POV: Is there room for brands on Clubhouse?

Khoros Alumni (Retired)

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 Clubhouse App POV

Is there room for brands on the hottest social media app?

It’s a fact: everyone is talking about Clubhouse and chances are you’ve probably been invited by someone you know. In January and February of this year alone, there were 5.9 million mentions of Clubhouse on Twitter (667% growth in comparison to the previous 2 months) as people have been flocking to the app in the name of FOMO (Source: Khoros Intelligence).

But what exactly is Clubhouse and how does it work? More importantly, should brands activate on the platform? 

With the app’s rapid rise to popularity during late 2020, brands are quietly scrambling to learn more about it and trying to figure out how to navigate the emerging platform from a marketing/PR perspective. We hope this POV helps brands better understand the app and gives social media teams the information needed to determine if Clubhouse is right for them.

Clubhouse at a Glance

  • Audio-Only: This is the biggest element that differentiates Clubhouse from other social media platforms. As an audio-only based application, you can't share pictures, videos, or even text. All you can do is talk. The app has heavily capitalized on leveraging the use of sound and minimizing visual elements. As our CMO Katherine Calvert stated in an interview with CMSWire, “Clubhouse is the anti-Zoom,” which is quite refreshing for the many who are experiencing screen fatigue this year.
  • Invite-Only: Currently, you need to be invited by someone to create a Clubhouse account. This approach has been a large factor in propelling the app’s popularity forward. It is perceived as exclusive and people around the world have fear of missing out (understandably so).
  • iPhone-Only: The Clubhouse app is currently only available via the Apple App Store (sorry, Android users). However, in a January 2021 press release, the company announced their intent to begin working on an Android app “soon.” They better hurry: the latest data shows that Android devices make up more than 70% of the mobile market share worldwide, compared to less than 30% for iPhones. In the United States, however, iPhones account for 60% of the mobile market share, with Android lagging at 39%.

So, How does Clubhouse Work?

  • The Largest Virtual Conference in the World: Clubhouse can be described as a huge virtual conference about every single topic you can imagine. When you enter a room, the audio switches on and you can hear people speaking — it’s like walking into a conference room where a panel or Q&A is happening. The room’s creator can decide who gets to speak. Users can create and join "rooms" where you can chat with others about topics like dog grooming, starting a small business, and even getting a divorce.
  • There is a large focus on high-value conversations: Say goodbye to produced/precomposed content. Clubhouse is fueled by real-time, highly engaging conversations where everyone who speaks brings value to the conversation. This culture has generated a loyal user base who adheres to and fosters an environment of quality conversations.
  • A Hallway with Endless Rooms: The Hallway is what Clubhouse calls its main feed. This is where you’ll find active rooms and panels. Think of it as walking down a hallway at Comic-Con, SXSW, or any other conference.

Brands Using Clubhouse

In a Clubhouse Townhall on 2/28, the company shared that they don’t want brands making accounts; instead, they’d prefer brands make clubs* in order to maintain the identity-based culture of the platform. 

That said, here are a few brands who have given the platform a shot and our learnings from each:

  • Netflix: In partnership with the Clubhouse club known as “Binge TV,” Netflix co-hosted a room following their Twitter watch party for the movie, Malcolm and Marie. When promoting the movie on Twitter, @StrongBlackLead shared details about the multi-app experience and the schedule for accessing, “6p PT: PRESS PLAY, 7:45p PT: CLUBHOUSE CONVERSATION w/ Zendaya & Sam Levinson.” 

    Takeaway: This feels right. Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie and then walk in a room to talk about it with the lead actress?

  • Kool-Aid: The Kool-Aid Man (yes, the mascot) made an appearance on a Clubhouse panel alongside Gary Vaynerchuk and LA Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. While he didn’t contribute much to the conversation outside of an occasional “OH YEAH,” people noticed. While this move makes sense for the Kool-Aid Man’s fun, interruptive persona, people are cautious about brands entering the space and what this means for the future of the conversations held across the app. 

    Takeaway: This feels a little off. While the Kool-Aid character remained on brand with the classic “OH YEAH” interruptions, it didn’t necessarily contribute to the app’s focus of having high value conversations. It’s important to not come across as trying to insert yourself into a new space if it doesn’t add value to the conversation or make sense for your brand.

  • Slice: On Valentine’s Day, Slice found an opportunity in a “shoot your shot” room, in which users were aiming to win a date on the audio platform. By partnering with the hosts of “nyu girls roasting tech guys,” they sent a free pizza to everyone who didn’t win a date. Throughout the conversation, Slice made sure to take a backseat, only chiming in to ask the pizza recipients to DM them their details on Twitter or Instagram. Slice’s approach of not dominating the conversation with self-promotion should serve as a learning for all brands looking to get their feet wet in the Clubhouse space. Note: Most of the “sponsorships” on the app right now seem to be handshake agreements between brands and Clubhouse clubs or hosts (Source: AdWeek). 

    Takeaway: This feels a little clunky. Slice’s approach of cautiously participating in the conversation while not dominating it was a great example of how “sponsorships” work on the platform. However, asking users to switch to another platform to message you their details feels a bit incongruous and can come across as if your initial strategy wasn’t really meant for this space. 

*Shared during 2/28 Clubhouse Townhall: Please email to get a club set up for your brand.

Considerations for Brands Looking to Use Clubhouse

  • Stay Alert: Clubhouse has definitely made a name for itself, and we don’t expect it to disappear overnight. Continual social listening and trendspotting will be key in identifying the right time (if ever) for your brand to build a presence on Clubhouse. Especially as the app scales and opens to a broader audience throughout the year, stay informed of how other brands are entering the space. You may want to consider an Intelligence query that allows you to keep a pulse on how people are talking about brand presence on the platform (I.e. ((Clubhouse OR joinclubhouse) AND (brand OR brands OR travel))). 
  • Lead with Your People, Not Your Brand: Steer clear of entering the space and “forcing it” through giveaways or other “salesy,” brand-centric moves. Instead, stay true to the platform’s mission around transparent human connection and identify opportunities where your people (executives, employees, influencers, advocates) can speak on your behalf. This B2B, C2C style approach is far more likely to succeed in the space, at least for the foreseeable future. For example, we could see Peloton executives leading an engaging conversation on “Fitness in a Global Pandemic” and discussing topics such as their growth in sales due to COVID-19 and how they’ve seen their community rally together around fitness during the pandemic. They could even co-host their room with influential instructors and invite an open conversation with their customers about where Peloton is headed next. 
  • Moderators will be Your New influencers: Clubhouse is currently ad-free, meaning the only way for brands to reach audiences within the app is by identifying moderators (Clubhouse’s version of ‘influencers’). Moderators lead conversations in Clubhouse, and if you find a conversation happening around a topic relevant to your brand, then there you have it -- a virtual platform to speak to an audience that’s vested in the topic at hand and who’s actively, willingly chosen to be there.
  • Exclusive in Nature: Although the exclusive nature of the app may not last forever, take some time to consider what that approach means for your brand. Joining the platform while it’s still invite-only and iPhone-only may cause certain audiences to feel alienated from the brand, especially considering more than 70% of people own an Android device worldwide and are unable to join at this time.
  • Moderation is a No-Go: With no written messaging capabilities, staying vigilant of user conversations related to your brand (inquiries, complaints, hate speech, etc.) is nearly impossible on Clubhouse.  If your brand is in a regulated field, like pharmaceuticals, Clubhouse is not recommended as it’s nearly impossible to be federally compliant with reporting adverse events.
  • Watch the Industry: As Clubhouse’s popularity skyrockets, similar products are bound to emerge. For example, Twitter has already launched a similar product called Spaces, which is currently being tested but expected for a wide release soon. Most notably, Twitter has already opened Spaces to all Android users in a likely attempt to capture users who have been excluded from Clubhouse.