Clubhouse: Why Photographers Are Lining Up For This Audio-Only Social App
February 16, 2021
What is Clubhouse? The audio-only app consists of virtual rooms where members from all over the world are discussing their thoughts and ideas, sharing their expertise in a particular field or just having a relaxed networking session. Photographers have been flocking to it in droves, sharing their passion and knowledge in their particular photo genre while also embracing others'.
Inside the app, users can follow topics as well as people in order to find rooms to join. Some rooms are more formal discussions, while others exist just for open discussion. Headshot photographer and industry educator Peter Hurley, for example, has regular “Photography Banter” rooms.
For many photographers, social media is a casual portfolio. But one of the newest social networks that’s drawing in photographers isn’t built for sharing photos at all. Clubhouse is a buzzed-about new platform that’s focused on live, audio-only conversations. The only photos inside the app are just the tiny user profile pictures. So why are photographers so geeked about Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is centered around conversation. Users create “rooms” with a “stage” of users that are speaking in the live discussion. Unlike a chat room, these rooms are focused on audio. The room’s creator can invite other speakers, while anyone listening in can click to raise a hand to request access to the stage. The platform is often equated to a live podcast or a group phone call—of up to 5,000 people.
Launched in March of 2020, Clubhouse is generating discussions in a year when COVID-19 changed the face of workshops and conferences. “Clubhouse allows me to have in-depth discussions about photography that I haven’t had since I was in college getting my MFA and BFA,” says wedding photographer Melanie Maganias Nashan. “It also allows me to sit in on rooms with other photographers or creatives and listen to how they live, deal with struggles, get inspired, run their business, and a host of other topics that I find interesting.”
Inside the app, users can follow topics as well as people in order to find rooms to join. Some rooms are more formal discussions, while others exist just for open discussion. Headshot photographer and industry educator Peter Hurley, for example, has regular “Photography Banter” rooms. “[Clubhouse offers] the ability to get a question answered on the spot with someone in the know,” he says. “It’s really interesting to see the talent that has shown up on the app and how willing they are to talk about their process and help fellow photographers.”
Clubhouse isn’t a social platform exclusive to photography; it’s generating conversations across industries and even personal chats, such as online dating. “Whether you’re a photographer or even if you’re in a different industry, it’s a platform where you can have endless conversations with other people that have similar interests,” says wedding and portrait photographer Jerry Ghionis. “It’s great because the audio-only structure lets you understand someone’s perspective and how they feel because you can hear their enthusiasm, their energy, and the cadence in their voice. You can understand a person better by hearing their voice rather than reading text.”
Clubhouse’s simple audio chat format encourages conversation across industries including photography. But, is there a downside? Moderating a live conversation (that’s not recorded by Clubhouse) is difficult and the platform has already had to step up and increase enforcement of community standards. Signing up also requires giving the app access to the device’s contact list.
Nashan has a wishlist of a few tweaks, including more customization for push notifications and an option to invite all followers to a new room instead of sending out invites one-by-one. Ghionis says that, like any social network, it’s easy to get addicted and spend too much time there. Users still need to do their own research on the speaker, he added, to make sure that individual is someone that knows what he or she is talking about.
“I love the format of Clubhouse because you can sit in a room and passively listen while you are working, or if you choose you can raise you hand and ‘get on stage’ and join the discussion,” says Nashan. “I have met so many people in the industry and outside of the industry that I never would have had the opportunity to meet in real life because of proximity. I think it helps the world be a smaller place and lets you find people with similar perspectives on how to live and work in your life.”
While Clubhouse is generating a buzz, the platform wants to scale up slowly. For now the app is both iOS only and invite only. New users can still sign up to see if they have friends they can pester for an invite at joinclubhouse.com.