Untapped Potential? The Opportunities and Limitations of Using Clubhouse to Grow Your Brand
Webinars? Been there. Podcasts? Done that. The new kid on the block is Clubhouse.
Clubhouse is the invite-only, audio-only, and iOS-only social media chatroom app that’s comparable to a radio show, live podcast, webinar, phone call, or a combination of all of the above.
While Clubhouse is still somewhat exclusive, the app continues to open to the public as users increasingly send out invites to friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, and often, anyone who asks for one.
And though Clubhouse is only about a year old, today, it has over ten million users.
“Clubhouse (at least at the moment) is very authentic; you have real live people talking aloud about unlimited topics. It has a real draw,” Kady Srinivasan, head of marketing at Klaviyo shared with Marketing Dive.
And if you’re an ecommerce operator, marketer, or direct-to-consumer (DTC) business owner who hears “new social media app,” one of your first thoughts is probably “new customer acquisition channel.”
But is Clubhouse solely a space for connecting for skill development and networking, or is there potential to use it to grow your brand, too? And is it too late to get in on the fun?
Keep reading to discover:
- The basics of Clubhouse
- How ecommerce professionals are using Clubhouse today
- Clubhouse’s opportunities and limitations
The basics of Clubhouse: What you need to know first
If you’re new to Clubhouse, familiarizing yourself with the basics around how the app works is the best place to start to understand how people are using, and could use, the platform.
Here’s everything you need to know about Clubhouse, how to join, how to use it, and what it’s all about.
How to use Clubhouse
In order to create a Clubhouse account, you need another Clubhouse user to invite you via your phone number.
Once you create an account, you can choose any number of interests ranging from biology to beauty. You can also use the search function to find and follow other Clubhouse users, as well as to follow and join different clubs, which are groups that are focused on certain topics or themes.
By following different interests, clubs, and people, Clubhouse will recommend active rooms for you to join on your home feed and via push notifications. A room is a conversation, either scheduled or spontaneous, led by one or more hosts and other panelists.
You can join any room to listen in at any time. Once you join, you can see all the speakers at the top of the screen, and whoever is actively speaking will have a ring around their profile picture.
You’re automatically on mute when you enter a room unless the moderator has given you speaker permission, but if you choose, you can click “Raise hand” if you want to ask a question or make a comment. In order to leave, all you have to do is click “Leave quietly.”
What keeps Clubhouse users coming back
This feeling of being part of something exclusive—and on the reverse side, the fear of missing out (FOMO)—works in Clubhouse’s favor since the app is still invite-only. And because rooms aren’t recorded, you have to be in the right place at the right time to hear the conversations, which (almost) makes all those push notifications worth it.
The other reason people find Clubhouse appealing is that it serves as an antidote for a year of Zoom fatigue. Unlike a Zoom meeting or webinar, you don’t have to worry about turning your video on (in fact, you can’t turn your video on), either as a listener or speaker.
This means that you can rock a full sweat suit while still sharing your knowledge with the best and brightest in your industry. And you don’t have to prepare slides.
“Because Clubhouse is live audio only, there’s no need for attendees to worry about their appearance or high production. Instead, it’s more similar to doing an intimate phone call that others can listen in to,” said Matt Schlicht, CEO and co-founder at Octane AI and Commerce Club, both of which he runs alongside his co-founder Ben Parr.
Ultimately, though, what makes Clubhouse so endearing is how raw the conversations are.
Rooms are unedited. They’re often sporadic or unplanned, and even if certain talking points are prepared, there’s no predicting what kinds of questions or comments listeners will pose when brought on stage.
Rooms are casual and unscripted—you also can’t edit what people say, like you can with a podcast, because all conversations are live. Plus the production value is a lot lower—there’s no theme music, cold openings, or fancy audio setups because most people are just using their built-in iPhone microphones.
Suffice to say, anything goes as far as topics of conversation and questions. Even for big names like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg (who are both Clubhouse users), nothing is off limits, whereas public relations team typically influence in-person interviews and speaking arrangements on other platforms.
Clubhouse feels like a very intimate and authentic way to participate in compelling conversations and hear straight from the horse’s—or host’s—mouth during a time where everyone is craving human connection.
How ecommerce professionals are using Clubhouse today
Clubhouse has quickly become a space for ecommerce founders, marketers, and operators to gather and share strategies with like-minded peers.
In fact, various clubs have emerged that are specifically dedicated to ecommerce, retail, and DTC. A few standout examples include Club CPG and Commerce Club, which tout 29,300 members and 5,400 members, respectively (Commerce Club also boasts 25,000 subscribers to their email newsletter, which includes event alerts, room recaps, show notes, and community activities).
These rooms give users the chance to listen in on topics across ecommerce, spanning everything from pitching your business to investors to conversion strategies and influencer marketing.
For Emily Miethner, co-founder of Your Cat Backpack by Travel Cat, joining the Clubhouse community has been an invaluable way to meet fellow DTC marketers, participate in relevant conversations, ask questions, and even host a few of her own rooms.
“Clubhouse has been a nice way to substitute in-person conferences and networking events. As a founder myself, I had a goal of building my network of ecommerce professionals this year, so when a friend encouraged me to join Clubhouse, I immediately found some great rooms hosted by people in the ecommerce world,” said Emily.
Not to mention, while conferences and in-person events can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, Clubhouse is completely free, making it much more accessible.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it grows or how the growth is stunted once people can get back to doing more in-person events. But I think for now, it’ll continue to be a really great space to connect with people on a deeper level,” Emily added.
Emily has also found that Clubhouse has been an incredible way to get feedback from DTC experts on her marketing strategy, and that often the more niche rooms prove to be most helpful because you can take part in the conversations as an audience member.
“I encourage folks to look for rooms that are interesting to you and that won’t be filled with a thousand plus people, but maybe a few dozen people, and take advantage of going up on stage to participate and ask questions. A lot of marketers are hosting rooms where they want people to come on stage and give feedback, ask for feedback, or pitch something,” she added.
For example, Matt and Ben frequently moderate Office Hours, a room within Commerce Club where people can raise their hand to receive feedback on their ecommerce store or an aspect of their marketing strategy from a panel of industry experts like Kelly Vaughn, Ezra Firestone, Kristen LaFrance, Jason Wong, and Klaviyo’s own Val Geisler.
“Even as someone who does a lot of speaking professionally, it can be very intimidating at first. But I encourage folks to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Go on stage, ask questions, comment, and participate because I think that’s one of the best ways you can get to know other people and they can get to know you. At the very least, it is a great platform for live learning and connecting with folks in any industry,” said Emily.
The future opportunities (and limitations) of Clubhouse
While ecommerce professionals are primarily using Clubhouse for networking and skill development today, there are other opportunities around content creation, community-building, and thought leadership, as well as potential to create brand awareness and even acquire new customers.
On the other hand, many are finding that Clubhouse can be limiting, especially when you compare it to other social media platforms, which makes people hesitant to invest their time in it from a marketing standpoint.
But are they missing out?
The opportunity: Content, community building, and founder-led marketing
Clubhouse provides a space for people to build communities around certain themes, topics, or interests. Because of this, there’s arguably untapped potential for ecommerce marketers to create more brand awareness through the app.
While most of Clubhouse’s conversations aren’t necessarily associated with or led by brands, there’s an opportunity for founders, entrepreneurs, and brand marketers to use Clubhouse to expand their content strategy, similar to how many brands have adopted podcasting—just look at shows from REI or The Clear Cut.
It’s also infinitely easier to test a show on Clubhouse than it is to start a new podcast from scratch.
For example, if you own a nutritional supplement brand, you could host a weekly room about optimizing your morning routine, or if you founded a yoga apparel and accessories brand, you could host guided meditations and mindfulness workshops.
“There’s nothing more important than building relationships and community with your customers, and Clubhouse live audio chat provides an amazing ability for brands to do this. There are so many ways brands can leverage this new distribution channel, from doing town halls with their customers, to interviewing the team who worked on the newest product, to enabling the community to chat and ask questions of a personality related to the topic and mission of the brand,” said Matt Schlicht.
Matt also introduces a great point—that Clubhouse provides the ability for consumers to get up close and personal to the people behind their favorite brands.
For example, Jaleesa Jaikaran, founder of The Beauty Room club on Clubhouse, recently interviewed Maria Hatzistefanis in a room called “Building a Beauty Brand: Why Mindset Matters.” In the room, the conversation revolved around Maria’s journey building and growing Rodial, a luxury skincare brand based in the United Kingdom (UK).
As consumers continue to seek greater transparency from the businesses they buy from, getting to know more about the brand’s story, mission, and values through the founder or other key stakeholders is often a major differentiator—just think about Woody and Helena Hambrecht of Haus, Tiffany Masterson of Drunk Elephant, or Vivian Kaye of KinkyCurlyYaki.
Shoppers are increasingly interested in supporting businesses when the founders have an interesting story, when the products create a better world, or when the brand simply seems more humanized than corporate.
In fact, more than half of consumers will increase their spending brands they feel connected to, and 76 percent will buy from those brands over a competitor, according to Sprout Social. Additionally, 70 percent of consumers report feeling more connected to brands when their CEO is active on social media.
Clubhouse may just be the next opportunity for founder-led brands to break through the noisy world of content marketing in a way that’s educational, inspiring, and entertaining.
Alternatively, brands may eventually want to use Clubhouse in an influencer marketing capacity by sponsoring users or rooms similar to how you might sponsor podcasts. If you don’t have a dedicated “face” of your business, maybe there are certain people in an adjacent space who speak to topics that are relevant to your brand.
For example, if you sell plants or flowers, perhaps there would be an opportunity to partner with a Clubhouse user who frequently speaks about gardening. Or if you sell nighttime CBD to help people fall asleep, you could inquire about sponsoring the Lullaby Club, a group of performances that help people relax at the end of a busy day with a “whisper-only experience.”
But as with any new marketing or social media channel, Clubhouse won’t be a good fit for every business.
Even Maria Hatzistefanis admitted in the room she participated in (which was “powered by” her brand Rodial) that Clubhouse isn’t her main focus for social media marketing.
“My customer is not on Clubhouse right now. My customer’s on Instagram…so that’s where I spend most of my time,” she said.
Additionally, while Emily enjoys the platform for personal use, she confessed she doesn’t have any plans to use the platform to grow the Travel Cat brand—at least, not without some help from growing her community of cat parents.
“I think, as with everything, it depends on your brand. Running Travel Cat, we tend to rely more on visual channels that allow photos and videos. But there are some people within our community that have hosted hangouts and events on Clubhouse to talk about being cat parents,” said Emily.
“If you have an ecommerce brand in a space where you feel you have something to talk about, any platform, including Clubhouse, can be great for community-building. But you do have to keep in mind the limitations of the app,” she added.
Customer acquisition and the limitations of Clubhouse
Should you incorporate Clubhouse into your marketing and social media strategy?
While the platform does present aforementioned opportunities to share your ideas and build your community, it’s much more difficult to create an account for your brand as you would on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
Keep in mind that Clubhouse accounts are associated with your phone number, so you can only set up a branded account if you decide to forfeit a personal account entirely.
Additionally, if you were to set up a branded Clubhouse account, there are still drawbacks in terms of getting people back to your website and actually influencing sales.
This is largely due to the fact that Clubhouse doesn’t allow you to link out to other websites, other than your Twitter and Instagram handle, from your profile.
In order to drive people to your ecommerce site in Clubhouse, the options are less than frictionless: You could mention the URL or in your profile and encourage people to manually type it into their browser when speaking, or you could put the link in your Twitter or Instagram profile bio so people can click from Clubhouse to those profiles to your website.
Of course, not only is this inconvenient for shoppers, it’s also incredibly hard to track attribution.
Additionally, creating rooms on Clubhouse doesn’t give you the same control as setting up a virtual event through other platforms—you don’t have access to registrant data, so you can’t send attendees any information before or after your room takes place unless you create a separate landing page that collects email addresses, like Matt and Ben do for Commerce Club.
And while Clubhouse automatically sends out push notifications when your event takes place to boost attendance numbers, the app has become somewhat infamous for the excessive amount of notifications users receive on a daily basis.
I think I speak for many when I say I’ve become desensitized to Clubhouse notifications, which has made me less likely to pay attention to them and thus join impromptu rooms.
Ultimately, though, wherever there’s an audience, there’s an opportunity to make more connections with current and potential customers. And Clubhouse is relatively low competition compared to more seasoned social media platforms like Instagram or even TikTok, which shot to fame during the pandemic.
If you’re interested in experimenting with Clubhouse, it may be worth creating or joining a cadence of rooms—whether by yourself, with your team members, or through a partner—to create consistency and test engagement.
You could also take a page out of Matt and Ben’s playbook with Commerce Club and use the rooms you moderate to create other derivative content. For example, if you led a room about skincare, you could use the conversation to inform blogs, emails, and social posts.
To that point, consider how Clubhouse can complement your current marketing strategy rather than replace it completely.
Because of Clubhouse’s limitations, be wary of trying it at the expense of your owned marketing channels over which you have direct control, such as your website, email, and text message marketing.
If you’re part of a small team and only have the time for two or three channels, make your efforts count by staying focused on the platforms you’re already using to grow your brand rather than chasing the shiny new toy.
What’s next for Clubhouse
Will Clubhouse plateau or prevail? It’s hard to say, and some might even suggest that Clubhouse burnout is already rampant for many of the early adopters and super users who were spending hours on the platform each week.
But Clubhouse still has a strong user base, and you can find a room to join at virtually any hour that will have dozens of others listening in.
As with anything, Clubhouse will likely find its core members after it reaches mass adoption. And if you ask Matt Schlicht, this is just the beginning for live audio platforms like Clubhouse.
“Live audio events will continue to grow and get stronger, and the same way that every social platform now offers the ability to share images or stories, every platform will enable the ability to have large-scale audio conversations just like Clubhouse does,” he said.
“The same way the rise of visual sharing platforms like Instagram and TikTok gave distribution to a select group of people, audio platforms like Clubhouse will empower an entire new set of thinkers to build powerful audiences for every topic,” he added.
Now with Facebook attempting to create a Clubhouse competitor and Twitter attempting to acquire Clubhouse, it’s clear that this is only just the beginning for live audio.
And while marketers might not currently use Clubhouse in the way that they use other social media channels to create a following, the value comes down to the authenticity this emerging platform provides.
Few other social media platforms give you such an intimate and unedited glimpse into people’s minds. For DTC brands focused on transparency, this could be a gold mine of opportunity.
Or, you can just join one of those aforementioned rooms about cat parenting. That sounds pretty cool, too.
Join Octane AI and Klaviyo on April 15th at 1:00 PM PDT/4:00 PM EDT for “Commerce Conversations: The Mother’s Day DTC Episode” on Commerce Club.
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