Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall during in-depth, candid, unedited live conversations with experts and everyday people who are passionate and well-informed about topics that matter to you? With the Clubhouse app, you can. And you might even get a chance to fly off the wall and take a seat at the table. Or, build a table of your own.
In this article, we explore what Clubhouse is and its functions, how brands, celebrities, and other notable figures are leveraging the platform, and some tips and considerations to make in determining if Clubhouse is a good fit for reaching your audience and your goals.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is a purely audio-based social app that launched in March 2020, and has been growing in popularity since. According to a recent town hall meeting with Clubhouse’s CEO Paul Davidson, there are currently 10 million Clubhouse users – up from just “2 million users in January 2021.”
Clubhouse is focused on sharing information, conversation, and collaboration, with members offering their insights, opinions, and advice about topics of personal or professional interest within audio chats, known as “rooms.”
“Clubhouse has started a movement: creating a social network that is based purely on audio, rather than visual. For so long we’ve been hearing about the shift from photos to videos; landscape videos to vertical videos. The medium has been visually oriented. Clubhouse is flipping the script to bring the fun of podcasts into a live forum that allows people to engage with speakers. This is gaining momentum as other Social network stalwarts start releasing copycat versions of the audio-based platform.”
— Avi Ben-Zvi, Group Director of Paid Social at Tinuiti
When creating a Clubhouse room, members can choose if they would like that room to be Open, Social, or Closed. Let’s look at which each of those mean:
- Open Clubhouse Rooms: These rooms are open to everyone on Clubhouse. If a member sees a room they would like to join, they will be able to do so regardless of any connection they may or may not have to the room creator, speakers, or fellow participants (listeners). For brands looking to reach as many listeners as possible, we recommend creating open rooms
- Social Clubhouse Rooms: These are rooms you can create that will only be open to people you are following on Clubhouse
- Closed Clubhouse Rooms: These are private rooms that are only open to the people you specifically choose to include
Members are able to create their own digital room to discuss whatever topic they would like, “drop-in” to in-progress “open” rooms at any point in the conversation, and leave the room just as quietly as they arrived whenever they choose. There are no sounds to indicate anyone has joined or left the room, freeing users up to pop in and out of different rooms until they find one that resonates with them.
What Existing Format Is Clubhouse Most Similar To?
- Clubhouse can be thought of as a socially-connected live podcast; happening in real-time, there is no opportunity for editing, which lends to the authentic appeal of Clubhouse
- It’s also a “come as you are” app thanks to its audio-only functionality. Whether you’re hosting a chat room or just listening in, there is no camera to worry about getting ready for. In a recent article on NewBeauty.com, Gloss Angeles co-host Kirbie Johnson struck a comparison to Instagram Live, saying, “I find that getting on Clubhouse is so much easier than getting on something like Instagram Live because there’s no pressure to get yourself put together or even be 100 percent focused on the conversation if you’re a listener.”
- You also don’t have to worry that you’ll inadvertently join a room with your microphone turned on. When you join a room, your microphone is automatically muted
- If you have something you’d like to offer to the conversation, or a question you’d like to ask, you can click the hand icon in the bottom right corner of the screen to virtually raise your hand. A room moderator will decide whether to bring you off mute and onto the virtual stage to join the conversation
- Finding a conversation particularly interesting, and want to easily invite a Clubhouse friend to join in? The + icon to the left of the “raise hand” icon lets listeners “Ping someone into the room.” When you click the + icon, you will be taken to a screen with everyone you’re following, making it easy to share the room with them. Each person’s profile picture will display when they were last active on Clubhouse so you’ll know who is currently using the app, and will be most likely able to join
Who Can Join Clubhouse?
Currently only available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, the excitement surrounding Clubhouse has been partially fueled by its invite-only method of joining. While it is free to download Clubhouse – and free to use and engage on the app as often as you’d like once you’re a member – you will first need to secure a coveted invitation from an existing Clubhouse user.
With each new member being given limited invites upon signing up, and the opportunity to earn more as they use the app, they can be understandably hard to come by. In fact, there is a subreddit dedicated to giving, buying, and selling Clubhouse invites. But that exclusivity is about to change as the app matures and becomes available to a greater number of people.
Clubhouse Early Adopters and Celebrity Members
What do Oprah, the CEO of Pinterest, Elon Musk, and comedian Kevin Hart all have in common? They’re among the first big names in advertising and entertainment to join Clubhouse. In fact, Elon Musk is largely credited with Clubhouse’s recent explosion in downloads, and the resultant press that his interview brought with it.
“Just like Twitter a decade ago, Clubhouse is gaining popularity amongst celebrities and household names. The biggest impetus came with a 1 hour interview with Elon Musk that vaulted Clubhouse into the mainstream. This is continuing with macro celebrities, but also CEOs and industry experts across the board, giving Clubhouse greater credibility.”
— Avi Ben-Zvi, Group Director of Paid Social at Tinuiti
What Topics are Discussed on Clubhouse?
There is truly something for everyone on Clubhouse, making it an ideal space for advertisers across every industry to reach the right audiences—whether those audiences are already familiar with their brand, or not.
Similar to other social apps and platforms, your Clubhouse feed is personalized based on the interests you’ve selected, who you’re following, and what clubs you have joined. You can adjust your interests at any time, just as you can join new clubs and follow new people.
Interests are broken out into the following primary categories, with sub-category interests available within each:
- Hanging Out
- World Affairs
Once you have selected the sub-category interests that are most important to you, related clubs and upcoming chat rooms will populate in your feed. Selected sub-category interests can be activated by simply tapping them, which changes their background from white to blue.
In the screenshot below, we have selected the following interests: Advertising, Writing, Mindfulness, Nutrition, Health, and Fitness.
Are Conversations from Clubhouse Rooms Available to Listen To Later?
Clubhouse rooms are not stored for later listening, but a recording of a chat you missed out on may still be available. It is against Clubhouse’s Terms of Service to “record any portion of a conversation without the expressed consent of all of the speakers involved.” With those rules clearly laid out, users do have the option to indicate that the room will be recorded ahead of the conversation beginning. We recommend adding this information to the subject line and description of the event to ensure it is easily recognized by all who speak or join the conversation that it will be recorded.
Is Privacy an Issue on Clubhouse?
In this age of amplified privacy concerns in the digital space at large, and ongoing preparations for upcoming privacy changes, Clubhouse is not without its own share of considerations. In addition to concerns regarding how mutual phone contacts are displayed within the suggestions, Clubhouse has made headlines for other privacy-related issues and concerns, including clubhouse rooms being breached.
In February 2021, Reema Bahnasy, a Clubhouse spokeswoman, shared that “an unidentified user was able to stream Clubhouse audio feeds…from “multiple rooms” into their own third-party website.” Clubhouse has issued a permanent ban on the user, and “installed new “safeguards” to prevent a repeat,” though “researchers contend the platform may not be in a position to make such promises.”
We encourage users and advertisers to be mindful that there is no way of stopping individual users from recording conversations in Clubhouse rooms, and to speak with the assumption that they are indeed being recorded. While it does go against their terms and conditions to do so, as noted above, there is simply no guarantee that what you say won’t be recorded.
How Brands are Using Clubhouse
With no self-serve ad placements currently available on Clubhouse, brand representatives have embraced the more organic methods of getting the word out about their brand that are available. This includes creating their own clubs, hosting rooms, sponsoring rooms, and joining in discussions relevant to their industry.
Thanks to Clubhouse’s recently announced Clubhouse Creator First initiative – which is kicking off with 20 creators – we can expect the number of valuable partners on the app to continue growing. This “accelerator” aims to “help aspiring hosts and creators on the platform build their audiences, connect with brands, and perhaps most importantly, monetize their shows.” The first three areas Clubhouse plans to test on the monetization front include tipping, tickets, and subscriptions.
Create Your Own Club
Clubs are focused around specific interests, with all club followers getting a notification when a new event is posted. Creating your own club on Clubhouse opens up the opportunity to build and nurture a dedicated community, and host rooms that are only available for your club members.
Leverage Your Skills and Knowledge
He “started hosting daily chat rooms about advanced tax strategies for entrepreneurs,” answering listeners’ questions. These organic conversations led to new clients for his business, but were also importantly “fun and rewarding.”
Think of the aspects of your own business that you are most passionate about, and how you might be able to incorporate those into Clubhouse chats that can benefit listeners and your bottom line.
Work With Established Clubs and Influencers Who Already Have a Following
The power of influencers on social media is well-known, and partnering with them on Clubhouse to enhance your exposure is no exception.
e.l.f. cosmetics and Chipotle Join the Conversation in the Disruptors Club
As fans of lip gloss and guacamole may already be aware, e.l.f. cosmetics recently ordered up their second serving of a collaboration with Chipotle. To promote this exciting launch, e.l.f. turned to the usual suspects of social media, including TikTok and Instagram.
But they also notably included Clubhouse as well, with CMO Kory Marchisotto taking part in the “Being Bold and Breaking Through” conversation in the Disruptors club to “talk beauty, burritos, & being bold,” alongside Tressie Lieberman, VP of Digital and Off-Premise at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
As their Clubhouse bio attests, the Disruptors club serves as “A home for anyone who is leading or inspired by disruptive strategies changing the future of marketing,” making their audience a great match for e.l.f. and Chipotle.
Hulu, Bomani X, and The Cotton Club
Hulu recently partnered with Bomani X, who boasts 3.4M Clubhouse followers, to promote their upcoming release of The United States vs. Billie Holiday in an also-very-popular club that he hosts—The Cotton Club. Within 10 minutes of the conversation kicking off, the room had welcomed ~3,000 listeners. Among those joining the conversation were talent from the biographical film itself, as well as the producer.
“I think the experience of Clubhouse is like no other. You can literally be on a stage with the CEO of a company, your favorite actress, or the person who makes the hiring decision for a job that you’re looking for. There is no other platform like Clubhouse, and that’s why I truly enjoy it.”
— Keisha McCotry, Associate Director of Public Relations at Tinuiti
Be Part of the Audience
Advertisers understand the power of social listening tools to keep tabs on sentiment regarding their brand, but the only social listening tools that can monitor Clubhouse conversations are the ones you were born with – your ears.
Give yourself a chance to enjoy the benefits of Clubhouse as a listener; drop into conversations related to your industry, and pay attention to what’s being said, and what questions are being asked. Also – just as you do when crafting content, creative, and ad campaigns – think of all the reasons consumers shop your brand, and join an array of conversations in those different interest categories for the greatest insights.
In example, let’s assume your product offering includes a selection of face creams. To learn more about what people are saying about face creams, your natural instinct would be to join in on a beauty-focused conversation. And – you’d be right. But what are some of the other distinguishing factors of your face cream that might play into consumer interest? Is it affordable? Cruelty-free? Made from natural ingredients? To learn more about consumers’ thoughts on those elements, you might also want to listen in on conversations related to shopping on a budget, animal rights, and wellness, respectively.
How Candid Should Brands Be on Clubhouse?
The casually conversational and unedited nature of Clubhouse is a huge part of its appeal, and we encourage brands to embrace the opportunity to join in and explore a new avenue to give a voice to their business. However, we also recommend creating internal guidelines for what you are – and are not – open to discussing. These can include entire topics you’d rather not give your take on, and certain language you want your team and brand representatives to avoid using.
Spend some time brainstorming about the topics you expect might come up, and be sure to familiarize yourself with appropriate—and authentic—answers for each. It’s not possible to anticipate every question that someone might ask, but prepare as best you can for those of greater focus and impact to your business.
Prepare for an upcoming Clubhouse event just as you would for any other speaking engagement, being mindful of those guidelines you’ve set. Make yourself notes about topics you want to explore, stances you want to take, and news you plan to share.
Since Clubhouse is audio-only, you don’t have to physically prepare yourself like you would for an in-person or video-inclusive meeting, or worry about any notes you’ve taken showing up on-screen. You can surround yourself with a mountain of virtual and sticky note reminders, and no one will be the wiser.
Give Everyone Their Moment at the Mic
Clubhouse makes a great space for employees at all levels of your organization to lend their voice wherever it is best suited. While we do recommend having certain guidelines established regarding what should and shouldn’t be shared for brand safety, as noted above, it’s important to tap into the passions, skills, and knowledge of your team—from interns to the CEO.
In a Vogue Business article that delves into the “intimacy” appeal of Clubhouse, Moj Mahdara, co-founder and CEO of Beautycon Media, shared their take on the downside of over-regulation…
“I think it will be a very bad idea for brands to regulate who on their teams can and cannot speak,” says Mahdara. “If you have an enthusiast within your brand who is enthusiastic about the formulation, productions, upcoming SKUs or strategy, they [should be allowed to speak]. We are in an era of collaboration over competition. That’s the most important thing for people to understand.”
According to the famous quote by Oscar Wilde, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” though in the digital world, we’d be keen to argue that imitation is the greatest indicator of success. After all, people like Mark Zuckerberg don’t tend to copy things they don’t see immense value in.
There are already a number of “Clubhouse clones” reportedly in development from some of the biggest names in social media and audio streaming, and we expect more to follow.
- Facebook: The New York Times reported in February 2021 that Facebook has their own version of a Clubhouse-style product in the works. This news came after Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, surprised the hosts of “Good Time” by joining an interview planned with another Facebook executive, sharing some of his thoughts about the future of AR and VR.
- Twitter: The social broadcasting app Breaker was acquired by Twitter in early January 2021, with that team slated to “work on Twitter’s new audio-based networking project, Twitter Spaces.” While Clubhouse is a standalone app, Spaces lives within the Twitter app. Twitter announced that they have set a goal “to release Spaces for all its users in April,” something that would give them a decided edge over Clubhouse, which is currently still operating on an invitation-only model. Another Twitter advantage is scale—”…while people are now working to build audiences on Clubhouse, most users already have established followings on Twitter, which they could use to expand their reach with their audio rooms much quicker.”
- Amazon: While not quite a Clubhouse rival, Amazon’s acquisition of Wondery in late 2020 shows the power of podcasts in an age when we’re more digitally connected – and physically spending a lot more time in our homes – than ever before.
- Sirius XM & Spotify: Further underscoring the growing interest in the podcast industry, Sirius XM’s acquisition of Stitcher and Spotify’s acquisition of Gimlet Media, Parcast and Anchor definitely have the companies showing their cards.
Should Brands Wait to See How Facebook and Twitter Platforms Compare?
With social media giants Facebook and Twitter both actively working on Clubhouse-type projects, it is understandable that some brands may choose to “sit out Clubhouse.” It is natural to gravitate toward platforms that we are not only familiar with, but understand how to leverage in accomplishing a variety of marketing goals based on years of experience working in them.
However, there are some considerations we recommend you keep in mind to help decide what’s best for your business, including ways in which Clubhouse has an edge over the competition.
- Clubhouse is still in beta; it’s not just new to brands, but new to users, as well. Simply put, the app hasn’t existed long enough to have experts, and the “rules” are still being written. Those who get in early are given a valuable opportunity to help shape what the app grows to become, learning along the way from the successes, innovative uses, and missteps of others.
- It doesn’t have to be a “one or the other” decision. Many brands are already maintaining an active presence on a variety of platforms, to include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest and Snapchat. Becoming active on Clubhouse doesn’t have to mean that you ignore similar platforms to come, nor does it mean you have to stay active on any of them indefinitely.
- One of Clubhouse’s major advantages is that by the nature of being first, they got a headstart on identifying and addressing what’s going right—and what’s going wrong—in real time. They have invaluable first party data to analyze and guide them on making the most important changes and updates. The more users the app has, the more statistically significant that data becomes. By engaging on the platform in its earliest stages, you are actually helping Clubhouse to improve.
- Clubhouse offers more room for experimentation, particularly for brands that already have carefully crafted strategies in place for other social media platforms. If you’ve already invested a great deal of time, money, and effort into your Facebook or Twitter plan of action for upcoming months, adding a whole new avenue of connection within the same space may necessitate going back to the drawing board on a few things. With Clubhouse, you can jump in fresh and do something as similar—or different—from what you’re doing on other social platforms as you’d like.
Navigating Clubhouse Features
At the top of your Clubhouse feed, you will find a magnifying glass, envelope icon, calendar icon, bell icon, and your profile picture. Let’s explore the function of each:
- Magnifying Glass: Click here to be taken to the Clubhouse Explore page, where you can find people to follow, conversations about each primary category, and search for People and Clubs
- Clubhouse Envelope Icon: Click here to see how many invites you have available, and a list of your contacts to send invites to (assuming you have shared your contacts). Below each of your contacts’ names, it will display how many friends they already have on Clubhouse. This is the number of existing Clubhouse members who have shared their phone contacts with Clubhouse, and also have that person’s phone number stored on their device. As is noted in this article focused on Clubhouse User Suggestions, that insight does come with some privacy concerns
- Clubhouse Calendar Icon: Click here to see events that are “Upcoming For You,” or toggle to see just “My Events.” Upcoming events are events that might appeal to you based on the interests you’ve previously selected and clubs you’ve joined, while “My Events” are events that you have personally created. If you haven’t created any events, you can do so by clicking the Calendar icon with a + sign in the “Upcoming For You” or “My Events” feeds. Be sure to share a link to your event across all your social media channels for maximum exposure.
- Clubhouse Bell Icon: Click here to be taken to your activity feed—or “hallway”—which highlights recently scheduled events and new rooms
- Clubhouse Profile Picture: Click here to be taken to your profile page, which showcases your picture, real name (or brand name), Clubhouse handle, follower and following count, editable biography area, the option to link your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts, which clubs you are a member of, and the name of the person who nominated you, along with the date you joined
Pulling Back the Curtain
As advertisers, many of us are accustomed to doing much of the heavy lifting “behind the scenes.” We work closely with our clients to understand their goals, create and optimize their assets, build and develop their campaigns, and continue to innovate based on performance, changes in their particular vertical, and fluctuations in the performance marketing landscape as a whole. Much like parents sending their child off to the first day of college, we arm our campaigns with everything they need to succeed, and take a step back to see how everything falls into place.
Our next steps are informed by how well that “launch” performs, and we continue to adjust and improve our methodology. But with Clubhouse, there is no behind the scenes curtain to work behind. To be seen – or in this case, heard – you have to be an active part of the conversation. Literally.
Want to learn more about joining that conversation in a very deliberate, strategic way that embraces innovative tactics with a brand-safety focus? Contact us today—no invite required!