Everything you need to know about Clubhouse: What is it, why should you care, and how to get started?

What is Clubhouse?

The new kid on the social media block is Clubhouse: an interactive social networking app which allows you to listen in on conversations centered around topics of interest and actualities. Clubhouse’s drop-in audio concept also makes it possible to participate in random discussions, which adds a layer of interactivity with diverse others. Though simple in design, Clubhouse definitely meets an unmet need in the already overcrowded social networking space.

It’s hard to compare clubhouse to other social media applications or platforms. The reason is that ‘the clubhouse experience’ feels like different things at the same time: a radio station, a zoom call, a podcast, Instagram live session without video, a classroom, or a real-time on-the-ground news report. And it is maybe for this reason why people love it so much. It is instantaneous, accessible, and live. Clubhouse is a great way to connect with like-minded people, to learn new topics, to leverage diverse thinking, and to speak to people you might not converse with in the traditional social media space.

To help you learn more about what Clubhouse is, how it works, how to use it, and what to watch out for, my team and I at LEAD TCM&L™ — The Center for Applied Behavioral Science and Technology decided to put this article together for you. We share some of our initial findings and thoughts about the app and also provide ‘how to’-strategies to get started on Clubhouse. We also investigated the behavioral design structure of clubhouse and make a brief attempt to explain the psychology behind Clubhouse’s success. Naturally, we also discuss some of the concerns we have with the app in its current form. And finally, we put forward some creative ideas and suggestions on how to use Clubhouse for business. All in all, a comprehensive guide to the what and how of Clubhouse, but please do feel free to jump to the sections of this article that interest you the most.

How to join Clubhouse?

Interested in joining Clubhouse? Well, you need to be invited. Clubhouse is an invite-only platform which allows you to join the app after being invited by someone in your social network who is already on the app. It is also possible for you to download the app first and then be invited. The app does this by using your mobile phone number. Clubhouse then sends a notification to people on the platform who have your mobile phone number in their contact list. Your social connections can then invite you to the platform. As a user, to be able to invite people to the platform you have to grant the app access to your phone contacts (later in this article, I share some of our concerns about this specific feature of the app).

Once invited, what to expect next?

In the following, I will walk you step-by-step through Clubhouse’s on-boarding process.

  • Step 1: Once you get invited to the app, its time to setup your profile. You first start by entering your legal name. Clubhouse requires you to only use your legal name on the app. As of now, it doesn’t verify if you have used your real name or not. However, once you have entered your name, you are only allowed to change it one time. After that, Clubhouse will send you a notification that you can’t change your name anymore unless you provide their customer support service legal proof of an official name change. If for some reason you have misspelled your name or you would like to use a nickname, you can opt to use an alias. Clubhouse does not allow you to change your alias after you have chosen one (see image below). Only remove it. So be sure to choose an alias you identify with and that is correctly spelled.
  • Step 2: After entering your name, you are asked to choose topics you are interested in and add people you want follow. These can be people you already know or followers suggested via the app based on your interests. This selection process will help the algorithm to propose chatrooms that meet your interests.
  • Step 3: After these fairly easy on-boarding steps, you can now join different conversations on your feed or host your own chatroom. You can also search for interest groups or clubs to join and become a member.
  • Step 4: Finally, you can also add your existing socials (see image below), such as Twitter and Instagram, to your bio so that people can find out more about you or send you direct messages. Fun fact: On Clubhouse there is no messaging function! Disturbing fact: by connecting your socials, you allow Clubhouse to access your data on these platforms.

How are conversations setup and run?

Once you get started with Clubhouse you might hesitate to organize your own discussion room because you don’t have enough followers yet or believe that people are not interested in what you have to say. These are some of the common (mental) barriers people have when first joining Clubhouse.

Setup a chat room on Clubhouse

In this section, I will explain how to setup your own chat room in Clubhouse and how to conduct a successful conversation.

  • Start a room. First thing you need to do is start a chat room. When you click on start a chatroom (see image below), you can choose if your room is: 1. open to everyone, 2. open only to your Clubhouse connections, or closed. Closed rooms are private rooms where you can meet with one or multiple people.
  • Choose a chat room topic. It is recommended that you choose a description for your room so that people know what your room is about and can join if interested. Your topic description can highlight what you want to talk about in your room or explain how people can connect with each other.
  • Invite people to your room. Once you have launched your chat room, your contacts will be notified. You can also manually invite people to your room by clicking the (+) sign on the bottom of your chat room page.
  • Three levels of people in a room. If you initiated the chat room you will be the only speaker. You can also add in moderators/co-presenters from the start to get the conversation going before people come in. Besides the original speakers and chat room moderators, you will find people joining your room identified as either ‘people followed by the speakers’ and ‘people listening in who are not connected to the speakers’. Both these groups of people are not speakers and can only listen in. However, anytime during your discussion, you can invite any of these listeners to the speaker stage. It is up to the person invited to speak or not. They can also decline a speaking invitation.

How to run a successful chat room session

So how to run a successful conversation on Clubhouse? Well, to answer this question with some rigor, we reviewed various chat rooms on Clubhouse and participated in more than 100 different discussions in the past week (sometimes spending more than 5 hours in just one room). After analyzing the way sessions are run, conversations are handled, and topics are discussed on Clubhouse, we were able to distill some effective Clubhouse engagement strategies. Here are our findings.

Promote your chat room on social media prior to the event. If you are just starting out and you don’t have many followers yet on Clubhouse, it is wise to plan your chat room session in advance. This way you have enough time to invite other speakers to join your chat room and strategize how you would like to manage the conversation. Planning in advance also allows you to promote your conversation on social media. This way you can rally more people to join the conversation when it takes place.

  • Promotion PRO-TIP: Setup a DM discussion group on Instagram prior to your event, invite your social connections to the room, and rally them up for your discussion on Clubhouse. This way you can ensure more people are already engaged with the topic and more likely to join your session on Clubhouse.

Provide Purpose, Value, and Service. Identifying successful conversations on Clubhouse (metrics: # of participants, duration of session) we found that they share one (or a combination) of the following three characteristics: Purpose, Value, and Service.

  • Purpose reflects the intentionality of your room discussion. This could be the topics you choose for your chat room which people can relate to or the way you ensure conversations are meaningful. Creating a chat room on the topic of ‘diversity & inclusion’ or ‘the future of education’ will definitely attract people to your session with similar interests.
  • Value refers to the value people take away from your chat room. In Clubhouse, value means to provide exceptional content. This could be anything from providing effective working from home strategies and social media tactics to giving feedback on someone’s language skills or connecting people in Texas affected by the recent snow storm. Value can also mean to co-create solutions with diverse individuals in your chat room.
  • Service relates to how you serve your community in your chat room. Aim to serve your room participants by 1. adding them to the speaker stage, 2. asking your room participants to share tips and strategies with each other, 3. invite experts and influencers to your room to share best practices, and 4. provide recognition to people’s contributions in the room.

In conclusion, successful conversations on Clubhouse have structure, are announced in advance, facilitate meaningful conversations, provide value, and aim to serve. Success on Clubhouse can be measured by the number of participants joining the room and the duration of the session. Some sessions that we dropped in on were already running for more than two days.

Note: If you want to learn more Clubhouse engagement strategies and follower building tactics, please read till the end. At the end of this article, there is a dedicated clubhouse engagement tips and tricks section.

Benefits of using Clubhouse

Every social media platform serves its customers in its own unique ways. So what are the benefits of using Clubhouse vis-a-vis other social networking apps? We aim to answer this question in two ways. First, by highlighting the unique benefits Clubhouse provides its users. And second, by comparing Clubhouse to the other popular social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

What makes Clubhouse so unique?

First, Clubhouse provides its users a social currency like no other social networking app. Connecting people with diverse others through purposeful spoken conversations during the pandemic, many of which are home and alone, is of great value to someone’s sense of belong and self-worth. Social properties which have been in rapid decline since the start of the pandemic. Moreover, chat rooms can also be used as guided meditation and wellness rooms. A great way to work on your mental health and find peace of mind during these stressful times.

Second, with Clubhouse you can engage with influencers, celebraties, and public figures on a regular basis. Clubhouse facilitates impactful connections with people you would not normally interact with. And as for now, this sense of exclusivity is a unique aspect of the app.

Third, Clubhouse provides some rich context in a very low context enviroment. One of the major issues many of us have experienced during the pandemic has been the lack of diverse and rich conversations. Especially, diversity of thought and interaction is a component many of us have missed even in our regular discussions online with friends and colleagues. The serendipity of meeting random people (online) disappeared when WFH became the new norm and people were stuck at home due to the lockdown.

Finally, clubhouse makes learning fun. Either by joining chat rooms that serve you tips and tricks or by co-creating a solution with diverse others to a problem. You will be surprised how much you can learn from a chat session and how much people are willing to contribute. As mentioned before, chat sessions can go on for more than 24 hours and the wealth of information shared during these sessions would keep anyone up at night (seeing that sessions can’t be recorded). Learning can also happen through dedicated learning rooms, such as language learning rooms or coding rooms where people for example discuss solutions to coding problems.

Comparing Clubhouse to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

As mentioned previously, it’s hard to exactly define what Clubhouse is. Clubhouse shares some similarities with other audio formats like a podcast or a zoom call, but is still an audio format in its own right. Clubhouse platform features also show some similarty to features found on other social networking platforms. These cross-over effects provide for some familiarity, but also make it hard to articulate what Clubhouse is and where it stands in the social media landscape. It is therefore a good exercise to make a side-by-side comparison of Clubhouse with other popular social networking sites. In this section, we will also conduct a brief competitor analysis for Clubhouse to try to figure out where Clubhouse stands within the social networking space.

Let’s first start by comparing Clubhouse user features to features found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Clubhouse versus Twitter

  • Similarity factor: Broadcasting ability, but on Clubhouse only people who are connected with you or have shown interest in your topics through other connection pathways will get to see your chat room announcements.
  • Differences: No text messaging on Clubhouse → Clubhouse is all about live conversations. Twitter is mainly about text.

Clubhouse versus IG

  • Similarity factor: IG Live and Clubhouse similar but Clubhouse is without video.
  • Differences: You can DM contacts on Instagram. On Clubhouse you can’t message anyone (yet).

Clubhouse versus Facebook

  • Similarity factor: User profiling on the basis of interests.
  • Differences: Facebook is more profile focused, visual, and customizable. Whereas Clubhouse finds itself on a fine line between being profile-based and content-based. Clubhouse has very limited customization options.

Social Network Competitive Analysis

Besides comparing the site on feature basis alone, we also looked at which space Clubhouse fulfills in the highly saturated social networking space. It is clear that Clubhouse’s unique selling point is ‘voice’. However, comparing various social networking sites based on features alone is not a good way of segmenting the market. A better way of segmenting these apps we found is on the basis of customization and the nature of connection.

High customization means you have many options to customize your profile and message. Low customization means you have very few options to customize your profile or messages. Twitter is a great example of a low customization app. Initially, Twitter was text only (140 characters) though recently this has been changed to include more characters and other content formats. Despite these recent changes, Twitter remains low customization and this is what makes Twitter so unique.

  • Clubhouse also finds itself in the low customization area of this evaluation, as Clubhouse only allows you to use voice and the possibilities to adapt your profile are limited (and restricted to some extent as mentioned above).

Comparing profile- and content-based profiles is a bit more complex than comparing the degree of customization. Profile-based social networking apps put more focus on the individual. People connect with users on a profile-based network to learn more about the individual. Content posted on these type of networks is often linked to the indivdual person. Whereas with content-based networks, the emphasis relies more on the content created by the individual. In a content-based network, people connect more with the content created. This taxonomy helps to differentiate Linkedin and Facebook from Instagram and Youtube for example. On Instagram, content impacts the relationship between the platform users while on Facebook your profile is what matters most. Clubhouse finds itself in a unique position compared to other popular social networking sites on this dimension.

  • Clubhouse falls in between being a profile-based and a content-based network. As the emphasis of Clubhouse is on voice and conversations, you would say that the site is more content-based. However, the conversations are live and driven by individuals. Moreover, the way content is promoted on Clubhouse is mainly through people initiating their discussions. You join and stay because your network is speaking and also because you want to meet similar others in the chat room.

In conclusion, we have identified Clubhouse’s unique starting position in the social networking landscape as being ‘low customization’ and ‘in between profile- and content-based’. The picture below provides an illustration of this 2 x 2 relationship. The first thing that becomes clear from this visual analysis, is that it is one of the few popular social media apps within the low-customization segment. By focusing only on voice, Clubhouse emphasizes the ‘social’ component of the app and takes away the ‘media’ element in social media. This is something I personally love about the Clubhouse app and believe is very much needed during this pandemic. However, the media element is what normally drives revenues for many social networking platforms, so it is not clear how long Clubhouse can or will remain in its current form and position. This will depend on how the company’s business model further matures.

Using Clubhouse for Business

Reviewing the functionality and utility of Clubhouse, we can say with certainty that Clubhouse provides many possibilities for business as well. Especially for business with a high social component to it such as sales, marketing, coaching, and skills training. Though there are too many examples to address in one article, I will provide some ideas for less obvious application. In this section, I describe two practical areas where we see huge potential for Clubhouse: research and talent management.

Research

As a researcher, I think that Clubhouse could be a great tool to do qualitative research with. Think of interviews or focus groups which could be conducted on Clubhouse. Clubhouse is also a great platform to run sentiment analysis (analyzing the sentiment in speech being either positive, neutral, negative). It needs to be mentioned however that Clubhouse’s policies do not allow recording or transcribing discussions without the consent of your room participants. So if you want to conduct research through Clubhouse, your chatroom (open or closed) will need to explicitly mention that your room is for research purposes and that prior consent to transcribe discussions is required. Though for now, conducting research on Clubhouse should be left aside until clubhouse has provided further guideliness about this.

Talent Management tool

Clubhouse can also be a great tool for talent management. The platform could potentially be used to identify and select talent with, both from within as well as outside the organization. Here follow some examples.

  • Finding the right person for the position. I think that Clubhouse could be a great tool to formally/informally support talent identification and selection. You could have pre-interview conversations on Clubhouse with candidates around topics that matter to your organization. People or line managers can moderate these discussions and potential candidates can be evaluated based on the quality of their conversation and value add. A creative and effective way to assess new hires on their abilities.
  • Identifying talent from within. I envision Clubhouse being an amazing tool to identify talent within the organization. Traditional talent processes within many companies are very siloed and hierarchical by nature, meaning that there is a leadership pipeline you need to follow to move up the ladder. In today’s rapidly changing world, effective talent mobility strategies need to facilitate horizontal and diagonal movements as well. Clubhouse can help facilitate talent mobility within the organization as it helps to overcome the barriers of siloed structures and hierarchy.

Psychology of Clubhouse

As a behavioral scientist, I had to also provide a behavioral analysis of the app in this article. Though there is much to be said about the psychology of the Clubhouse in terms of design and impact, I will keep this section short but sweet. I can always elaborate on the psychological aspects of the app in a later article seeing there is so little written about it yet.

Scarcity Effect. Let’s start with the obvious. Clubhouse makes ample use of scarcity in its design. First and foremost, the app’s invite-only feature. Applying a perception of exclusiveness is a strong driver of interest and engagement. Let’s face it, everyone wants to be on the guest list! Facebook took a similar approach when it first launched. Scarcity is also built into the amount of chatroom options you receive in your reel and the number of times you can change your name (as you saw in the example above). There is scarcity in conversations. Conversations are forbidden to be recorded, so every conversation is unique. There is also scarcity in getting an opportunity to speak in a popular room. Finally, the Clubhouse app (for now) is only available on iPhone. This excludes Android users from joining the party. There is also no web version available.

Unexpected Rewards. The randomness of the app keeps people very engaged. Not all conversations are announced in advance, so when you receive a notification informing you that one of your close contacts is speaking, you are more likely to join as well. Unexpected rewards are also the random conversations and topics that emerge naturally in conversations. You never know what someone will say next which keeps you hooked and wanting to hear more.

Sense of Community. The Clubhouse chat rooms, and the way they are moderated, can be a powerful way to create inclusion and a sense of belonging. Connecting like-minded people in a digital space and creating an environment where people feel safe to speak up and share their identity and experiences in a non-judgement way can help create a strong attachment with the group. This attachment becomes a commitment device which keeps people coming back and staying engaged. Community building is also a great way to promote the app and the themed conversations through word-of-mounth.

Note: The over-usage of the scarcity principle in Clubhouse’s design, I believe, at this stage of its development is to gain traction for the app (which it is doing extremely well). Launching the app amongst the cool kids of Silicon Valley first and then expanding outward is a great beachhead approach. Though, I do believe that the app will become more ‘open’ and ‘available’ after certain growth thresholds have been achieved.

Clubhouse Concerns

Though we as a team are very enthusiastic about Clubhouse and its growing success, we do have some reservations about the app. History has also shown us how various social networking apps, with good intentions, overtime can lose their sense of direction due to less purpose-driven motives. Reflecting on past vulnerabilities relating to data privacy and security issues, here follow three of our major concerns about Clubhouse.

Contact list accessibility. One of the major concerns we have with Clubhouse is the need to provide access to your contact list on your phone. You have the option to deny access to your contact list, only you won’t be able to invite people to the platform. This is pretty strange and we believe this needs to be changed. There are many reasons why people don’t want to share their contact list with Clubhouse. You might not want to combine your friends with your business contacts or maybe you don’t want to be in contact anymore with specific people from the past. Clubhouse matches people on the basis of phone number similarity and can’t distinguish between friend or foe.

Privacy concerns. Clubhouse’s community rules doesn’t allow you to record or transcribe conversations without participant consent. However, conversations can be recorded with the iPhone’s voice recorder. Also, according to a recent article in the guardian, raw voice data is recorded in servers overseas. The launch of Clubhouse reminds us of how Facebook first launched. It started off as an exclusive club before turning into a data and media powerhouse which has been involved in various global data privacy violations. This doesn’t mean Clubhouse will do the same, but history does tend to repeat itself, so being cautious about how you use the app and what you say on the app is sadly necessary.

Security breaches. Just yesterday, the BBC announced that Clubhouse experienced a data spillage. Data leaks and breaches can happen to any data company, but we believe that Clubhouse might face more serious consequences in the future when it does happen due to the perceived sensitivity people have with ‘conversations’.

Clubhouse Stats

Clubhouse was launched in March 2020 during the start of the pandemic. Since then, Clubhouse has grown exponentially. Clubhouse currently (Feb 21, 2021) has over 6 million users on its platform and is valued at approximately 1bn USD. According to backlinko.com, Clubhouse is the 5th most popular app in the ‘social media network category’ on the AppStore.

Clubhouse currently does not have a clear revenue model. The initial focus of the application is to build traction, which it is successfully doing. It can be expected that clubhouse will introduce premium features or advertising possibilities in the near future to generate revenue from the platform.

Clubhouse Engagement Strategies You Need to Master!

Once you have made it to Clubhouse and your account is setup, you are probably asking yourself what is the most effective way to setup a chat room? and “how to build a solid following quickly?”. Seeing that Clubhouse is still so new, by applying these handy tactics, you will be able to build a thorough crowd for your conversations fast and efficiently. Here follow our key Clubhouse engagement recommendations.

Build a Following

  • Add contacts. Add contacts to Clubhouse either through your contact list or find people using the search function.
  • Rally a gathering. Rally your contacts from Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat to join you for a meaningful conversation on Clubhouse. Promote your talk in advance on your socials.
  • Weekly Conversations. Ensure you organize conversations weekly on the same day of the week and at the same time. People like consistency and it helps to build commitment.
  • Summarize & Invite. Half way through your conversation (during a highlight moment) make sure to recap how great the conversation has been so far and spend a couple of seconds to invite others to the party. Ask everyone in the room for example to invite 5 of their clubhouse contacts to the room. This way you increase room participation and generate more followers.

**“You are only as good as your conversation”**

Conversation Tips

  • Invite speakers in advance. When you plan a conversation make sure to invite other speakers in advance to your room. This will ensure you have a bunch of people from the start to get the conversation rolling.
  • Bring Speakers to the stage. You can also invite non-speakers in the room to join the speaking stage. Or just ask your audience to raise their hand if they would like to become a speaker.
  • Digital Applause. As a speaker you can non-verbally communicate with other speakers during the conversation. For example, when you agree with what a speaker says and would like to acknowlegde or appreciate the speaker’s comments, tap the ‘mic mute’-button multiple times to give a digital applause.
  • Room etiquette. A trend we have seen in many rooms on Clubhouse is speakers setting clear rules of engagement (on how the conversation in the room will be conducted and how people can participate). People generally join the conversation by speaking after the last person has spoken. If too many people speak at the same time, the room moderator might intervene. To prevent too much intervening, simple engagement rules need to be set. For example, what we have heard a lot of people doing in various chat rooms to indicate they are done speaking is to say “my name is <name> and I am done speaking”. Room etiquette ensures that conversations run smoothly and productively.
  • Room Reset. A room reset is a moment in time when you feel many new people have joined the room and you want to reiterate the theme of the room, provide a brief summary of what has been discussed, explain how people can actively join the conversaton, and what the room etiquette is. “resetting the room” sets the stage for people just joining and provides a moment of reflection for the rest of the participants. This is an effective strategy to bring new energy into the room and to keep the momentum going.

About the author

Ali Fenwick is Professor of Organizational Behavior & Innovation at Hult International Business School in Dubai and London, and a behavioral expert at Nyenrode Business University in The Netherlands.

Ali’s research focuses on the behavioral foundations of organizations and management and explores how psychological interventions can be applied within the (digital) workplace to increase employee well-being and organizational performance. Ali is also an expert in human behavior and helps others to understand the psychological drivers underpinning modern-day life such as the current spread of, and response to, the coronavirus.

Ali is also the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of LEAD TCM&L™- The Center for Applied Behavioral Science and Technology. The center helps corporations, startups, eduction and government institutions develop positive behavioral change technology, and designs and launches behavioral interventions to solve business and societal issues. Ali is a Harvard Business Review Contributor, TEDx and Keynote Speaker, Behavioral Expert on TV, Conference Chair, Author, and Strategic Board Advisor.

Contact Details: Linkedin or Instagram. Or find me on Clubhouse: DrAFenwick

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Disclaimer: the author is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this article is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information. If you identify any information missing or incorrect, please let the author know and corrections will be made.

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Dr. Ali Fenwick

Dr. Ali Fenwick

Ali Fenwick, Ph.D. is a professor, keynote speaker, strategic advisor, and author. Dr. Fenwick specializes in human behavior, the future of work and technology.