There's no doubt that the company is on an impressive trajectory -- in just a year, it has become a coveted industry invite and catapulted to a reported $1 billion valuation. And, as with any meteoric rise, it's natural to wonder what their secret is.
But in this case, I don't necessarily believe there's a "secret" to Clubhouse's overnight success. Instead, I think Clubhouse's genius lies in the fact that the app taps into some fundamental truths: that we all want a voice, have an opinion, and strive to feel a part of a community.
To me, there's familiarity and comfort in the idea that Clubhouse hasn't reinvented the wheel. It means all businesses have the ability to harness people's natural inclinations to develop successful services or products. And as we look to replicate its successes, we can also learn from its growing pains.
As we approach the app's first birthday, here are three lessons businesses can take away from the latest freshly-minted unicorn.
Give people the mic
Literally and figuratively, people want to have a voice. Look no further than social media's billions of users to know that it's nearly universally appealing for people to have an opportunity to share their thoughts, their feelings, and glimpses at their lives. Or look to the fact that since 2018 the number of podcasts has more than tripled.
Literally speaking (no pun intended), we've seen this urge play out in the proliferation of voice channels. From smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and voice assistants like Siri to artificial intelligence (A.I.)-powered customer service options, everywhere you look there are opportunities for people to voice their thoughts, questions, and demands. Even as some spoken options, like voicemail, seem to fall out of favor, new iterations just pop up in their place (think: Apple voice memos).
Clubhouse is capitalizing on this urge by allowing anyone (with an invite) to grab the mic. At a lower barrier to entry than podcasting, and in a more personal setting than most social media, the app allows people to express themselves and share insight on any topic of their choosing.
This won't look the same for every business, but it's an important reminder that people want to feel like they have a voice and that someone is listening. Whether through an engaged social-media community, user-generated content, customer feedback surveys, or just an outstanding, empathetic customer service department, businesses should remember to hand customers the mic and listen up.
Harness the power of community
The ability to share your perspective is one thing, but having someone to share it with is even more satisfying. Like posting a status to zero Facebook friends, a tweet to no followers, or a review that no one will ever read, having a voice feels insufficient if there's no audience to receive it.
Part of Clubhouse's allure is the ability for users to curate these communities for themselves, following people, topics, or rooms that interest them and joining conversations with people who share these interests. This has become even more appealing in a year when a sense of community has been particularly hard to come by.
This type of brand community isn't just a nice-to-have; it's critical for building loyalty, especially as competition heats up. Instagram just rolled out group livestreaming; Facebook is reportedly building a Clubhouse competitor; Twitter began the development of voice chat rooms -- users can use any of these to express themselves. The winners will be those that can build and maintain a steadfast community.
We've seen this play out before. Peloton is a textbook example. Users aren't just purchasing and riding a stationary bike -- they could do that for much less money. Instead, they're joining an avid community of fellow exercise enthusiasts. Video games like Fortnite have been known to forge these communities as well, or even shoe brands. It doesn't matter the product or service; enveloping it in a feeling of community that builds loyalty and keeps people coming back is foundational to success.
Don't be afraid to get back to basics
When a company takes off as quickly as Clubhouse has, it can feel like they're putting the wings on a plane as they're barreling down the runway. It often requires some trial and error to get everything just right, and when a company moves at breakneck speed, there's not always time. We're beginning to see some of these cracks with Clubhouse.
The app recently confirmed a data spill, as conversations were streamed, unauthorized, to multiple rooms, and it has come under fire for reports of recorded conversations and numerous other privacy concerns.
Growing pains, when properly handled, don't have to be the end of the world. But they're a good reminder that even when you've built an incredibly popular business, you can never abandon the basics. Regardless of business type, user base, or valuation, fundamentals like stringent privacy guidelines and user safety remain essentials.
Not every company will skyrocket to a unicorn valuation in just under a year, or see Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg drop in on their platform, but I believe they can all learn a thing or two from Clubhouse's meteoric success this year. The company didn't reinvent the wheel -- and other businesses don't need to, either. The secret to success can be as simple as leaning into what makes us human.