Getting in on the hype
Advertisers and marketers appear to be giving as many talks as they can to grow their followings, some on a weekly basis, knowing that it’s easier to grow presence in the early days of a social network. Professionals are also creating their own clubs. These include the Creative Executive Officers club with 88,000 followers, the Influencer Marketing Secrets club with 53,000 followers and the Black Women Marketers club with 18,000 followers. Since the app lets users share a Twitter and Instagram profile, it’s becoming a popular way for freelancers in the marketing and advertising space to gain business. Many are including their phone numbers to sign people up for their SMS news outreach.
Gil Eyal, founder of influencer platform HYPR, says those wishing to become influencers on Clubhouse are looking at more output and a larger time commitment than they would on TikTok, Instgram or Twitch. “The conversations are time-consuming, and leading one is extremely demanding. This is unlike Twitch, where a huge majority of streamers are streaming games they would be playing anyway,” says Eyal. “Clubhouse hosts need to drop everything and focus on leading their chat." Clubhouse is testing its own "Creator Pilot Program" with more than 40 influencers.
Even though Clubhouse’s emphasis is on individuals, it’s not going to stop brands from trying to create space for themselves. So far, few brands have created profiles, and several ad agencies are trying to determine how brands can embrace the app in an authentic way. Still, brands are staking their claim to app usernames. Chipotle Mexican Grill is at @cmgofficial and Barstool Sports is at @barstool_sports.
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia and co-founder of Resy and Empathy Wines, has been bullish on the rise of the audio-only social space for several years. He has already hosted a number of talks on Clubhouse, where he has 598,000 followers. He says VaynerMedia, which works with companies including Unilever, PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz and Modelez International, is spending “an obnoxious amount of time strategizing brand involvement. We want to be fair to the app and not be a cheesy brand so we’re doing a lot of thoughtful strategy work.” Vaynerchuk envisions how brand spokespeople like Progressive’s Flo, a brewmaster at Budweiser or the head chocolatier at Godiva, could build a following by giving talks that would resonate with brand fans.
Jeff Yang, director of technology at agency On Board Experiential, sees how the audio app could benefit brands hosting events that could be held anywhere, especially during the pandemic. “Those who can’t attend in real life but still desire to be part of the conversation will tune in,” he says. “It’s very similar to following your favorite sports team—if you can’t watch the game on TV, you will happily just listen in.”
Not without frustrations
Clubhouse does not come without its frustrations. Marketers say the rooms can become dominated by moderators, and it can take a while for listeners "raising their hands" with questions to be called on. There’s a high frequency of mobile push alerts, as well as harassment, misinformation and privacy issues, according to the New York Times. This month, China banned the app after thousands of Chinese users flocked to it.
Unlike LinkedIn or Zoom, where conversations can be recorded, talks on Clubhouse disappear as soon as they’re over. That feature helps drive real-time engagement. But for users who want to build presence or grow a business, the lack of any measurement capability is a drawback. Vaynerchuk believes the app will eventually update its user interface with the option to record talks, at which point he might consider turning his podcast into a live Clubhouse talk to feed off a live audience. “I do better with that energy, but I would need them to get a better recording engine,” Vaynerchuk says.
With advertisers and marketers hosting talks every day, there’s the potential of derailing what makes the app attractive to start with. “I think it detracts a bit from having genuine conversations,” says Jeremy Eisengrein, account supervisor at Edelman. “I almost see it as LinkedIn on audio steroids.”
The largest issue Vaynerchuk sees on the app so far are so-called “experts” hosting talks and inviting questions—but failing to deliver. “Stay in your lane of actual expertise or passion,” he says. “Don’t fake it. Be authentic. If you’re just a fan, you can say you’re a fan, don’t say you’re an expert.”
Contributing: Jessica Wohl