Remember the time when you had ‘heard’ of Facebook or Twitter but did not really know what they were about? Only to find a few weeks later you were spending countless hours on both. Well if you have not heard of the new social media phenomenon Clubhouse you have now. The only snag is you need to be invited to join. How anti-social is that? Stevie Kim, managing director of VinItaly, is one of the many 100s of wine and drinks industry professionals who are being ‘invited’ and joining Clubhouse by the day. Here’s her take on what you will find when your invitation does come…
Groucho Marx once famously said: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” Well he would not have gone very far with the new invite only social media platform Clubhouse – as Stevie Kim explains.
Clubhouse: what is it?
Clubhouse is an audio-based iPhone-only social app and a small group of wine lovers and communicators have embraced the idea to start even smaller conversations via what are known as ‘rooms’ [essentially a chat room based around topics an issues that you can join and take part in].
The Americans had an early-adopter advantage since the app was presumably launched with a handful of carefully-chosen invitees in the Spring of 2020. The Europeans jumped on much later – most seem to have started in January 2021 onwards.
Clubhouse is still in Beta version and to date still unavailable to Android users. Anyone can start a ‘room’, both as a private chat or public. In addition, the room can be set by anyone as an event and can also be hosted by a club. It still has only fledgling search features and the search bar will allow two types of searches, either by user name or club name.
Top 1o Wine Clubs
(As of March 24: ranked by popularity by number of members and followers)
- If you want to follow up then Wine and Sprits is by Mike Shapiro @mikeshapiro (joined June 2020) and Kat Stark @katstark (joined May 2020).
- Wine & Dine is founded by T Waite @tortor (joined Oct 2020).
- Sunday Wine Club was started by Terrell Khan @terrellkhan_ (joined Nov 2020)
- Kimberly Hard Washington @kimberlyhard (joined Aug 2020) is behind House Wine.
- For the Love of Wine was started by Julia Coney @juliaconey (joined Oct 2020)
- Beer, Wine and Spirits Professionals was founded by Kelly Moorhead @moorekells (joined Oct 2020)
- The Winemakers was started by Rob Mondavi @robmondavi (joined Jan 2021)
- Wineauxs to Wine Pros by Joni Rials @winetravelboss (joined Nov 2020)
- Wine Lovers Anonymous founded by Terrence Low @diplowmatic (joined Oct 2020)
- And It’s Wine O’Clock with Denajia Lowery @wheregoesnae (joined Dec 2020)
Creating clubs on Clubhouse
Two weeks ago, Clubhouse allowed those who have been organising rooms on a regular basis the option to create new clubs. Land grabbing was in order once this new feature was deployed. However, unless the creator of the club has a significant number of followers, creating a club alone does not automatically guarantee a bigger audience. There are still some glitches since you are unable to invite all your followers to the newly-created club to become members, so the growth remains fairly organic.
One new club ‘Wine Business’ hosted a room over the weekend to survey a group of 100+ participants in a 90-minute chat format. The invited guest speakers included Julia Coney of “For the Love of Wine” wine room, Renee Sferrazza of “Bottled Up” room, Robert Vernick of “Wine Social”, Dorli Muhr (who runs a weekly wine room in German and English) and Adam Teeter – not a complete naysayer but still not terribly keen about the time-consuming nature of the app in general. I was able to host the room under ‘Italian Wine’ and ‘Wine Business’.
Some favourites conveyed by the audience included some of top 10 listed by the clubhouse, including House Wine and The Winemakers Den. Some of the newer favourites included Bottled Up, Winemaker Roundtable, Wijnchat (in Dutch), Real Wine & S***, Wine Social, Italian Wine and Wine Business, Wine Students International. As the chat was held at 8pm CET, there were no representatives from the Asian wine rooms and hence were not surveyed. There are active Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Russian rooms involving wine that are visible but have yet to be explored.
Clubhouse: The good, bad, and ugly for wine
Can wine people leverage Clubhouse to facilitate wine conversations which can lead to networking and wine business? The jury may still be out since wine and Clubhouse is at a very early stages of development. However, there are different types of rooms in the making. Some rooms are dedicated to wine education, some are more fireside style chats with winemakers and wine personalities and more often many rooms are more like a bar chat with friends sharing a glass of wine together. Zoom-fatigue is very real for some and Clubhouse has provided an alternative distraction for many during the pandemic.
There has been some discussion as to whether the limited nature of Clubhouse (invite only, Apple only…) is simply transferring an element of elitism and exclusivity that is already a challenge in the wine industry directly into this new format. However, as some have pointed out, the non-recorded, audio-only nature of Clubhouse has provided a platform through which many people are more frank and open in their discussion, thus providing a space for difficult conversations to flow more freely and with a wider audience.
Despite some apparent naysayers in the audience, one young importer from the Netherlands, pointed out the great advantage of Clubhouse to meet wine professionals and wine lovers, especially for those who are less privileged to travel even prior to covid. Some food for thought to explore some more on this discussion.