What Clubhouse Can Teach Brands About Engaging Digital Audiences

The value in tech of a human-centric approach

Clubhouse's seemingly overnight success has caught some by surprise. It's the buzzword in every brand marketer, media professional and agency strategist's latest conversations.

Perhaps the audio-only alternative was just the antidote we needed to Zoom fatigue—a nice change of pace from our video-meeting-filled days. But the reason for the rapid rise of Clubhouse may be simpler than that. Clubhouse is actually adding value to our (digital) lives.

We're all desperate for meaningful, engaging experiences, especially in our oversaturated digital world. People crave connection from digital experiences as much as IRL. They want to discover new things, share experiences, connect with people and even create memories online. And it's possible that Clubhouse might just be a place for that.

The app's founders, Rohan Seth and Paul Davison, set out to "build a social experience that felt more human ... our north star was to create something where you could close the app at the end of the session feeling better than you did when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people and learned."

At the heart of Clubhouse's ultimate success will be a human-centered digital experience. And that's exactly how brands should approach engaging their audiences online.

Get hyper-focused on your brand need.

The first step is pinpointing your brand's unique needs. Go beyond the timely motivation that prompts the need for digital engagement (often a product launch, brand milestone or cultural moment) and key in on the specific thing you need your audience to do. Are you trying to get them to think about your brand differently? Deepen their consideration of your product? Earn their loyalty over time? In Clubhouse's case, they didn't just need to introduce a breakthrough digital platform, they needed people to give up time spent in established social channels to try something new.

Obsess over the human need.

Getting clear on what your audience wants is the difference between marketing at them and engaging with them. What's the human problem your brand can help solve? Then let your user inform how to use it. This is where Clubhouse gets it right—by recognizing the human desire for deeper engagement and richer discovery than they're getting from existing platforms. Plus, the need for a reprieve from the pressure to be video-ready anytime they want to connect with other people. As a bonus, not only was the origination of Clubhouse inspired by human wants, the continued evolution of the platform is dictated by the people, not the platform. There are no guidelines on what rooms "should" be, which means the platform is growing through actual use and consumer interests.

Apply that same human-centric mindset to branded digital experiences. For example, as brands continue to reimagine physical events as digital ones, the brands that will be most successful will take the time to understand the consumer mindset. They won't just copy and paste the event to an online format; they'll recognize what people loved about the physical experience and find ways to recreate that magic in a virtual environment. Start with a consumer-first mentality, and you're more likely to deliver an exceptional human experience. Great digital experiences will follow. 

Choose the tech purposefully.

Let human wants and brand needs guide your selection of the right digital solution. As Clubhouse proves, it's not always about the shiny new tech. With a live audio format, Clubhouse is almost like a throwback to the early days of radio—and its reception in a tech-enabled world speaks for itself. Notably, the platform lacks a lot of sophisticated functionality right now—by design, by the nature of an MVP. But Clubhouse was first out of the gate with audio and we expect it will inspire new formats in other channels. The takeaway here is, be purposeful and creative about the digital channels you choose to show up in and how you make use of technology to create meaningful engagement.

The bottom line

Brands that put human needs at the center of their digital experiences are more likely to land on the types of digital experiences people will seek out, spend time with, share and come back to—like the now-viral Clubhouse app. 

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