The iPhone-based app’s invite-only and celebrity-endorsed status gives it an air of mystique, which is why people are begging for a way in. Here’s what you need to know before giving it a whirl.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.

There’s a new social media darling, and the FOMO (fear of missing out) is strong.

The Clubhouse app has been around since early 2019 but has blown up over the past couple of weeks. Real estate (and other) Facebook groups are filled with chatter. “Are you on Clubhouse?” “Someone send me a Clubhouse invite!” “OMG, this Clubhouse chat!” “I’m addicted to Clubhouse!” and of course, “How can I get leads from Clubhouse?” and “What the heck is Clubhouse?”

What the heck indeed? If you are not one of the few, the proud and the lucky to have been invited to Clubhouse, you may be wondering what the big deal is.

Touted by some as “the next Instagram” and “the social site you must be on,” the app’s invite-only, iPhone-only (for now) and celebrity-endorsed status gives it that mystique and air of wonder that prompts people to beg and grovel to be invited into the club before they even know what it’s all about. 

I’ve been on Clubhouse for all of a week. Far from an expert on the app, all I can offer is my opinion and observations. Based on my strolls about the internet, it’s obvious there is some level of confusion about what Clubhouse is, is not, and how it can be used for business — and life.

So, let’s dive in!

What is Clubhouse?

Here is what the app developers say: Clubhouse is a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations — with friends and other interesting people around the world. Go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”

That sums it up pretty well. The thing that makes Clubhouse different from any existing social platform is that it’s audio only. There are no photos, no videos, no highly curated or produced content, no links. It’s all talk.

Think of it as a live, interactive podcast, where in theory, any Clubhouse member can join the conversation. As with some social sites, like Snapchat or Facebook Stories, Clubhouse content is ephemeral — once a conversation ends, it’s gone. Poof! Nothing is stored. There’s no going back to it. No way to save it.

If you enjoy listening to, producing or participating in podcasts, you’ll probably enjoy Clubhouse. If you prefer consuming (or creating) content that’s visual (reading or watching versus listening) or being able to go back to articles and videos at any time, you may wonder what the hype is all about.

How does it work?

When you open the Clubhouse app, you will find yourself in the “hallway.” The hallway is a list of active “rooms” where conversations are being held on various topics. Anyone can join a room and listen in.

Rooms are created by “moderators,” a term that simply refers to the person who started the room. And anyone can start a room. Rooms are public by default, but you can create a private room that’s only accessible by people invited into it.

As I type this, I’m in the “Welcome to Clubhouse” room. It’s a beginner’s guide. There are 14 people “on stage.” Those are people who can actually talk. There are 206 people in the “audience.” Those are people listening to the folks on stage.

Any audience member can “raise their hand,” move to the stage (if the moderator allows it) and speak. This particular room is having a Q&A session. So, any audience member can raise their hand, come up on stage, and ask a question.

The speakers, who claim to be experts on Clubhouse, answer those questions. (For the record, these speakers really do appear to know the Clubhouse app very well. You will run across “experts” in all subjects that aren’t nearly as expert as they claim to be. Welcome to the internet.) 

At this moment in time (around 6 a.m. on a Tuesday), there are 36 active public rooms. One room has three people in it. Another has 1,661. Topics range from “Listening to my music” to “I just voted in Georgia” to “What it takes to run a 1 million dollar biz” — and everything in between. 

“Clubs” are another part of Clubhouse. Think of a club as a group of people with similar interests who hold regular and impromptu rooms. I’ve joined clubs for those interested in fishing, writing, politics, music and, of course, real estate. 

You have to apply to run or moderate a club, and I suspect those behind the scenes at Clubhouse are inundated with club applications, but all you have to do to participate is click. 

I’ve gotten a lot from club membership. A couple of days ago, I listened in on a fascinating discussion in a writer’s club. Several published authors were on stage discussing how they got their first book published. They provided some great insight and tips for the aspiring author.

I “followed” a couple of them, and now, I’ll get notices when they start or join new rooms. (Pro tip: Notifications can get out of hand on Clubhouse. In the beginning, I was getting dozens of notifications a day. Thankfully, the app lets you select various levels of notifications. I recommend not selecting “very frequent.”

‘Celebrities’

There are some celebrities on Clubhouse. Sightings of Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, Drake, MC Hammer and others are common. There are “business celebs,” too, such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Grant Cardone.

If stargazing is your thing, I suppose this may excite you. However, users are discouraging from “fanboying” and “fangirling.” In other words, don’t stalk the celebs and beg them to follow you. That said, some of the celebs on Clubhouse speak at events and charge hundreds of dollars to listen to them. You can hear them for free on Clubhouse. Free is good.

Invites

Right now, the Clubhouse app is in beta and is “invite only.” You can download it (if you have an iPhone. It’s not available on Android during beta testing) and reserve your username. This will also put you on the “waitlist” for an invite.

More importantly, it may also ping existing members who have given Clubhouse access to their phone’s contact list, and that person can let you in. This functionality appears to be somewhat random, but it’s the way that I — and many others — got access.

Every new member is given one invite. Members can be granted new invites. How these are granted is a bit of a mystery, but the more you participate, the more invites you get. (Of note, I just got three new invites as I was writing this column. So yes, members do get additional invites from time to time.)

The “begging for invites” is already rampant. Please don’t. It’s just not a good look. Rather than pleading for an invite in a Facebook group, reach out to someone you know, and ask them privately. Publishing your saved username does zero good, as invites have to be sent via text message.

How do I get leads?

Not surprisingly, the groveling for leads has already started. Some agents are chomping at the bit, trying to figure out how to use Clubhouse for lead generation.

Stop it. Not every single thing you do has to be related to lead gen. No one is coming to Clubhouse to find an agent. Use Clubhouse to learn new things (not just real estate-related). Use it to meet people and network. This presents a new opportunity to expand your networks over and above the ones you already have — that likely include all the same people.

Clubhouse is sort of like an always-on conference. Those who love (and miss) the conference experience will appreciate this app. I’ve been able to speak with lots of friends I haven’t seen in far too long. Yes, I could (and should) pick up the phone and call them. None of us do that enough. Now, I can click a button and chat with many of them.

But be careful. As with many social apps, Clubhouse can be addicting and can turn into a time-suck. One agent on a Facebook post said, “I’m slightly addicted. I spend about five hours a day on Clubhouse.” That’s not “slightly addicted” — that’s a problem.

One nice thing about Clubhouse is that it’s all based on audio. So, if you can multitask, you can do other things while you listen in Clubhouse rooms. I’m now listening in a room called “how real estate professionals are using Clubhouse.”

I can listen and write at the same time (usually I listen to music). Some writers want absolute silence when they write, and that’s fine. You do you, and don’t let Clubhouse (or any other platform) take over your life. But give it a whirl — dive in. You might find yourself meeting new people, learning new things and making great connections. All that is good for your business and beyond.

Learn more about Clubhouse’s founders, community guidelines and everything else

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the w orld on many things real estate.

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