Does Clubhouse have potential to become first choice for brands

While it is an interesting dialogue exchange platform, brands and experts say it lacks in offering well-rounded measurement metrics to necessarily quantify the success of a session and restricts users from revisiting the content. They discuss useful tips and advice for brands to gauge the ROI by bringing in higher engagement levels

Akanksha Nagar
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Clubhouse has gained immense popularity among diverse sets of audiences, brands being one of them. The voice-based social network platform is known for its exclusive invite-only and voice-only features that keep it ahead of other applications in India and has attracted the attention of brands due to its audio experiences.

The attention is so huge that a recent conversation of Skore's 'Cliteracy Drive' in partnership with the platform saw at least 2,000 participants and drove awareness about its orgasm gel, Skore Oh!

In India, a few other brands, including Dunzo and Tinder, are also experimenting with private audio rooms. In fact, Dunzo was one of the first brands that created a Marketing Graveyard, and invited around 70-80 participants from other marquee brands to discuss marketing ideas that never lived to tell the tale.

While a handful of brands are creating exciting content work on the platform, others are in the ‘wait-and-watch’ phase. Despite being proven resourceful for brands, it has its drawbacks such as having no end-to-end encryption, absence of absolute metrics, etc, which are discussed globally.

BuzzInContent finds out how, despite these shortcomings, brands can look forward to having greater results out of the platform.

Vishal Vyas

Vishal Vyas, Assistant Vice-President of Marketing, TTK Healthcare, believes Clubhouse is the kind of place where a brand should look for deeper engagement, qualitative conversation and honest feedback. Any brand that wants to just drive visibility should probably look for other options.

Aarushi Sethi

Aarushi Sethi, Business Head, Pollen (Zoo Media), said several parameters make the live audio streaming application stand out in comparison to other social media platforms.

“The biggest advantage is that it helps brands facilitate two-way real-time communication with an attentive target audience, unlike any other social media platform. It allows for dialogue for listeners to actively engage and participate in a conversation,” she said.

Apart from holding real-time direct conversations with audiences, brands can also build proximity with their audiences to create brand love by identifying like-minded customers.

She said first mover brands will have an invaluable advantage to create stronger resonance by generating invaluable insights, paving the way for stronger brand resonance.

Manas Gulati

Manas Gulati, Co-founder and CEO, Arm Worldwide, said it resonates with the people as it gives them a platform to listen and actively participate in live discussions.

Unlike earlier, when the brands could interact only through webinars or social media platforms wherein the conversations were limited, Clubhouse allows for off-the-cuff discussion. Hence, it's more appealing for its rawness.

Ankoor Dasguupta

While admitting that some brands seem interested in experimenting on the platform, Ankoor Dasguupta, Vice-President, Media, Hashtag Orange, said there are many brands that are still in the ‘wait-and-watch’ phase.

“Experimentation is the key here as it is an ‘invitation-only’ closed ecosystem,” he said.

But is it just the lack of experimentation that is stopping brands from coming on the platform?

Lack of metrics, analytics for brands to measure ROI

Audio in general, and Clubhouse in particular, are both still in nascent phases. Audio still has more scale due to the on-demand nature of it, and Clubhouse less so.

Hence, Vyas doesn’t look at ROI as a mathematical formula in this case. The first mover advantage, the visibility one gets from a premium audience standpoint and media interest (PR), all adds up to what returns the brand has gotten for its partnership with the app.

“Admittedly, it will be low at this point, but that comes with the territory of trying something new. Otherwise you will always be a follower brand. The engagement for the session was good and the audience was active for the whole session. We see this as a start of audio initiatives of Skore and looking to explore more on this front,” he said.

From an analytics standpoint, he agreed that there are definitely some gaps – and more evolved platforms do a much better job at it.

Sethi said one of the key limitations is the app’s current measurement metrics to quantify the success of a session. “The current measurements only include the number of people who joined the room, the length and quality of the conversation held. More insightful analytics on listenership would be helpful for brands,” she said.

“Marketers have taken to pulling data based on the number of people who joined the room, the length and quality of the conversation held, but that cannot be treated as a measurement yardstick,” she said. 

Dasgupta, too, said Clubhouse is a creator economy and that the ROI will not be the conventional one that may be pre-conceived by a marketer. Once more campaigns are done on it, the more one will get to know about the nature of the ‘yield’, the KPIs in relevance to the community-driven model and the challenges in the process.

The app is looking to expand into payments, ticketing and other new revenue streams, which will help to build inroads into deeper metrics that can be measured.

He said brands must be keen to experiment while carefully studying every aspect of that experiment in terms of how the ‘numbers’ have a positive impact on a business mapping to the brand’s campaign goal.

While there might be a lack of metrics on the emerging platform, that doesn’t imply it is impossible to gauge ROI. 

Gulati said several brands have seen ROI on a larger scale in the form of free buzz, and real-time feedback for their products or services. Due to high-profile appearances on the platform, it gives the brands exposure to check the analytics that help them to measure how well their marketing strategy worked.

Other challenges involved

Despite the advantages in terms of scale, cost-effectiveness, and engagement, the audio-chat platform provides no opportunity for brands or users to revisit the content.

Sethi said the ephemeral nature of the content may call for a sense of urgency and direct consumption, but it does not necessarily advocate for an increase in traffic or an elevated experience for all.

There is a need to create awareness about how the platform works and a need to understand how brands can experiment with it, she said.

According to Gulati, a challenge that can also work as an advantage for some is the app being exclusively available and invitation-only. While the concept is engaging and interesting, it limits the users.

Apart from this, the platform recently introduced a way to monetise the popular audio sessions. The sponsorship marketplace for creators and brands will allow for room branding, shout-outs, and thought leadership. The brands reach out to the platforms for paid collaborations, wherein they offer plans either through charging users who join or create it as ad-supported.

These activities, he said, allows the platform to create its own sale via services. The pricing for different gigs varies with every creator charging their amount.

Sethi emphasized that for brands, the opportunities lie in being able to either host a branded room or sponsor rooms hosted by prominent creators or simply aid and join third-party rooms for now. The key advantage here is Clubhouse is building a consumer habit of listening to scheduled content and engage with a high intent audience committed to listening to long format content. The easiest way to explain this is like collaborating with a podcast. They also look after the production of the audio rooms and help in marketing the content as well. Since it is an audio-only platform, the brand collaboration costs for this should be lower than other platform collaborations which focus on video formats.

Given the intimate nature of this medium, she said it's important for brands to enter this category organically and authentically. 

Vyas too emphasised on letting Clubhouse hosts be themselves.

Similar to working with any other content creator, one would want to capitalise on the reasons that make those rooms popular.

In terms of pricing, he said it is presently ad hoc. It is all about perceived value of one’s time, efforts and audience. There isn’t really a benchmark as it is not a widespread activity.

At present, there are only a few brands that are creating their own rooms. Once the scale picks up, he sees brands building own rooms.

Brand safety remains a bigger concern

The app doesn't use end-to-end encryption, a key aspect they need to consider as brands start including the platform in their marketing efforts. As with other social media apps, there are several safety guidelines that users, creators, and brands need to take into account.

While it paves the way for authentic conversations, Sethi said that Clubhouse's policy of not recording the sessions could have several drawbacks.

Dasguupta too observed a couple of issues that may need to be addressed clearly to ensure Clubhouse that is a safe space.

At present, to invite friends, users must share their address book with Clubhouse and in this way, the company collects detailed personal data from contacts who previously consented to the processing of their data and who may not even use the application. Hence, unless the consent of the respective data subjects has been obtained and ideally documented, it is still not safe.

Since the platform will soon be open to wider audiences, Gulati believes it will certainly put more pressure on content moderation, which can potentially lead to brand safety concerns.

Vyas said there is no fool-proof strategy here. Also, if a brand wants tight control, then Clubhouse is not the way to go.

Explaining why some brands are still shying away, he said, firstly, it is ephemeral – so scaling will be tougher. Secondly, it is new and not everyone wants to throw their hat in the ring at the start. Third, some brands may also worry about the fact that there is no content filter. So anyone can say what they want. So brands need to be okay with ceding control to a large extent.

Vyas, however, said that if the platform can sustain interest, drive more users and scale up meaningfully, it has the potential to become the next big thing for brands.