If Clubhouse were a party, it would be a roving, underground warehouse rave -- one of those parties that you only hear about by word of mouth, where you have to know the right person to find the address and get in.
Once you’re there and navigate your way into the action, each corridor has a different pulse of energy. The crowd comes from every walk of life: creatives, financial types, social butterflies, executives and more.
It’s a place where people can learn from and connect with individuals they might never meet in their regular day-to-day lives, discussing topics ranging from scientific research to cryptocurrency.
The nine-month-old, invite-only, audio app’s popularity continues to surge, soaring from 2 million registered users in January to 6 million in February. Currently available for download only on iOS devices, its valuation was a staggering $1 billion as of January.
Clubhouse provides exclusive networking and listening opportunities to members in a way seldom seen before. App users can host “rooms” and moderate conversations on topics of their choosing, admitting speakers at their own discretion.
Audience members can listen in to the conversation, raise their hands to participate and provide their POV on the topic if admitted. It’s as if a TED Talk joined forces with a fireside chat at an industry-specific lecture, then morphed into an elite, intimate strategy session with some of the world’s most influential thought leaders.
The 1-9-90 rule states that in online communities, 1% of users are active participants dominating the conversation, 9% observe and contribute sporadically, and 90% are “lurkers” who read or observe content but do not visibly contribute.
The Clubhouse user base is no different. You’ll find a few individuals who are joining every conversation, spending hours a day listening and participating whenever they can, either hoping to build a stronger, more powerful network or simply opening their minds to new ideas and ways of thinking. Others join in occasionally to participate in groups hosted by friends or colleagues, and network with people they already know or are closely connected to. Most users fall into the lurker category.
The app is on the verge of becoming a mainstream social network.
The big draw today is its exclusivity (#inviteonly) and access to A-list thought leaders that wouldn’t normally be possible in everyday life. According to Protein Agency’s 2019 “Dirty Words—Exclusivity” report, exclusivity as a concept has shifted “from a desire for something performative or dramatic to a desire for something personal and specific. The dynamic has shifted from a brand determining what is exclusive to individuals determining what is exclusive to them.”
Clubhouse’s iOS-restricted, invite-only model has fused two types of exclusivity: performative and personal.
Performative exclusivity is brand-determined and relates to the amount of product available, with value placed on consumption and the brand’s vision – think “hypebeast” streetwear culture.
Personal exclusivity is consumer-determined and relates to personalization, with value placed on how a brand is constructed and individual consumer preferences – think personalized dietary supplements a la care/of.
Clubhouse’s fused model has captured the attention of brands and social consumers alike. Clubhouse invites are even being sold on eBay, for prices ranging from $5 to $100.
What happens when the exclusivity and invites fade away? How is value defined? What’s the hook?
Users will still have the opportunity to interact directly with influential individuals like Elon Musk, Marc Andreessen, Tiffany Haddish, and Drake. And beyond the celebrity/FOMO effect, Clubhouse users can create a completely personalized experience by following cultural and topical thought leaders, diving into topics that pique their interest, as well as nurture and expand their personal networks in a more holistic way than other social platforms allow, by engaging in true dialogue with like-minded individuals.
But given that the platform’s focus is solely on contributors and listeners, how can brands make friends at the Clubhouse party, or engage the silent majority?
As with all social networks, consumers have expectations about how brands should behave on Clubhouse and personal limits on how they will engage with them.
Clubhouse is all about providing access to cultural and topical authorities and giving them a platform to share their expertise, and Clubhouse users want to listen and take part in thoughtful discussions. So, by providing access to subject matter experts across corporate and cultural spaces, brands can create genuine relationships with highly invested industry reporters and consumers.
Restaurant Brands International, Burger King’s parent company, is an early Clubhouse adopter. The holding company hosted a room on Feb. 12 to discuss topics including the company’s Q4 results, sustainability efforts, and BK’s consumer engagement.
This conversation allowed the brand to deliver a strategic message, while also providing direct access to interested press outlets and consumers, and unfiltered, real-time feedback.
This level of targeted consumer insight, at no cost to brands, is something that has never been seen before.
RBI reportedly plans to continue these conversations every two weeks by hosting rooms with different speakers.
Another example: Summer Stewart, head of growth at Toolio, a cloud-based retail merchandising platform, organizes weekly conversations with leaders of D2C brands such as Chubbies, Rothy’s and Dagne Dover to discuss the future of data application and technology in the retail industry.
Brands that have yet to harness the power of Clubhouse’s direct-to-consumer access should consider developing content strategies that speak to users who are already interested in their field of work and leveraging the authority of recognizable organizational leaders.
Brands need to position their leaders and stakeholders as trustworthy, reliable experts to cultivate a following, or at least get people to care.
They also need to give the silent majority a way to engage with them by leveraging these rising influencers to be the catalyst to branded discussions.
Meeting consumers where they are with authentic content, delivered by moderators and contributors users already care about, is paramount to leveraging Clubhouse successfully from a brand marketing standpoint.