If you think that all social media platforms are just some variation of images, videos, captions, and links, then think again, because a new type of platform is on the rise, and this one deals with an entirely separate medium: audio. Clubhouse is an exclusive audio-chat app that is frequented by plenty of C-suite executives and high-profile individuals. Already valued at $1 billion, the Silicon Valley approved social media platform is catching the attention of users around the world, getting marketing professionals everywhere wondering whether it will become the next big promotional tool.
What is Clubhouse?
Launched in April of 2020 Clubhouse is a voice-based social networking app that’s a cross between a podcast, radio, and a conference call. The hot new platform lets users drop-in to discussion “rooms” and listen to people talk about a particular topic, streaming these sessions in real time. Once the conversation is over, the session ends. Chats can be hosted by anyone on the app who decides to create a discussion room, but they are most often hosted by people who are experts in the subject that the room addresses. As of January 2021, 2 million people had accounts on Clubhouse. Now, just over a month later, the app’s user base has grown dramatically, jumping above 10 million (and so have its stock prices). So what is it about this new social network that has people raving?
The Audio App’s Claim to Fame
The buzz about Clubhouse all boils down to the platform’s many layers of exclusivity—alluded to even in its name. Currently still in beta, the app is not yet available to the general public for download and can only be accessed via an invitation from a current user. And while some might predict that this would work against the platform, the reality is that the invite-only policy has made it even more desirable, proving true the sentiment that we all want what we can’t have. Also contributing to its popularity is the growing list of big names that have been using the app and hosting discussions. This includes folks from across industries, with people like Elon Musk, Drake, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg all making appearances. The platform’s all-access, informal essence gives users an inside look—or listen, if you will—into the minds of some of the world’s most recognizable and influential individuals. But possibly the biggest kicker of all is this: the Clubhouse discussion rooms are open strictly in real time, meaning that once they’re closed, the conversation can’t be replayed. Such a stipulation has made this already-hot commodity even hotter.
Will Clubhouse Be the Next Big Marketing Tool?
With the new audio-based social media platform gaining traction from millions of users across the globe despite the fact that it still has yet to go public, the ears of marketing professionals everywhere have perked up at what sounds like the possibility of a powerful new advertising tool, ours included. And although the final verdict remains unknown, we have some ideas about what the future holds for Clubhouse and marketing.
Signs That Point Toward Yes
Strict targeting is crucial to efficient and effective marketing, and this is something that Clubhouse does incredibly well. Within the app, users can find discussion rooms based on their pre-selected interests and the topic that the room is meant to explore. In addition to the real-time, one-and-done nature of these conversations, the ability to filter out rooms based on the subject focus means that the vast majority of discussion attendees are going to be people who are genuinely interested and want to be there. This feature bodes extremely well for marketers, whose job it is to identify a specific target audience and figure out how to capture their attention. Clubhouse already does the first half of this work for you.
Personalization is the key to creating content that will engage today’s consumers, and brands need not waste their time and money on paid media that only attempts to raise general awareness. Where on other social media platforms finding the right audience that will engage with your content can take a lot of work, Clubhouse does not require nearly as much effort. The fact that the app can reach very specific, granularly targeted audiences suggests that users will be far more engaged than they are on other social platforms, and shows huge potential for the app’s future with advertising and organic marketing.
The app’s informal feel also makes it a strong candidate for the next big tool in marketing. It is this sense of informality and authenticity that has attracted so many users to attend discussions with celebrities and high-profile C-suite executives, because people feel like they are getting a far less filtered version of them than they would on other platforms. As long as this continues, Clubhouse could be used as a powerful platform for influencers and thought leaders to engage with their followers.
Why This Might Be Challenging
Although Clubhouse clearly boasts great marketing potential, the same features that give it that potential are also the ones that might be able to limit it. As I mentioned earlier, part of the reason that the new social network has gained so much attention is its transparent, authentic, informal feel and premise. The app bridges the gap between everyone that attends the same discussion, whether they are 10 minutes away from each other or halfway around the world. When a brand or company representative uses the platform to host a discussion, Clubhouse minimizes the distance between brand and consumer. If companies were to try and hard-sell their products either during discussions or via paid media, that might take away from the overall experience that is Clubhouse, and the reason why users are raving over the app in the first place.
Hard-Selling is a No for Now, But Content Marketing is Fair Game
Even though Clubhouse isn’t looking like the best place for direct and explicit marketing right now, that doesn’t mean it is completely out of question as a marketing tool. In fact, this could actually make it even more powerful when it comes to content marketing. A lot of the platform’s authenticity and genuine feel is derived from its audio-only basis. With the only photos being profile pictures and hardly any written components, users are left with no choice but to listen—I mean really listen—to what others have to say absent any superficial distractions. Thus, unlike many other social media platforms, Clubhouse is innately focused on the substance behind what users are sharing, which means that once it goes public, it could become a great avenue for soft selling through content marketing strategies like thought leadership.
While this may be a less blunt form of marketing and may not lead to an immediate uptick in conversions, cultivating thought leader status is an integral part of establishing, maintaining, and growing a brand. Not only does this provide you with a sense of authority and clout amongst consumers, it also qualifies you to provide people with insights on your industry. This is important because if you can give your followers what they want, they are more likely to continue following you and (eventually) become loyal customers, and in today’s customer-centric marketplace, loyalty is everything.
From what we’ve seen so far of the new social app, it seems like it will be most useful as a content marketing mechanism where brands and professionals can establish themselves as industry thought leaders as opposed to a place to hard-sell products. But then again, apps can change. Take Facebook, for example. A network that originally started as an invite-only, ad-free platform, Zuckerberg’s brainchild is now one of the biggest players in the digital advertising space, bar Google. When we look at the evolution of Facebook and similar apps, it becomes clear that Clubhouse is unlikely to stay the same way forever, and while it may not be a place for hard-selling products right now, that doesn’t mean it will never be one.
With new social media apps, it is key that your brand is first out of the gate to take advantage of opportunities when they do arise. At the moment Clubhouse’s appeal is authenticity and it can be a great place to promote your thought leadership and show off your industry expertise. However, make sure you also keep an eye out for it in the future so you are able to take advantage of new marketing opportunities before the platform is overrun with brands competing for valuable real estate.