Clubhouse, The New Hustle, and Less is More

Another new social platform is taking the industry by storm: Clubhouse, a voice-first platform, is the talk of the town for a large swathe of wine pros. It’s like the First Rule of CrossFit all over again: Make sure everyone knows you Clubhouse.

My good friend Andre Ribeirinho asked me why, as a tech leader, I muted Clubhouse conversations on Twitter.

First, I’m not at all against Clubhouse. It’s exciting to have a new social media platform with a novel variety of engagements. In fact, you’ll sometimes find me quietly in a room, listening, learning, and analyzing its benefits for our industry. Industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang appropriately calls it a Goldilocks medium — one that’s just right for casual users, thanks to the ease and familiarity of voice. I think the platform is especially timely, considering our need for human connection during the loneliness caused by the pandemic. I also think the power of audio will be increasingly important, especially given the pervasive nature of voice apps.

As a platform, Clubhouse provides a means to create “live broadcasts”, where someone hosts a show based on voice. Like a conference call with guests, the broadcasts offer everything from insightful talks to casual conversations to infomercials, or even self-help chats. Like all social networks before them, they also offer platforms for toxic speech and misinformation. And, like them, Clubhouse is growing rapidly thanks to FOMO and our need to connect.

I get the hustle. A new platform makes room for new leaders who want to become its top influencer/professional. And that’s a good thing. Becoming a platform expert brings value to the medium. But with Clubhouse, the networking hustle is not just part of the formula, it’s central to it — the platform practically demands it. If you’re wondering what I mean, I’m talking about all the new influencers jumping on to offer you exclusive opportunities to build your business/email list/dewy skin.

The degree to which the hustle has become evident has already reached the level of programmatic satire.

Given the loneliness and boredom of COVID-19, the appeal of Clubhouse is obvious. Our need for connection and conversation is more significant than ever. Also, it matches nicely with wine. Our magic elixir enhances conversations, and speaking with our customers is a natural fit with our hospitality-focused industry. But as the world opens, Clubhouse’s forced synchronicity will become either its greatest strength — or a giant Achilles’ heel. The question for Clubhouse is: Will people want to schedule time for chats once the pandemic is over? Or will they want to return to their pre-pandemic on-demand, asynchronous social media and content usage?

As exciting as a new platform/technology is, I have mixed feelings. We are embarking on a new age of online wine, and we have so much work to do as an industry to improve the basics of e-commerce, email, SMS, data, video, social targeting, etc., that a new platform feels like a distraction from the fundamentals. I’m not knocking Clubhouse, and I’ve already seen great seminars and chats take place there. Still, I wonder if we, as wine-tech leaders, need to temper our excitement about yet another platform. What the wine industry needs urgently is better infrastructure to help it get to grips with the fundamentals of digital, rather than another shiny object.

In other words, I’m not against Clubhouse. It’s just that, right now, it feels like there are more important things to do.

Wine Revolutionary. Digital, CRM, CX, Start-ups, Social Media, Hospitality (especially wine) are my jam.