I was reminded of this quote by a friend when we were talking about Clubhouse last week.
“If you are not paying for it, you are the ‘product’.”
But I’ll come back to that later.
‘Clubhouse’, I hear you ask? Never heard of it? Is it some new London members’ club? Nope, it’s the latest social media platform that is getting all the press.
Before I give you some thoughts and ideas, let’s establish some facts.
- The website is https://www.joinclubhouse.com/ (which tells you nothing apart from the fact that it’s “Drop-in audio chat”)
- It’s a ‘hot property’ undoubtedly
- It’s invitation-only at this point
- It’s only on the iPhone right now (App store link)
- Clubhouse the project management software must be getting all kinds of extra website traffic at the moment! OK, so that might not be a ‘fact’, but they rank higher than the actual Clubhouse website.
So what is Clubhouse?
As their website says, it’s an audio-only social media platform. At this point, it is ‘invitation-only’ which means that you need to know someone who is already on the platform (I am) who can invite you to join.
It looks like the more you ‘do’ on Clubhouse in terms of moderating rooms and speaking, the more invitations you get. Either that or each user gets a certain number of invitations each week. I have not unequivocally worked out which it is yet.
After three weeks of using the app, I cannot decide whether it is truly something new or whether it’s a morph of a phone-in radio show combined with a recorded podcast. But it is audio-only.
What will UK law firms find on clubhouse?
When you first join you will find a list of ‘shows’ - that’s my word for them, Clubhouse calls them ‘rooms’. But to me, they are much more like a talk radio show like I have already said.
Lawyers with an entrepreneurial spirit will love it whether they are practising lawyers or lawyers with or without a PC who have moved on to other things. Here’s what Amy Bell from Teal Compliance has to say about it.
“I've been on Clubhouse a lot today. I am a complete knowledge addict! I love learning. I've gone from listening to millionaires talking about 10x-ing their fortunes, to a couple of great rooms with Hannah Beko talking about women and wellness in Law. It's fascinating to listen to different people, from different backgrounds, different countries.”
Rooms can have four people in, or four thousand. Whoever is in control of the room, known as the Moderators, are in control of who can ‘speak’ in the room, everyone else is in a listen-only mode.
At the time of writing (a weekend) the upcoming Rooms have titles like:
- Daily Habits of High Performers (402 people in the room with 26 ‘speaking’)
- Confidence event for introverts (52 people & 14 speaking)
- Silent Social Network (PING / INTERACT) MUTE MIC (nope, no idea what is either, but 593 people & 409 speaking)
- Black people should be moderating discussions about race (95 people & 14 speaking)
- Being Successful with Imposter Syndrome (86 people & 18 speaking)
- Wtffffff (70 people & 18 speaking)
So a lot of people talking about mindset, raising your game, marketing growth hacks, how to act like a millionaire before you become one. You get the idea. So is it just a glorified ‘personal development’ app right now? Maybe it is, but remember, Facebook started as a way of students rating two college students and deciding who was better looking! But let’s face it there are almost certainly more ‘early adopters’ to be found in users with those kinds of interests than in the UK legal sector!
I suspect that IP lawyers or those with a tech start-up specialism might do well and on the basis, there are several ‘relationship’ topics listed, then family lawyers might do well too.
Can UK law firms use Clubhouse to good effect?
First, you must ‘be there’. The problem for law ‘firms’ is at this point it’s very much a social media platform driven around individuals, not around corporate brands. There’s no equivalent of LinkedIn company pages.
The old mantra of ‘build it and they will come’ as much on Clubhouse as it is in respects to building a new website. Yes, Clubhouse has an audience already, but that does not mean they will ‘come’.
Once there, you can set up a room for any event you like. But, right now, you cannot set up a permanent room (known as a club) like you can a group on LinkedIn. You must submit an application (I have) and wait for it to be approved (it has not yet). That is almost certain to change as the product and business model (see below) change over time.
So should you be there and requesting a ‘Room’? Yes, why not? But, you need a big ‘following’ to make it worthwhile. If you are already on LinkedIn and only have 500 followers and think you are doing ‘OK’, or your law firm has an email marketing list of 1,000 contacts, think again. You are unlikely to make a dent in the Clubhouse ecosystem.
If you start a room called “UK Conveyancing Law” the chances are it will be you and a bunch of conveyancing professionals. I’m not saying that’s not a worthy thing to do, but it will not be a Room of people wanting to buy your services.
There are already a few clubs that UK lawyers might find interesting as you can see below.
With a predominantly US audience right now, a topic like “Setting up a business in post-Brexit UK” might get some interest. But with ‘only’ 2m users, even that might be a stretch.
What is the Clubhouse business model?
The app has been around since early 2020 with a story on CNBC suggesting it had just 1,500 members in May 2020 and was already being valued at $100m.
By January this year that valuation has ballooned to $1bn based on an investment round of $100m with that story suggesting there are around 2m users. A story on Pitchbook.com reports that Clubhouse:
“…plans to use the funding in part to improve accessibility and "support emerging Clubhouse creators" by paying conversation hosts via subscriptions, tickets and tips.”
And that brings me back to my opening comment. We live in a world where many people believe that all information is ‘free’. So, if you are not paying for the product then your perception of it being free is correct. But it’s also incorrect; to get information for ‘free’ you must give up a lot of information about yourself. That’s the Facebook model. So if you are not paying for the product, then you really ARE the product, not you, but your personal information, and in the world we live in, that IS you.
So bottom line, is it worth it for UK law firms?
I’m going to say yes. It’s so early that you might as well be there and see what it’s all about. Facebook allegedly has c. 2.7bn month active users in mid-2020. LinkedIn is reported to have over 700m users. Don’t you wish you had been there at the beginning of those?
And, if you are annoyed that you missed out on investing in Zoom shares last year, or Gamestop over the last few weeks, then make sure you read what Axios write about Clubhouse before trying to find a way to buy-in.