recommend to you.

Once you’re set up, you can browse the currently active rooms on Clubhouse. Joining a room is like tuning in to a radio station. You’ll instantly join the audience and start hearing whoever is on the virtual stage speaking.

Raising Your Hand to Speak

When you join the room, depending on how the room organizer set it up, you may be able to virtually raise your hand by tapping on the 👋 icon in the bottom right of the app. The admin or moderators for the room can then choose to invite you up to speak – or ignore you.

If you’re invited up on stage to speak, it’s considered proper Clubhouse etiquette to mute your mic when you’re not speaking – much like on other apps like Zoom, etc. When you’ve had a chance to speak or ask a question, the moderator may send you back to the audience or you can send yourself back to the audience and just listen.

Why Are People Attracted to Clubhouse?

Right now it’s a bit of FOMO – because it’s invite only, because it’s only on iPhone at this point, you could miss an important or interesting conversation with someone that only happens on Clubhouse. Much like live radio, you have to be on when it happens.

What are the Potential Pitfalls of Clubhouse?

Much like live radio – anything could be said and therefore moderation of content is going to be difficult for Clubhouse. They’ve gotten a lot better tools inside the app for moderating and blocking users who abuse the terms of service, but just like any social app, the internet will do what the internet always does and find ways to abuse and troll people.

It’s also a time sink – you have to be there to hear it or speak. Unlike podcasting or Netflix, it’s not something you can catch up on later. And so there’s a feeling of the need to be always on.

Clubhouse hasn’t outlined how it plans to make money – and while there’s some ways it could enable tipping speakers you enjoy, or charging for access to a room like a conference would – they could also start advertising or using all the voice and data they have on users for other reasons. As with anything else internet related: be aware that putting it online means it could go far beyond what you intended it to.

What’s the Lifespan of Clubhouse?

It’s very much a perfect app for a world in a pandemic. We’re missing attending conferences, seeing each other, hearing each other’s voices. Clubhouse has been compared to the hallway conversations that happen at events and conferences and people are definitely missing the casual networking that can happen in situations like that.

Twitter is also working on their own version of social audio called Twitter Spaces, Facebook is rumoured to be working on their own. There’s an app called Locker Room for sports focused conversations much like Clubhouse. So there’s clearly something in the water right now for social audio apps. And despite the media / tech pundits wanting to make it a battle of the apps, there can be multiple winners who live on.

Are you checking out rooms on Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces? Does an audio only social app interest you? Let me know in the comments below, or send me your thoughts on Twitter, or find me on Clubhouse at “iChris”.

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