‘I don’t think their outlook is dire’: Why a return to in-person events hasn’t deterred marketers on Clubhouse

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The Clubhouse fever may have finally broken as downloads for the live-audio app have started to nosedive over the past several weeks. However, marketers aren’t ready to part with the app just yet, opting to keep it as an experimental channel as the coronavirus pandemic lets up. 

“Clubhouse has quickly ascended to be a stage for thought leaders to exchange and share ideas on different topics, and from a marketing perspective I don’t think the platform will go away anytime soon,” said Paige Francis, vp of global marketing at Marriott International.

Earlier this year, brands and agencies were clamoring to get onto the platform, including Marriott’s Courtyard hotel, which recently hosted an NFL Draft event on Clubhouse. Even as marketers have looked to experiment on the app, it’s still early days. Clubhouse recently rolled out a tipping feature and its first creator accelerator program, vying for content creators for the platform. And it also launched the much-awaited beta version on Android.

Even with those new features it’s possible that the invite-only app’s popularity is tapering off after its rapid rise during the height of the pandemic in the U.S. Last month, Clubhouse saw about 922,000 downloads, a 66% drop from 2.7 million installs in March, mobile app store marketing intelligence platform Sensor Tower told Business Insider. The decrease in downloads may indicate that the app’s popularity is waning.

But while the audience size may be shrinking, marketers say they still see value in the real-time audio app as a supplement to in-person events — especially as more adopt a hybrid model coming out of the pandemic. 

Back in March, the California-based discount auto part brand CarParts.com pulled in an estimated 5,000 listeners at the height of its first-ever investor call hosted on Clubhouse. According to CEO Lev Peker, the numbers were good enough to host a second one this month on the app. This time, an estimated 300 listeners stuck around for the duration of the call. 

Per Peker, it can be hard to get CarParts.com investors from different parts of the world together for quarterly calls and virtual hangout spaces like Clubhouse are invaluable. 

“The fact that everybody is copying them means that they have something here that’s really special,” Peker said, referencing similar platforms like Twitter Spaces that the brand is monitoring. “We’re still kind of looking at the landscape and what’s coming out there. But so far, Clubhouse has met our needs and so we stuck with the platform.”

New York-based hair care brand Susteau has been on Clubhouse by way of its founder CEO Kailey Bradt, who speaks on panels related to clean beauty and startup culture. There’s already a plan to return to in-person events later this year, per Susteau head of marketing Katherine Martinez. Even so, Clubhouse allows for a greater reach and access to industry thought leaders the team wouldn’t normally have access to, and Martinez says they’ll keep it in their social strategy, with continued in-app panels complementing its in-person strategy as a brand awareness tool. 

“The intention was always once things open up again to meet with people again in-person and host events and host panels,” she said. “This has allowed us to forge great relationships with people from across the globe.”

That’s not to say that some marketers aren’t eager to return to in-person events. Melissa Litchfield, CEO of digital advertising agency Litchfield Media, has built up quite the audience on the platform, with more than 5,000 followers on her own account and 10,000 in her Female Marketers Club. She’s excited for pre-pandemic life to return and hopes the connections she’s made on Clubhouse may soon be real life, “just to connect with people you’ve been chatting with on the app.”

With the app recently launching in beta for Android users, she suspects there will be a second wave of users, slowing the platform’s recent decline in users.

“They have already made so many changes that I had wished they had made early on in January,” she said. “I definitely feel like they’re listening in on what people are wanting.” 

With those changes, like the creators initiative and android rollout, Clubhouse may maintain its halo effect as marketers continue to experiment with the platform, according to Mike Herrick, svp of technology at the customer engagement platform Airship. But they’ll have to work at it. 

“They’re competing for attention and thankfully, all of us have better things to do now,” he said. “[But] I don’t think their outlook is dire.”


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