Imagine being in the same room with Adam Grant, Edward Snowden, and Brittany Kaiserto discuss topics about digital privacy; you can “raise your hand” to speak directly to everyone in the room and ask them about the future of data privacy. While most social media platforms use one medium or a combination of text, image, and video, Clubhouse has introduced a new wave of social audio since its launch in March 2020. Originally built on podcasting, Clubhouse allows users to hold live discussions with the public by starting a chat room or joining one. Having grown to 8.1 million downloads by Feb 15, 2021, Clubhouse is a new avenue for businesses including wine brands to reach to both existing and potential customers.
The allure of Clubhouse started as a by-invitation-only application drawing industry thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and public figures. Clubhouse brings back the 90’s AOL chat room appeal using human voice, a trait as unique to the individual as fingerprints to forge social connection. Only text is exchanged in direct messaging. To share an image, you may change your profile picture and announce “PTR” – pull to refresh, so that others can see your new profile. Live conversations are not recorded, encouraging users to check what’s happening and continue to do so. Chat hosts may also schedule, announce events, and even ping users to join chats.
A milestone hype started with Elon Musk’s tweet announcing his chat on Jan 31. His room quickly hit the 5,000-audience limit, which led to other rooms and even YouTubers live broadcasting his chat. Now valued at $4 billion, Clubhouse is a true unicorn company with 58 employees without a clear business model.
In the age of social media, Clubhouse breaks away from perfectly curated, heavily edited content and over reliance on visuals, effectively separating exhibitionist influencers from true content creators who offer value of substance. For businesses, audio is valuable, highly scalable content without the production cost. It breaks the barrier to reach experts, allowing anyone to share their passionate opinions with industry experts, while forgoing the hassles of video. One can be in their pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee and have the most incredible discussion about AI, wine tech or which appetizer to pair with a Pink Prosecco.
Guidelines, changes, and updates
Having just graduated from beta and opening up to general public in late July, Clubhouse continues to test different algorithms and push new features weekly. It helps to know the guidelines to get started. Clubhouse Founders also host a Sunday morning town hall at 9am, where they go through questions and updates.
How can wine brands use clubhouse?
For wine businesses, Clubhouse means new opportunities to increase brand exposure, brand equity and consumer engagement. Studies have shown that consumers are loyal to brands they follow on social media because they feel a personal connection. Clubhouse allows wineries to become a community focused on discovery, entertainment, knowledge and customer feedback. Brands can add value by creating an inclusive community, a space to connect with their customers. We explain more mechanisms below.
What about advertising?
Clubhouse is still an early-stage startup without a clear business model. As with most big tech companies, advertising seems to be the default route. While Clubhouse does not offer any in-app advertising right now, Clubroll.io allows Clubhouse users to monetize a club, sponsor a club or event, or speak at an event.
Strategies to connect with your customers
Indirect marketing allows your brand to share your brand through subtle content and messaging which builds brand awareness and familiarity with potential customers. Here are several strategies to leverage Clubhouse for indirect marketing:
- Sponsor rooms to show your brand values and personality: Sponsor a room and invite guests to participate in a conversation where they take questions from the audience. It can inspire the audience to research about your brand. Make sure you have a website pop-up on the top results for your brand to engage in a natural conversation about what your brand is doing, rather than direct brand promotion.
- Partnerships and product placement: Leverage other synergistic brands to host a room. For example, a cooking show where a wine can be main partner.
- Ask me anything (AMA) rooms: These rooms can be a direct channel to the winemaking team. Many winemakers don’t feel completely comfortable in front of the cameras, so they can be behind the mic.
- Membership or entrance fee: Exclusive and small events with more focused, personalized interactions
- Become a room moderator: The room moderator is the soul of the room. Every 10-15 minutes the moderator should reset the room and welcome guests. Ideally, the moderator should a bright personality and some wine knowledge to humanize the brand and bring organic engagement with customers, rather than talking at the audience.
- Tips & Fun facts: In these rooms, wine educators participate and contribute their knowledge. Moderators can organize discussions around some topics and let the audience lead the way with questions.
- Join relevant rooms and conversations: Stay on top of new trends, content, and opportunities for your brand
- Networking events: These events can be a combination of AMA and sponsored rooms, for instance, connecting brands with distributors. Single people from your wine club might be a fun virtual event. The platform enables users to talk to each other in a separate room.
- Paid guests: Paid guests can increase brand awareness and association. From comedians to influencers, interesting guests can boost some conversations around the brand.
Choose your moderator wisely
The role of a moderator, who sets rules for the room and invites speakers onto the stage, is crucial to the success of a chat room. According to Kat Stark, Director of Experiences at Wine.com, “Good moderators scan the room to invite people onto the stage and stay engaged with the audience. They let the conversation flow and make an inclusive environment by promoting edutainment.” While technical expertise is important, the ideal moderator needs an inviting disposition and stays in tune with the audience. As Stark added, “Too technical or too dry, you lose the crowd”. Finally, moderators need to contribute to spontaneity and keep it raw by resetting the room every 10-15 minutes. Stark remarked, “There is a serendipity in Clubhouse, you don’t know exactly what it is going to happen.” And that is what keeps people coming back for more.
Is Clubhouse here to stay?
Several platforms, including predecessors have already introduced audio alternatives to take market share. Facebook announced their live attempt in June. Spotify Greenroom, LinkedIn and Twitter Spaces also announced their own versions of social audio. Voice is growing rapidly: Almost 40 percent of internet users in the US are users of voice search (eMarketer, 2019). Clubhouse turned down a $4 billion offer from Twitter. It is a strong sign that Clubhouse can shake the social media platforms.
Clubhouse has done an astonishing work and kept it transparent. They have addressed changes and taken customer feedback, changing the way how influencers can monetize in virtual platforms. While privacy issues persist, as with many other tech companies, their innovative approach to social media has been paying off their investment.
The wine industry can certainly leverage this platform that is still on the early stages. First movers’ approach can gain expertise and market share, especially for small producers with limited resources.
- Clubhouse App: How to Get Started (A Comprehensive Guide), Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7gv7U-rZl8
- Opening Day, Available at: https://blog.clubhouse.com/opening-day
- How Many Users Does Clubhouse Have? 40+ Clubhouse Stats, Available at: https://backlinko.com/clubhouse-users
- Clubhouse Community Guidelines, Available at: https://www.notion.so/joinclubhouse/Community-Guidelines-461a6860abda41649e17c34dc1dd4b5f
- 90% of people buy from brands they follow on social media, study says, Available at: https://www.marketingdive.com/news/90-of-people-buy-from-brands-they-follow-on-social-media-study-says/577882/
- Clubhouse Offers Creative Marketing Opportunities for Brands, Available at: https://www.rethink.industries/article/clubhouse-offers-creative-marketing-opportunities-for-brands/
- How to Start a Clubhouse Room and Moderate Like a Pro, Available at: https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-start-a-clubhouse-room-and-moderate-like-a-pro/
- Facebook takes on Clubhouse, but its success is far from guaranteed, Available at: https://www.emarketer.com/content/facebook-takes-on-clubhouse-its-success-far-guaranteed
- US Voice Assistant Users 2019, Available at: https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-voice-assistant-users-2019
- Clubhouse closes an undisclosed $4B valuation Series C round, as tech giants’ clones circle, Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/19/clubhouse/
- Clubhouse: The Hot New Social Network Has Big Privacy Problems, Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/barrycollins/2021/02/10/clubhouse-the-hot-new-social-network-has-big-privacy-problems/?sh=3a42ffcbe4c3
By Pierre Costa and Fiona Fang
Pierre Lincoln Costa ([email protected]) is Adjunct Professor at Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute and the Founder of SommDigital, a firm that focuses on offering digital marketing solutions to global wineries (http://SommDigital.com). Fiona Fang recently graduated from the Wine MBA program at Sonoma State University, where she also served as Research Assistant. She currently leads Strategic Partnerships at Somm Says, a wine marketing intelligence platform.
Expert Editorials are guest writer articles by those with expertise on a specific topic relevant to the wine industry. Send pitches to [email protected].