Clubhouse Boom or Bust? What We Learned Recording a Live Podcast
March 16, 2021
It’s safe to say that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of Clubhouse, the audio-first social platform. Clubhouse has taken the social world by storm, with dedicated rooms on everything from traveling solo and skincare to entrepreneurship, being a woman in tech, and everything in between.
As a video and audio marketing platform provider, our team was intrigued by the concept. A few folks secured early invites (the app is currently only available via an invite from an existing user) and got a lay of the land.
We finally decided to take the plunge as a company when Sahil Lavingia, a guest for our Talking Too Loud podcast, offered to collaborate for an event. Sahil, CEO of Gumroad, has gone all-in on Clubhouse, going as far as moving all company meetings to the platform.
There’s already a ton of content floating around about what Clubhouse is (and what it isn’t), best practices for leveraging the platform, and so on. So, instead of covering the basics, we’re going to share our first-hand experience using the platform. What worked? What didn’t? Plus, we asked a few Wistians for their take on the audio-first experience and their thoughts on the platform’s future (spoiler alert: it gets spicy!).
Recording a Podcast on Clubhouse 🎙️
Ok, so first things first — How did we record a podcast episode on Clubhouse? For clarity — we weren’t able to record or save the audio with the Clubhouse app. That would have been great, but it’s simply not a feature within the app. Instead, we had our podcast team leverage their existing setups to record the episode and simply had everyone add their phone into the mix for the Clubhouse event.
We had Wistia CEO Chris Savage schedule the room and add Sahil as a Co-Host. Chris is new to the platform, but Sahil has been active since the app launched and has amassed over 250,000 followers and counting, so we were really hoping to capitalize on his audience.
We did a soft promotion for the event with organic posts across social media. We also had Chris post on his personal accounts to leverage his following. All promotions drove people to the same event landing page within the app.
During the event, the audience peaked at 228 listeners. We noticed the largest influx of listeners right after the event began, which is most likely attributed to those handy push notifications that alerted folks when the room was live. However, this is a very conservative estimate of reach as people tend to drop in and out of rooms casually. Unfortunately, Clubhouse doesn’t offer any analytics on total listenership (yet).
The entire conversation lasted about 70 minutes, including the Q&A portion at the end. Chris and Sahil took a few questions from listeners, and both really love the interactive aspect that the platform offers.
What worked well 👍
Overall, the event was incredibly easy to plan and execute, especially when comparing it to other online “events” like webinars, virtual conferences, etc. This was a big plus for our team. Sahil confirmed his availability Friday afternoon, and we had a promotion plan ready and the event scheduled in the Clubhouse app before we signed off for the weekend.
If you’re following someone, you get a notification when they go live. It’s almost reminiscent of the old Facebook live days. This is great for exposure, but also keep in mind that this doesn’t work if folks have notifications disabled, and there’s no data telling us how many people do or don’t allow notifications at this point.
The ability to solicit real-time feedback and interact with the audience was also great for our team. The platform seems like a great fit for passive listening and folks who want a more engaging experience.
What needs work 👎
Just like anything new, there’s still relatively little information available about the platform. Our team was able to stumble through it quickly enough, but as the platform grows, more buttoned-up documentation will help make sure users are making the most of the tool.
There’s still some ambiguity on how brands can best leverage the platform. Currently, Clubhouse does not have business or company accounts; everything is managed through individual users. This presents an exciting opportunity for brands to humanize their presence by elevating internal thought leaders but could also be a blocker for smaller companies with limited resources or that rely heavily on their brand for communications.
The lack of transparency and analytics also leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the business and marketing crowd. It could be hard to justify the platform as a legitimate player in the social space until this happens.
Is Wistia jumping on the Clubhouse bandwagon? 🤷
Finally, the elephant in the room — are we jumping on the Clubhouse bandwagon with dedicated resources for the platform? Well, no. We plan to experiment more and leverage the platform as a tool for the right occasions. What are the right occasions? We don’t know! We’re still figuring this out just like everyone else.
The lift to set up and run a room was relatively low, but there are so many unknowns to navigate. Will events be worth our time if our hosts don’t have a strong following? How much time does it take to build a following, and is it worth the effort?
We see Clubhouse as a fun place to experiment with for new show launches, live podcast episodes, and thought leadership. So, for now, Clubhouse will be an ad hoc addition to larger promotional events and plans.
Clubhouse predictions 🌶️
As promised, we asked the Wistians to share their predictions and hot takes on Clubhouse. Here’s what they had to say!
The team felt pretty confident that the app will continue to evolve as adoption increases. Here are a few specific features we’d love to see:
- Interactivity. While engaging with room participants is great, there’s still plenty of room for innovation on the interactivity front. A few ideas tossed around include live polls to collect quick feedback at scale or emoji reactions to share real-time feedback.
- Analytics. Clubhouse might never have robust analytics since it’s such a fleeting experience, but limited analytics feel like a necessary addition. This could be an especially enticing feature for influencers, marketers, and businesses looking to determine the ROI of investments.
- Private rooms. Currently, Clubhouse rooms are open to anyone and everyone. The app itself is invite-only, so creating private or gated rooms could be a way to extend this exclusive feel. Gated rooms, specifically, would be appealing for marketers and bring a demand generation aspect to the audio-only format.
- Business and brand accounts. This feature is still a little fuzzy as part of the platform’s charm and authenticity is it’s not overly spammed with companies competing and paying to play. However, this could very well happen in the future as the app grows and looks for ways to monetize.
- Influencer marketing and advertising. The most authentic way for advertisers to insert themselves into Clubhouse will be to have their existing brand ambassadors incorporate messaging into a conversation’s natural flow. A less authentic but also very plausible way to entice advertisers would be to roll out an advertising program similar to what other social channels offer.
How people will use the app
Will Clubhouse’s audio-first experience change the way people use social media? Maybe. Here are a few behaviors that might shift to make Clubhouse work.
- Appointment listening. Clubhouse will inspire “appointment listening” for major moments that are too big to miss, like a major celebrity or politician going live. This already happened once with Elon Musk.
- Audio social. Clubhouse has opened the door to bringing audio to social media. Social audio is here to stay and will grow as more platforms get into the game. Clubhouse’s future is dependent on its ability to innovate quickly and drive consistent behavior with users.
- Thought leaders versus brands. Companies who want a “company account” on Clubhouse should focus on creating “Clubs” rather than shoehorning their brands into user accounts meant for “People.” Gumroad and Bloomberg have taken this approach. You can find them by searching for “Clubs.”
When asked about the app’s long-term potential and positioning, our team was split on boom or bust. Here’s what they had to say.
- Boom — Clubhouse is here to stay. The new app is not just a pandemic phenomenon. The return of in-person events and conferences won’t kill Clubhouse. They’re not the only player in that space anymore as Twitter continues to open its version (Spaces) to the general public. What makes Clubhouse stand out is that it’s still exclusive. The only way for someone to get access is to be invited in. For Clubhouse to succeed, they’ll need to get better at providing a curated experience for listeners and make it easier to engage with panelists and moderators. And, they just hired a new Global Head of Marketing, which shows their commitment to making the app stick.
- Bust — Clubhouse will fizzle. Clubhouse is the pandemic counterbalance to Quibi. If it weren’t for the pandemic, Quibi likely would have quickly improved after initially struggling. Clubhouse would have had an initial splash in a normal world but would have fizzled out by now. We’re going to see that happen over the summer as folks get their shots and start getting out of the house more. The getting is good right now thanks to the hype around the platform, but the newness will wear off and decrease activity. It’ll fade into obscurity as soon as Facebook builds a knock-off version (as they have been known to do).
- The best of both worlds? It’s possible for Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces to both succeed because they’re built on wildly different social graphs. Clubhouse uses contacts while Twitter uses followers. They could have distinct use cases based on these different approaches. Some folks also feel that influencer-driven audio is actually Twitter’s to lose. But Twitter has a proven track record of losing (remember Vine?), so it wouldn’t be shocking if they dropped the ball (again).
There you have it, an insider’s perspective on Wistia’s Clubhouse experience. We’re going to continue to experiment and will share our lessons as we learn.
We want to know — what do you think of Clubhouse? Love it? Hate it? Share your own predictions and hot takes below! 👇