Inside Clubhouse: The Invite-Only App

Let’s meet at the clubhouse? If someone said this to you, it would be normal for you to smile a bit and feel like you were a part of some special, well, club.

But while most of us think of baseball teams and golf courses when we hear the word “clubhouse,” Silicon Valley has changed this. Yes, you guessed it, Clubhouse is an app, and it’s becoming increasingly popular.

What makes this app so exciting to so many people? Well, as you will see, it’s a pretty unique idea, one that puts an interesting spin on traditional social media. But a big reason it’s become so famous is that, for most of its existence, it’s been “invite-only.”

This exclusivity has helped make it more desirable, and it also helps that people such as Drake, Chris Rock, Oprah, and Elon Musk have been seen on the app.

So, is Clubhouse just an exclusive app where famous people get together to talk to one another? Maybe it started as that, but it’s grown into so much more and promises to flip the world of social media upside down.

Here’s everything you need to know about Clubhouse, the invite-only app that has become all the rage in the tech world.

What is Clubhouse?

According to the official Clubhouse website, the platform is “a new type of social product based on voice that allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people from around the world.”

In other words, it’s an audio-based social media platform. Some have described it as “Medium for podcasts.”

For those who don’t know, Medium is a social media platform for writers and bloggers. Anyone can publish to it, and it’s a great way for aspiring writers to connect with like-minded individuals and promote their work.

Clubhouse serves a similar function and has similarly loose restrictions on who can post content and about what. The only major difference is that everything is audio, and all the conversations are happening live.

How Does Clubhouse Work?

An audio-only social media platform sounds interesting, but you might be wondering: what does that even mean?

Well, on the app, users are allowed to create chat rooms, known as “rooms” about pretty much whatever topic they want. Then, others can search for these rooms based on their interests and join in on whichever ones they want.

Once inside the room, the exact format of the conversation depends on the person who set it up. For example, one room could be just two people talking to one another with a bunch of others listening. Or, there could be a group or a panel, and the people listening are like the audience.

However, there is one feature that makes Clubhouse truly unique: anyone can join the conversation.

That’s right. If you stumble upon a room that is talking about business development and someone says something you want to comment on, you can raise your hand and the moderator can let you speak. Some rooms are more open – you don’t even need to raise your hand, you can just start talking.

In this sense, Clubhouse is not just a learning platform, it’s also an opportunity to make new connections, promote yourself, and speak your mind. Its open nature allows anyone to start a conversation about anything, and this opens the door for all sorts of new connections.

It’s for this reason that everyone is so excited about Clubhouse. It’s a platform similar to the social media apps we already use but it harnesses audio in a way that has never been done before, creating new possibilities never before imagined.

A Brief History of Clubhouse

Although it’s new and offers an exciting new take on social media, a lot of people still don’t know about it. A big reason for this is because Clubhouse is still relatively new. However, this is sure to change in the near future.

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Here’s how things have gone up until now:

  • Early 2020 – Paul Davison and Rohan Seth found the app. It becomes available in beta for iPhone users only.
  • May 2020 – Despite having just 1,500 followers, Clubhouse goes through its first round of funding and receives a valuation of around $100 million.
  • February 2021 – Elon Musk appears on Clubhouse, maxes out the listener limit of 5,000, and gives Clubhouse some presence in the news which it has used to grow its platform even more.
  • April 2021 – Just a little more than one year after its launch, Clubhouse goes through a round of C-Series funding and is valued at more than $4 billion.
  • July 2021 – After spending its first year using an “invite-only” approach, Clubhouse drops this requirement and opens the app up to both iPhone and Android users.
  • August 2021 – In just a few short months after becoming available to everyone, Clubhouse grows to have more than 10 million members.

What are the Benefits of Clubhouse?

If the concept of an audio-only social media app intrigues you and you’re interested in signing up for the app, here are some of the main benefits of doing so:

  • Listen in on a huge range of conversation topics – Anyone can open up a room about pretty much whatever topic they want to, which means there is an endless supply of material available for you to learn and consume.
  • Engage with “real” people – The difference between Clubhouse and a traditional podcast is that a Clubhouse conversation is happening in real-time. This means that you’re not listening to some prerecorded/rehearsed conversation. Instead, it’s happening right in front of you, which makes it that much more raw and dynamic.
  • Participate in the conversation – If you’re listening to a conversation and feel the need to contribute, you can! Depending on the format of the room you’re in, you might be able to just speak up. Otherwise, you can raise your hand. What’s nice, too, is that you can see before you enter a room what the participation guidelines are like, so if you’re really in the mood to contribute to the conversation, you can seek out Clubs where this is allowed, allowing you to be an active participant instead of just a listener.
  • Build your network and make friends – Since Clubhouse brings people together from all around the world, and then puts them into chat rooms with like-minded people, this is a great platform for networking and making connections. If you’re listening to a chat and hear someone say something interesting, you can reach out to them separately. Or, the same might happen to you: if you participate in a conversation, you may hear from people who liked or agreed with what you had to say.
  • Practice your podcast skills – Podcasting is a great way to get your message out, grow your brand, and make some money. But it’s hard work and takes time to master. Plus, to really do a podcast right, you need to get all sorts of expensive equipment. With Clubhouse, though, you can use just your phone, and the stakes are much lower, allowing you to practice your podcast skills in a slightly less threatening, less expensive environment.

What are the Downsides of Clubhouse?

 Although there are a lot of things to like about Clubhouse, it’s not a perfect app. There are some things to not like about it that you should be aware of. Some of these things may get resolved as the app continues to roll out into the mainstream and grows in popularity. But until then, here are some of the main downsides of Clubhouse:

  • Limited audio quality – In an effort to make this audio-only app as accessible to people as possible, Clubhouse lets you participate in conversations using just your phone’s microphone. This is great, as it means anyone can join the discussion. But the issue with this is that it can sometimes lead to some really poor quality. If someone has a poor connection or moves away from their phone, they can cut out. These aren’t professionally done podcasts, just regular people talking. Be prepared to lower your standards just a little.
  • Offensive or harmful content – While Clubhouse is designed to be a place where people can come together and collaborate and learn, the reality is that some unsavory people have also found their way onto the platform, claiming it as a space where they can say things others might perceive as harmful. This represents an overwhelming minority of the conversations that take place on the app, but it is there. Clubhouse officially condemns any kind of hateful or harmful speech, but they also don’t really have any mechanisms in place, yet, to moderate content and keep the bad stuff off the platform.
  • Limited room size – At the moment, Clubhouse limits the number of people who can be in one room at a time to 5,000 people, though it can remove this limit at its discretion if it sees a reason to do so. In most cases, this is more than enough people. But as we have seen time and time again when a celebrity, such as Elon Musk or Kevin Hart, makes an appearance on the platform, it struggles to keep up and many people get left outside the room.
  • You don’t know who’s on the other line – One of the main benefits of Clubhouse – the ability to interact with new people – could also be considered one of its downsides, especially if you are looking for people you trust with whom you can network and collaborate. Because anyone can join, if you start talking about your ideas or other specifics of your business, it’s possible someone might sneak in and steal your idea. Of course, this is unlikely and isn’t really the spirit of the platform. But it’s something to keep in mind.
  • You can’t pause or record what you hear – A big part of what makes Clubhouse unique is that all of the conversations are happening live. If you want to listen in, you have to be there. It is impossible to record what you hear, and you can’t pause the conversation because it’s happening among real people in real-time. There are likely ways you could work around this, but none of them are sanctioned by the app.

All in all, it’s still a new app, and nothing is perfect. Up until now, those who have used it seem to enjoy its free-flowing, open style, which has led to the platform's growth and all the interest from venture capitalists. Going forward, it will just be a matter of whether or not the app can maintain its own momentum.

Who Can Access Clubhouse? Is it “Invite-Only?”

Part of the reason why Clubhouse has gotten so much attention since its release is because of its exclusivity. In the beginning, to be able to download the app you had to be invited by someone who was already on the platform.

One reason for this was to simply limit the number of users on the platform while it was still so new. Handling all of those audio conversations can put a lot of strain on an app, and so there was an incentive to keep the number of people who could access it to a minimum.

The other reason for this exclusivity was to simply create a buzz. Conversations among celebrities that started on Clubhouse would often bleed over into social media and frequently wound up trending on platforms such as Twitter. That got everyone wondering, “What is up with this Clubhouse app?”

However, fast forward to today and that exclusivity is no more. On July 21, 2021, Clubhouse removed its app from the Beta stage and made it available without an invite. They also expanded and started offering the app to Android phones as well as iPhones, expanding their reach even further.

So, while the app started out as an exclusive meeting place for the rich and famous, it is now open to everyone. At the moment, it is growing in popularity. Will that continue? Only time will tell.

How Do You Get Access to Clubhouse?

Does this audio-only social media app sound interesting to you? Want to join in on one of the many different conversations going on right this second? Build your network? Make new friends?

Well, if you do, then all you need to do is head over to the Google Play Store or the App Store and download Clubhouse. The next step is to simply make an account. The app will ask you some of your preferences, interests, likes, etc., just like any social media platform would. From there, it will suggest some rooms to join. The rest is up to you.

Currently, it is 100 percent free to join Clubhouse. The company has not announced any plans to change this in the foreseeable future, so get ready for some free fun and learning!

Clubhouse and Your Data

One concern some people have when they first hear about Clubhouse is “What happens to my data?”

This is a normal question to ask in the 21st century, during a time where nearly our entire lives take place online. And since Clubhouse is an audio app, using it could hand the company quite a bit of your personal data.

Also, while the app is free to users, it’s still a business, and that means it needs to find a way to make money. Like other social media companies, it’s likely this will include keeping track of and using data it collects about you.

Recording Conversations

According to Clubhouse, conversations are recorded as they are happening. That recording is kept only if someone reports a “Trust and Safety” while the conversation is going on. 

If someone makes a report, then Clubhouse will review what was said and then delete the conversation. If there was no report of anything malicious, then the recording is deleted once the room is closed, which only the person who started it can do.

Overall, it makes sense that they do this. However, whether or not you believe that they delete the conversations when they’re not needed, or that they aren’t using that data for something else, is a different question and one you need to answer all on your own.

Contact Information

When you sign up for Clubhouse, you must agree to give the app access to all of your contacts. This means that even if you don’t sign up for the app yourself but someone you know does, the company likely already has your contact information.

Furthermore, if you were to connect any of your social media profiles to Clubhouse, something the app encourages you to do, then you are also sharing all of the contact information you have stored there.

If you wind up joining Clubhouse on your own, then this doesn’t really matter all that much. You would give this information up anyway. But if you’re not interested in the app, and don’t want it to have your information, you might be frustrated to know that there’s no way to delete the information Clubhouse has stored about you.

Deleting Your Account

Say you made a Clubhouse account to check it out and after a while decided it wasn’t for you. Since you’re smart about what happens to your data, you decide that you should delete your account. So, you log into your account, go to settings, and search for where it says “Delete My Account.”

Well, if you follow this approach, you’re going to be searching for a long time. This is because the only way to get rid of your account is by sending an email to Clubhouse’s support team. For a 21st-century tech company, this is rather archaic.

Perhaps this will change as the app grows and attempts to appeal to a larger audience. But for the moment, once you make an account, you have to put a little bit of effort into getting rid of it should you decide to do so.

Data Tracking and Sharing

If we know anything about modern tech companies it’s that their primary business model is data collection for advertising. By collecting information on you and your habits, interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc., social media companies can sell advertisers highly-targeted ads that are proven to be more effective.

Currently, Clubhouse is not making money. But it’s planning to. How? You guessed it. By collecting data and sharing it with others.

In its current privacy agreement, you will find language such as “Clubhouse may share Personal Data with our current or future affiliates” or “Clubhouse may share the categories of your Personal Data described above without any further notice to you.”

In other words, they are collecting data on you and, by using the app, you’ve agreed to let them share that data with pretty much whoever they want.

In addition, Clubhouse uses cookies to track what you’re doing on the app. But many of these cookies also record what you’re doing on the internet when you’re not in the app, yet another thing you agree to when you download the app and consent to its privacy policy.

Again, this is fairly standard practice in today’s world, especially when it comes to apps and social media platforms. If you’re uncomfortable with what Clubhouse is doing, then it’s unlikely you’ll like what any of these companies are doing. But before signing up for and using a new social media app, it’s important to learn what’s happening with your data.

Are You Ready to Join the Club?

Okay, now you know pretty much everything you need to know about Clubhouse. While it started out as an exclusive, invite-only platform, it’s now available to everyone and growing in popularity. So, if the idea of talking with people from around the world, in real-time, about a wide range of topics using nothing more than your phone’s microphone sounds appealing to you, then get Clubhouse today. And if it doesn’t? Well, now you know it exists and you can keep on living your life like you were before...