What to know about Clubhouse, the new invite-only chat app

Have you ever wanted to have a conversation with Elon Musk? Maybe you have a few burning questions for Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev. As The Loop’s resident social media expert, I would love to be part of a conversation with Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram. 

What if I told you that there is a place where all of this is possible? It’s called Clubhouse – and with millions of weekly users and a valuation of $1 billion, it’s becoming one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

If this is your first time hearing of it, don’t worry. It launched in March of 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic started to change life as we knew it. 

Let’s talk about it (pun intended).

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a free, audio-based social media app that features casual, drop-in voice chats. It was created in late 2019 by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, a former Google engineer.

These audio-only conversations happen in “rooms” with other users and cover every topic imaginable, including money, skincare, tech, and side hustles.

Essentially, each “room” functions as a Zoom meeting or conference call with the smartest people in the room, minus the webcams. It feels akin to being on a phone call with the greatest minds that you normally don’t have access to. 

Who uses Clubhouse?

In a word: Everyone. It is the 5th-most popular app on the App Store, after all.

Okay, not everyone – but with two million users every week and six million registered users as of February 2021, that’s how it feels. People from all walks of life, including celebrities and politicians, are engaging in lively discussions for an average of 11 to 22 hours every week.

You may recognize names like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, MC Hammer, Chrissy Teigen, Mark Cuban, or Wiz Khalifa in the conversation. But they’re not the only ones you can have a conversation with. You could be in a room with anyone, including:

  • CEOs
  • Freelancers
  • Actors
  • Motivational speakers
  • Young professionals
  • Professional athletes
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Musicians
  • Tech geniuses
  • Industry experts
  • Social media pioneers
  • Lifestyle gurus
  • Influencers
  • Teachers
  • Journalists
  • And more!

How Clubhouse works

Hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations are happening on the Clubhouse app at any given time. Here’s how to navigate them.

Find a conversation to join, or start your own.

You can easily switch between “Upcoming for you” (events pulled from your extended network as well as general interests) to “All Upcoming” to see all public events.

Clubhouse conversations can be started in one of two ways: Spontaneously or scheduled ahead of time. To start a spontaneous room, tap “Start a conversation” on the main feed, include a topic description, and choose the type of room you’d like to host it in.

Every conversation happens in a room.

Any room on your home feed is available for you to join and can host up to 5,000 users. There are three different types of Clubhouse rooms:

  • Open rooms: Anyone can join an open room. These are especially popular for hosting public conversations, shows, or just meeting others. This is the default setting for all rooms in the app.
  • Social rooms: Only a user’s followers can join a social room. “Pinging” users will invite them into the room, but they must follow you.
  • Closed rooms:  Only those who you have specifically invited or added to the conversation are allowed to join. If you’d like to get others involved, you can do so by pinging specific individuals or choosing “Open it up.”

Clubs (groups of rooms and users) are also available, grouped based on identity, interests, and more. Any room with a green house icon near the title is a club-hosted room.

The app doesn’t currently have a clubs directory, but they are easily discoverable through participating in conversations and visiting multiple rooms. You can also find club events on the calendar, in the feed, and on the profiles of users you know and/or follow.

How to participate in a Clubhouse conversation

There are three roles that each Clubhouse user can take on.

  • Moderator: By starting a room, you become the moderator and guider of the conversation. You can speak as well as add, mute, and remove others.
  • Speaker: You have the ability to actively participate in the conversation by speaking to others.
  • Listeners: When you join an existing conversation, you join as a muted listener and are passively involved in a conversation. 

During the conversation, you may find yourself itching to pitch in, and you can do so when moderators decide to open the discussion. To avoid thousands of people speaking at once, you will tap the icon to “raise your hand” and speak when called upon.

Remember, conversations aren’t recorded, so you must show up on time to enjoy it in its entirety.

How to join Clubhouse

Bad news. Not only is Clubhouse one of the most popular apps in the world, but it’s also one of the most exclusive.

That’s because to get in, you’ll need a Clubhouse app invite.

You can only receive an invite to Clubhouse from an existing user, who has just a few to extend. The invitation will come from their app and appear in the form of a text message with a link to an in-app sign-up page. For those who want to join but don’t know any users, there is a waitlist available.

In addition, only iPhone users have the ability to download the app.

But that will change soon. According to a recent blog post, Davison and Smith are working to further open the app to users across the globe. Doing so largely depends on funding from investors, of whom there are close to 200. In January of 2021, the app raised $100 million, raising its post-money valuation to $1 billion.

According to Davison, they plan to use the money to launch an Android app, keep its servers up, improve discovery, and invest in creators.

Can I market my business on Clubhouse?

With such a massive reach, you may be thinking that Clubhouse could act as a natural extension for your company’s marketing plan.

But the reality is that the app works more as a social networking app for professionals. It’s the perfect place to market yourself and your skills rather than your business. In addition, as conversations aren’t recorded, anyone not in attendance will miss what you have to say.

That said, it’s a great tool to learn more about people you’re connected with and form clearer brand content strategies.

Does Clubhouse collect data?

There are plenty of concerns to be had over data privacy and social media. Unfortunately, some of Clubhouse’s policies aren’t exactly privacy-friendly. A few things to keep in mind before signing up.

Clubhouse records your audio.

All room audio is temporarily recorded while the conversation is happening for the sake of Trust and Safety. 

If no violation is reported, the recording is deleted. If there is a violation, the audio is retained for investigation. It is later deleted, but who hears the audio remains unclear.

Audio from muted speakers or audience members is not captured.

Users are tracked by Clubhouse, and that information is shared with advertisers.

The privacy policy states that, despite no monetization, cookies, pixels, traffic monitoring, and more are used to monitor your activity within the app. Once collected, this data can be shared with vendors and service providers without your knowledge.

Even if you aren’t a registered user, Clubhouse likely already has your data.

When a user creates an account “and/or authenticate[s] with a third-party service like Twitter, we may collect, store, and periodically update information associated with that third-party account, such as your lists of friends or followers.”

Put simply, members share their contact list with the app and have the option to do the same with their social media profiles. When they do so, the app receives access to all contacts’ phone numbers, usernames, and more.

Regardless of if you do or don’t want to join Clubhouse, there’s no way to delete your information from the Clubhouse database.

More alarming, the app has already seen its first data breach when a Chinese developer tried to create an Android version that didn’t require an invitation.

So, there you have it: An insider’s look at one of the most exclusive apps on the market. Even if you don’t moderate a conversation, you’re guaranteed to learn something.