Should your brand brave Clubhouse?

Everyone is crooning about the new kid on the social media block- Clubhouse. Digital marketers are scratching their heads over how to get to grips with the new platform and cleverly work this into their marketing strategies. Seemed like only yesterday that they had to contend with Tik Tok! Voice is now all the rage. But wait? What about podcasts? And if we really think about it, wasn’t voice where it all began? From town criers to telegraph and the radio?

Remember ham radio?

Sometimes it seems that technology brings us full circle. Once upon a time kids, the earliest ways to communicate and social network using technology was believe it or not, using a ham radio. People would have their own radio sets and broadcast and chat about topics that they were passionate about at a particular time. It was the new fad of staying in touch with people at the time. But it was not exactly a cheap hobby, as it required one investing in expensive radio equipment and even a license in most cases. It is even the subject of a sci-fi thriller –  Frequency that stars Jim Caviezel. A worthy watch of a murder mystery with a twist. Today with the democratisation and technology offered by the internet and the power of the smartphone in your pocket, the Clubhouse app strips away all those hurdles you had with ham radio and delivers an experience that hopes to be much more.  Available currently only on iPhones and iPads (with an Android app in the works), Clubhouse revolves around the concept of communities of voice chat rooms around different topics. 

This is the Clubhouse app on iOS

What makes clubhouse different?

When we you look at the discussions about Clubhouse, most people focus on the format – it being voiced based. But Clubhouse’s ‘clubs’ are nothing more than a glorified voice chat room in the day and age of zoom calls and WhatsApp group audio calls. While this is surely a distinctive feature, I think the key differentiation is the timeliness of the conversation and the community that you get access too. This is what makes it shine.  

It is the community that you create within your club and the ability to saunter into other clubs that differentiates this from, say a group WhatsApp audio call with your college dorm buddies. 

The fact that the app doesn’t allow you to record and re-share the audio is what lends to the timeliness of the format. Sure, there are work arounds. Conversations do get leaked to the press. But trying to be smart will get you banned from the app that is still in an invite only phase. Think of it as Snapchat for audio, married to the narrative of an interview format podcast. But even that isn’t close to describing it. Podcast episodes are largely well scripted and edited. Conversations on Clubhouse on the other hand are much more raw. 

Clubhouse is more like that group discussion you were ‘trained to do’, but secretly dreaded to participate in during college. Albeit not being in the same physical space as those you are debating with, offers you that little dash of Dutch courage. A more casual kind of coffee table or after work networking discussion some would say. Whatever the case, your clubhouse experience is defined largely by how well your participants can hold their own in a spontaneous conversation, the guiding hand of the moderator and how well versed with the topic are the speaker and their chemistry as a panel.

What’s more, the ability to spectate makes these clubhouse conversations resemble listening to a panel discussion at what are now defunct (due to Covid-19) real-world conventions, or a debate team slugging it out, rather than a topical podcast.

It is the ability to raise your hand as a spectator and ask a question that really makes this social networking experience stand out. It is the celebrity crowd that is currently the core appeal of Clubhouse to the masses. Suddenly, not only do you have access to the people you want to hob-nob with, but if favour falls upon you, you can even speak up and pick their brains! Its like throwing press conferences open to the fans. Sure there is youtube live streaming, but how many times do celebrities interact with fans one-on-one there? What’s more, you may join a large room, but the app I am told does allow people to go on to have one-on-one side conversations. Something that is the staple of any other text based chat room.

Use Cases

So here are some ways you can start to use club house today –

  1. Organise conversations with company C-suites – ‘Thought Leadership’
  2. Discussing current events, issues and causes
  3. Organising communities for causes
  4. Concept  testing discussions – whether you are launching on kickstarter or a company project this is a nice way to get initial feedback
  5. Lectures, tutorials / explaining concepts, language exchanges, any kind of group consulting and problem solving
  6. Co-creating stories and narratives, play acting, book readings
  7. Creating local interest groups 
  8. Responding to real-time events
  9. Fanboying – creating content that only your super fans are going to devour
  10. Debates and contests
  11. Getting extended families together

How brave is your brand?

Things to watch out for

Clubhouse isn’t going to be for every brand. Sure it’s perfect for personal branding. But when we talk about large behemoths of a brand – we need to look at it a little differently. It’s the kind of experience that will have PR folk on tenterhooks. Completely off-script and off rails, what happens if someone says something  scandalous or is provoked and caught off-guard by a spectator? How well trained will the people who represent your brand be when it comes to verbal assaults? I am told there is already an article out there asking ‘Where are the adults in Clubhouse?’ An indicator of how most conversations are devolving? Sure we are going to see a fair amount of seeding of content in near future by brands. But the content that performs well, will surely be the organic content that is not over-engineered. Its going to be a fine line to ensure that the conversations are not provoked and sensationalised to be tabloid fodder. That the timeliness of the content remains the incentive. And there will always be a certain amount of risk that goes with any brand conversation in the public eye. The trolling is going to get really verbal and in your face. Something that’s easier to deal with as a text, takes on a whole new dimension when someone says it in your face, while everyone else is listening. At the same time, how vocal can the trolls get? And will your fans step up and defend you? Would you bet your brand on it? These are the questions to ask before you dip your toe into yet another social media channel to be present on.

Currently clubs are owned only by individuals. I expect at a later date, the app will allow companies to have their official ‘clubs’ where you will see regular access to CEOs and the key movers and shakers. It is likely that some of those more vocal CEOs will get onto clubhouse individually, especially since their account is tied to their phone number. It made me wonder. If you think using the company credit card was a pain, imagine what it would be like to get a company number to associate with a brand today? The current mechanism just wouldn’t work. The popular approach by established Brand’s is likely to be treating each clubhouse session like a press conference – with gloved hands. That would be the safe way and not really the effective way to leverage the platform.

Like any other platform, investing in a Clubhouse strategy only makes sense if you have the commitment to run with it in the long term and create frequent and periodic content for it. 

It is the perfect platform for brands to highlight their key personalities and influencers to participate through their official clubs and have them tap into super fans. These super fans would then go to spread the brand messaging. Suddenly word-of-mouth is going to be the buzz word all over again. Literally. Truly I tell you we are going around in circles. Like they used to say.

 Stay tuned folks. Same place. Same time. Same channel.