The balancing act of communications on Clubhouse
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If you have your ear to the ground, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the new social media contender: Clubhouse. Borrowing from all of the big players and adding something new, Clubhouse is an invitation-only, audio-based social media platform that is aimed at professionals.
Being audio-based significantly changes the dynamic of the platform: where text-based socials tend to be more egalitarian in the sense that everybody can contribute and consume at their leisure, audio has the potential to create an almighty, unworkable din (much akin to the unwritten law that Zoom meetings become exponentially less useful with each person you add to the call). As a result, Clubhouse operates almost more like the radio, but with an endless selection of open talk-shows or lectures that are led by one or two key figures, experts and moderators – with listeners able to ‘raise their hand’ to contribute.
Whilst technically anyone can lead a room, the net result is that a few (well, more than a few, but certainly a minority) of figures lead, whilst others follow. In many ways this isn’t so different from other platforms like Instagram, where the role of ‘influencers’ is significant, and the power-dynamic significantly skewed as a result. But the dominance of the leading voices is certainly more overt with Clubhouse.
So what does this look and feel like then, on a practical level?
Well, the focus on high impact individuals and the invite-only nature of it all make it ripe for bait-and-switch content not dissimilar to the events of the 90s where you thought you were learning about property investment or sales (and getting a free lunch) but were in fact being herded into the jaws of a timeshare or pyramid scheme (and likely getting food poisoning for your troubles).
Resultantly, there are a multitude of supposedly ‘free’ webinars and lectures on all kinds of things – but there’s often a ‘soft’ sell at the end of it. Topics range from the more traditional – such as marketing, through to more contemporary concepts – such as the ‘law of attraction’ (essentially, wishing really hard for something). Now, don’t get us wrong, at Xpresso we do believe to an extent that you make your own luck, but not by harnessing cosmic powers – instead, we see it as putting yourself in the way of as much opportunity as possible through reputation, motivation, mindset, hard work and the fostering of deep connection with others. To find out more about putting yourself in the way of luck, just buy our three part course, usually €159, now just €9.99! (We’re joking, we’re joking).
Same idea, different platforms
Of course, everybody has something to sell on all of the major social media channels – even if it’s just selling a projection of self and lifestyle through carefully curated content to present a certain image. On some of the platforms it’s more overt or ‘conventional’; Facebook ads are still fairly recognizably ads, whilst Instagram presents sales more insidiously (though measures are increasingly being taken to make commercially-driven posts more transparent to users).
LinkedIn is a funny one, because of course everything there is commercial by its very nature; either promoting an image for the company brand or the individual professional (and, by association, whoever they happen to be working for). But in general, the tone of LinkedIn is surprisingly unpushy; there’s a strong content focus and generalized norm for image/brand-building, but very little that yells ‘Hey, look at our product, wouldn’t you love to buy it?’. Of course, much of this relates to the very different ways in which B2C and B2B marketing are undertaken.
In that sense then, Clubhouse really isn’t all too different. And around the overt marketing elements the normal social media activities also continue; there is some genuinely brilliant art and music being shared through the platform, there’re people making connections through shared passions (we love the HubDot’s Virtual Cafeteria with Simona Barbieri, the most democratic and engaging room where all the participants are made moderators) and there’s even the potential of finding love. It’s a different way to engage; both more active in the sense that there’s no mindless scrolling – picking a ‘room’ to be part of is a very deliberate choice – but also more passive, in the sense that contribution is much less expected/possible within the format.
It’s also very transient – which adds a feeling of importance; where other social media content is embedded for life, only a few Clubhouse conversations are recorded. You need to be present, or you miss out. Indeed, Clubhouse are leveraging the idea of FOMO pretty hard as a fundamental part of their appeal/model.
So what’s in it for us?
This all leads to the really important question: Does it have potential as a platform for technology businesses to engage in international marketing? Undoubtedly, there is a substantial technology presence. It has, perhaps unfairly, been described as a place where ‘a load of tech bros go to bro out’. Clubs gathering technology, sustainable and female entrepreneurs exist but rooms on digital marketing, social media, culture, NFTs, art and live music also represent a big share of the available space. It’s a good place to position yourself as an expert in your field, but it’s arguably not going to be the kind of place where you can deliver a key marketing message and develop the kind of personal resonance that is important to fostering B2B sales.
And in terms of resource investment – whilst it might be free, that’s a lot of time to devote to the creation and delivery of content which by its nature exists only in the moment.
Another valuable aspect of Clubhouse is its multicultural nature. The same subject is offered in different languages. That’s why we feel comfortable being polyglots and having an edgeless mindset – open to creativity and inclusivity. That’s where we can share our multicultural expertise and the international visibility we can provide to other entrepreneurs.
Thinking a little differently
But perhaps it’s an opportunity for something else. Perhaps it’s a new way to foster a business skill that often goes much neglected: listening. As businesses, we may think we have our finger on the pulse when it comes to both market trends and the needs of our individual clients – but the truth is that much of the information we receive is heavily mediated, be that through publication agendas, voices that gain dominance through their financial and market clout, or our own expectations and preconceptions. Clubhouse gives (in most rooms) an opportunity to tap in and then stay silent; appraising the content being delivered to you silently, analytically – without needed to weigh-in, defend, debate, contest.
The longevity of Clubhouse still remains to be seen. It might have tapped into the social zeitgeist for online social interaction which – we can only hope – will diminish in significance as the world opens up. But for the next few months, we’d encourage you to join us in dropping in, if only to see what the fuss is about. There is potentially a lot of benefit to be tapped from Clubhouse; not only in terms of content and knowledge, but in terms of reevaluating how you engage with a professional community, how you interact, communicate, and position yourself within a power dynamic.
For instance, are you (and your brand) a natural born speaker or listener? Leader or follower? There’s an implicit feeling that the former categories are the stronger: we frequently hear terms such as ‘market leader’, ‘industry expert’, ‘thought leadership’. But the fact that these words often come in pairs is significant; there’s a yin and yang element to the process which requires the dominant to be balanced with a reciprocal quality. We’ve been acting as moderators on some forums, with moderators frequently described as the ‘anchoring force’ of the whole project – providing credibility and balance. That’s something remarkably strong to be; present, powerful and important, but stable, neutral and understated. It’s a good position to be in, and one we strive for both within Clubhouse, and within Xpresso Communications as a whole.
Ultimately, the thing is, in business – as in life – people stop listening to you when they realise you’re not listening to them, or when it becomes apparent you have an overblown sense of your position within a given power dynamic. Communicating is a careful balancing act. And Clubhouse is potentially the ideal place to experiment with this balance.