In 2014, Forbes published an article about the explosive growth of influencer marketing on social media. It discussed how followers and brands were flocking to popular creators — from lifestyle personalities on Instagram to makeup artists posting tutorials on YouTube.
Over the past several years, a shift has occurred on social media. With the rise of platforms like TikTok, social media content has veered not only toward short form, but also strongly toward visual formats. Quick clips of dance challenges, poses and pranks were custom-made for an age in which social media has shortened our attention spans and sent us madly scrolling.
This created a wave of influencers who rode to viral superstardom on a lineup of 8-second clips. It resulted in a fandom of followers that chose their favorite influencers based on their good looks, their fashion sense or their ability to bust a move.
A relatively new social media platform, Clubhouse, is seeking to change all that.
Flying in the face of visual social media platforms, Clubhouse is entirely audio-based. For those who are unfamiliar with how it works, users on Clubhouse can host “rooms” that are typically based on a topic. Other users are allowed to listen in and, if moderators of a particular room allow it, chime in. Think of it as a live, interactive podcast party.
It’s also invite-only. You can’t simply download Clubhouse from the app store; an existing user must send you an invitation from their app for you to join. Once you’re in, Clubhouse users can follow folks they know — but they can also follow people they’re interested in. The app lets you know which rooms people you follow are currently in. There’s also a schedule function that lets you know what rooms are scheduled within your network.
These rooms, which are capped at 5,000 people each, operate in a few different ways. A user can give a keynote on whatever topic they have on their mind and allow others to weigh in or ask questions. The discussion can take place like a fireside chat, with one person interviewing another. Clubhouse also allows groups to hold conference-style panels.
For influencers, the way Clubhouse operates has turned social media on its head. In the world of Clubhouse, looks no longer matter. Clever video editing skills or smooth new dance choreography won’t help you here. Clubhouse doesn’t care if you have the world’s most photogenic labradoodle or if you’re coming to your audience while posing in front of an Instagram-ready background.
In a 180-degree pivot away from the years of social media content built largely upon the visual, Clubhouse has influencers offering up ideas. Rather than showing off the latest fashion fads, they discuss their life philosophy. Instead of dance tutorials, they offer their personal financial advice. Content doesn’t have to be limited to 280 characters. Clubhouse gives influencers the opportunity to offer their followers their own unique perspective on every topic imaginable.
It’s an especially great platform for well-known influencers or personalities to shape their own narrative. Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk nearly broke Clubhouse when he took to the app to host a chat with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev. In the chat, Musk pointed out that unlike other social media apps that encourage endless clicking and moving from one thing to the next, Clubhouse gives its users the ability to turn off the notifications, stop the scrolling and focus on one topic — and person — at a time.
Clubhouse isn’t just an opportunity for business leaders to inspire others or espouse their views. It’s a chance for influencers who have risen to fame on traditionally visual, short-form platforms to share their insights and expertise. My fellow Sway LA members and I have found a voice on a variety of podcasts, but we have found that the Clubhouse app has a certain uniqueness in the way it allows us to connect directly with our fans and followers.
I’m personally using Clubhouse to connect with those in my audience, as well as other like-minded individuals, who are interested in my entrepreneurial endeavors. I hope that my presence on the app will inspire other young entrepreneurs to learn from the incredible community on Clubhouse and take the leap to pursue the endeavors they are passionate about. This also allows me to expand my audience past my main demographics, reach followers of thought leaders and industry titans, and show a side of myself not always visible on my main social platforms.
Some might see my TikTok channel and not expect that I’m also on Clubhouse hosting conversations with the likes of Sean Rad (co-founder of Tinder), Marc Randolph (co-founder of Netflix), Zak Williams (CEO of PYM) and Kenneth Cole (fashion designer). This group and I recently came together to discuss mental health issues, their impact on GenZ and the complexities surrounding mental health given today’s current landscape and the fast-paced industries the group works in. Recently, I led a room with Harley Finklestein (president of Shopify) and digital marketing guru and Clubhouse influencer Swan Sit.
Clubhouse has created a platform for a whole new breed of influencers and thought leaders by offering people an opportunity to share their personalities, thoughts and eloquence.
Through that connection, we can share who we really are. While people came to know us through our TikTok videos, they now get to know the people behind the short-form personas. Whether it’s investment advice or shared experiences on what it takes to make it in the social media world, Clubhouse offers us a way to interact and tell stories we can’t tell on other platforms.
As the platform grows and expands, it’ll be interesting to see it give rise to a whole new type of social media celebrity who becomes known not for their face or fashion but for their mind. Clubhouse is truly reinventing what it means to be an influencer.