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Clubhouse, the new application disrupting the world of social media

The latest social network, Clubhouse, is generating a worldwide craze that is now spreading to France. Beyond its exponential growth and the possible new trend, will this new medium manage to define a new way of communicating in the universe of digital interactions, and restore more authentic exchanges far from the hateful comments that abound on other platforms? Analysis of an application that could turn digital interactions upside down.

Tired of Instagram’s polished publications, of trolls’ cynical little phrases on Twitter, of Linkedin’s corporate publications or of TikTok’s choreographies; what if you switched to Clubhouse? What is Clubhouse? Clubhouse is the latest social network and it’s growing exponentially with over 8 million downloads. Available only by invitation and on iOS, this digital platform is unlike any other.

The principle? Here, no photo, no video, no written messages, no hashtags, the only medium is the voice. Once the user has obtained the golden ticket to register, they can exchange live and in person, in pairs or in groups, thanks to the “rooms”. These sort of virtual conference rooms can be created by any user about the topic of their choice. In these virtual agoras that can accommodate up to five thousand participants, improvised moderators lead the discussions and everyone, expert or neophyte, can intervene by “raising their hand” via a button or simply listen however long they’d like. Clubs on various topics – for example African literature, bitcoin, keys to successful fundraising, meditation, relationships, among many others – bring users together around common interests. Ergonomic and easy to use, Clubhouse also offers surprisingly high audio quality. Another unique feature of the application is that conversations are not recorded.

Launched in March 2020 by Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth, two Stanford alumnus who went through Pinterest and Google respectively, Clubhouse quickly won over people with its innovative format as the world dived into a period of containment. With social distancing measures in place, the app emerged as an innovative tool to maintain contact, exchange and recreate human connections when face-to-face exchanges were limited. Initially popular with the Silicon Valley community, the adoption of the platform by high-profile figures such as Marck Zuckeberg, Steve Ballmer and Tesla’s iconic CEO Elon Musk has only strengthened the appeal of ClubHouse. The application has also benefited from the support of the Afro-American community, which came through its investors, as revealed in a long investigation by Le Monde. The presence of emblematic figures of the community among its users such as the media goddess Opra Winfrey, rappers -Meek Mill and Drake- or activists of the Black Lives Matter movement have greatly contributed to the success of the application highlighting voices and concerns, to the point of being described by some as a new “black twitter”.

One year after its launch, ClubHouse’s growth is impressive. The network is said to have 2 million weekly users and is already valued at $1.5 billion. In France, the number of users, which was still confidential six months ago, has been growing rapidly since the beginning of the year, and includes a number of business personalities, politicians, comedians and journalists attracted by this new format.

Exchanging by voice could introduce a new tone and a new form of communication that is more authentic and more direct than what is the case on other social networks. A user since February, journalist Louis Morin regularly hosts a “room” on ClubHoue where he welcomes political figures. He notes, “When you take away the image, you’re more focused on the voice, the content. Having to listen to each other forces a certain benevolence, it’s a different and interesting contribution compared to what existed until now”. His first guest was the Minister Delegate to the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Franck Riester, who was addressed by all the participants in the exchange. “On Clubhouse, the questions are only asked by the participants, and the questions are only asked by the participants. On Clubhouse, questions are not filtered. It’s a risk for the speaker, but the users also stand out for their overall goodwill,” he adds. In the United States, users were able to speak directly to Elon Musk in a room where he was participating. The entrepreneur, seduced by the format, issued an open invitation to Vladimir Putin to come and debate on the application. The direct access to experts or renowned personalities is another asset that makes the application successful. “Xavier Niel, Jean de La Rochebrochard, the head of Kima are on CLubHouse and speak in rooms. Other personalities in other fields such as politics, media or others are also active users. It is possible to interact in a less restrictive way than on other platforms such as Linkedin for example, where the discourse is more controlled.

Need advice or to share experiences? Voice exchanges offer a certain guarantee of sincerity and protect them in part from marketing targeting or hateful comments that cannibalize other networks. ClubHouse is a way for some people to network with experts around shared interests. Among the most popular topics, those related to entrepreneurial success, personal development, self-confidence, but also food, humor that reflect the concerns of a generation and its questions about its prospects. “The dream of the CDI was a dream of the 80s. It is not the perspective of a young person today. Young workers are aware that they have to build their professional future by themselves, which explains the success of topics related to entrepreneurship,” analyses Louis Morin.

Is a new format of communication and influence taking shape? As illustrated by the proliferation of podcasts, the use of audio is booming in digital content and interaction. Clubhouse brings an innovative dimension to this trend by enabling instant and immediate interaction, without replay, and reaching communities that are sometimes far removed from traditional media. This is something that some people, especially politicians, who are unable to organize meetings, have understood. Several have already joined the application and regularly organize “rooms” to exchange freely with users. Thus, several members of the government such as Franck Riester, but also Jean-Baptiste Dejbbari, Cédric O or Clément Beaune are present and have organized exchanges around their subjects of expertise. Others like the former Secretary of State and MP Mounir Mahjoubi are also active and on the other hand we note that representatives of more controversial parties such as France Insoumise or the National Renewal are not present, which favors the serenity of discussions. As new elections approach, at a time when face-to-face meetings cannot be held, social networks are proving to be a tool for impact and influence in the organization of campaigns. “While we are witnessing a revolution in the uses and consumption of information, it is obvious that the presidential campaign will be more on social networks,” says Louis Morin. “It is still limited on ClubHouse today, but if the application develops and becomes accessible on Android and PC, the audience will grow and the possibility of holding virtual meetings of 2,000 to 3,000 participants has an obvious interest. Moreover, the direct interactions that the application currently allows are interesting for politicians, especially in a period where meetings with voters are restricted to a minimum.

A development and assets closely watched by competitors. Last December, Twitter launched Spaces, a voice-based platform available on Android, Instagram launched its Live Rooms – live rooms that allow people to share and film themselves – and, according to the New York Times, Facebook is working on a project based on a similar operation. While expectations are clearly in search of greater “authenticity” and trust on digital, voice could be one of the mediums that leads the way.