Ep 47: Serious Social – Is your brand in the club yet?

Right now, Clubhouse is the talk of the town – quite literally. But should brands be on there? Join Katy Howell in this week’s Serious Social as she explores the value Clubhouse can bring to brands and why you should be paying attention to this new social network.

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Full Transcript

Welcome to the Serious Social podcast, created by the straight-talking social media experts at immediate future.

Welcome to serious social

And today we’re going clubbing! Clubhouse is the talk of the social media world. The latest thing to rival Tik Tok conversations in marketing departments around the world.

The big question is, of course, what should brand’s and marketers do about it. Should they do anything at all? Is it littered with opportunities or a flash in the pan driven by lockdown desperation? And whilst blogs, pods and pundits talk about how to use it, I thought we’d take a look at where the value is for businesses and marketers.

Ok, I think I need to backtrack a little. Not everyone knows what Clubhouse is. In a nutshell, it’s a social media app that is audio-based only. You make connections, join clubs, but mostly you join rooms. Rooms you can listen in, interact or lead.

Right now, you’re either in the club, and loving it. In and baffled. Or FOMO waiting for an invite or an android version. Or you couldn’t give a hoot.

Clubhouse may not be the next big social network. It has amassed 2m active users in the last year, but it in no way compares with the big 4 platforms. It has the worst ever UX (I do this for a living, and it took me days to work out how to get around it), it breaks all sorts of privacy laws, and there is word that recordings are kept somewhere in China. It is a wild space. Yet it is significant.  It is signalling a trend for audio that just might stick around. It’s also less algo focused and more self-curated. With an odd sense of freedom in the way that you can connect and choose the content you really want.

It reminds me of the early days in social. When Facebook was all about poking friends and throwing sheep. When brands only got pages in 2006 and then ran millions of dreadful comps to attract followers. A time when Twitter was seen as the free SMS tool (ahh the days when we paid of texts!). Back then all the platforms made mistakes. They had backdoors that could be hacked, they tried functions that clearly failed. The usability of most was appalling, and frustrating, and often broke – remember the Twitter whale was a common occurrence!

So no, Clubhouse isn’t perfect and slick. It is still in Beta. And yes, it’s filled with sleazy snake oil salespeople, it’s attracted many that have planet-sized egos, and you continually stumble across get rich schemes and gurus plugging the latest growth hack. The joy of course is that discussions are e-ephemeral, not recorded and if you find yourself in a room full of nasties. You can turn heel and run without any of the humiliation of leaving an auditorium at a conference.

But, only a few weeks into this increased interest, in the morass of crap, there are the seeds of an audio network that might just prove to be the next big thing. Celebs Oprah, Drake, Kanye, Icons like Elon Musk and Zuckerberg, and business leaders, plus a plethora influencer; are hosting rooms. Niche groups abound – ranging across topics and hobbies. There are knowledge exchanges, Cultural gatherings and shared curiosities. All of which, draw people together. And the networking right now is phenomenal.  So where is the value for you and for brands?

I’d like to start with you

Marketers need to join clubhouse. It is how you will understand the app. It’s how you will sense how it is being used and where the opportunities lie. Once you’re in, you need to hang out, to get the hang of it.

You need to work out how it works for you. Who you want to connect with, which rooms you like and which clubs you’ll join? Curate your rooms and start one of your own. When I first started in social, we played and played with the platforms. It is the only way to really uncover how it’s being used, when there are no insight tools and no analytics. Let me give you an example. There is no mechanism right now for approving of what another panellist has said. So users will flash their mute buttons in a form of applause.

So learn how the clubhouse culture is evolving. Be a voyeur for a time. You may even enjoy it.  You’ll also learn the rapidly evolving room etiquette. The need for moderators and panellists not to speak too long, the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to get your Ocado delivery whilst you chat away – (tee hee – you know who you are!). the habit now to “reset the room” because people are joining halfway through and the moving of listeners between panel and the floor.

Get curious and explore the opportunities for coaching, learning, sparking ideas. It is really important to freefall in a new network. Watch how people behave. Look at what draws audiences. Look for your audiences. Build your network. Meet interesting people. And you will find some wonderful people on there, you normally would never come across. One brand marketer chatting the other day said they had met two potential partners.

When a network launches in beta, there is so much that will change that you now have a rare opportunity to see it in its rawest of forms. And that is when you’ll spot the opportunities.

There is an obvious first mover advantage. I was in a room with Brewdog and Fudge kitchen chatting away. There will be more. And it won’t be long before the big brands make their way on to the club. But right now there is no advertising. No paid promotion. The playing field is level. Make the most of it. The companies that do, will learn fast, grow community and create a recognisable audio presence.

There is another good reason to join Clubhouse. Fake profiles are proliferating. With no verification process, it is easy for clubs to be named after brands. For a short period of time Brad Pitt was present – it was not him, but a photographer named Jacob. I’ve found a Quorn Foods lurking on there – although I think I am the only one following. You’ll need to do a bit of brand policing, if nothing else.

Right now, the best way for your brand to be on clubhouse, is to be a person. Not a person named after your brand, but a person who represents your brand. A real human. You can set a club name as your brand, and rooms can be named whatever you want, but it still needs a real-life person to own the conversation. Think conference rather than social network, in its style. This is not something you abdicate to the intern it needs smart savvy and chatty people who have something to say.

Having a brand represented by a person is perfectly timed.  Authenticity is being demanded and trust is at its lowest. People want to know the people behind the biggest brands – they hunger for the human voice. We see it in the growth of voice-based content such as podcasts and audio books. And if this suits your brand, if you can be the personality that people can align with, then It’s time to let them hear you.

You can start small. Maybe a private room with colleagues. A creative meeting whilst you all go for a walk. A chance to talk and be expressive in different ways. It seems so much more friendly than a conference call. Maybe it is because you can see the picture of the people talking.

It’s also a perfect space for a roundtable with customers or industry peeps. A discussion without having to stare into a screen means a much more comfortable dinner conversation for example.

One thing though. Go brand lite and talk about what you know best. Don’t be salesy. Talk about your expertise. Be a thought leader. I do think B2B brands will thrive if they grab the opportunity to share expertise.

The format of clubhouse also lends itself to a brand series. A set of episodes with a star, a celeb or a fantastic storyteller. Unlike a podcast, you can make this interactive. Bring comedy into the room or music and you can create your own two-way radio with your customers. BTW, I have already heard a few preproduced jingles and radio sounds being played!

It also allows you to create community. But small ones. Niche one. Right now, rooms sizes float around a max of 5,000. So, for example, if you’re a consumer brand you might look at segments of your audience. Ones that might value more bespoke conversation.

With no advertising options, some brands are looking to the growing influencers on the network. There may possibly be paid influencer opportunities. Brands should consider how they want to engage content creators, build a co-brand with them or build a community around a few. It’s too early to tell, and right now there’s no way to understand how they’ll be regulated. The platform has only just got round to dealing with trolls.

The options for brands are growing and with a large cash investment into clubhouse, it is likely more functionality will be coming. The key to making the most from clubhouse is to take a strategic approach. You need ask yourselves a few questions. Things like…

  • Is it a good fit for your audience – are they there?
  • How accessible do you want to be as a brand?
  • Can your brand be carried by a person from the company or do you need a celeb, influencer etc.?
  • What will be your voice?
  • How might you deal with complaints?
  • What value is in it for an audience – how will they benefit
  • Where does it fit with your wider marketing strategy?
  • And most importantly, what value is it for your business

The joy of something new is that you can test and learn. You can make mistakes and try again. All without having to throw a big media spend at it. So have some fun. Make customer connections and play with the art of storytelling.

Even if the end of lockdown sees a decline in exponential growth, do not think for one moment that audio is going away. Already Twitter has Spaces launching on a base of 330 million users. It won’t be long till Facebook or insta do the copycat thing. And a new platform for interactive podcasting called Fireside is waiting in the wings.

Marketers will need to lean back into radio days and bring the power of audio to their social media marketing. So get clubbing, have fun and get chatting

That’s it from me. Join CJ next week for another Serious social where he’s going to make very clear why Social Marketing is not, and never will be, Digital PR…

If you’re after more know-how to break the social boring, subscribe now and check out the show notes for links to our website and social profiles.

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