When TV personality and sneaker influencer Tamara Dhia hosted a sneaker chat with P.J. Tucker on Clubhouse recently, Alexis Ohanian — the founder of Reddit and husband of Serena Williams — just happened to be in the room listening.
“We invited him into the conversation and it was so surreal because it was just so casual. That’s the cool thing about Clubhouse, anyone can be listening to the conversation in the room and you can invite them ‘on stage’ to join the chat,” Dhia explained. “I’ve interviewed countless celebrities, entertainers and athletes over the years, but there has never been an instance where someone like the founder of Reddit would randomly walk by and hop into the conversation.”
By now, you’ve probably heard of Clubhouse, the new audio-only app that’s been at the center of cultural conversation in recent weeks. While it’s still invite only and is technically in pre-launch mode, the social media platform has now reached more than 8 million downloads, according to data from analytics company App Annie.
“Initially I wasn’t sure how to gauge it … content these days is so video driven,” Dhia said. “But now, after having used it as an audience member as well as a host leading a chat, the possibilities are really endless. There is something to be said about conversations that are being had when there is no video component involved. When interviewing talent for example, they are much more loose and willing to talk openly then they would be if they were on-camera.”
In an Instagram and TikTok-obsessed fashion world, it might seem surprising that a non-visual platform would resonate. But during a pandemic that has people craving connection, it is striking a chord with many insiders.
“I appreciate that it’s bringing people together by creating a space where you are focused on voices and words being spoken,” said Martha Garcia, founder and CEO of I Am Collective and former marketing exec at Hoka One One, Teva and Chinese Laundry. “There is so much content on other platforms — written words, video, paid ads, and tons of photos from friends, family, celebrities, brands — and don’t forget the memes. Clubhouse eliminates the extra noise and creates a space where you only focus on dialogue. I appreciate the simplicity of it.”
Users can find conversations suited to their interests — from wellness, the arts and sports to entertainment, tech and world affairs. Each of those categories includes various sub-topics. For example, fashion is listed under the arts and entrepreneurship is under “hustle.” Then, you can receive notifications once chat rooms centered on these topics go live.
“I’ve listened to an enormous variety that has made the experience enriching — from my photographer friend Misan Harriman talking about communities to [sustainability expert] Tom Meggle hosting a chat on sustainable fashion to entrepreneurs sharing their daily tips of highly successful people,” said Carla Filmer, chief marketing officer at Manolo Blahnik. “Right now I’m listening to a talk with my industry pals on why PR matters. So it feels incredibly relevant, real and everyone is present.”
Alfredo Piferi, founder of Piferi, a vegan luxury shoe brand, said he’s participating in rooms dedicated to responsible fashion and production.
“Clubhouse is a great platform to learn and share ideas, where people are not hidden behind a keyboard, but chatting live, and this makes the interaction more accountable,” Piferi said. “It’s like a podcast, but interactive and unlike instagram or other social media, nobody can manage it on your behalf and you can’t plan the content in advance. You have to show up in person, this feels refreshingly authentic.”
But authenticity can sometimes go too far. Like every social media platform, Clubhouse is now grappling with allegations related to hate speech and harassment. The company said it is blocking specific users and has the ability to flag rooms. Some users have complained about misleading or false information circulating on the platform.
“Some of the information might not be substantive. Some of it might not be accurate. But it’s a fantastic medium for business leaders to foster relationships and collaborate. Most of the topics are important to my agency,” said Marc Beckman, CEO of DMA United.
Now the question becomes how will brands capitalize on the platform? Beckman and other experts believe Clubhouse’s highly-connected, highly-engaged audience will be attractive to brands looking to connect, especially at a time when in-person events and parties still haven’t resumed.
Giuseppe Zanotti is planning a Milan Fashion Week event on the platform, a clever move by the designer, who typically holds court in his packed Milan showroom. While Zanotti’s big personality will definitely translate on Clubhouse, fashion insiders will still have to see the actual shoes somewhere else.
But Clubhouse could also help the designer reach an entirely new audience. After all, Drake, Oprah Winfrey, Virgil Abloh and Elon Musk are just a few of the Clubhouse members who might pop in to his room.
Those kinds of potential connections now have many people clamoring for a Clubhouse invite. “It’s going to explode,” Beckman said.