Why Clubhouse is Poised to Become the Most Successful Social Media Platform of Them All

Joel Eisenberg

Though still in beta mode, it is no accident the app has been such a smash with early adapters.

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In late-December of 2020, I received an invitation from a friend to join what she called the "hottest new social media app that may one day overtake Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram."

I thought to myself, 'Do I really need another social media app in my life?' I'm a writer. As it is, I spend entirely too much time on my existing platforms to get motivated and try another.

I joined. I've been addicted ever since.

***

In the image on the right, above, you may recognize several public figures: Gayle King, MC Hammer, Van Jones of CNN, Terry Crews, Michael Ovitz ... They are Saturday night Clubhouse regulars in a "room" hosted by philanthropist Felicia Horowitiz. Oprah has spent time on the app, even Elon Musk made a much-touted recent appearance. Ashton Kutcher, Jared Leto ... numerous writers and producers for film and television including Oscar and Emmy winners, and politicians such as Tulsi Gabbard have taken to the relatively new platform.

San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth founded Clubhouse early in 2020. The present market valuation of the platform is ... through the roof.

But why? What is the draw, exactly? How does a company go from startup to $1 billion in less than a year?

See this Mashable article and this LA Times piece for histories of the invite-only app, which after seven months has indeed attained a $1 billion valuation, according to PitchBook.

My opinion on the matter is the concept of an audio-only app coming to fruition in the midst of a pandemic was inspired. How many of us have longed to reach out to others, while being either stuck at home and/or distant from loved ones? Most of us have phones and computers; many of us have used Zoom or an Apple FaceTime equivalent to speak to others on video.

The intent of Clubhouse, though, is to foster community. To get there, members are able to listen in on and moderate "rooms" on any given topic. Early bugs included poorly-moderated rooms where conversations became overly heated and sometimes racially-provocative. That has since largely improved with further oversight. The app currently runs smoothly for the most part, but occasional technical glitches tend to pop up now and again, only to be quickly repaired.

To my mind there are three qualities of the new platform that stand out and make it particularly appealing:

  • Unprecedented access to producers, writers, and celebrities for those in the arts. Meaning, the platform is set-up in such a way where moderators of rooms can bring up listeners from the audience -- by either directly requesting for them to speak, or in response to a raised hand symbol on the room's screen -- and have them interact, in a real time conversation, with the subject(s) of that particular room.
  • The platform made its debut in the midst of a pandemic, where many of us have been distant from family and friends. Though most of us have access to Zoom-type platforms and smartphones, individual Clubhouse "communities" offer widespread interaction among many people who have never met, offering the opportunity to forge new friendships and business.
  • Diversity. When early-adapting rappers and their record labels discovered the app, the majority of those who joined after them tended to be African American. As the app has grown, Asian "rooms," LGBTQ-focused rooms, even a recent room titled "The first Holocaust survivor on Clubhouse" have been held to diverse audiences.

Listening and interacting on Clubhouse proves the platform surely has met its early goal of fostering a community and strong sense of diversity. Recently, Clubhouse announced plans to even monetize the efforts of early adapters. See here.

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A quick run-down of the functionality of Clubhouse is important for those less tech-savvy among us who are new to the platform. Note: Clubhouse is still in beta mode and presently operates only on an iOS platform, meaning only those with iPhone capabilities have current access.

Valuable points:

  • Virtual rooms are opened devoted to any topic. Arts, social issues and politics are particularly popular, and the networking within each room is unmatched by any other social media service by virtue of its patented interactive abilities.
  • Specifically, listeners appear in each room, and interact with others within that room. Most moderators will enforce a muted microphone policy, meaning no one is talking over anyone else. If anyone disobeys that general rule, a moderator has it within his or her power to mute the mics themselves, and/or to send someone back to the "audience" and off the "stage."
  • Members have the ability to host "clubs," which are usually based on a specific topic and within which are regularly scheduled rooms under the club's banner. For example, I host a writing club, "Writing For Your Life," with co-moderator Myah Naomi Lipscomb.

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Under that umbrella, we've hosted authors and screenwriters, producers, directors, entertainment union heads, actors, and executives. I moderate several of these rooms weekly with Myah. To give an idea of our listener base, between "members" and "followers" of the club we've attained 3000 signees within the three weeks since the group started. The social media numbers of Myah -- writer, producer, director, and star of the upcoming television series #WeirdMyah -- and me strongly increase whenever we host a new room.

That may be a benefit, but it is what happens off the platform that has rapidly turned Clubhouse into the new social media rage: Business.

Big business. Money is being exchanged and deals consummated. I have fielded calls from agents and producers looking to possibly work with me. A television series is presently being negotiated for another room hosted by a friend.

The platform is becoming important and potentially lucrative, as well as fun.

***

Founders Davison and Seth have been making the media rounds of late stating their goal of wanting "creators" (aka hosts or moderators) to earn a sizable income on their platform. Certain strategies are said to be in the works to attain that goal.

For now, Clubhouse remains invitation-only. The site is free, though moderators have the ability to charge for their services. Members are generally given three invitations per week based on their activity on the app. Once the platform grows and operating systems outside of iOS are able to run the app, the sky really is the limit. The downside of that inevitability is the app may become diluted with frivolous or dangerous content -- no different than that of other social media platforms -- that will have to be closely watched. The upside is once those bugs are worked out, early adapters may have the possibility of earning more money based on already being established.

My suggestion is this: Do what you can -- today -- to attain an invite to Clubhouse. This is truly the future of social media networking.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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