Every so often, there’s a new product or app that everyone wishes they had thought of first. This was especially true for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; everyone wonders what separates the meteorically successful creations from the ones that fade away.
Clubhouse is the latest hit that’s suddenly dominating the business conversation. It’s grown from 600,000 users in December 2020 to over six million today, despite requiring an invitation from an existing member. Furthermore, a recent discussion featuring Elon Musk nearly crashed the platform due to a surge in users.
It’s unclear whether Clubhouse will have the staying power of Facebook. But what’s undeniable is that the app has achieved a degree of overnight success and popularity most products never attain, and it’s important for business leaders and marketers to understand why.
Everyone wants their product to go viral, but so few things actually do. If you want to make your business the next big thing, you need to understand why products like Clubhouse resonate. Here are three key principles.
One of the central appeals of Clubhouse is right there in the name—it’s invite-only, so people feel like simply joining the app is entering an exclusive club. When people see their friends or contacts joining a live discussion with someone like Musk, they immediately want to join the conversation, without even needing to fully understand what the app is.
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This is a key marketing lesson—people tend to want what they can’t have, and making someone do a bit of work to engage with a product can be an asset if the product is compelling enough. Setting up a barrier to entry, and creating an exclusive experience, makes people want something even more.
However, despite having the appearance of exclusivity, Clubhouse isn’t especially difficult to get into. The app developers made the smart decision to have users link their contacts to the app, giving them notice when someone they know is attempting to sign up, and then asking them to welcome them to the platform. While Clubhouse is creating exclusivity with their waiting list, they aren’t setting a frustratingly long waiting period. It’s the perfect balance.
Authenticity and Connection
When social media first rose to prominence, what was most appealing was the increased degree of public sharing and conversation. It felt as if people were letting their peers, or followers, have a glimpse of their real lives and unfiltered thoughts, and the authenticity was compelling.
Of course, social media rarely has this level of transparency anymore. We know that Twitter is not a place for thoughtful discussion, and Instagram is a collection of the best five percent of people’s lives, with plenty of staging and photo enhancement. But Clubhouse has shot to the top of the conversation by delivering a greater degree of authenticity.
When people listen to thought-leaders like Musk hold court on Clubhouse, they know they’re not getting a carefully produced video or selectively edited soundbite. Instead, they are hearing speakers’ thoughts, unfiltered, as if they’ve been invited to a private dinner they’d never be able to join in real life. They are also able to engage in a real dialogue and ask questions. Unlike the rest of social media, which enables staged, edited messages, Clubhouse creates real-time, unedited conversations. In a way, it’s one of the first truly social platforms in social media.
Authenticity has become more valuable, as it is missing from many social media platforms that have become dominated by professional marketers. Creators who can deliver this level of authenticity, or elicit it from others, will get attention.
What’s Old Is New
When someone hears about Clubhouse, they almost expect it uses some kind of new technology that they will have to struggle to understand. Few things repel users, especially older ones, more than an app that is difficult to figure out.
But Clubhouse is simple—it’s essentially a cross between a chat room and a conference call, easy for anyone to join. Room attendees can easily raise their hands to ask questions, and speakers can control who asks questions, inviting them “on stage” to join the conversation.
While innovators feel the need to create cutting edge features with each product, especially in the tech world, Clubhouse shows the benefits of keeping things simple and easy to understand. Clubhouse is popular in part because it’s so easy to use—users can get value from it as soon as they’re invited in, without a learning curve.
No matter what you’re attempting to create or sell, the success of Clubhouse offers multiple principles to keep in mind. You want your product to be novel, but simple to use. You want to create an exclusive experience that makes users feel as if they’re in a special group. And if you can add a sense of authenticity to your product, all the better.
Also, If you’re not on Clubhouse, you probably should give it a try. At the very least, be sure to understand what’s made it such a phenomenon.
Robert is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. Join 100,000+ global leaders who follow his inspirational weekly newsletter Friday Forward or invite him to speak. Robert is also a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author. His new book, Friday Forward: Inspiration and Motivation to End Your Week Stronger Than It Started, is now available for purchase.