It has been called the perfect social media platform for a pandemic and also a lockdown fad.
Clubhouse, the invitation-only social audio app valued at $1 billion, counts Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Drake as members. Brands in beauty, fashion, tech, travel, and luxury have been experimenting with the buzzy platform, and now it is catching the attention of the luxury watch industry.
But as that community begins to speak its mind, there are questions about Clubhouse’s relevance to luxury watchmaking’s physical, visual world and, more broadly, the app’s overall chances for success.
For now, Clubhouse offers only audio chat, with no content sharing. It is only available on Apple’s iPhone, and while you can download the free app, you can only use it if you are invited by a member.
And there is the likelihood it will soon be in competition with rival products from social media giants. Twitter is set to roll out Spaces this month, while Instagram has already responded with Live Rooms, which includes live video, but is limited to four speakers at any one time. Facebook is said to be developing its own platform, too.
Yet some watch brands say Clubhouse has the power to amplify their businesses.
Clubhouse made a ton of sense to me,” said Christophe Grainger-Herr, IWC’s chief executive. He has taken part in the brand’s weekly Clubhouse session, called “The Things That Make Us Tick,” since they began in late January. It’s talk radio but with the open room format, like Instagram Live, but with full interactivity,” he said. “That seemed attractive because you can connect to an audience worldwide, one-to-one. You have directness and immediacy.
Way Too Much Hype
In April 2020, Clubhouse was introduced in Apple’s App Store by an entrepreneur, Paul Davison, and a former Google engineer, Rohan Seth. The men had incorporated their California-based start-up, Alpha Exploration Co., only two months earlier. The “interactive podcast” concept, as Clubhouse has been described, offers live, unrecorded chat in a virtual room. There are speakers, but moderators can invite audience members to take part. And audience members can leave the session whenever they like.
Clubhouse’s membership had grown by the end of the year, but not as fast as its reputation. In December, British Vogue published an article describing it as “the new FOMO-inducing social app.” And then, in January, it was reported that Andreessen Horowitz, the blue-chip venture capital firm that had been an initial investor, had put $100 million into Clubhouse, producing those $ 1 billion valuations. The platform, however, continues to be a niche site. Reports say the app has been downloaded almost 13 million times. Yet even if all those people managed to get invitations and became users, the audience still would be tiny compared to Facebook, the world’s largest social network, which ended 2020 with a reported 2.8 billion monthly active users.
It also hasn’t made any money, as usage by both brands and audience members is free — at least for the moment. With watch-focused chat rooms only gathering audiences in double, sometimes triple figures, some are questioning why the likes of IWC are bothering. “There is way too much hype around Clubhouse,” said David Sadigh, the chief executive of Digital Luxury Group, a specialist marketing agency. “It’s a great place if you have a topic you own and can offer a deep dive into that topic. But it’s not relevant for all brands at the moment.”
Still, Mr. Grainger-Herr said he already had completed many of the appointments he usually would have conducted during Watches and Wonders Geneva, which starts on Wednesday, so he can contribute to IWC’s Clubhouse sessions during the event. He said they would be running “24/7.”