Welcome to the Clubhouse: Documenting the rise of a new social media platform

Published On February 26, 2021 | By Tyler Cheese | News, Sci/Tech
Clubhouse is an audio-only social media app that lets users jump into conversations on a wide variety of topics. (Tyler Cheese)

Clubhouse, an audio-only social media app, has shot to fame in just under a year.

The app recently made headlines after being banned in China, but that hasn’t affected its momentum.

Clubhouse has been downloaded 9.8 million times as of Feb. 21, according to app analytics firm App Annie.

In spite of a steady upward trend in downloads, part of the app’s appeal is its exclusivity. It’s only available for iOS users and you have to be invited by another Clubhouse member.

Even digital media analyst Jesse Hirsh has had a hard time getting on the app.

“I’m not yet at the point of being so stupid as to buy a new [phone] just so I can join Clubhouse,” he said. “But the fact that I even thought about it suggests that Clubhouse is having some success in their … exclusive marketing.”

Hirsh thinks the popularity of the “drop-in audio chat” app is indicative of the times we are living in, he said.

He said the app evokes the need for social connection but calls for the return of broadcasting, albeit an interactive broadcast.

“[It’s] a cultural expression of where we’re at right now, which for many people is locked up or isolated or lonely,” Hirsh said.

As for those using the app, Nael Hamwi, a designer and budding entrepreneur from Toronto who recently joined Clubhouse, says it allows him to reach people he would not likely usually reach.

“It kind of breaks the barrier, to be able to talk to famous people [and to] be given informative, proper information that comes from any type of industry,” Hamwi said.

He has listened to a wide range of conversations including branding seminars, an interview with the cast of Netflix’s Bling Empire, a Q&A session with author Guy Kawasaki and a room focused on LGBTQ+ relationships.

Jake Ernst, a Toronto-based therapist, joined the app in January and recently encountered a conversation about research on incorporating psychedelic drugs into psychotherapeutic treatments, he said.

“As a therapist, it was really interesting to have a front-row seat to some cutting-edge work and research in my field,” he said.

As for its staying power, both Hamwi and Ernst think Clubhouse has what it takes to stick around.

Hirsh is not so sure, pointing to the app’s marketing tactics.

“I think the elitism or exclusivity of Clubhouse may end up being its downfall,” he said.

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