Listen Up: Clubhouse Takes Social Media Into The Audio Zone

Social Media

Wait … there’s a new social media app where people actually talk and listen to each other?

Calling itself “a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations,” San Francisco-based Clubhouse is the hottest new darling in the evolving social media sector. Not only does the one-year-old chat-room service already have two million active weekly users, but it also has $100 million with which to grow its platform, thanks to an investment by renowned VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

“Clubhouse could not have come at a better time for social media. It reinvents the category in all the right ways, from the content consumption experience to the way people engage each other, while giving power to its creators,” Andreessen partner Andrew Chen wrote, calling Clubhouse the opposite of a video clip or a short post because it rewards discussion and exploration.

Instead of liking, sharing or responding to a tweet, or adding a comment or emoji reaction to a Facebook post that they love or hate, Clubhouse users go where no other social media platform has gone before: They actually speak and listen to one another. As in, they have a genuine conversation, with all the nuanced intonations and subtle interactions that go with it, rather than just texting a terse, auto-corrected, one-dimensional response.

Of course, if users want to just listen in, Clubhouse allows that, too but if they want to ask a question or take part in the debate, that is also encouraged.

Pick The Topic And The Language

Another way Clubhouse differs from other social media is that instead of an algorithm filling the feed with other people’s posts, it allows users to pick the chat rooms that are of interest to them, and to leave or report any discussion that doesn’t feel right.

“#Clubhouse brings the human skill of listening and sequencing conversations. Great to listen and speak (in German) and it leads to direct conversion to connections,” Clubhouse user Ruud Janssen said in a tweet about his recent experience.

For others, like Chen who admits to using Clubhouse about 12 hours a week now  the app is a multi-tasker’s dream.

“You can listen while you take a walk, fold laundry or work out. It can also be the centerpiece of your evening, like attending a lecture or talk,” Chen said. “But it’s also interactive, so if you have something to say, you can raise your hand and chime in. Because you’re listening to people talk, Clubhouse is about a real-time exchange of ideas, not just consuming highly edited, static content. It’s a fresh experience that brings humanity and context to online social engagement.”

And Who Doesn’t Need Humanity?

“The thing we love most is how voice can bring people together,” Clubhouse Founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth wrote in a blog post.  “In one of the most turbulent and troubled years many of us have experienced, people on Clubhouse have come together for important and nuanced conversations on topics of social justice reform, BLM and anti-racism,” the founders said.

Whether it’s a scholarly discussion on constitutional law following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or a group of concerned parents talking about the challenges they face in fighting a rare genetic disease, the Clubhouse raison d’etre is simple: talking, debating and learning.

Now, with their beta launch gaining steam and the financial backing needed to scale the platform, that is exactly what Davison and Seth plan to do.

“Our focus now is on opening up Clubhouse to the whole world,” the duo wrote. “It’s always been important to us to have investors who care deeply about diversity, and who will work hard to help us make Clubhouse a welcoming and inclusive community. We now have over 180 investors in Clubhouse — large and small, spanning many different races, genders and areas of expertise.”

One of the first tangible changes will be the development of an Android version of their app, which is currently only available for iPhones.

Making It Work

To be sure, Clubhouse has laudable intentions, but it also will have to thrive and survive in a social media universe that is increasingly facing scrutiny from all sides, including free speech advocates and those who push for corporate responsibility in the policing of content. Nowhere is this winless challenge more pronounced than at Twitter and Facebook, in the wake of their moves to banish former President Donald Trump from their platforms.

To that point, Clubhouse currently has its own list of guidelines, including 10 rules that require such things as using a real name and being 18+ years old, as well as bans on abusive, illegal, copyright-protected, false or harmful information.

How it will all work out remains to be seen but for now, a visit to Clubhouse’s website reveals a pledge and promise:

“We’re working hard to open up to everyone!  Anyone can join with an invite from an existing user, or sign up for the waitlist to reserve your username.”

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