on March 1, 2021 (last modified on December 17, 2021) • 12 minute read
If you’re in marketing, sales, or any corporate industry heavily tied to social media, you’ve probably heard of Clubhouse.
Over the past few months, Clubhouse has sprung onto the social media scene at an unfathomable pace. Marketed as an audio-based, members-only app, the allure and interest behind the new social media platform took the likes of the corporate world by storm.
So, what’s the buzz all about? In this report, we’ll take a closer look at Clubhouse’s origins, how to and who can download it, and whether or not it’ll be a viable channel for marketing strategies as time goes on.
Clubhouse is an invitation-only social media mobile app whose primary feature is its drop-in audio conversation rooms. The app allows users to learn from and network with people in exclusive voice chat rooms hosted by one or multiple thought-leaders, influencers, or celebrities.
Clubhouse is fairly new on the social media scene (launched April 2020 by Alpha Exploration Co.) – and took off in the latter half of 2020. In December 2020, the valuation of Clubhouse sat at roughly $100 million, but by the end of January 2021, that number shot up to $1 billion.
Clubhouse initially was marketed to big players and high-profile individuals: celebrities, influencers, investors, and “thought-leaders” in areas like marketing and sales. Some notable A-list individuals who have made appearances on Clubhouse include Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher, and even Elon Musk.
Now, anyone who gets an invitation from another Clubhouse user is eligible to join so long as they meet the criteria for accessibility listed below.
In a recent survey, Databox identified five Clubhouse user types: the host (25%), the regular user/attendee (25%), the occasional user/attendee (25%), the lurker (25%), and the registrant who never uses the app (~1%).
As you can see, responses were split evenly across the four core user types, each garnering a quarter of the share. As a note, it’s likely that some overlapping occurred as well given that hosts likely also attend other sessions and attendees may also host their own Clubhouse rooms.
You may be surprised to see the percentage of “lurkers” so high, but as Tami Nealy of Find Your Influence puts it, they “believe Clubhouse can be a viable marketing channel for a brand when approached correctly. I actively listened on Clubhouse for a period of time before I really began to engage. I have been drawn to rooms where brands act as thought leaders and are there to educate and inform the audience.”
From a self-called lurker, Nealy notes what drew them in to participate rather than just listen is when a brand is acting as an expert or a thought leader in their space, educating an audience rather than selling to them or talking to them like it’s a drawn-out sales pitch. So, if you want more lurkers to become active participants, speak to them – don’t sell to them.
Some of the appeal of Clubhouse is its exclusivity. Presently, only Apple iPhone users can access the Clubhouse app from the App Store – alienating an astounding 72% of all mobile device users worldwide. Yes, you read that right: only 28% of the global population uses iOS, meaning the majority of people don’t even have the option to download Clubhouse.
Clubhouse’s exclusivity doesn’t end there. Not only do you have to be an iPhone user to even be able to download Clubhouse, but you also have to be invited to the app by an existing app user to even be able to “enter” any of the virtual conference rooms.
On top of that, fans and critics alike have pointed out Clubhouse’s inaccessibility in other ways. By design, Clubhouse alienates people with disabilities, particularly deaf and hearing-impaired individuals.
With no support for live captions or screen readers, Clubhouse works on the basis of assumption that all of its users are able-bodied, meaning accessibility was never top-of-mind.
Still, even with so many marks against this up-and-coming social media platform, an astronomical number of people have taken kindly to the app. From celebrities to entrepreneurs and everyone in between, many are finding value in Clubhouse as more than a casual social media platform; they’re seeing its potential as a marketing tool.
With such excitement behind the app, any marketer might wonder if it’s a viable channel for long-term marketing strategies. Because it is so new, some wonder if the app is still in a volatile state.
Colin Shipp of ColinShipp.com is on the fence about it. Shipp notes that “the verdict is still out if it will be a viable marketing channel for actually driving sales. Right now a lot of attention is on Clubhouse because of its exclusivity factor. But remember, this is how almost every popular social media platform started: with exclusivity.”
Exclusivity is always a big draw. People want to have their hands on a product and be part of something great before that awesome, small thing gets too big and not so alluring. So while there might be some uncertainty, others have gone all-in with the belief that Clubhouse is the next best thing in marketing.
In fact, the numbers speak for themselves. A whopping 86.2% of people polled believe Clubhouse is indeed a viable channel for marketing.
But even with such a hopeful outlook as these numbers indicate, despite the platform existing for nearly a full calendar year already, most people who use Clubhouse have indicated that they have not yet actually generated any business thanks to the app.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they haven’t earned any business, while 43% said they have. The numbers skew negatively for now, but as a newer potential marketing channel, it’s impressive to note how many respondents have seen success thus far, possibly indicating a trend toward more business success for others in the near future.
With numbers like these, marketers are probably sold on the idea of success through Clubhouse. But instead of guessing the pulse of the people, we’ve rounded up responses from fans and critics of the new-to-market app to see what real users truly think.
Here’s what 5 of them had to say:
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Before we dive into our expert’s response, a meritocracy is a political system based on giving power to people on the basis of performance, talent, and achievement rather than wealth, social class, or connections.
With this in mind, Yuvi Alpert of Noemie absolutely thinks Clubhouse is here to stay for the long term: “Clubhouse could absolutely become a viable marketing channel as it’s been growing exponentially in the first quarter of 2021, and it is largely a discovery-based platform.
Large influencers have very little clout on the app. Even celebrities have only a few thousand followers because Clubhouse currently is a meritocracy.
If you can create a room with useful information on whatever your specialty, you can find a wealth of new followers who are emotionally connected to you and your brand.”
With Clubhouse acting as a system that gives power to creators and thinkers rather than those with existing clout, wealth, or status on other platforms, it opens a world of opportunities to lesser-known, niche experts.
As mentioned before, part of the appeal – and unfairness – of Clubhouse is its exclusivity. While the allure of an invitation-only platform intrigues some, it definitely disenchants others, like Katherine Garratt of Superfast IT.
Garratt says: “At this moment in time, definitely not. The exclusivity, which may give it an appeal, is hindering its adoption. In fact, Clubhouse is making [general adoption] a huge obstacle, which is quite a turnoff. If none of your client base is using the platform, and none of your peers are using it, the hype will soon fizzle out.”
Although Garratt’s outlook seems bleak to some, it’s not without good reason. Clubhouse is definitely in the “maybe yes, maybe no” stage right now. It’s drawn interest from investors, celebrities, and the general public, but does that automatically make it a sustainable platform?
While some social media giants changed the way we interact on the web forever (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), others like MySpace, Xanga, and Google+ were huge during their respective times, then faded away to a shadow of their former selves – or ceased to exist altogether. Who knows the way Clubhouse will fall?
In terms of what you need on a social media platform to encourage conversions, Clubhouse has it all, and Tiffany Lewis of More Meaningful Marketing is all in.
Lewis notes, “Clubhouse can definitely be a viable marketing channel for your business because of its ability to create a conversion strategy both inside and outside of the app.
The app’s algorithm is set up to understand niche topics, personal interests, and the power of conversion-driven conversations. Add in the ability to display a lengthy bio, a direct link to Instagram and Twitter, and you have a recipe for a quick win!”
It’s as simple as that: have a platform where niche experts (as noted in number two) are prioritized, and give them space to write a bio, introduce themselves, and add in social profile links for people to reach out to for deeper conversations, and you’ve got a conversion machine at your fingertips.
Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging has a few hot takes on Clubhouse. First, the risk of competition from major players like Facebook and Twitter is already being realized, so Clubhouse will have a shorter shelf life than some marketers might think.
Wald explains: “There are many reasons Clubhouse will not ultimately be a viable marketing channel. First, Zuckerberg is rumored to be starting a comparable channel, and Twitter Spaces is also in the planning stages, which will also be a forum like Clubhouse. Therefore, Clubhouse will lose its novelty.”
But Ward doesn’t stop there. Not only is Clubhouse only here for a short time, but its business model feels like spammy selling to a captive audience.
Ward notes: “People are speaking on Clubhouse in order to sound knowledgeable to woo more clients, which makes Clubhouse have a spammy feel. Plus, marketers need time to create content. Social media sites like Clubhouse become a time drain. When hours pass, and marketers see they fail to accomplish anything productive, they will tire of the new site.”
So, not only is Clubhouse a spammy sales pitch extraordinaire, but it’s a time suck for marketers. And that’s not far from the truth. Data shows that marketers are spending a lot of time on Clubhouse already – with most having spent upwards of 10–25 hours on the app thus far.
Whether an active or passive listener, a content creator, a speaker, or an analyst, people are spending a lot of time on Clubhouse, which might not even result in tangible business benefits long term.
TJ Kelly of FansRaise says they’re not sure if it’s right for their audience, and it still might be too early to tell, but its business model benefits passive audio consumption. They note: “Passive audio consumption is big and getting bigger (podcasts, mostly), and Clubhouse follows a model very similar to Twitch streams, which are absolutely huge. It will take a while to catch on or become mainstream, but there’s lots of opportunity and potential!”
It’s true. People love podcasts and audio recordings to listen to. While they used to be a big draw for those who commute to work every day, when the pandemic forced everyone to work from home, people switched to listening to audio clips, podcasts, and virtual events while at home, splitting attention while working on other tasks – aka listening passively, as Kelly noted.
The jury’s still out on whether Clubhouse is a “spend” or “save” type of app, and it all depends on who you are and what you like.
If you’re within the target audience for its current inception: an iOS user, lucky enough to land an invitation, able to listen to the content being shared without physical restrictions, and someone who’s got a lot of extra time to actively or passively listen to others inspire, sell, and teach, then Clubhouse is definitely a buy-in you should make.
But if you’re on the other side of the coin to the above – or maybe you just really hate the concept of an app that sounds akin to attending more unnecessary meetings hosted by people who like to hear themselves talk – Clubhouse is a no-go for you.
Whichever way you spin it, the choice is yours.
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