Three things happen every spring: March Madness, spring cleaning, and social media plans need a refresh. This spring, we’ve been evaluating some of the new social platforms on the market to see if there is anything new that would help elevate nonprofit and/or public sector missions. As one might guess, Clubhouse was one that floated to the top.
Clubhouse—the invite-only, audio-based social application that’s been drawing in celebrities and expert thought leaders—facilitates widespread collaboration on global topics by allowing users to participate in different conversations on different topics in real-time. As the application continues to gain popularity, it now seems like the right time to ask: is Clubhouse the right application for mission-driven social media plans?
Our review of the application uncovered interesting facts about the founding history, challenges, missteps in designing for accessibility, and potential in the application’s future product mapping. Released during the 2020 pandemic, Clubhouse ignited quickly, but then seemingly fizzled out just the same. But with a fresh round of funding and recent initiatives such as the Creator First Accelerator Program, the application is focused on beating out its (new) competitors for users, and in general, looking for ways to improve, evolve, and grow the audio-based application.
Why is Clubhouse interesting for mission-driven organizations?
Clubhouse enables organizations to take a new approach to how they communicate their missions and engage with their audiences.
For nonprofit organizations, we know that community building is important. It provides the ability to amplify messages to audiences and stakeholders and demonstrate credibility. Clubhouse makes community-building easy for mission-driven organizations. Using the app, organizations can share educational content, tell their stories, and gather insights and feedback from their audiences. Audiences in turn get the chance to voice their opinions or ask questions directly. It helps create a vibrant, spontaneous conversation around an issue or topic that ties to the organization’s goal.
For public sector organizations, or any cost-conscious organization for that matter, Clubhouse provides access to discussions led by experts, thought-leaders, and sector practitioners giving an opportunity for best-in-class collaboration and information exchange on an international scale. It too offers the opportunity to demonstrate credibility with the public in terms of the services they provide.
- Levels the digital divide. As an audio-based app, Clubhouse doesn’t have the same limitations as other platforms that require a connected infrastructure, high-speed internet access, and video-enabled mobile devices. By leveling the playing field of access in terms of demographic and infrastructure access, Clubhouse has the potential to reach user groups that can be overlooked and shut out of modern communications technology.
- Provides free access to thought leadership and global collaboration. Other platforms, such as podcasts, YouTube, and TedTalks do this with high-end production to attract and engage audiences, and in many cases, they do it well. Clubhouse knows this and to keep pace, they are launching a new initiative that invests in equipping creators to bring their ideas to life. In the meantime, organizations looking for on-the-spot access to global collaboration and thought leadership can peruse the rooms of Clubhouse for access to the latest thought leadership on a global scale.
- A reprieve from video fatigue. Even as more people are logging on to video and social applications, studies show they are exhausting us. The relief of connecting without gazing at others–or yourself–for a period of time is an enticing option for those looking to engage without having to make eye contact through your camera.
Potential barriers and concerns
- Invitation only, iPhone only. Currently, Clubhouse access is limited to invitation-only, and for use on iOS. So when we talk about its ability to connect people globally, that’s with a serious caveat. But as the application evolves we do hope to see it expand to an Android platform, increasing global access.
- Accessibility concerns. While possibly accounted for in the application’s product roadmap, there are two major barriers to entry that Clubhouse presents. First, in the simplest form, Clubhouse is only accessible to those who can hear and see normally. Currently, there is no support for live captioning and even with the application’s exclusive iOS-only availability, there is no integration or support with Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader.
- Time sensitivity. Early indicators show that Clubhouse has some work ahead of it to create the digital longevity of other apps like Twitter and Facebook. Time will tell if the application is fleeting or if it can find ways to evolve for the long-haul. If your organization is considering adding Clubhouse to its refreshed social media plan, make sure it keeps in mind the timing of your rollout.
How to approach Clubhouse today
As you give your social media plans a spring refresh, here are a few ways you can already use Clubhouse in a low-cost way (though, investment in the production of your audio-event, much like successful podcasts, may yield favorable returns):
- Promote and facilitate your own thought leadership forums.
- Join relevant topic areas that may propel your organization’s next steps, and allow you to engage with both current new audience groups.
As we evaluate the next generation of technology and social media platforms that will enhance our daily lives and well-being, we must pause to consider the impact of technology on inequality. In your own evaluation, you’ll have to account for the application’s current limitations and how those align with your organization’s goals and values.
Our hope is that Clubhouse and other social media platforms have accessibility-first technology integrated into their product roadmaps. The potential for them and the impact for society-at-large is too great to not do so. While access is limited to those with an invite, the market seems flush with invitations. If you’re interested in checking out the platform, ask a co-worker or friend in your network if they have an invitation to spare. Then, login, explore, and evaluate for yourself if Clubhouse is the right addition to your digital strategy.