Clubhouse, launched in March 2019, is a new kind of audio-only networking app which allows users to join ‘rooms’ in which discussions take place around a specific topic. Once in the room, you can request to be a speaker by ‘raising your hand’, sit and listen to the discussion, or you can opt to ‘leave quietly’. But the big question on everyone’s lips seems to be, “Is ClubHouse just a massive waste of time, or is there a big opportunity here?”.
ClubHouse is technically still in what’s known as ‘beta’ (when the developers are still ironing out bugs and experimenting with features etc), and is invite only. Despite the initial exclusivity, it’s now relatively likely that you can gain access as most users are given a healthy amount of invites (which in my experience seems to never run out), and has apparently now reached over 2 million weekly active users[i]. The catch here is that the app is only available on IOS devices right now, which means iPhone and iPad users only, although I am sure they are working to expand that as we speak.
How to use Clubhouse
Firstly, you need to download the Clubhouse app (which you can find at joinclubhouse.com or in the Apple App Store), but only if you have an iPhone or iPad. Then, you’ll choose your username and put in some basic information about yourself, and wait to be ‘let in’ by a contact, or ask someone you know to ‘invite you’. (I’ve got a few invites I can use if you ask me nicely).
Here are some simple steps to get the most out of Clubhouse:
- Optimise your bio. Like other social media apps once you’ve joined you’ll have the ability to update your profile. However, unlike Twitter and Instagram you are restricted to a tiny profile. The more you put on your profile the better, as everything appears to be searchable. Here’s mine:
- Join Rooms. Either with your peers, or rooms that are discussing topics you are interested in or can help with.
- Start your own Rooms. Your room, your rules, your topic, and ultimately the main way to benefit from being on the app.
- Round table discussions seem to work best – not a hierarchy of someone speaking. When people can join in and speak, they seem to stay longer.
- Have as many moderators as possible to create a larger room.
- 60 to 90 minutes appears to be the optimal time for a Room to run.
- Create a Club. Running rooms is great but if you really want to make the most of Clubhouse you should create a club. People are able to become members of clubs and when you create rooms you can create them under the banner of your club. The added bonus of a Club is that you can offer the opportunity for others to run rooms under your Club.
Dr.Nichola Maasdorp, owner of the ‘No.4’ Clinic, advises, “…Decide who you want to collaborate with and form an alliance of 5 or more so that you can keep your project going as you will need to be broadcasting regularly – at least 3 times per week. The alliance means that one of you can step in if someone needs a break. Choose a subject beforehand and try to keep on topic, and make sure your broadcast lasts 90 minutes. Choose a regular time slot and signal it to your followers on other platforms”.
There are a number of opportunities to benefit from taking an active part in Clubhouse. Those that I’ve experienced myself, and that I’ve discovered by interviewing Aesthetic practitioners that were early adopters, include:
- Access to new audiences and followers. Clubhouse is attracting people in large numbers, and it presents the opportunity to connect to people you’re not connected to yet on other social platforms. In addition, when you speak in a room, a good moderator will encourage the audience to follow you on Instagram or twitter, so regularly speaking in rooms can be a new way to grow your following across your other social profiles.
- Learning and professional development. The ability to listen and learn from other Aesthetics practitioners in a new and interactive format.
- Raising your professional profile. The ability to join those at the top of the industry and share the stage with them is one that would ordinarily be difficult to achieve in a normal “conference” setting. Clubhouse gives a (relatively) fair chance to all involved to join the stage and share their views.
- Passive interaction. It’s not another webinar or zoom call, which means you’re not on video, and can be doing other things whilst listening and only interact on your terms.
- Personal development. The ability to explore personal interests, but interact with the hosts (almost like an interactive podcast, if you will)
Some of the early adopters of Clubhouse in Aesthetics include celebrity facialist Debbie Thomas and her weekly ‘Skin talk with Pros” Clubhouse rooms, and Dr.Steven Land and Dr.Manav Bawa with their weekly ‘Aesthetics: Under the Skin’ rooms for industry discussions.
As with any social media platform, there are some downsides. With Clubhouse, the main issues I have seen occurring over and over again include:
- The time suck. As the rooms on Clubhouse become filled with more users, it can take hours (even days in some cases) to get around to each person to have their ‘time on stage’. This means if you’ve joined a large room (some that I’ve been in can have over 4,000 people in, with several hundred ‘on stage’, and many more hundreds trying to get promoted from listener to speaker.
- Clubhouse started as an extremely exclusive social network. Some of the first to gain access were global content creators who already have huge followings of millions of people on other platforms. A lot of the rooms that appear in your Clubhouse feed are those run by and frequented by these ‘stars’. With that comes a lot of ego, sometimes clashes of ego, but always very large doses of self promotion that is not always relevant to the topic at hand. However, as mentioned above, self promotion is part and parcel of any social network, and Clubhouse is no different.
- Topic creep. Some rooms, if they don’t have a strong moderator, tend to go off topic and further waste the time of those in the room.
- It’s not evergreen. The fact that the discussions on Clubhouse are live, and cannot be (easily) saved or re-purposed (the app discourages methods of recording, because you don’t have permission from everyone in the room), means that the content is rather ‘disposable’, and can’t be used on other platforms.
- It has to be You. Sometimes social media can be, to an extent, delegated (posting content to other platforms, for example). But Clubhouse needs You and your expertise, live and right now.
- No DMs. There isn’t currently a way to directly message another Clubhouse user. This tends to be done through Instagram or Twitter (so make sure you add those profile details to your Clubhouse bio!)
Then of course the fact that it’s only for iPhone and iPad is currently a limiting factor.
Clubhouse: In summary
In conclusion, the jury is still out on this one. But I believe that first mover advantage will pay off, so long as you are strict with the time you put into it and use your time on the platform wisely.
Right now, in Aesthetics, Clubhouse is almost exclusively peer to peer. By which I mean, most rooms on the topic of Aesthetics are full of practitioners sharing ideas and networking in a professional capacity. Having said that, some rooms are emerging that target ‘consumers’ (or patients) offering the chance to ask questions etc, but these are still dominated by experts, as opposed to consumers.
There are no doubt opportunities here to grow your profile and credibility within the Aesthetics industry, and to grow your connections as a result. It’s also clearly a good platform for learning from peers and discussing medical aesthetics with like-minded professionals, much as you would during informal networking at a conference. I’d agree with Richard Crawford-Small (Founder of The Aesthetic Entrepreneurs) when he said “It’s much more LinkedIN, than Facebook at the moment”. I would go further and predict it will be LinkedIN that eventually buy it!
It remains to be seen as to whether the opportunity to engage with patients or potential patients presents itself as the app grows its user base and begins to attract more people joining as ‘consumers’. I can envisage rooms being opened by savvy Aesthetic practitioners where patients can drop in and ask questions about skincare issues, potential treatments etc and HCPs being on hand to answer and potentially take discussions offline to a consultation.
We are also still very much in the ‘novelty’ stage of this platform, and the invite only / exclusive strategy of the app’s founders has clearly paid off in driving demand, as I am still seeing posts in my Facebook feed daily asking “Does anyone have an invite for me to Clubhouse”. People want to get in at the moment just to see what the fuss is about, and it will become evident over time what kinds of people are left once that novelty wears off, and when they start monetising the platform (which they inevitably will have to) and therefore how useful it will be for Aesthetic Practitioners and Clinic owners as a place to network and engage with patients and potential patients. I think we will see a similar ‘levelling off’ of the platform once COVID lockdowns are a thing of the past.
Outside of Aesthetics, there are also many personal interest groups that address issues related to mental health, childhood diseases, and finding motivation to overcome personal and professional challenges. There are also industry related discussions for musicians, videographers, marketers, scientists, creators, athletes, comedians, parents, entrepreneurs, stock traders, non-profit leaders, authors, artists, real estate agents, sports fans and more. People come to Clubhouse to talk, learn, laugh, be entertained, meet and connect. And that all sounds rather lovely, doesn’t it?
You can find me on Clubhouse with the username ‘@looktouchfeel’ and join my weekly discussions on Digital Marketing in Aesthetics.
Rick O’Neill, FRSA, is a digital consultant to the medical aesthetics, cosmetic surgery and pharma sectors. With over 20 years’ experience in digital marketing, O’Neill is the founder and owner of the award-winning digital agency ‘Look Touch & Feel’ based at Silverstone Race Circuit, a founding partner of The Aesthetic Entrepreneurs, investor and advisor to several other digital businesses (including EOOVI Consult – a video consultation software platform) and is currently digital consultant UK & Europe to Allergan Aesthetics. Find him at www.rickyoneill.co.uk