Clubhouse is the invite-only audio app that has taken the social media world by storm. Some have described Clubhouse as the “first AirPods social network”, others as “Zoom with a Community”… but how does it work?
Users can join and listen in on conversation rooms with celebrities like Oprah, Elon Musk, Drake and others. At present, a Clubhouse experience consists of networking opportunities, panel discussions and live podcasts hosted by thought-leaders, CEOs, celebrities on specific passions such as marketing, writing, mental health, wellness, sport or investing.
The barrier to participate in conversations on Clubhouse is incredibly low—all a user has to do is raise their hand. This alerts panel moderators, who can then invite the user onto the stage to ask their question. Clubhouse has simplified content creation; creating a one-time room is significantly easier than starting a podcast series or making video content.
The app launched in May 2020, and has since gained 6 million registered users with 2 million monthly active users. When a user joins, Clubhouse immediately suggests top influencers to follow on the app, depending on the topics the users have said they are interested in. Some of the thought leaders on the app are room moderators—the Clubhouse influencers—who host conversation rooms and keep conversations and questions flowing.
Recently, Clubhouse has developed an influencer program to help these moderators hone their presenting and hosting skills. The Creator Pilot Program currently consists of around 40 moderators/influencers that represent the new class of online fame. They have regular meetings with Clubhouse founders, where they discuss how influencer strategies might be received on the app, and are granted early access to special tools designed for power users. In doing this, Clubhouse is cultivating its very own celebrities.
Most influencers under Clubhouse’s program have regular and popular shows that generally have thousands of listeners, though others are members of smaller, more dedicated groups.
Influencer Marketing on Clubhouse: The Opportunities
With developments of influencer programs underway in Clubhouse, it raises the question of what are the opportunities brands have for influencer marketing? Since the app is so new, we are yet to see brands really make the most of what it has to offer.
At present, the app favours those who are already famous, so the best opportunity for brands is to leverage influential people from within the company. For example, the CEO of an automotive company could host a discussion about the future of electric vehicles, or the CMOs of a food company coils discuss changing consumer behaviour in nutrition and diets.
One brand who has made headway on the app is Pernod Ricard’s Martell. The cognac brand partnered with global marketing content creator Karen Civil to celebrate black female entrepreneurs throughout Black History Month. Every week in February, Martell and Civil are hosting Clubhouse discussion rooms with guest speakers who are CEOs of other black owned businesses. Civil and the other guest speakers have taken to Instagram to promote the discussion, potentially bringing in some of their existing audience members.
Martell’s own Instagram account has regularly shared updates on discussions and guest speakers, as well as clips of key moments from previous discussions. The nature of Clubhouse discourages users recording conversations, which adds to the air of exclusivity around the app; it’s a “be there or be square” mentality.
While Martell has used influential thought-leaders as influencers, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), who own Popeyes, Burger King and Tim Horton’s, hosted an open forum that users could join to listen in on a discussion about the post Q4 earnings call, run by company executives. Users could ask questions to RBI chief corporate officer Duncan Fulton and Burger King CMO Ellie Doty, creating an open environment and positioning their executives as influencers. The event was mainly run as a podcast, with executives explaining the current financial and marketing situation alongside the company’s sustainability work in hope of interesting aspiring marketers and consumers. The event had around 130 listeners rangin from restaurant operators and RBI employees to marketers, press and PR professionals.
Clubhouse presents the opportunity for brands to be directly involved in communicating with press and their audiences. Brands can position their own employees as influencers and thought-leaders on the app, which will help consumers see the brand as open and authentic. This allows brands to be significantly more in control of the messaging shared and lets them respond immediately to any questions from customers. This will ultimately strengthen the relationship between brand and consumer, without the help of middle-men or influencers.
Since those who are popular and most-followed on the app are predominantly thought-leaders, business owners or celebrities, brands could collaborate with thought-leaders that share the same values as them, as seen with Martell. This helps raise brand awareness within the right communities and passion-points and confirms the brand’s position as a market leader as it has used a recognised professional to endorse it. In addition, it helps put a face to a brand which is helpful in an audio-focused app. If a user connects with the thought-leader, they will connect with the brand by association.
There is a potential issue that paid-influencers on Clubhouse will take away the transparency and authenticity the app currently possesses. A way brands can work around this is to use brand ambassadors, rather than one-off collaborations. Not only would this help brands keep their authenticity on Clubhouse, it would also create a relationship between brands and select influencers, which would keep the partnership authentic on other social media platforms.