Popularity and exclusivity might seem like a contradiction in terms, but not for Clubhouse, the red-hot audio-only networking app that took off like a rocket since its April 2020 launch.
The perfect pandemic replacement for break-room contacts and water-cooler exchanges, this Silicon Valley hotspot bridges the yawning gap in casual communications, ripped open by lockdowns and quarantines. Perfectly timed as a digital stepping-stone in a world scrambling to pivot from live to virtual, Clubhouse rapidly built up its name as the go-to platform for networking in the tech and entertainment fields. Part of its appeal certainly lies in the lack of prepping: with no visuals, bed-headed users can log in whenever and from wherever. And that’s just what over a million people are doing at any given moment.
Everybody wants in on Clubhouse
Introduced as an invitation-only series of chat-rooms where the lucky few could chat live with famous names like Ashton Kutcher, Alexis Ohanian and Tiffany Haddish, membership of this pandemic-beating audio-chat app topped ten million by March 2021 – and still counting! This exponential growth is dizzying, up from only two million users in January and ballooning from a sparse 1500 members in May 2020.
Currently valued over a billion dollars, this is a welcome – if long overdue – addition to the now-standard array of text, photo and video platforms. Like a digital convention on steroids, Clubhouse is a blend of CES, Comic-Con, Carnival and corporate seminar, all rolled into never-ending rounds of conversation.
Talking instead of tweeting
This drop-in audio-chat platform is structured along the main feed (known as the Hallway) lined by virtual rooms, each hosting live conversations on a vast variety of topics, many of them business-focused. On entering a room, users listen quietly to discussions among entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, tech visionaries, podcasters and other influencers. If their requests to speak are approved by room moderators, listeners can chip in with their own news, views, doubts and queries.
Unlike other platforms offering one-way consumption of static content over time, Clubhouse focuses on high-value voice exchanges in real time, its audio-only format slots this app seamlessly into the gap between flat-toned text-chats and more nuanced live conversations, for added empathy and clearer understanding.
Less ‘media’, more ‘social’
Despite its deliberate exclusivity – membership is by invitation only and limited to iPhone users during the private beta testing stage – Clubhouse is betting on a means of communication largely ignored by other social media: the human voice. In contrast to platforms that showcase visuals (like videos, captions, images and written posts and comments), Clubhouse opts for an audio-only format, giving its conversations a coffee-shop vibe.
Stressing the message rather than the medium, speakers engage in spoken exchanges with immediate live responses, at the same pace as real-life talks and round-table discussions. Content is ephemeral and contacts are casual, in contrast to other social media platforms where careless comments can haunt posters forever.
Surprisingly, Clubhouse underscores the ephemeral nature of its exchanges. Recording or transcribing its voice-chats is forbidden, without consent from every participant. This brings unparalleled freedom of thought into play, opening up a broader range of expression, packed with subtle nuances that are often lost in visual communications.
So, is Clubhouse a new marketing channel?
In the right hands, everything is a marketing tool! But as long as it remains in the private beta stage and restricted to iPhone users only, the hidden advantages of the Clubhouse platform will remain largely undiscovered.
But for early-bird adapters, this is a great opportunity to burnish a brand image through cutting-edge technology, promoting goods, services and events.
Here are 12 examples of ways brands are exploring how to succeed on Clubhouse:
Anyone can start a room and set the rules (which can include recording content with consent from the participants), making Clubhouse a great place to test-drive podcast and video ideas;
Passive listeners become active participants by simply tapping on the ‘raise hand’ button at the bottom of the screen;
Crowdsource and curate up-to-the-minute content in private rooms, with immediate audience insights;
Organize focus groups and one-on-one interviews, duos and trios anywhere in the world with no need to rent expensive viewing rooms;
Explore innovative possibilities through shark tanks that offer easy global access to pitchers and investors;
Collaboration on specific projects, so members can chat privately with any of their connections;
Build communities for virtual events, where attendees can connect with each other;
Public presentations and launches in real time and at zero cost, followed by easy distribution to follower networks, also at zero cost;
Connect easily with customers in private rooms, for fast product feedback and responses to complaints;
Build product or brand awareness through word-of-mouth campaigns focused on regular actions, like Q&A sessions open to the public;
Confidentiality is ensured, as nothing is saved after a chat room is closed and conversations are deleted;
Users are linked by mutual respect and a sense of relative intimacy, pumping up brand credibility among followers;
Say hello to the latest killer app
Once Clubhouse moves out of the private beta testing stage, the outlook is enticing for companies. Brands will be able to sponsor rooms where founders can share their stories, attracting investors and customers. Like live calls to action, speakers can offer hand-outs in exchange for email addresses: “I wrote an e-book on that, and I’ll be happy to send it to you free …”
However, there’s no silver bullet for marketing effectively through the Clubhouse platform. Hosts and speakers must provide a steady stream of high-value content tailored to the real-life needs of their followers and respective listeners.
A powerful marketing tool: FOMO
In our shifting world, fear of missing out (FOMO) is one of the main drivers behind increasingly frantic consumption of news, social media and podcasts worldwide. However, all these channels offer catch-up options, as their content remains available for access by late-comers.
But the no-recording policy implemented by Clubhouse ratchets FOMO up to unparalleled levels: miss out on a comment, and it’s gone forever. This keeps users popping in and out of its rooms all day, as its discreet ears-only format fits invisibly into multi-tasking routines.
Is it really worth joining Clubhouse?
Why not? Who wouldn’t want to be part of this exciting new trend? But if nobody has sent you a much-coveted Clubhouse invitation yet, it’s still worth downloading the app in order to get your name on its waiting list. A member who knows you might receive an automatic in-app notification and ask you to join.
After all, if Elon Musk invited Vladimir Putin (both world-class experts in selling their respective ‘wares’!) to exchange ideas through Clubhouse, this social audio platform has to be a great venue for digital marketers!
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