Clubhouse: The New Coffee Shop?

0
1988
Photo Courtesy of William Krause

Ryan Miller

Contributing Writer

Entrepreneurship. Esports. Bitcoin. Real estate. 21 Savage discussing whether or not the Nike Air Force 1 is overrated. To some, this may seem like the trending page on Twitter, but it is just a snapshot of some of the rooms available to drop in on using Clubhouse, the latest app that’s taking social media and Silicon Valley by storm. 

Founded by entrepreneur Paul Davison and ex-Googler Rohan Seth, Clubhouse’s main draws are various “rooms” where people can drop in and listen to ongoing conversations about a number of topics. Each room has a number of moderators that run and keep the conversations going, and people can join in by tapping a button to “raise your hand” or by being asked to join by the moderators themselves. But what’s really driving Clubhouse’s ongoing popularity is its celebrity clientele — with names like Oprah, Drake, Virgil Abloh, and Kevin Hart joining the app — and its lucrative invite-only beta, with people making a small fortune selling invitations online.

One active Clubhouse user is third-year communication major Maddy Denton, who moderated a room about internships in collaboration with Santa Barbara start-up StratDev Digital Marketing, where she works as a marketing manager along with her job as marketing manager at Microsoft’s Xbox division. 

During the time I spent in the room, topics such as digital marketing, applying for internships, networking, and making connections were all discussed by around 20 or so participants. The reliance on talking as opposed to texting made the room feel personal in a way, and not only did I make some new connections, but Denton made some potential new business partners.

“But what’s really driving Clubhouse’s ongoing popularity is its celebrity clientele — with names like Oprah, Drake, Virgil Abloh, and Kevin Hart joining the app — and its lucrative invite-only beta, with people making a small fortune selling invitations online.”

“One of my responsibilities at StratDev is coming up with content ideas for a medical spa we work with, and lately we’ve focused heavily on TikTok. And as I was talking about my experience using TikTok for marketing, someone in the room who works in healthcare direct-messaged me because some of his colleagues are looking for help with promoting their services digitally,” Denton explained. “I’m seeing the networking benefits of Clubhouse already and I’ve experienced it for myself.”

Denton also told me that she was not expecting the room to get as many participants as it did, which shows how Clubhouse can be a great resource for networking. “There was a ton of networking going on in the room I hosted, and I believe the hype that this can potentially be the future of networking,” she said. “In the long run, I don’t see Clubhouse as much of a social platform like Twitter or Facebook, but more hyper-specialized like Reddit, with the networking potentiality of LinkedIn.”

Like all apps, Clubhouse has growing pains, especially in beta. “The app came out at a great time, where we’re all stuck inside and lack that sense of relation, but at the same time it’s very much a pre-release app,” Denton mentioned. “Their interface needs some work to be more intuitive and accessible, and more features to explore more rooms are going to be needed if the app continues to grow.” 

While the app does not offer many discovery features for finding rooms to talk about particular subjects, a blog post made on Jan. 24 in light of the app’s $1 billion valuation and Series B funding round notes that the team is “heavily investing” in these features, so it is a matter of time to see how these get implemented as the user base continues to grow.

“As social media platforms continue to become more commercialized, Clubhouse feels like a diamond in the rough.”

An ongoing concern I have seen in conversations online is moderation — specifically, allegations that speakers in rooms can spread misinformation and conspiracy theories unchecked. The more serious of these has to do with room set-up and potentially creating cultures of harassment, racism, or even antisemitism. 

Clubhouse laid out a number of guidelines in October to curb these issues, such as scaling their trust and safety operations while including new features like allowing rooms to set their own rules and adding new moderation features such as being able to end a room instantly if things get out of hand, but it is yet to be seen if any of these will have a long-term effect on maintaining a sense of community while allowing for free and fair discussion. 

More recently, the announcement that detailed the guidelines also mentioned specific efforts to “invest in advanced tools to detect and prevent abuse, and increase the features and training resources available to moderators.” 

As social media platforms continue to become more commercialized, Clubhouse feels like a diamond in the rough. It evokes a feeling of idiosyncrasy that is not seen in other platforms today, and the potential for sustaining a harmonious user base is limitless. However, as the app looks to the future, the hype has to stop somewhere.

“I think a lot of people are honestly feeling a little turned off from apps like Instagram because of how ad-oriented it’s become. Clubhouse is something different, and they need to be cognizant of not abandoning their users while not going broke,” Denton added. “I can see something like sponsored rooms down the line, but we’ll just have to see what happens.”

In an age where we can’t sit down in a coffee shop to meet with a colleague, Clubhouse is the perfect middleman to share ideas and collaborate. The potential is there for it to evolve into a niche app for cultivated communities to network and connect, especially in a post-pandemic society with a staggering job market. Only time will tell if this app can blossom into something special or run the risk of becoming over-roasted.