Clubhouse. Do we need a new social media channel, and if so, why?
Updated: Feb 17
Lessons from lockdown and remote working are many. And lack of time remains a consistent challenge in this mix, as the risk of new bad comms habits simply replace the old bad comms habits, with rabbit holes of distraction potentially rife.
So having another new social media channel to add to the mix that already requires juggling, balancing with podcast addiction, webcast overkill and personal brand building challenges might be met with indifference.
Especially when ‘Clubhouse’ as the new kid option only works on Apple phones/ipads, requires an invite from someone you know to get in, and has had mixed reports of unfiltered content offending those listening in.
But one week in as a member and I’m addicted. And it’s an addiction with benefits.
The mould breaker?
Imagine a next gen podcast that headlines a theme but allows and positively encourages discussion on stage from any and all participants listening in. A webcast that eschews slides and monologue for debate. A hyper relevant comms themed Talk Radio station. A networking event that skips the awkward shall-i-talk-to-that-person hesitation and jumps straight to conversations that feel natural. And an event where if you are bored you can quietly leave and join another one without ruffling any feathers or shuffling down seated rows with repeated low voiced apologies.
The model of flicking through a host of organised and moderated events on offer every hour is trial and error. Of course there are ego led rants. Too many rooms of the ‘secret of becoming a billionaire’ type. And some self-interested wallpaper. But for each of those misses you can find the hits that tick your own box. From the content to the hosted style and energy, to the time of day. My addiction is not about quantity of content, but about selective things that inspire.
A significant user benefit is the fact it is audio only. Which means it disruptive but not fully cannibalising of your time. So it’s a good walk-and-talk AirPod led option to throw into daily routines, a radio backdrop option where key things will pique your interest, and of course another nail in the coffin of home fashion as no one can see you bar your icon.
We have become used to being glued to our seats for anything video based, and the need to appear 100% switched on if we are visible. But here we can default to our built in model of multitasking whilst still being ‘on’ as much as want to be. Clearly group voice calls aren’t new, but most don’t come with the content, curation and unexpected new community elements built in.
And while Twitter is a brief but often angry channel, LinkedIn requires smart wordsmithery, and Insta celebrates forms of perfection and ideals, Clubhouse is the organic discussion space that can forge the best parts you gain from the others into something a little more real and genuine. Once you’ve applied your own filters to what you want to see and join. Facebook has some good positive groups and discussions on business and industry themes, but the talk and audio element is the freshness here. Twitter and Facebook are fast looking at adding a voice element themselves on the back of the Clubhouse impact.
The fast track experience
And the benefits? You quickly find like-minded souls. And hear different perspectives on an issue that align with or challenge your own. It’s thought provoking - but importantly too a platform to showcase your own brand and mindset. It’s networking reborn for the low touch economy.
Day one for me was looking around. By two day a friend from a different part of the creative industries suggested a few of us form a ‘room’ (as they are called), and host a session to discuss all things brand comms and marketing. Others are already doing this topic not surprisingly, but its about setting a culture that makes your own version appealing and stand out. After day one of six of us moderating and leading the session, to which about 60 or so guests dropped into the audience, we had such a buzz from the debate that it led to a two day decision to do this daily as an 8AM breakfast session and with another five or so moderators added to the host team.
The audience is growing and fluid (100+ after 4-5 days), the agenda and format is flexible and crowd driven, and it’s a positive and energising start to the day. For mental health when we are remote. For examples of best practice to dig deeper into. For encouraging people to speak what's on their minds. And on the back of the session have come follow up conversations one on one to explore more of what is being discussed in the room, which is a build mentality to definitely encourage. And now a linked in group to share some of what is discussed off line and related spin off rooms take particular topics and expand on them - from trend specific focuses, to beer marketing, to start up advice sessions on a member's specific challenge.
The opportunity here is that the space is organic and there is plenty of room for original thinking to come for members. From topic to tone, from teach-in to workshop, from opinion sharing to working through a person’s live challenge.
All social media is ultimately driven by ego. But the timing of Clubhouse in and around lockdown seems to be bringing out the best in many people, certainly in the rooms I’ve chosen to be in. Hosts and guests are all equally generous with time, opinions, learnings and sharing. Community spirit is the core. Collaboration the energy. And ‘Can do’ the outcome being inspired.
Don't fall into the trap of just following those with the biggest existing
followings. Good salespeople know how to build the numbers this way, but this is a platform where engagement matters most, where relevance is the dna of the right spaces to track down, and where rooms of sub 200 rather than over 500 in the audience will probably give you the best chance to actively engage, and allow for enough time to be spent on questions being asked vs rushing through with surface level attention.
Big questions are still be asked of something new of course. Not least how they will make money as a business, linked to how brands might have a future role to play above and alongside individuals as they clearly will. Will room moderators become a new breed of business influencers beyond their day jobs? Or will the platform attract more business leaders and commentators into moderation in reverse? Musk and Zuckerberg have both shown their faces (or voices rather) and driven extra publicity as a result. How will other channels moving into voice grab their own share of the audio model? And what happens if rooms and moderators are seen to inspire and incite negativity or worse as recent experience on other social channels shows is likely?
We should see pre promoted one-off events in the future. Brands using the space to reveal teasers or fuller level NPD or product reveals. The TED style mantra of curated events with more interaction. And journalists and press q and a sessions with business leaders. The ability to talk off the cuff for those with the presence, confidence and insights to share will add a new dimension to brand-audience engagement, for consumer, b2b or even political organisations. Closed room options mean invite only spaces will increase too.
Freedom and breadth
The conversational USP currently provides more scope perhaps at this early stage than other pure driven social channels have been born with. It’s business and lifestyle . Discussions or topics are not time limited. You need no photoshopping skills. There is less room for fake content. You can’t hide behind words if you don’t have the courage to back them up. And you can’t properly share what is discussed beyond the live chat, as there is deliberately no recording function. Despite that the PR and comms mantra of 'nothing is ever off the record' should remain the guiding principle if you participate.
Less rules should mean more genuine, more open, and more transparent room to share, emote, enthuse and help. That of course comes with more risk too. And what will doubtless be future debates around the sacrosanct freedom of speech and the definitions of that right.
If you are interested in joining and seeing for yourself, I can always see if I can find spare invites.
And if you do join, feel free to visit the daily 8Am debate room, ‘Breakfast with Brand, Marketing & Comms Specialists'.
Coffee and bagels advisable. Dress code optional...