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The Clubhouse app: can it work for your business?

Have you heard of Clubhouse? You’d be forgiven if you haven’t. Up until a few months ago, the app was a hyper-exclusive, invitation-only app limited to the elite of the world, including Oprah, Drake and Kevin Hart.

While that still remains the case, it is slowly but surely opening up, and has taken the world of social media by storm. Half group chat, half podcast, it represents a very contemporary social media platform. But the real question remains: should you care?

Clubhouse’s rise to social media platform fame

Clubhouse app displayed on an iPhone with other apps in the folder

Clubhouse has existed in some form for under two years. Formed initially in the autumn of 2019 by ex-Pinterest Product lead Paul Davinson and ex-Google Engineer Rohan Seth, the first iteration of the Clubhouse app launched on iOs in March 2020. By May 2020, it had 1,500 users and was worth $100 million.

As of April 2021, the audio-based social network app is valued at $4 billion and has around 10 million users. Invites are a hot prospect, with a healthy black market of people surreptitiously selling access to the app for up to $400. Not too shabby for an app that you still can’t officially access on an Android device. But why has it enjoyed such a meteoric rise?

The answer is due in part to Elon Musk. Entrepreneur and business magnate Musk is behind some of the early success of the app. The main reason for this is because Musk used Clubhouse to grill Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on his decision to limit purchasing options for Robinhood users during the Gamestop saga.

This broke through to the mainstream, which raised interest in the app. Clubhouse quickly became a place where business and thought leaders met and discussed ideas. It wasn’t like Twitter or Facebook, where anyone could join, which drove curiosity and demand.

The pros of using the Clubhouse app for business

For businesses, Clubhouse’s exclusivity is undoubtedly a major advantage. Unlike other platforms where you must compete for attention against billions of other users, the curated nature of Clubhouse means that the app offers increased clarity and share of voice you don’t find with other social media platforms.

Context is also key. The app started with a user base of business leaders and entrepreneurs, so users now associate Clubhouse with business.

Using the app never feels intrusive. After all, actively joining a club or room shows members are willing to participate in the conversation, so they’re likely to engage with the conversation. It seems the perfect app to demonstrate expertise and develop brand awareness among a select group of influencers.

Another point to bear in mind is that, by its nature, Clubhouse is not as screen intensive as other platforms. Whereas Facebook, Instagram and Twitter actively demand you engage with a screen, Clubhouse allows you to consume content without keeping your eyes glued to the screen. After what feels like an eternity of Zooms, webinars and Teams meetings, it is a welcome relief and one that people crave.

The cons of using the Clubhouse app for business

Person holding a cup of coffee with phone, laptop and earphones in shot

However, I would temper this enthusiasm with some words of caution. As has been stressed earlier, it is an exclusive app for now, so there’s no actual guarantee that you can join, and even though it now has an impressive 10 million members, Clubhouse remains cagey about its demographics.

It may well be that your target audience isn’t even on the platform. And even if they are, you may struggle to communicate your value proposition, especially compared to other platforms. The nature of the app means that it is long-form content and is often hard to stage-manage, meaning your core message may get lost as part of a longer and more wide-ranging discussion.

As Vlad Tenev found out, keeping on message when you encounter off-topic conversations may be a struggle. Equally, the conversational nature of the app could provide too many pitfalls for risk-averse brands and individuals. While Clubhouse undoubtedly provides the authenticity that Gen Z love, the unfiltered nature of these rambling conversations could also provide plenty of chances for controversy, which could damage your brand’s value.

Social media disrupter

Whatever your opinion, Clubhouse has significantly disrupted the social media landscape. By offering something crucially different to current channels, it has forced the titans of social media to take note.

Mark Zuckerberg has been using Clubhouse to discuss new developments for Facebook and has been working on plans to add a similar audio-only feature to his platform. Twitter was quick to act and now offers the same feature, while both Slack and Discord have similar developments in the pipeline. Whether you join Clubhouse or not, live audio will become part of cross-channel marketing. 

The verdict

So should you join? It depends. Clubhouse undoubtedly has some buzz, and I’d even go so far as to say that it has the potential to become a defining disruptive brand in social, similar to how Uber completely shook up the transportation industry. However, the majority of brands would probably struggle to demonstrate the ROI of using the app, especially considering the amount of time you’d need to spend on the app in order to make waves.

While Clubhouse has started to add monetisation features, at the moment the app is more of a brand-building or awareness channel, so if you are unsure about whether your key audiences are on the platform, it may not be worth the time investment just yet. That said, the live audio room facility may be an excellent tool to set yourself apart from competitors, especially on more established platforms like Facebook and Twitter.