2020: the year spent in front of a screen. Meetings on Zoom and birthdays on Facetime; hours spent falling down TikTok rabbit holes and searching Netflix for a single show you hadn’t seen.
All of the above continue to provide a vital, albeit temporary, alternative to the ‘real life’ social situations we have missed so dearly. Our senses need stimulating, our minds need something to chew on; it’s no wonder that podcasts have gained such enormous traction in the past year, allowing us a ‘fly on the wall’ participation in conversations which can educate and entertain, all while we get the dishes done.
Oddly, the audio-only concept offers a heightened level of intimacy and inclusion, which is perhaps why the enigmatic audio-only platform, Clubhouse, has aroused such a buzz since its March 2020 launch. The app’s popularity has grown exponentially in the past year, from a humble 1,500 downloads to over 8 million globally today, and a reported increase in value from $100million to a staggering $1billion.
The concept is simple yet mysterious. Currently, Clubhouse runs on exclusivity; you must be invited by another user, or sit on a waiting list, to gain access to the platform. Once you’ve got your ticket in to ‘join the club’, users are free to navigate their way around, organise chatrooms of their own or listen in on others’. You can contribute (active participation is encouraged) or take the ‘fly on the wall’ approach, with conversations spanning a range of themes and topics. The formats are diverse, too; blind dates, seminar-esque discussions, chats with celebrities, conversations with entrepreneurs and world class business leaders (like Elon Musk), and live events which you can weigh in on.
These chatrooms are a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ affair and Clubhouse etiquette dictates that users can’t record any of the conversations; when they’re done, they’re done, so make the most of each experience. What goes on in Clubhouse, stays in Clubhouse.
From a marketing perspective, the platform has opportunities for brands and influencers alike to gain presence and engagement. Brands can host events and discussion panels, with celebrity endorsers or industry experts. They could even sponsor events which relate to their product; Nike could sponsor an interview with a popular athlete, for example. The challenge for brands will be creating engaging content that doesn’t rely on visuals; nevertheless, Clubhouse has a great deal of potential as both a sales tool and as a means of generating awareness.
As with any emerging social platform, influencers can adapt successfully to new surroundings and dominate quickly; Clubhouse is no different in that respect. But it’s precisely Clubhouse’s differences which make it such an exciting prospect for influencer marketing. Adding an audio-only dimension to the multi-channel approach will give influencers direct access to their followers, and vice versa. Brands utilise influencer marketing for the traction that creators have with their followers; they bring insight and relatability to the table, and they know their audience well. Clubhouse adds a notch to this belt, allowing influencers to build a more intimate, authentic, and direct relationship with their fans and the chance to be even more innovative and creative with their content: it is audio-only, after all. Brands can authentically promote a product through partnerships with influencers, whereby products and brand awareness can be incorporated into their conversations or featured in their event participations.
Like most social media platforms today, Clubhouse is hoping to cultivate an environment where high quality content can thrive, and where influencers are incentivised to be active and innovative. However, with rival audio-only platforms emerging — such as Twitter’s new ‘Spaces’ feature — Clubhouse will need to ensure that its exclusive allure does not get in the way of its accessibility. It will need to continue its upward trajectory in order to truly disrupt the market but, based on its potential, the goal certainly seems in reach.