• Laurence Shao

Clubhouse: the rising star among social media apps

Clubhouse, an audio-chat podcast-like app launched in April 2020, boomed during the pandemic because of several exclusive features.

First of all, it is currently invite-only and only available for iPhone users. If you want to join this exclusive community, you need an iPhone and a formal invitation from any Clubhouse users. Once you get in, you can invite two of your friends. The more active you are in this app, the more friends you can grab in. This mechanism not only ensures “nothing breaks” in the Clubhouse server (see the picture below) but also filters out less qualified content. In an era where app monetization mainly depends on numbers of downloads and existing traffic, is the invite-only mechanism a marketing strategy to boost popularity through creating scarcity in supply, or is it a move to preserve the quality over popularity?

The welcome page users see after downloading clubhouse

Clubhouse is audio-only. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of us are on camera all day, camera shyness becomes a real issue in remote communications. In Clubhouse, no camera is activated. According to a Clubhouse article in New York Times, Delia Cai, of the newsletter Deez Links, wrote of her experience on the app: “It felt spontaneous, low-commitment and blessedly did not involve turning any kind of camera on.” There are no text, photos, or videos, so the only thing one needs to focus on is participating in the podcast-like freestyle conversation.

In addition, many celebrities attracted followers through Q&A sessions in their chatrooms. For example, on Jan. 31st, 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk went to Clubhouse for an interview. Shortly after, Clubhouse users grow exponentially. Since April 2020, this app has accumulated 2 million weekly active users, among which many are celebrities and the so-called “elite” class.

Junior Schuyler Jones pointed out some features of Clubhouse that he valued the most: “Right now, it’s in a private Beta stage so you’ll find a lot of entrepreneurs, investors, and experts in their field. It’s a really good place to learn from people who you admire,” he continued, “I’ve used it to hear from a lot of marine conservationists since I’m thinking about going into marine biology.”

Regarding the difference between Clubhouse and live streaming on Youtube, where speakers have similar styles of conversations and audiences could comment in the chatroom, sophomore James Fan said, “[Youtube is] kind of a complicated platform, whereas in Clubhouse [an event] is a one-tap-join thing. For YouTube, you have to wait for the video and audio to load. It's just a more complicated onboarding platform.”

“I think that popularity among clubhouse will die down once it becomes available to everyone,” James argued, “Because right now it is only available on iOS. I think if it goes to Android, less exclusivity will decrease its popularity. I think the main factor powering it right now is exclusivity.” Schuyler held different views: “I think it will continue. It’s not for everyone but if you like to listen to podcasts, or you’re a kid who already has a LinkedIn account, clubhouse might be perfect for you.”


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