Clubhouse has entered the chat
Well, folks, Gen Z has done it again!
When you thought you’d gotten your Tik Tok marketing strategy down to a science, out comes Clubhouse to make you feel slower, lamer, and significantly more boomer than ever before. (As if canceling skinny jeans wasn’t enough…)
But alas, we are marketers, and we must adapt. Pandemic or otherwise, marketing strategies must change and evolve. And Clubhouse looks like it could become a serious force within the social media and marketing space.
So today, let’s go over what Clubhouse is, how its popularity emerged within the current global climate, and what you can do to incorporate it into your social media marketing strategy in 2021.
What is Clubhouse?
For the millennials in the house, Clubhouse is a new audio-only social media platform.
That’s right, no photos, no videos, barely any text – just audio.
Instead of a timeline or a feed, you scroll through a hallway. And instead of groups or events, you have “rooms” that are created to discuss specific topics.
Depending on your interests and who you choose to follow, you can hop into different rooms and listen to the topic being discussed. Alternatively, you can create your own room and talk about whatever you want.
“Rooms” are set up and hosted by people with some authority in their field, no matter what that field is; be it marketing, cooking, comedy, technology… you get the gist.
Once you’re in a room, you can choose to listen in or contribute to the conversation by “raising your hand.” And if you don’t find the room interesting, you can “leave quietly” and find another.
It’s essentially being described as an interactive live podcast. And that should immediately pique your interest as a marketer given the soaring popularity of podcasts in recent years, and more specifically, during the covid-19 pandemic.
But we’ll touch more on that later.
So what’s the buzz really about? Why is everyone talking about it?
The app has been around since March of 2020. And according to CNBC, even way back in May 2020, it was already worth $100m because of its Silicon Valley creators, super exclusive user-base, and significant venture capitalist backers.
But much like most things he touches, it was Elon Musk that really turned the app into gold a few months ago. (And by gold, we mean $1b as of Jan 2021)
Back when the whole GameStop short-squeeze fiasco was happening, Musk dropped in on a room with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev and raised his hand. He proceeded to launch some pretty pointed questions at Tenev’s controversial business practices.
Not surprisingly, this brought the app into the spotlight during a time when everyone and their mother were watching. And it didn’t hurt that a whole bunch of other big celebrity names was talking about it and hosting rooms around the same time, including Oprah, Drake, Kevin Hart, and just about every other influencer out there.
And in case all those A-listers weren’t enough to make you feel unwelcome, the app is notoriously both iOS-exclusive and invite-only.
Which explains the insufferable smugness you’ve probably had to endure from LinkedIn connections and coworkers alike, practically salivating at the first chance they get to let you know that they could “get you an invite if you want.”
It’s insanity! People are downloading the app and hopping on the waiting list even though they don’t invite “just to secure the username.”
It’s like you’re waiting outside a club in the cold, and you’re severely under-dressed, but you’re still eternally grateful to the bouncer just for letting you stand in the queue.
But bitterness aside, this 4-invite cap Clubhouse has placed on its users is temporary, CEO Paul Davison insists.
It started because the app was in beta and didn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate all the users, which is why it’s still iOS exclusive. But fear not dear Android users – you’ll soon be scavenging for invites too.
The Podcast/Zoom Phenomenon
According to the app creators, “[the] goal was to build a social experience that felt more human—where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk.”
They wanted to create an app that left you “feeling better than you did when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people, and learned”.
So is it really all that surprising that Clubhouse caught on like wildfire in an era where we crave human interaction but can only really get it via Zoom?
Is it starting to make sense why, at a time when 100 million people are listening to at least one podcast each month, this sort of audio-only app is gaining so much traction?
Clubhouse is like Zoom, LinkedIn (without the cheesy motivational work memes and in-mail salespeople), and Spotify had a baby. And it seems like people are really vibing with it.
While it was once a place for “thought-leaders” and big names with even bigger platforms to share ideas and talk amongst themselves, now, it’s opened up to everyone.
No matter your interest, you can find a room that can teach you something, introduce you to someone, or at the very least, entertain you. Or, of course, you could be the one to impart your wisdom.
Ok, that’s the last Clubhouse joke, we promise.
Now onto the important stuff.
What does this mean for digital marketing?
Building/Strengthening your Online Community
Since the dawn of marketing, brands have strived to establish themselves as an authority in their industry to get credibility, interest, and engagement.
And Clubhouse is ideal for that because, as HubSpot puts it, the app is “primed for thought leadership.”
As soon as you set up your brand’s profile and start your own room, you’re, by default, in an instant position of authority. And your audience will organically come to you for everything from information to expert advice and, perhaps most significantly, feedback.
Which brings us to our next point – the important role Clubhouse will play in community building. Millennials and Gen-Zers alike crave more authenticity and socially aware messaging from the brands they follow, as we covered in our last article about the digital marketing trends to hop on in 2021.
They want to buy from open and honest businesses and that listen to what their consumers are saying. And Clubhouse provides just that: the opportunity to be vulnerable, real, and accessible.
Going forward, the app will be monumental for brands who seek to bridge the gap between themselves and their consumers. And the open conversation will give you more insights into your target audience’s needs than any google analytic, email survey, or Instagram poll could ever provide.
Sure, the conversation might put you in a Tenev-esque position at times. But if you hire the right speakers trained to handle criticism and respond tactfully, it could be highly beneficial for you in the long run, especially if you take notes and act on the feedback swiftly.
We already went over how much podcasts have benefitted from the new way of life the pandemic has forced us to adopt. And with vaccine rollouts around the world drastically differing in pace and capacity, it looks like we could be home-bound for a while.
All the more time for people to seek meaningful social interaction and convenient self-improvement outlets as they fold laundry or peel potatoes!
We also went over (in that same 2021 digital marketing trends article we mentioned) how important user-generated content will be this year and in the years to come, especially with travel restrictions and in-person conferences still being limited or out-right banned.
So what better way to put out low-budget, quick, and organic content than to host a free virtual live conference with your audience at the drop of a hat?
If leveraged correctly, Clubhouse can be a powerhouse platform where brands can truly showcase their expertise and edge, with minimal equipment and investment.
So if you’re going to incorporate it into your marketing strategy, make sure you have the right people on board with something useful to offer and a wide range of ideas and topics to discuss.
So, should you focus your resources on getting a Clubhouse marketing strategy going?
Well, that depends on several factors.
- What is your business about? Is your industry something that people regularly discuss on the platform?
- Are your competitors doing it? And if so, what are they talking about? How are their rooms going?
- Do you have the infrastructure you need to maintain an active presence on the platform? (ie. equipment, staff, connections within the industry/influencers you can ask to join your panel)
- Do you have a moderation strategy? (Because remember, these are live conversations.)
If you can answer all those questions and you have a clear picture in your mind regarding what your rooms will look like, then, by all means, jump on the trend!
And do it quickly, before Facebook either buys it or creates their own sub-par version,
Look, the platform’s still young. And the way it works is going to keep changing until it finds its groove.
But as things stand right now, there is no direct advertising on Clubhouse and no time for brands to send curated messages to their audience. Which, incidentally, is exactly what audiences want.
In fact, most of what makes Clubhouse is exactly what audiences want. From the podcast/virtual event format to the self-improvement, social interaction aspect, the app couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s the convenient solution to most people’s problems, and they didn’t even know they needed it.
So our final word of advice? If it makes sense for you and your brand – this is an opportunity not to be missed. You don’t get a chance to connect with your audience on such a raw, unfiltered level like this often, so why not make the most of it?