Clubhouse lessons for brands from Demi Lovato
Singer Demi Lovato has been on a media blitz this month with interviews in The New York Times and Glamour to promote her YouTube Originals docuseries, “Dancing with the Devil.”
But when it came to her forthcoming album, “Dancing With the Devil … The Art of Starting Over,” Lovato chose a relatively nascent channel to announce it: Clubhouse, the audio-only, invite-only chat app that has been growing like wildfire.
The pop star invited her 55 million followers on Twitter to join her on the app, where she revealed the album to a “room” of fans and industry influencers, including producer Scooter Braun, who teased that Lovato might make an album announcement on Clubhouse to his 3.7 million Twitter followers.
Going live on clubhouse tonight at 7pm PST ✨https://t.co/ESUZlYYray
— Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) March 16, 2021
Entertainment Weekly was among the media that listened in, reporting that she told Clubhouse users, which reached 7,000 during the 75-minute event, that her new album follows “the course of my life and the path it’s taken over the past few years.”
[Note to brands: while chats aren’t recorded, consider anything anyone might say as on-the-record!]
Since its launch almost a year ago, Clubhouse has amassed more than 20 million registered users, according to a March 16 update from independent researcher Vajresh Balaji. The app, which is still in beta, invites users to listen in on chats being held in real-time on an array of topics.
It is also interactive: users can “raise their hand,” have their mic unmuted and add their two cents to the room.
Jeremy Rosenberg, partner and president of marketing innovation for North America at Allison+Partners, says it’s no coincidence that Clubhouse has taken off during the pandemic.
“People have been stuck at home with Zoom fatigue and staring at screens all day, that this is a welcome activity,” he says. “But it also offers community, interactivity and engagement – what people have been craving that you don’t get with a podcast.”
Rosenberg has had “several exploratory discussions with clients about how they could engage Clubhouse,” on everything from thought leadership to product comms.
Like it was leveraged for Lovato, Rosenberg says a brand could take a first-mover advantage and make its own product reveal, “parlaying that engagement into other media, like news articles about, ‘Brand X just debuted a product on Clubhouse, making it the first time that has ever happened.’”
Samara Finn Holland, SVP of influencer marketing at Kaplow Communications, adds “there’s a lot of room for innovation.”
She notes Clubhouse provides mechanisms for event hosting, live reveals and reviews, interactive interviews and Q&As, customer conversations and more, making it great for education, training and thought leadership.
“You don’t need to wait for your CMO to be invited to keynote a conference – you can create the stage for them,” she says.
Given its utility, she says it could also be a great extension for CPG brands, wellness offerings, startups and legacy brands’ marcomms and social engagement strategies.
“Regulated or age-gated industries might want to hold out a bit longer or focus solely on executive leverage and thought leadership,” Holland advises. “Anything that visual or video is inherent to, like fitness classes, may need to think more creatively about what their presence should be.”
One area where Clubhouse is very much lacking: metrics and user data.
“Measurement for Clubhouse is a little tough since they don’t currently provide analytics,” says Julie Gates, SVP, digital and experience technology at WE Communications. “You can see who is listening in a room, but it’s a manual process [of scrolling profile images]. What you can measure, though, is the impact your influencer partnerships or Clubhouse activations have across other channels, which is really important in terms of a holistic content strategy.”
However, this week the app announced an “accelerator” program to help influencers build and monetize their audiences. During a town hall, Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison said the startup will help 20 creators with content, including with income by brokering brand sponsorships.
It also hired Fadia Kader from Instagram as head of media partnerships and creators.
“That should lead to more opportunities for brands, hopefully including more measurement,” says Gates.
Metrics would also help agencies and their clients better identify influencers on Clubhouse. In the absence of that, Balaji has created a leaderboard of the most-followed accounts on Clubhouse.
Those ranked in the top 20 include Clubhouse founders Rohan Seth and Davison, with more than 3.7 and 3.3 million followers; comedian Tiffany Haddish (3.4 million); “Detroit” author Shaka Senghor (2.8 million); “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King (2.7 million); Scooter Braun (2.5 million) and Jeff Carvalho, cofounder of clothing and culture website Highsnobiety (2.5 million).
Experts could also see it being regularly used as part of public affairs campaigns.
“I don’t think Clubhouse replaces anything, but it could supplement other social media tools in terms of rallying and organizing support on an issue and for targeted engagement,” says Alex Conant, founding partner at Firehouse Strategies.
The firm recently helped stage a Clubhouse room for the Community Gym Coalition about the financial crisis facing more than 40,000 gyms and fitness studios nationwide and their need for pandemic relief with the passing of the GYMS Act. The chat featured fitness chain and industry executives, as well as Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and former National Football League players Shawne Marriman and Andrew East.
Noting it was suggested by coalition members who are typically social media savvy, Conant says, “it came about organically and was authentic – what works in modern public affairs.
It attracted several hundred Clubhouse users over the course of the chat.
“We could see who was in the room and the impact of that engagement,” he says. “People were signing up to the mailing list, web traffic was up and it drove engagement on the brand’s other platforms.”
Ultimately, a brand has to have a strategic reason for being on Clubhouse — or any other social media platform, for that matter, says Crystal Duncan, VP, influencer marketing for Edelman Digital.
“If your audience is on something like Clubhouse, then great, that might be a direction to go. But we have clients who haven’t even touched TikTok yet because we’ve done the research and know their audience isn’t there,” says Duncan.
“We had some clients who took a couple of years before they got on Instagram, because there is always a period of testing and watching before a lot of brands get onto something new,” she says. “And that is OK — brands don’t have to get on a platform right away or have a presence on everything. It really depends on the brand’s audience and the message they are trying to get out there.”
The pros say they are keeping their ears to the ground in terms of how Clubhouse evolves.
“The big question mark for the near future is whether this was fun and engaging for people while stuck at home or if it evolves into something more that people do regularly when they’re back in usual routines,” says Rosenberg.
He is inclined to think the latter, since Twitter is planning to launch a rival app, Twitter Spaces, in April and the fact that Facebook is also rumored to be working on an audio app. “That they are building copycats suggest they see this is a big opportunity and that could accelerate tech in a novel comms form,” he says.
“There’s no denying that pandemic life is playing a role in the popularity,” agrees Holland. “But I predict that habits and technology that have emerged during these times will continue beyond reopening as topical communities are built and strengthened.”
She suspects creators will harness Clubhouse’s appointment-viewing listening model.
“If anything, when things return to pre-pandemic life, there may be even more opportunities for engagement — commuting conversations, lunch-time chats and so on,” Holland adds.