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Published February 12, 2021
Published February 12, 2021
William Krause via Unsplash

Since Tesla founder Elon Musk’s recent Clubhouse appearance broke the start-up’s 5,000-person limit per room, the invite-only Silicon Valley darling is making a name for itself and is well on its way to becoming mainstream. The Andreessen Horowitz-backed audio social platform Clubhouse has gone from a small community of beta testers last March to a growing network of two million people. Only a year old, the start-up was recently valued at $1 billion. While the app is still in beta and requires an invite to join, it’s gotten a bit less exclusive as word has spread among early adopters, with about 3.4 million downloads to date. The company said it plans to open the app to anyone who wants to join “soon.”

Clubhouse describes itself not as one single community, but a network of interconnected and diverse communities led by moderators and club leaders. Founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth said, “Our goal was to build a social experience that felt more human—where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk. Our north star was to create something where you could close the app at the end of the session feeling better than you did when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people, and learned.”

So what is it? PCMag’s Jordan Minor describes it perfectly, “What if Twitter was a podcast you lived inside of?” Basically, it’s like listening in on other people’s live conversations and sometimes having the opportunity to join the chat. The concept is pretty straightforward, but the dynamics of each room or club is wildly different depending on who’s in control and how many people are listening. Everything is live, and conversations aren’t saved or available after the fact.

The app facilitates the ability for anyone to broadcast a live show and attract an immediate audience. The traction and engagement of Clubhouse is reflective of the human desire for community, communication, and connection we all crave and which has been limited by the pandemic. It’s also indicative of the desire for smaller, more intimate spaces that are accessible and enable authentic connections. So much of social media has become manufactured and transactional. Clubhouse offers a refreshing take on social media void of advertising (for the moment) and providing a platform for a new kind of influencer—thought leaders that are knowledgeable, articulate, and have something to say.

The general consensus of early adopters is to listen and learn before jumping in because there is no pause or edit button. Ron Robinson, founder and CEO of BeautyStat, said, “In many of the beauty rooms conversations have gotten heated and intense. Moderators disagree with each other, audience members have gotten offended, some rooms have been called out for not including enough diversity (this has been a BIG topic lately especially in beauty rooms).”

Beauty Industry Early Adopters’ Take on Clubhouse:

“I came in skeptical and then was blown away by the experience—it’s much more social than I realized,” Conor Begley, co-founder and President, Tribe Dynamics, said. “It will become a staple of the B2B beauty industry and can be a really powerful channel for founders/CEOs to connect directly with their consumers in an intimate ephemeral way.”

NYC-based copywriter and skinfluencer Carmine Montalto shared his insight after being on the app for a month. “I’m so intrigued by Clubhouse. Naturally, as a beauty copywriter and skincare blogger, I’ve been immersed in the topic of beauty and skincare. The experience has felt like the ultimate democratization of beauty. Since joining a month ago, I’ve participated in some of the most intelligent and inspiring conversations with people who share the same passion for skincare and the skin as I do. These Clubhouse chats are more than just conversations though. Some are like mini interactive seminars! I’ve connected with brand founders, marketers, product developers, dermatologists, and, of course, other “skinfluencers.” Every time I participate in a Clubhouse chat, I feel like I come away smarter, and more inspired. And that’s even true when I’ve connected with people I’ve known for years. Somehow, the Clubhouse experience draws out the smarts in all of us.

“I’ve just created my own Clubhouse group called The Skincarma Lounge. It’s a Saturday morning series where I’m hosting industry leaders, brand founders, and derms, fostering conversation and connection on topics I’m passionate about and that I know my followers are interested in. I hosted an entire chat on the skin barrier with the founder of one of my favorite skincare brands. We literally talked about the importance of the skin barrier and how skincare and skincare actives interact with it. I was into it, the founder was into it, and participants were, too. Where else would a conversation like that take place so easily? That’s really cool!”

Elana Drell-Szyfer, CEO of RéVive Skincare, said in six weeks the app has exploded with rooms emerging that touch every part of the beauty community. She’s seen a new generation of dermatologists show up on the platform in a big way who are digitally savvy, knowledgeable about consumer brands, and tapped into social media trends. After weeks of getting a feel for the platform, she identified the opportunity for RéVive to get traction with the derm community in an authentic way that hasn’t been possible through traditional PR channels.

Szyfer cautions brands to be aware of the consequences and listen before you leap. “We are in a time of complete consumer reckoning for brands. If you are not willing to be real, or ready to hear and answer anything that comes your way, Clubhouse might not be the platform for you.”

Charlotte Knight, founder of Ciaté London, “Just like everyone right now I am really excited to be a part of this current social movement. Even after being in business for over 20 years, I feel that there is still so much to listen, learn, and adapt to how we operate businesses daily and build our brands. Beauty is one of the fastest-changing industries, and social platforms have been nothing but catalysts of that change. Clubhouse has given us access to knowledge and experience sharing at our fingertips and on the move. It enables us to connect to other thought leaders as well as young talents full of creative flair and passion for the industry.”

Knight continued, “The ability to join discussions from other successful businesses and entrepreneurs to learn from and apply helps us broaden our thinking and can be extremely therapeutic.”

Dimitra Davidson, CEO and President, Indeed Laboratories, said, “When I was initially introduced to Clubhouse in early January (prior to joining), it piqued my curiosity because it sounded very exclusive. Soon after that, I was invited in and immediately drawn to the energy and sense of community where individuals openly shared their experiences and allowed for others to have a voice.”

Davidson continued, “I have used the platform to listen and learn from others and/or impart any valuable advice from my experience to those who ask for expertise. For now, it has filled that void (human interaction and connection) that I have so missed and I feel energized and encouraged about the future of the beauty industry because of this new community.”

Ron Robinson, founder and CEO of BeautyStat, has been on the Clubhouse app for one month, and on the day we chatted, he had been on the app for seven hours moderating rooms. “My first impression is that this app is a major disruptor in social media. It is social media 3.0. My prediction for the app is that it is going to explode.”

“When I first joined, I played the student. Joining big rooms and listening to highly successful tech and business entrepreneurs. As the platform grew, I found more niche rooms that focused on beauty topics, and in those rooms, I became the expert and teacher. My following grew and many many people have reached out to me for advice, mentorship, and partnership.”

Overregulation by brands might be a mistake, Moj Mahdara, co-founder and CEO of Beautycon Media, told Vogue Business, “I think it will be a very bad idea for brands to regulate who on their teams can and cannot speak,” says Mahdara. “If you have an enthusiast within your brand who is enthusiastic about the formulation, productions, upcoming SKUs, or strategy, they [should be allowed to speak]. We are in an era of collaboration over competition. That’s the most important thing for people to understand.”

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, CEO rē•spin by Halle Berry/Founder, BrainTrust, “Clubhouse is this magical place where you find yourself interacting with people you’d generally never engage with on topics that you didn’t even know you’re interested in. audio has a lower barrier to entry when it comes to self-expression and physical judgment, you aren’t distracted by appearances and truly engaged in conversation. From Bitcoin to beauty to investing to Friday night listening sessions, Clubhouse has a bit of something for everyone looking for community and a chance to be “in the room” with founders, influencers, celebrities, and just everyday people who have something to say.” Kendra co-hosts a Beauty x Wellness x Culture Clubhouse Room with Moj Mahdara every Wednesday at 5pmPST.

The Future of Clubhouse

Will the app have staying power once the invite-only FOMO dies down? Too soon to tell, but it’s fun playing around with audio rather than images and text as a new way of building community and connecting. Competitors in the social media space are not sitting on their hands. Twitter is reportedly testing Clubhouse-like voice chat rooms called Spaces, the New York Times said Facebook has an audio app in development, and many are wondering if Reddit will launch an audio adjunct to its current offering. While we may not know what the future has in store for Clubhouse, what is certain is audio is just getting started.

In our opinion, it’s worth getting an invite to check out what the app is all about and to determine if the format is a fit for your brand strategy or personal networking.


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