Clubhouse for Public Relations: An Opp or Crisis Waiting to Happen?

In case you haven’t read the news or participated in any social networking sites recently, Clubhouse is an invite-only social audio app that launched last year in 2020. In December, it was valued at nearly $100 million. One month later, that valuation hit $1B dollars. If you need an invite, let me know.

I have been asked by a few people whether or not brands should include Clubhouse in their PR strategy. It’s an excellent question and one that was asked when Twitter first launched and Facebook opened up to the general public.

It’s tough to say yes or no, but it depends. It sounds like a copout, but it does. Every company is different. Every PR team is different. Some are more risk-averse, while others may take a more sophisticated approach to a PR strategy where the risk is worth it.

After spending a few months using Clubhouse mainly as a participant, I put together some thoughts and observations below. And to be clear, these should always be considered before jumping head first into any new and emerging social media app.

Let’s start with the benefits of using Clubhouse for public relations and other marketing communications channels.

Controlled messaging: This is a very “PR” thing, but it is true. As a moderator in Clubhouse, you can allow others to participate in the conversation. You can add and remove participants from the stage with a button. Clubhouse is an online community, not a megaphone, so having more than one person speak is the way it works. There is no other option when using the app.

Influential audiences: For the first six months, Clubhouse was primarily used by early adopters – VCs, founders, music execs and connoisseurs, and journalists. And now that it’s opened up and invites are swarming the Internet, usage has skyrocketed. Anecdotally, I can see that most of the users on Clubhouse are active across multiple social media channels, with many using Twitter to amplify the rooms, clubs, or discussions they are participating in. And while influence is subjective, I would venture to say that most current users have engaged communities across these channels.

Traditional media is all over it: As with most shiny new objects, the technology and business news outlets cover Clubhouse exponentially higher than last year. There are several reasons that I won’t go into. However, I have seen several journalists and reporters across multiple sectors like business, technology, and sports start-ups engage their audiences while discussing the topics they typically write about.

Here are some things to watch out for if you consider using Clubhouse for public relations or other marketing initiatives.

Controlled messaging. While controlled messaging has its advantages, it is also something that brands must be careful with when engaging in new platforms like Clubhouse. Years ago, my friend Jeremiah Owyang wrote a post about social media participation highlighting two types of users – corporatists and purists. A purist is someone who doesn’t want brands to participate in social media and is typically against all advertising within the community. They want the conversation to be natural and pure, as if it were happening in person.

A corporatist is an opposite. It’s typically someone who works within an organization and is trying to figure out how to spread brand messages across the platform to reach their target audience.

Currently, Clubhouse is in its very early stages of adoption and growth. I would say that the majority of conversations are pure and natural. Now might not be a good time for large brands to participate. There are always exceptions to the rule, however.

This means that if a brand or company representatives engage in the platform, they must do so authentically and transparently. This community will see right through corporate messaging and subtle brand advertising. I have already seen several individuals get called out for their business or consultancy self-promotion, and it’s not pretty. Here’s some data and Clubhouse statistics that will provide a deeper look at the audience and topics.

The content has a short life span: As with most social platforms, especially ones like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram Stories, the shelf life of native content is minimal. Meaning, unless the content is viral (I wouldn’t say I like that word), it will only engage audiences for a finite period. There is no way to reference or find that content one month, two months, or a year after publication. Not that it will be gone forever, but it won’t be discoverable unless it was shared multiple times.

Currently, the content in the social platforms listed above is not indexed in Google. That means if you host a room about sneakers, artificial intelligence, or leadership, there is no record of the content, and it will have zero visibility in Google in the future. One of the community rules in Clubhouse is that users are prohibited from recording the discussions in a room. This certainly may change in the future. I see a future situation where Clubhouse rooms could be live-streamed directly to YouTube. And we all know that YouTube content indexes well on Google.

Hard to track: As with most new social apps, Clubhouse does not have the capabilities to deliver actionable insights and measure the effectiveness of any program, club, room, or engagement within that room. So it may be hard to justify spending time and budget using the app for business reasons.

I am very excited about the potential of Clubhouse for PR. I am learning a lot about topics that interest me. Even as a listener, I am engaged and growing.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.