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Welcome to the Club(house). LI business owners join app to build their brand

Beth Granger shows her Clubhouse profile. Granger says

Beth Granger shows her Clubhouse profile. Granger says the app is helping her grow her business. Credit: Beth Granger

Long Island entrepreneurs are tuning into an audio-only social media app they say is helping them build their business. But the app that has gained traction since it launched in March 2020 also poses some potential security risks, experts warn.

Clubhouse is a platform where users can host, lead or just listen in to discussions on various topics in virtual chat rooms, or clubs. The free app reportedly has more than 10-million weekly active users and has seen rapid growth with over 14-million downloads worldwide, according to App Annie, a mobile data and analytics provider.

A 'conference with thousands of rooms'

Nicole Penn, president of EGC Group, a Melville-based marketing and digital services firm, said Clubhouse is akin to "a large conference with thousands of rooms with different panel discussions."

The platform is good for influencers, brand ambassadors and entrepreneurs who want to get "early organic traction," Penn says, because there’s no qualification to be a panelist or to speak in a room.

Clubhouse has a certain amount of allure since you can’t just download the app and join, she says. An existing user has to send you an invite.

Penn has been an observer and has facilitated client rooms on Clubhouse, which, she says, has helped raise awareness for her client's brand.

Beth Granger, a Port Washington-based social media trainer, consultant and speaker, says the app is helping her grow her business.

Clubhouse has helped expand her network and has "gotten me clients," Granger says. She’s also hosted sessions on Clubhouse on topics including networking for introverts and LinkedIn.

The platform, she says, is "like being a fly on the wall in different conversations."

Potential security risks

But just like any fast-growth app, there are privacy concerns to consider, experts say.

When Clubhouse initially launched, it asked users to upload all their contacts, says Brian Kime, an Atlanta-based senior analyst at Forrester serving the security and risk professions.

Since March, however, Clubhouse says, users can "choose to optionally grant access to the phone numbers." Users also can invite friends by typing in their phone number.

Still, Kime says, privacy issues exist.

While you can now invite friends without providing access to all your contacts, if another user uploads their contacts and your number is included they’ll get a recommendation to follow you when you join the app. When you follow someone you can see what rooms they are in and vice versa.

Users such as former spouses or colleagues, may not want to be tracked, Kime says.

Kime adds that the app has the potential to attract "malevolent characters." Since the chat room is live and users can pick up background conversations, he says, users should wear a headset or earbuds to keep others from hearing surrounding conversations.

Ilia Sotnikov, vice president of product management for Netwrix, an Irvine, California-based provider of information security and governance software, agrees there are security concerns.

Among them, he says, were reports that a Chinese firm was providing some of the backend infrastructure for Clubhouse. This raised concerns about whether the Chinese government could access Clubhouse users’ audio files, Sotnikov says.

Clubhouse addresses concerns

Addressing the privacy concerns, Clubhouse said it doesn't operate in China and no Clubhouse data is transmitted or stored in China. Neither can the Chinese government request the data, Clubhouse said.

In a statement, it added: "We take privacy and security seriously and work closely with experts in both fields."

Still, unlike other fast-growing players that have acknowledged early security issues including Zoom, Sotnikov says, Clubhouse "could be an interesting addition to the social media landscape if they can get their act together through better communications."

Helping build your brand

Despite security concerns, social media experts say Clubhouse can be an useful app in helping entrepreneurs build their brand. They also say it’s wise to avoid discussing private matters on the platform.

"I think of all social media as public," Granger says.

Debra Boulanger, president of The Great Do-Over Inc., a Sag Harbor-based business coach who works with corporate women making the leap to starting a service-based business, says in general, with social media, you give up a certain amount of privacy.

Boulanger started a Clubhouse club tied to her podcast, "Life After Corporate," where listeners can join her for discussions. Her advice: "Be careful who you choose to follow."

Clubhouse is accessible to anyone "claiming" to be an expert, she says. There are those "who are giving out bad business advice so pick people who match your ideals and values."

Still, Boulanger says the app has helped her connect "with several people in Clubhouse offline as either potential clients or collaborators."

Clubhouse tips

• Build a strong profile with a strong use of keywords and emojis (these are all searchable);

• Link your Clubhouse profile to Twitter and Instagram to make it easy for people to contact/follow you directly;

• Host relevant rooms or co-moderate with friends and colleagues.

Source: Beth Granger

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