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Clubhouse takes off in India amid pandemic

It has quickly amassed one million Android downloads

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KOLKATA: With large parts of the country still under lockdown, people have begun exploring new virtual spaces to interact with each other. Within few days of its launch for androids in India, the social media app, Clubhouse recorded over one million Android downloads in the country pitching India as one of the top markets for this new emerging audio-based app.

"India seems to love it," said Zoo Media and Foxymoron co-founder Pratik Gupta. "The platform is acting as both casual and formal setup to discuss diverse topics, so it's an apt media vehicle for brands to latch onto. Early brand movers will gain an advantage; both in terms of scale & cost-effectiveness, right from the start. The concept is new - it's almost like a talk show where people are free to express themselves."

What are the opportunities for brands?

The opportunities lie in being able to either host a branded room or sponsor rooms that are hosted by prominent creators or simply aid and join third-party rooms for now. According to Grapes Digital national business head Rajeesh Rajagopalan, marketers may think about running their campaigns on the app going forward because the elements like chat apps, conference calls or podcasts would help marketers/brands to reach a diverse set of consumers.

“For a marketeer or an advertiser, Clubhouse presents a great opportunity to establish the brand and promote products, services, or events," said Isobar India COO Gopa Kumar, adding that it gives a voice to an authentic narrative that is inherent in the platform as all the people and the conversations are real. "There are opportunities to share your brand purpose, story, connect with consumers at large, get their feedback, act as a focus group to know more about how and what they feel about the brand. Brands can start small and start seeing how they can establish a connection with the audience and push the narrative, cause, or story.”

Although the conversations are voice delivered like podcasts, the main difference is the chats are live. Since there is no recording, users tend to be hooked on to its content for long as they are anticipating and looking for conversations about topics they are interested in—whether to listen or share. "It is an extension of a Podcast hosted in a virtual venue around a limitless audience. It has reinforced the age-old power of human voice emotions," Vizeum India ex-CEO Himanka Das said. Its key attribute is an audio medium, which sets it apart from established social media and messaging platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Sharechat, TikTok, Moj, WhatsApp, and YouTube.

The Indian market has the appetite to support audio-only platforms. But the app needs to localise its feature for the Indian market and tap into the regional languages more to capitalise on the audience, believe experts. “Any such social media platform will house rich data in these couple of months to deploy deep learning algorithms to derive actionable insights from consumer cohorts based on interest, interactions, and habits. This can bring magic to enable brands to curate audio content to drive structured conversations. This will be key to drive the metric for monetising for brands," added Das.

How influencers can leverage the platform?

According to experts, it has become an important platform for influencers and creators to engage with their fan base. Influencers will play a critical role in driving conversation and traffic, once the initial hype starts to fade away. The width of content & topics available on the platform makes it an amazing platform for influencers to participate. For the audience, it gives them a sense of being up-close and personal with their favourite influencers.

“Clubhouse is a peer-to-peer network that can be leveraged by the influencer community to interact with the user base,” said Buzzoka CEO and co-founder Ashutosh Harbola. For example, they can quickly host a Room with 200 followers on the app. However, it won’t be a primary channel for influencer marketing. It can always be an extension for influencers to engage with the users in the long-term, he added. Considerably, Clubhouse now allows Instagram, Twitter profiles to be linked to the user profile.

Monetisation opportunities:

There are plenty of opportunities for brands to exploit the platform but it seems that Clubhouse may not restrict its monetisation to advertising revenue only. The app is looking to expand into payments, ticketing, subscription, ticketing, tipping, Clubhouse co-founder Rohan Seth said recently.

“Clubhouse will continue to focus on its audience expansion and methods to keep the creators incentivized & provide tools for better content creation. Clubhouse has recently launched Clubhouse Payments for direct payments to creators and has less focus on advertising revenue. These are still early days, and I think that the model that the business will adopt will be creator & payment to creator focussed. Brands will probably latch onto the creators through the platform itself, rather than opening it up to buying advertising space,” Zoo Media’s Gupta commented.

According to Isobar’s Kumar it is too early to comment on monetisation opportunities as the app is soon to end invite system, to be open to all. The very fact it was an invite-only medium early on and had an exclusivity element, attracted many users, and also promise privacy. Hence, the industry needs to wait to see how the platform and its users evolve over some time.

While the Indian government is in a standoff with few social media platforms regarding the implementation of new Information Technology Rules, Clubhouse founders expressed their willingness to comply with the new rules that came into effect on 26 May in a virtual press meet.

In a country driven by freedom of speech, one has to keep a close watch on the audio content responsibly with the new social media regulations. This is also good for the brand safety going forward, highlighted experts.

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