With the appearances of these boldface names on Clubhouse -- Musk’s invitation to the Russian leader is outstanding -- the buzz around audio-based social media platforms is becoming deafening, with competitors rushing to clone their own apps.
Less than a year old, Clubhouse is competing with radio app Stationhead, Twitter Spaces and Fish Bowl Live, which have features mirroring Clubhouse’s layout. Facebook also wants a piece of the action.
But is it a fit for brands? While PR and advertising professionals are hopping on the wave and joining the platforms to establish industry connections, many are wondering how to get their clients on Clubhouse and set them apart using only audio.
Abby Hill, senior content strategist at Moxie, warns brands that before they join Clubhouse, they need to allow the platforms to establish their footing and evaluate the role of audio within a brand.
“When you think of all the social platforms at their origin, it took time for brands to get there. They needed behaviors to be outlined,” Hill says. “If brands want to be on something like Clubhouse, they need to work to define what the role of audio is for them, because if they don't think about that considerably and just use the platform to push a pre-existing message, it's gonna fall flat every time.”
Audio resurfaced as an integral part of social media marketing with the rise of TikTok and sound virality. Last December, Amazon acquired podcast-network Wondery for $300 million and L'Oreal became one of the latest brands to start a podcast, called Open Air.
Podcast-like platforms such as Clubhouse present a democratized, unique opportunity for transparency and authenticity, says Bret Werner, president of MWWPR, suggesting people “feel safer with audio conversations.”
As a result, audio platforms are a fit for brands that are linked to a hobby or a passion, such as tech brands that could sponsor exclusive events discussing a new product or technology, he explains.
Similarly, Hill suggests brands committed to innovation such as Tesla or Amazon should join in line with their brand messaging.
“Someone who's always been committed to innovating in a space needs to be in those new innovative spaces,” Hill says.
Clubhouse is in beta and is based on a format in which users can invite one another, creating an exclusive nature. Once on the platform, users can set up “event rooms” and engage in discussions about any topic by “raising their hands” and having moderators offer the microphone. Rooms can go on for hours and have up to 5,000 participants. There are no text-based features other than a profile bio and contributions can only be made through audio.
Brand accounts are few and far between, with most notable members featuring company executives and agency professionals—though the Kool-Aid man has also been spotted. Clubhouse also allows its users to create groups, a feature that has been leveraged by brands like Patreon and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
The VC firm declined to comment. Patreon did not respond to requests for comment.
Because Clubhouse is still in its early stages, brands can approach it and other audio platforms similarly to other social media, says Thibaud Clement, CEO of marketing technology firm Loomly.
First, brands can host their own “show” in a Clubhouse room by leading sessions and having people come in and discuss, Clement says, noting that this strategy requires the most commitment. Brands can also collaborate with a creator for a sense of exclusivity perpetuated by Clubhouse’s “invite only” pilot program or join existing third-party conversations.
Nonetheless, authentic conversation is the most important part of these activations, he says.
“It's all about being more accessible,” says Clement.
Clubhouse rooms are live and chats are not saved or recorded. While some professionals choose to stream their conversations on platforms like Twitch or share their links to Twitter, rights to playing audio such as music present a unique challenge.
Ryan Star, musician and CEO of Stationhead says this is where brands might miss out on opportunities.
“I do believe everyone will also be an audio creator or a radio DJ from their pocket,” Star says, adding that people respond positively to live shows and music events on Stationhead.
“[Clubhouse] is serving that LinkedIn Live, TED Talk feeling. People go there and learn something in this intellectual podcast land,” he adds.
While that is an important aspect of the audio experience, he notes, integrating things such as passive ads will be challenging without entertainment.
Instead, Stationhead uses features such as a chat box and emoji-tipping to help users engage with creators and content in-app.
Clubhouse and Twitter declined to comment for this story.