What a thrilling time it has been for Clubhouse, the live-audio social platform that’s enjoyed a rapid journey from buzzy must-have app to Silicon Valley investor bait to subject of gleeful scorn to panicked defendants against copycat features, all in a matter of months.
In Clubhouse’s defense, this whiplash of public opinion is par for the course. Any hot new social media app is bound to go through this rags-to-riches-to-Twitter-mockery trajectory (RIP, Google Plus).
But all this chatter can make it hard to separate the hype (or hate) from the truth that social media marketers need to know: Is Clubhouse actually worth checking out, or is this just a flash in the pan brands are better off ignoring?
We turned to our in-house expert — Nick Martin, Hootsuite’s Global Social Engagement Specialist — to find out if brands should pay attention to Clubhouse.
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What are the benefits of Clubhouse?
There’s something innately engaging about audio — just look at the podcast boom of the past decade — and during a time of isolation due to Covid, it’s no surprise Clubhouse was popping off in its early days. We’re hungry for connection and hearing other people.
Social audiences like “live” content
Clubhouse is essentially a modern update of talk radio: live, unedited, with potential for engagement at the host’s discretion. For brands who see the appeal of other live broadcasting tools like Facebook Live, Linkedin Live, or Instagram Live, a similar audio event may be a natural fit.
A chance to think about what your brand “sounds” like
Audio apps like Clubhouse are also a chance to think about your brand from a fresh perspective, and present yourself to the world in a new way. “It’s interesting to think about: what does our brand sound like? What is our voice in this medium?” says Nick. “This is going to be the next step for a lot of brands.”
That being said, there are some big challenges with live audio that need planning and strategy to overcome.
What are the drawbacks of Clubhouse?
Nick, ever the intrepid social media investigator, immersed himself in Clubhouse for a week or so to truly try to understand it. The verdict? Clubhouse just wasn’t drawing him in. “I loved the idea, but it didn’t have anything to keep me coming back for more,” he says.
Overwhelming content recommendations
An underdeveloped or perhaps broken algorithm was suggesting content that just wasn’t appealing (“I ended up in a lot of German conversations somehow,” he laughs). When he did pop into a room, it was difficult to understand what was going on, with many hosts not offering regular context.
“You need to fill that context. People’s attention is so short. If you can’t grab it right away, you’re lost,” says Nick. “That’s what I found with Clubhouse: there was nothing to grab onto.”
For brands on social media, reaching the right audience is crucial. At least for now, this seems somewhat difficult to do on Clubhouse. And it may take a while for your audience to find you.
Unclear etiquette for Rooms
It was also not always clear what the etiquette was for any given Room: were audience members welcome to pipe in with comments or not?
“It felt like hearing someone talk on their phone on the bus, like you’re tuning in halfway through a conversation,” says Martin.
This could be a drawback for brands who are hoping to engage their audience in conversation. You may be missing out on valuable feedback if your followers are unclear in how to provide it.
Exclusivity means smaller audiences
Clubhouse’s exclusive, invite-only model gives the platform an exciting, VIP feel — but the downside of that is that your friends or contacts may not be there to hang out with. (A bit of a flop in nailing that “social” part of social media.)
For most brands, growing the audience as large as possible and reaching new customers is an essential component of their social media strategy. This might be harder to do on an exclusive app like Clubhouse.
Is there an alternative to Clubhouse social media experts like better?
Though a slew of competitor platforms and features are emerging in the wake of Clubhouse’s success, the leading challenger so far is Spaces, Twitter’s new drop-in audio tool.
“I think Clubhouse is not going to be able to compete with Spaces,” says Nick. The main advantage is that you’re connected to your follow list, so you’ve got a built-in community of speakers and listeners who you’re already familiar with.
“I know what they talk about, I know what their online personal brand is, I have a pretty good idea of what they’re talking about,” says Nick. “I feel a little bit more comfortable raising my hand because we have that connection.”
How can brands use drop-in audio the right way?
If you’re still interested in trying out Clubhouse (or any other drop-in audio platform or feature) for your brand, a little strategy to overcome its weak spots could go a long way.
Expand on other content
When your more structured webinar or digital panel discussion is over and the questions keep on coming, hop over to an audio room to continue a moderated discussion in a more casual, intimate format.
Think of it as replicating the experience of lingering around after a conference seminar, keeping the conversation going even after the star of the show is gone.
Give continual context
One major hiccup with live content in general is accommodating people who drop-in halfway through: how can you catch someone up without repeating yourself or starting from the beginning?
Take a cue from radio hosts or news anchors, who will drop in a quick contextualizing sentence into their chatter throughout a broadcast (“If you’re just joining us…”).
Take advantage of its unique features
Drop-in audio allows audience members to pipe up and participate in a way that they can’t in webinars or podcasts, so make the most of this special feature and encourage questions and participation. You want it to be a conversation, not just a broadcast.
Don’t just wing it
Live shows can seem effortless, but the best ones have laid groundwork for success behind the scenes.
Leading up to the show, spend some time planning the conversation (and booking the guests or co-hosts): What major talking points will you hit? Where are you starting, and where what’s the best way to wrap things up? You don’t need to write a script, but a road map to guide you helps keep things from getting too off-topic.
Capitalize on your content
Once the event is over, the work shouldn’t end. Is there a way to package up your great content so others can enjoy it after the fact? Martin suggests condensing the main talking points into a Tweet thread, a blog post or an email blast to make sure it can live on.
A lot of the philosophies from live video streams can be applied to audio, too, so check out our full breakdown of best practices here.
How do you know if Clubhouse is right for your brand?
As tempting as it is to dive into the shiny new platform and give it your all, there are important questions social media managers should ask themselves before they get in too deep.
Is your community there?
If you’re building an audience from scratch, that’s going to be a slow climb. Clubhouse is invite-only, so it’s tough to pull over your followers and fans en masse. “It takes time to build a community and I don’t know if the community is there right now,” says Martin.
Is it worth it to lose time on other platforms?
Ultimately, to really engage in a platform takes time. And there are only so many hours in the day — is it worth taking away time from time you could be spending responding to comments on Instagram or monitoring for mentions on Twitter?
If you’re feeling FOMO or like you might be missing out on reaching a valuable audience by not getting in on the Clubhouse rush, it’s worth noting that 98% of users on any given social network are on more than one… Clubhousers are likely on Instagram, too.
“If marketers focus on one or two of the larger networks, you’re still going to reach pretty much everybody,” says Nick.
Does it fit with your social media goals?
Clubhouse can be helpful if your goals are about brand awareness or thought-leadership. It’s great for getting your name out there, or placing yourself at the center of an industry-specific conversation.
But, if your goals for your brand are about driving traffic, converting leads, or making sales, this might not be the most useful space to spend your time.
Need some help narrowing in on your social media strategy? Check out our social strategy template to create an effective plan for your brand.
The verdict: Should you put your brand on Clubhouse?
Though he’s already on #teamspaces, Nick advises social media managers to give Clubhouse a chance to see for themselves how it works.
“Go test it, don’t just wave it off as nothing. Your specific audience might enjoy it and you might find something that really works right,” says Martin.
The key, though, is to not linger too long if it’s not a fit for you. “If you fail, fail fast. Find out if it doesn’t work and then don’t keep doing it.”
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