Are You Listening? The Rise of Clubhouse & Social Audio
The last few years have seen a big increase in audio social media, following on from the rise in popularity of podcasts. As you are likely to be aware, Clubhouse is the leader in the space at the moment, but the race is on with the major social media networks all racing to beat it. Let’s have a closer look.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is a live audio social network where users can enter ‘rooms’ to listen to and join in with conversations as well as host their own room for open or private chats. it is a space where a lot of startups and tech leaders gather, as well as brand leaders and influencers, so it’s great for keeping up to date on trends. It’s not just that though – there’s a huge variety of topics being discussed regularly and consequently it’s a very interesting network which, like podcasts, you can listen on the go while doing other things. Clubhouse’s most notable moment so far was when Elon Musk joined a chat and then interviewed the CEO of Robinhood just as that was hitting a crunch moment. Techcrunch did a semi-live blog if you want to catch up on what was discussed.
Since its launch in April 2020, Clubhouse has – obviously – spawned a load of copycats from the established social media platforms, most notably from Twitter, who launched Spaces in November 2020, while Facebook is currently working on a copycat version of its own.
We joined Clubhouse at get go and are part of the beta-testing crew. However, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share a guide for brands for various reasons, including it being restricted to iPhone users only, plus various community and data issues. However, it has finally opened up to Android users in the USA (although functionality is currently a bit restricted), and will roll it out to other English-speaking countries and the rest of the world over the forthcoming months, so now is an excellent time to join up and get active to raise your brand profile while it is still quite exclusive but is it the process of opening up to more people.
In addition, Clubhouse has also improved the usability of the app, and removed or improved elements that were initially causing concern, including the lack of a complaints or moderation procedure, lack of user guidelines, and problems with data privacy, so it’s a lot nicer and safer to use now and that should help bring in more users too. Catch up with what they have done – and are doing – here on the Clubhouse blog.
You currently need to be invited to join Clubhouse, and it looks like this’ll stay the case at least for the foreseeable future according to the founders. Everyone gets a number of invites when they join and clubs can also invite non-users to join now too, so the first thing you need to do if you want to join is to find a current Clubhouse user or club to invite you! Alternatively you can download the app and join the waitlist.
The app is fairly intuitive. You arrive on the main screen (called the ‘Hallway’) and there’s a menu list along the top, where you can search for people or clubs, invite users, calendar of upcoming rooms (you can set an alarm to remind you when chats start), notifications, and your profile. Fill out your profile as you would anywhere on social media. You will see ‘nominated by’ and the name of the user who invited you at the bottom of your profile. Nominations from clubs (instead of users) are when you invite someone off Clubhouse to join your club, and if they accept the nomination badge on their profile will display the name of your club, giving your club (and brand) a nice bit of passive promotion. If any contacts you follow have recently been online there will be a green dot at the bottom right of the screen.
Live chat rooms are lined up ‘in the Hallway’ as you scroll down. You’ll see the numbers of people listening and the speakers under each chat room. You can join any public chat or any chat started by one of your contacts (known as a social chat). There is a regular Community Club that hosts ‘Welcome to Clubhouse’ rooms if you want additional support, and you can stay up to date on Clubhouse developments at their weekly town
You always join a chat room as a listener and are automatically muted. In the chat room you will see there are different zones. At the top of the ‘room’ (the screen) there is ‘the main stage’. The room host is always top left and the rest on the ‘main stage’ are the ‘speakers’ i.e. they have been invited by the host to chat even if they are currently muted. Moderators have a green asterisk next to their name and can control the main settings of the room, as well as the speakers.
Below that are the audience, starting with those who are followed by the speakers, and then the rest of the audience in the room. Any audience members that are Android users will currently have a party popper next to their picture! If you want to join the conversation you can raise your hand by tapping on the hand symbol on the bottom right. You will only be able to unmute and speak if invited to do so by the hosts.
You can click the + sign at the bottom to invite (‘ping’) friends to join, tap on anybody on stage or in the audience to see who they are and follow them if you want to, or choose to follow the chat group. If you follow anyone the app will then suggest similar profiles for you to think about following.
If you want to leave a room, click the peace/ leave quietly button. Note you cannot record the chat nor will you be able to access the chat after it finishes as it isn’t recorded (although users have remote-recorded chats, most notably when some live streamed Elon Musk’s Clubhouse chat via YouTube).
To host a chat yourself, click on the ‘start a room’ button at the bottom of the main screen and choose one of three different options.
- Open: start a room that anyone can join
- Social: start a room with people you follow
- Closed: start a room for only people that you choose
You will need to press ‘+ Add a Topic’ to describe your chat, then you can invite people to the room through the + button and you can invite also one or some to be ‘on stage’ with you. You can make speakers moderators, or move them back into the audience. If an audience member raises their hand you can invite them onto the stage to join the conversation. Remember that chats are not recorded or stored, so once it’s over that’s it.
Brands on Clubhouse
In March 2021 Clubhouse announced a new ‘Creator First’ accelerator program. Clubhouse said that “We are looking to support and equip 20 creators w/ resources they need to bring their ideas and creativity to life.” and said that they will provide financial support and expertise to a selected group of creators with a view to helping them build their audience and monetise their Clubhouse efforts.
This is a good move from Clubhouse, as given the sheer numbers using its rivals it is likely to struggle to compete for Influencers going forward once Twitter’s and Facebook’s audio competitors get in to their stride. However, influencers and brands come in all sizes, and small is often more select. For small/medium businesses and B2B brands whose social media presence is hampered by the mainstream social media platform algorithms reducing their reach and visibility, Clubhouse could be ideal for use in a number of brand and influencer initiatives, such as for expert insights, product launches, company announcements, or even all-day events with designated rooms sponsored by participating brands. We are already starting to see brands using ambassador influencers for hosting chats or moderating discussions, as well as sponsored content, ticketed events and direct payments from listeners to influencers.
If this is of interest to you and your brand, then the best advice is to get involved early, grow your network and start participating in conversations before launching your own regular branded chat. Don’t forget to connect with us on Clubhouse and invite us to join your chat if and when you launch it!