Magic of Clubhouse, or How to join 'the room' and ask Tinkov or Musk a personal question

Magic of Clubhouse, or How to join 'the room' and ask Tinkov or Musk a personal question
Photo: DPA

The new social network Clubhouse with voice communication at the core, or conversations in “rooms” as they are called, is gaining popularity. The platform gives the opportunity to ask questions to famous speakers, from Elon Musk to Oleg Tinkov. The network has already been banned in China, where it was used to discuss politics without censorship, and Clubhouse itself has already banned Russian television and radio host Vladimir Solovyov. Tatarstan entrepreneurs interviewed by Realnoe Vremya have already tried out the new resource and were satisfied with the results: first of all, the messenger removes barriers between people, dramatically “reducing the cost” of the opportunity to talk to any speaker directly. They are confident that the creators of Clubhouse will gain a foothold in the market, but for this, the company will have to monetise its audience.

New messenger of pandemic era

The coronavirus pandemic has given humanity not only many problems, but also new opportunities. In its wake, the most unusual startups and projects are becoming popular. At the height of the lockdown last spring, the Zoom online conference programme spread like a virus, and many companies began using it to communicate remotely with employees or customers. Since the beginning of 2021, the world has been swept by the wave of popularity of the new social network Clubhouse.

Clubhouse was also launched in the spring of 2020 by graduates of Stanford University, who ventured to bet on live communication: the social network consists of “rooms” of interests, where you can communicate only using voice messages and in real time (conversation recording is prohibited by the rules of the service). Rooms can be created both public and private, and you can be both a speaker and a listener.

Elon Musk became the main “catapult” who advertised his performance in “the room” of Clubhouse on Twitter

China blocks the social network

At the same time, Clubhouse still has many restrictions. One of the most significant is that it is available to smartphone users only on the iOS platform, as a result, Android users will not have the opportunity to download it. Second, one can only get into the social network by invitation from existing users only.

Despite this, Clubhouse is gaining its audience quite quickly, just in a week a new million users is appearring in the social network. Elon Musk became the main “catapult” who advertised his performance in “the room” of Clubhouse on Twitter (he has 46 million followers there). Following him, other celebrities also spoke to ordinary people, from the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, to Oprah Winfrey. Russian TV journalist Vladimir Solovyov was banned for violating the rules of the service, and Oleg Tinkov announced his retirement on Clubhouse.

In China, whose citizens actively used the Clubhouse even before Elon Musk and the current hype as an application where they could discuss politics without censorship, the social network was banned in early February. As is often the case with such startups, the company is already valued at a billion dollars, although the project has not even started to earn, one of the venture funds recently invested $100 million on Clubhouse.

“It is breaking a certain social graph”

Tatarstan entrepreneurs also ad time to estimate the new “toy” and believe that the future is visible behind the new social network — and it's not just about the pandemic. For example, Bulat Ganiev, managing partner of Technokratis IT company, believes that several key factors played a role in the growth of the popularity of Clubhouse.

“First, of course, the factor of the pandemic affected, people just missed communication. Clubhouse, if it had been released even earlier, would have had even more viral growth. Second, it seems to me that the main element of the novelty is that it is breaking a certain social graph. You can 'enter the room', raise your hand and ask a personal question to Oleg Tinkov or Elon Musk. Previously, to gather such a team, you had to make a promo for a big event, pump in a lot of money, recruit a lot of people offline, bother with the place and organisation. In the case of Clubhouse, everyone just enters the group, the room, and directly communicates with speakers. It is interesting to ask a question, get a comment on it. And this can be done absolutely without going anywhere. For the organisers, it's just two clicks. The most well-known entrepreneurs themselves probably also have some need to participate in interesting discussions, to share their experience.”

“You can make content that won't be saved — and it's still interesting”

According to Ganiev, Clubhouse purposefully or accidentally hit some ideal form of providing content. Now there are many platforms on the Network. But not every content is interesting for authors and users, we can say that certain content is not worth recording at all.

“For example, podcasts have appeared, everyone writes podcasts — but not every conversation is interesting, not every interview is interesting. Especially when it is done unprofessionally. Clubhouse is just such a format that happens in the moment, it's just a conversation that may or may not work out. But you don't have to write anything down in advance — it's interactive. Some such performance effect occurs.”

Bulat Ganiev recalls how Snapchat, the mobile messaging app with attached photos and videos, once appeared, one of the main concepts of which was that the transmitted images and messages are available to the recipient only for a short time. Then many users wondered why making some content that is deleted after a while. But then Instagram made stories, and everyone started to make “stories” normally and stopped being surprised that their content could disappear.

“Clubhouse turned out to be interesting because it suddenly turned out that you can make content that will not be saved, and users will still be interested in it!” says the businessman.

According to experts, Zoom is now among the most overvalued companies: revenue and profit indicators are too low in comparison with the value of the company itself. Photo: krasnogorsk-adm.ru

Clubhouse, like Zoom, will have to monetise the audience

Will the projects that became popular during the pandemic and lockdown, such as Clubhouse or Zoom, lose popularity? Especially since Zoom is now among the most overvalued companies: revenue and profit indicators are too low in comparison with the value of the company itself. But there is nothing surprising: this is how this American system works, says Bulat Ganiev — the evaluation of a firm is not always based only on its financial performance, it is also based on market expectations.

“If Zoom and Clubhouse, taking advantage of the current situation, will be able to roll out new products, show new products, show investors how they plan to gain a foothold in the market, additionally monetising their audience, they will meet expectations. It's like Elon Musk's Tesla: Tesla has always been overvalued, but year after year, Musk shows that these are good cars, many people buy them, he has a marketing strategy that tells the market — this is a good company, not some kind of bubble.”

The fact of revaluation is a fact of public confidence. The company expects the company to grow. But whether it will grow depends on the company's management team. Ganiev considers that both applications will meet the expectations of the market.

“I registered the day before yesterday, and yesterday we sat there until two o'clock in the morning!”

Adel Yagudin, co-owner of the men's clothing brand Indever, the coffee chain Coffee Cava and Bar108, does not agree that the pandemic plays the first fiddle in the popularity of the Clubhouse — he himself learned about this social network a month ago.

“Yes, today it seems that there is also the pandemic, as well as self-isolation, and we are talking about this pandemic. But does it somehow prevent us from living, except that you can not fly to some countries? This is not the same pandemic that was in May," he said. “The very idea of Clubhouse is cool. I registered the day before yesterday, and yesterday we sat there until two in the morning and chatted about this and that. First of all, we went to see what it was, gathered people, and from six in the evening we laughed about various topics. We created hype names for topics like 'Sex and Pitfalls'. The network is interesting because you can talk about neutral things there. But at the same time, I specifically went through the other rooms, and there are already a lot of professional rooms related to marketing, programmers, and they discuss their topics very seriously.”

At the same time, Adel Yagudin is cautious in his forecasts: it is not yet clear what the current hype may result in. But he also assumes that Clubhouse, like Zoom in its time, will be able to gain a foothold in the long term and will remain popular even after the pandemic.

Clubhouse is a social network of free time

“I used to think, for example, that Instagram would not be promising, but in the end I was wrong. On the other hand, Clubhouse looks sort of Zoom in the minimum configuration. Only there's no video. But the key difference between Clubhouse and Zoom is that you make your conversation room open to everyone. The only negative thing about Clubhouse, in my opinion, is that you need to spend a lot of time talking and listening to others, unlike Twitter and Instagram. There, on Clubhouse, you just have to kill time. As long as people have time, they will do. It's hard for me to imagine, for example, spending time on Clubhouse all day and working at the same time.”

Clubhouse is a social network of free time, the businessman notes. If there is less time, as there was less time before the pandemic, then the new network will turn into just another platform for live streams and broadcasts of speakers, to which users can still connect today, as, for example, on Youtube.

Clubhouse, like Zoom, is an example of how the pandemic has brought new opportunities

Aydar Guzairov, ex-CEO of ICL System Technologies, head of Innostage Group, is also sure that it is not just about self-isolation and the pandemic. The reason for the popularity of Clubhouse, in his opinion, is somewhat different:

“Although now a certain hype really plays a role — new opportunities, new technologies, new social network. In addition to the old tools, new 'futures' have appeared. But one way or another, as soon as this social network will gain scale and popularity, there will definitely be business prospects. This is just an example that the pandemic gives us new opportunities, not just problems.”

Guzairov draws attention to how necessary online conferences have become for almost any company. For example, his company Innostage in March-April is going to go offline from isolation, returning to office work, but at the same time, it is not going to give up virtual meetings.

“Even now, we continue to use Zoom and other online tools for meetings, because it is much more convenient and faster. Moreover, we work all over the country, and if earlier we were forced to go on business trips to customers, because customers did not accept the format of online communication, now this is the de facto standard. We really save time and money by significantly increasing our efficiency. I am sure that there will be no sharp decline in the popularity of such new projects that appeared in the pandemic after the pandemic comes to naught," the entrepreneur concluded.

By Sergey Afanasyev
Tatarstan