By now, you’ve probably heard some of the buzz about the new “social audio” app Clubhouse. Elon Musk and Bill Gates have both been part of live conversations on the app. And, at any given moment, you might bump into Marc Andreessen, the noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist, comedian Tiffany Haddish, or TV news personalities Gayle King and Van Jones.

But if you work inside a big organization — as opposed to at a three-person startup — there are a different set of risks to weigh when considering whether to join the Clubhouse community. As Innovation Leader has been hosting conversations on the app, we have been encountering a growing number of people in large companies, and we’ve been asking them why they ultimately decided to get on Clubhouse. This list is based in part on their explanations.

Below are five positives and three negatives, along with a quick “getting started” guide if you decide to get on board.

Potential Benefits

1. Listening and learning. Clubhouse conversations are often less formal than webcasts or conference presentations; they can have the atmosphere of a dinner party or a good lunch table discussion at an event. They can be a great way to understand emerging trends or technologies that are still taking shape — and ask questions or share your own observations. They can also be a way to listen in on what consumers are saying about your industry. As someone put it in a recent conversation (held on Clubhouse, of course), “If you’re not listening to your users, your competitors may be. That is a key value proposition of Clubhouse.”

2. Building your personal brand (and your company’s). Attracting followers on Clubhouse and contributing to conversations probably has some intangible reputation and career benefits. Perhaps you’ll be recruited to be a panelist for an upcoming conference, or called up by someone writing an article as an expert source. And there’s also likely value to your company in being seen as “forward-leaning,” by permitting you to participate. (At present, Clubhouse emphasizes that it wants “real people” on the app, not company-branded “official” accounts.) 

If your innovation strategy involves scouting relevant startups or promoting open innovation challenges, Clubhouse is a great venue for doing both.

3. Startup engagement and open innovation. If your innovation strategy involves scouting relevant startups or promoting open innovation challenges, Clubhouse is a great venue for doing both. You might share what you are looking for, or challenges you are running, in your bio on the app, or potentially schedule a session on, “How Startups Can Work with Acme Co.,” or “How to Win $100,000 in Our Future Solar Challenge.” 

4. Growing your network. Unlike random connection requests on LinkedIn, with Clubhouse you can add people to your network with the feeling that you’ve actually “met” them and gotten to know how they think. Clubhouse is also a way to serendipitously reconnect with people you know “in real life,” but may not have seen in a while.

5. Recruiting. Clubhouse could be an interesting way to run sessions about what your team works on (like, ”Prototyping the Future of Banking” or “Next-Generation Electric Vehicles”), while also subtly mentioning that you are looking to hire, and adding a hiring link to your bio.

Potential Risks

1. Violating your company’s social media policy. It’s a great idea to talk with your corporate communications team before you participate in Clubhouse in any sort of official capacity. Yes, there are people from publicly traded companies and big government agencies already using the app. But you’ll want to understand your company’s rules of the road when it comes to what you can include in your bio, and what you shouldn’t discuss in conversations. If you start scheduling your own conversations on the app, the communications team may be helpful, too, in promoting them.

2. Unpredictability. Since Clubhouse participants can be just about anyone with an iPhone, anywhere in the world, there’s an element of randomness when people are invited on stage to ask a question or share a comment. Questions aren’t vetted in advance, and there’s always a chance that someone may hop up on stage with an aggressive agenda, or with the intension of asking about your company’s biggest current (or past) controversy.

3. Recording, social sharing, and comments taken out of context. It’s supposed to be obvious and clear when someone is recording a Clubhouse conversation and plans to share it afterward. Some people stream popular discussions (like whenever Elon Musk pops in) directly to YouTube. Some may tweet or otherwise share snippets of conversations. In short, you should assume that speaking on Clubhouse is a bit like speaking on stage at a conference — it’s a fairly public venue, even if it seems that there are only 10 people in the room you’re in. 

Getting Started

  • The app is currently just available for iPhones. The company is working on an Android version. As of March 2021, you still need to be invited to the app by someone who is already a user.
  • When you download Clubhouse, you can opt out of giving the app access to your entire phone contact database. The app uses that list to understand who your connections are, suggest that you follow them, notify you when they’re involved in conversations, etc. 

You can decide to be low-key about who your employer is on Clubhouse. You don’t need to mention it in your Clubhouse bio, though some people do. 

  • You can decide to be low-key about who your employer is on Clubhouse. You don’t need to mention it in your Clubhouse bio, though some people do. You can insert some standard language like, “Any opinions expressed are mine; they don’t represent my employer.” You can let Clubhouse know about your Twitter and Instagram accounts, if you’d like to build followers on those social networks. If you do, obviously, people will be able to see any company/title information you have listed there. Links to accounts are included on your profile if you share them with Clubhouse.
  • Based on your interests, Clubhouse will try to display relevant conversations, or “rooms,” on the app’s main screen. Often, there are welcome sessions for newbies. Try to join one of these so you can ask all your basic questions and get a feel for the app.
  • When you enter a room, don’t worry — you’re not really part of the conversation as a “speaker.” You’re there only as a listener. Others will see your name, and they can click your profile, but you don’t have to participate and your phone is automatically muted.
  • You can join any conversation that you see listed. You don’t need to be a member of the particular club that may have organized that conversation (listed atop the title, with a green house icon next to it, like We the Future, or Womxn in Business, or Corporate Innovation).
  • There are two ways to participate. You can raise your hand (icon in the bottom right of the screen), and the room’s moderators will see that and may invite you up on “stage” to make a comment or ask a question. Or sometimes, in smaller rooms, a moderator may invite you to become a speaker to contribute to the discussion, and you’ll see a green pop-up at the top of your screen. You can accept the invitation or decline it. It’s totally understood that some people may decline simply because they don’t have anything to say, or they may be in a noisy environment, or in the middle of a workout, etc. (It’s worth noting that when you go on stage in Clubhouse, your mic is automatically unmuted. Unless you’re jumping into the stream of the conversation right away, you’ll probably want to mute yourself — the mic button at the lower right of your screen. Moderators can also mute you from their end if you have background noise.)
  • When you are in a Clubhouse room, click on any speaker’s, moderator’s, or audience member’s headshot to see their profile. Follow people you find insightful, or who work in industries of interest, and then the app will notify you when they are part of conversations.
  • If you are looking at an upcoming event listing (click the calendar icon at the top of the screen to see what Clubhouse recommends for you), you can either click the bell icon at the top right to get a notification about it when it starts, or the “Add to Cal” button at the bottom right to add it to your calendar outside of the app. 
  • Below are a few good starter clubs to follow if you’re in the corporate innovation realm. (Click the search icon, enter their name in the search box, click “Clubs” to search for them, click the name of the club, then click “Follow.”) If you’re reading this article on a mobile device, and you have the app installed, these links should take you directly to the club’s page, where you can simply click “Follow.”
  • I recommend that you keep your phone’s Clubhouse notifications on for a few weeks, to remind you to occasionally dip in to see what is happening on the app, or at least give you a sense for the topics of conversations you are missing. Then, you can turn the notifications off and just open the app when you have a few free moments to listen and participate.

If You Can’t Participate, Just Listen

We’ll give the final word to Shashi Jain, a Clubhouse early adopter and innovation lead at Intel Corp. “Clubhouse is a great place for serendipitous connections to experts, other corporate innovators, or even people who can cross-link ideas across multiple domains,” he says. Jain says that there are two modes of participating. One is purely as a listener. But if your company OKs more active involvement, “then offer up your ideas as you would at an industry conference. The key is to be genuine, and not sales-y. The magic of Clubhouse is that you get candidness in conversation.” 

Do you have other Clubhouse advice? Post it below.