No major plays yet: Why Clubhouse has yet to become part of the brand social playbook
Clubhouse is gaining popularity among users, but brands haven’t incorporated the audio-based platform into their core social media strategies just yet. As the vaccine rollout continues and has the potential to reshape consumers’ habits, brands still consider the channel to be an experimental space.
Yet, audio-based platforms are gaining traction and many brands are eager to get in on the ground floor while many of those offerings are still in beta. Earlier this year, Twitter rolled out its own versions of Clubhouse with Twitter Spaces; Facebook was not far behind with its own rival product, per the New York Times.
Where there’s an audience, there’s an opportunity for brands to get their product in front of consumers. Brands like CarParts.com and Restaurant Brands International (holding company for Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons) have hosted investor calls on the app. Meanwhile, dog food brand Pedigree recently hosted a Clubhouse room, with the help of creative agency BBDO NY, geared toward pet adoption.
“There’s been some novel use cases where brand mascots appear in discussions and some experimentation with sponsored chats,” said Nathan Young, head of strategy at Deloitte Digital’s Chicago studio, “but we have not yet seen brands make any major plays.”
Last month, dog food brand Pedigree partnered with three Clubhouse moderators for a conversation on the benefits of pet ownership as it relates to mental and physical health. Listeners could click on the dogs’ profile image to learn more and potentially adopt. The campaign landed four dogs a permanent home, per Craig Neely, vice president of marketing at Pedigree parent company, Mars Petcare.
However, the brand doesn’t currently have plans to do it again.
“We look forward to seeing how Clubhouse grows and will continue to look for new opportunities and platforms where we can further our mission of ending pet homelessness,” Neely said.
Set Active, an activewear brand, also used Clubhouse earlier this year, to host rooms to offer consumers an inside look at the brand. Topics ranged from the inside scoop on influencer marketing to the creative process of developing a new line.
Clubhouse was another way to connect with the Set Active community where consumers could ask questions and Set Active could be “super raw and honest,” according to founder Lindsey Carter. The brand hosted five or six rooms that they considered successful before community feedback caused the team to pull back efforts.
“We’re moving away from it because it’s not something that is super conducive for people who can’t align it with their schedules,” Carter said, noting Clubhouse’s real-time audio feature and inability to save conversations.
Instead, the brand is pivoting to build out its brand podcast and researching a new Instagram feature that allows up to three people to go live at once with Instagram Live Rooms.
“The infrastructure is there with these big applications that are out there like Twitter and Instagram,” she said. “They’re always going to have the ability to pivot based off of what the trend is because the infrastructure is there.”
Clubhouse is still in its early days with no clear monetization strategy or way to buy ad space. When Young talks to clients about new social platforms, he typically advises clients to take a wait-and-see approach. His advice for Clubhouse is no different.
“I’m much more bullish on platforms that are multi-device and have a wide base to build on,” Young said, noting that Twitter Spaces supports Android and iOS users and will be available to all 192 million of its active users once it’s out of beta.
Data and ethics remain a brand’s responsibility when experimenting with new platforms. Transparency regarding data collection and any sponsored content is key, said Tiffany Johnson, director of data analytics and technology at Wunderman Thompson. Her advice to marketers is similar to Young’s.
“Listen first, get a feel for how the app is working,” she said. “It is well thought out. However, there are definitely gaps that need to be fixed.”
Live audio chat platforms boomed in the pandemic as consumers were looking for human connection, per Young. And post-pandemic, there may still be a space for them.
“In a world of screen fatigue, live audio has even more relevance,” Young said. “There’s an audience for this content for sure. The question is ‘how can brands effectively engage?’”
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