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 se Clubhouse for public relations and programs. It’s a really good question and one that was asked when Twitter first launched and Facebook opened up to the general public.
It’s really hard to say yes or no but it depends. Sounds like a copout but it really 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 to say but it is true. As a moderator in Clubhouse, you have the option of allowing others to participate in the conversation. You can add and remove participants from the stage with the click of a button. Obviously, Clubhouse is an online community not a megaphone, so having more than one person speak is just the way it works. There is really no other option when using the app.
Influential audiences: For the first six months or so, 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 media are covering Clubhouse exponentially higher than it had been 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 rooms and engage their audiences while discussing the topics they typically write about.
Here are some things to watch out for if you were thinking about 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 and highlighted 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 the opposite. It’s typically someone who works within an organization and is trying to figure out how to spread brand messages across the platform in order to reach their target audience profile.
Right now, Clubhouse is in it’s very early stages of adoption and growth. I would say that the majority of conversations are pure and real. Now might not be a good time for large brands to participate. There are always exceptions to the rule, however.
What this means is that if a brand or company representatives are engaging in the platform they must do so in a very authentic and transparent way. This community will see right through corporate messaging and subtle brand advertising. I have already seen several individuals get called out for self-promotion of their business or consultancy and it’s not pretty.
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 hate that word), it will only engage audiences for a finite period of time. There is no way to ever reference or find that content one month, two months or a year later after it was published. Not that it will be gone forever, but it won’t be discoverable unless of course it was shared multiple times.
Currently, the content living in the social platforms listed above are not indexed in Google. That simply 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 can definitely see a situation in the future where Clubhouse rooms could be live streamed directly to YouTube. And we all know that YouTube content indexes well in Google.
Hard to track: As with most new social apps, Clubhouse does not have the capabilities to analyze social data in order to measure the effectiveness of any program, club, room or the engagement within that room. So it may be hard to justify time and or budget spending time using the app for business reasons.
Personally, I am very excited about the potential of Clubhouse for PR. I am actually learning a lot about topics interest me. Even as a listener, I am engaged and growing.