Why Clubhouse is shaking the accounting profession
It’s too early to know if Clubhouse will be here long term, but it has captured the zeitgeist. Accountants should sit up and pay attention to understand how it can potentially benefit their practice, writes Nick Levine.
The new social audio network Clubhouse has been gaining serious traction since the beginning of 2021. While it isn’t surprising to see journalists, investors, technologists and politicians as early adopters, the platform is also attracting many accountants.
Clubhouse facilitates peer group networking for accountants, allowing individuals to build their own personal brands and engage with existing and potential clients.
Clubhouse has instigated a land grab as users try to cement an early presence to gain a first-mover advantage and boost their follower audience. Similar to when Twitter first launched, users gain early advantage to leverage influence on the platform long term.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is an invite-only app, currently only available on Apple’s iOS, which first launched in 2020. To date, it has raised over $100m, with investors including Andreesen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that previously backed Facebook and Airbnb.
Invites are distributed to existing users who are given a few when they first sign up. Additional invites can be acquired through contributing to the platform by creating rooms and participating in conversations. Individuals who are desperate for an invite can buy one on eBay for around £5.
Clubhouse is a cross between talk radio, conference calls and podcasts. Users follow one another to listen in or contribute to conversations in rooms on various topics. Members of the audience can raise a virtual hand and be approved by one of the moderators to speak.
Users are incentivised to listen in as conversations are real-time and not recorded. Anyone on the app can start or schedule a room to have a conversation in, but creating a club (which is searchable on the app and can be followed) is more exclusive and requires users to have hosted a room on the same subject at least three times.
Why is it building traction with accountants?
The popularity of Clubhouse with early adopter accountants is linked to their entrepreneurial nature. Early cloud adopters such as Alastair Barlow, Della Hudson and Carl Reader signed up to Clubhouse to connect with companies and peers and create new business opportunities.
They are representative of a broader movement of practitioners who are building innovative technology first accounting firms and are leveraging their own personal brands to stand out.
Business support and entrepreneurship are two of the most popular categories on the platform, so there is an engaged audience for accountants willing to impart their expertise and knowledge.
Many leaders at cloud accounting software companies and add on partners have also signed up, including Xero co-founder and MD Gary Turner and Satago CEO Sinead Mchale.
“Being able to drop in and out of live conversations in this way is a really exciting innovation,” Turner told AccountingWEB.
“It’s also been interesting listening to a few conversations about things like technology and entrepreneurship. It’s early days, and it needs to find its level, but I’m really interested to see how it develops.”
How can accountants use Clubhouse?
flinder founder Alastair Barlow believes Clubhouse's audio nature makes it a more personable forms of social media and likens it to a modern-day speakers corner.
“If you have something of value to say, people will stop by and listen,” he added. “It facilitates more meaningful conversations, which seems to really help accountants get their value across much easier.”
Alongside co-founder flinder’s Luke Streeter, Barlow has created a weekly room on the topic of accountancy and may consider the idea of creating sector-specific rooms for potential clients if their initial endeavours prove successful.
Fusion Consulting co-founder Mitch Young hosts regular “Mitch The Taxman” rooms, offering advice on all things tax-related. On average, around thirty people join the sessions, with the most popular topics being property and tax strategies ahead of proposed changing in the upcoming budget.
“Ask Mitch The Taxman questions have always been popular on social media, so I thought I would test the water with Clubhouse,” commented Young. “I am just trying to give back and help as many people understand tax as possible while growing my following. This will naturally lead to new opportunities and relationships.”
D&T Accountants chairman Carl Reader has been using Clubhouse as an extension of his social activities in the small business space and spends most of his time on the platform as a moderator.
His top tip for accountants is to “carve out focused time on the platform, allowing you to contribute far more effectively” rather than having it on in the background over the working day.
The platform is also gaining popularity with accountants working in industry. The Accounting and Finance Tech club, co-hosted by Mindbridge founder Ai Solon Angel hosts events from women in accounting, private equity and AI. Rooms are attracting up to 150 guests from around the world and future planned guests include the former CFO of Shopify.
A skilled room moderator is key
Minerva Accountants founder Della Hudson is undecided on whether the platform is well suited to accountants, many of whom she believes are introverts. Hudson asserts that the key to running a successful room is to have a moderator who gives everyone the chance to contribute.
“I’ve been into a number of rooms run by accountant and fintech friends around the world and enjoyed them, but with non-verbal cues missing,” she explained. “I think the key is to have a good MC and a clear agenda, so no single person dominates the conversation.”
While Clubhouse won’t be relevant for all accountants, it is worthwhile experimenting as social audio platforms look set to be here for the foreseeable future, with Twitter recently launching Twitter Spaces and Facebook rumoured to be building a direct rival to Clubhouse.
In part two of` Clubhouse for accountants, Nick Levine investigates key concerns arising with Clubhouse, including privacy, security and streaming issues.
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Nick Levine is a chartered accountant and journalist, with a particular interest in fintech. He was formerly the Advisory Lead at Deloitte’s Propel and the Head of Enterprise for ICAEW. His writing portfolio includes The Times, Wired and Real Business.