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Clubhouse Is The Newcomer Imogen. “Jefri Nichol joined our Clubhouse room!” my friend texted the Whatsapp group chat.

You have probably heard of the term ‘Clubhouse’ being thrown a lot recently in social media such as Twitter and Instagram. The Clubhouse has been taking over the digital media by storm. Many celebrities, businesspeople, and even politicians are joining the app. What is it really, and how did it catch the attention of influential people around the world? What makes it so unique from any other social media apps?

The newcomer Clubhouse is an invite-only social media app built around the idea of “drop-in audio chat.” It is a platform where people can join real-time conversations between people; think of it like a moderated live podcast recording or an audio-only panel discussion online. These conversations happen in ‘rooms,’ where it varies from talking about light-hearted topics with friends to thousands of people listening to a debate among experts.

The concept is straightforward: you need to be invited by someone who is already a Clubhouse user. Once inside, you can start or listen to other people’s rooms’. It is purely audio, so people can cook dinner or do homework while listening to talks on the Marketing Industry or hearing people gush about their favorite idols. It is a cool idea and certainly a popular one with Clubhouse, only 11 months old, having the value of US$1 billion already.

How did Clubhouse start?

The clubhouse has caught the attention of roughly six million users, with more than two million active users. It was very different back then when the app first launched in April 2020. One user commented that back then, the user-base was so small that basically ‘everyone knew each other.’ Most of Clubhouse’s growth has come in the past two months, as it went from a few thousand users to three million.

By far, the most significant event on Clubhouse happened on February 2, 2021, where Tesla CEO Elon Musk grilled Robin Hood CEO Vlad Tenev about why his company stopped users from buying GameStop’s shares during the peak of its popularity. Users were all coming into the room that it has maxed out its limit of the number of participants allowed. One user in the room broadcasted this discussion on YouTube, where thousands more watched.

Exclusivity and celebrities

Besides Elon Musk, many other celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon, such as Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Tiffany Haddish, and more. You will find celebs talking about their latest projects, politicians with policies to champion, and experts with a deep domain of knowledge. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg showed up on the app and talked about the technology of the future.

The exclusivity of the app only adds to the intrigue. Users can only join Clubhouse in two ways: getting on the waiting list or being invited by someone who is already a user. The catch is, users are only given a limited amount of invites. People are naturally drawn to achieve something exclusive. “Clubhouse thrives on the concept of FOMO – fear of missing out. If you are not online when a conversation happens, you miss it.” One journalist pointed out.

Intimacy and authenticity

People are jumping at the chance to make personal and professional connections with their idols or an expert at their field, and Clubhouse supplied just that. Who would not want to be in the same digital room and hear their icons talk live? The clubhouse has brought in so many people from different parts of the world and various industry sectors that almost anyone can find topics they are interested in.

There is a demand for a platform that allows celebrities to connect with their fans more intimately, look at how popular meet-and-greets are, or even the concept of concerts: seeing your favorite only a few feet away from you. The clubhouse is precisely like that. There is something about hearing someone’s voice live, not through a highly produced video or an edited picture on Instagram, live and raw, that creates a sense of authenticity.

The current pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic may have created the ideal conditions for Clubhouse to succeed: people restricted by lockdowns, isolated and desperate for social connection. People have already seen text-based (Twitter), image-based (Instagram), and even video-based apps (TikTok). Audio is an excellent, natural alternative.

One user commented that they would spend 25 hours a week on Clubhouse, given how little they could go out because of the lockdown. The clubhouse has benefited from the situation as people look for ways to socialize while avoiding in-person interactions. Even after daily life returns to normal, Clubhouse still finds itself appealing as a platform to meet new people and listen to conference-like events that otherwise might be difficult to attend in person.

Its impact

There has been some talk that Twitter is planning on releasing a similar feature to Clubhouse called ‘Spaces.’ Even people rumored Facebook to be building its own version.

China reportedly has blocked the app because of its ability to have unfiltered conversations. Although the fact Clubhouse lets users can exercise free speech online, it also has its drawback. Critics say it will also make spaces for misogyny and racism.

As the app grows in popularity and user base, it will face challenges around transparency and content moderation like those confronting Facebook and YouTube’s likes.

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