I like to think of myself as an “optimistic cynic” when it comes to how I approach most new things. Whether a new restaurant, fashion trend, book, or even television show, I tend to hang back and observe how things play out– hesitant to take the risk and jump in right away. I let the critics try it first, then hang back and see what kind of staying power it has. The same goes for when a new social media channel arrives on the scene.
Even though my job is tethered to the social media landscape, I am reticent to embrace a new social channel or tool right away. I’m sure you can relate to this feeling. Going out on a limb to embrace and publicly endorse something that’s either shut down a few months later or morphs into something else entirely.
At least that’s what happened when I joined Facebook, or as it was then named, The Facebook. The year it launched, my roommate sent me an invitation to its university beta version. Back in 2004, it was simply a network of personal profiles for university students. My friends and I would log on and just read each other’s profiles. There were no photos, no status updates, no newsfeed. Just your personal profile and whatever you filled it with, as well as a “wall” where you could leave text-only messages for each other. We didn’t take it seriously and most of our profiles were tongue-in-cheek, filled with inside jokes between friends or using someone else’s name entirely (my now husband’s college Facebook profile was originally “owned” by their house dog, Rufous the Great). But then Facebook grew and started cracking down on the fake profile thing, and eventually opened up to everyone, including our parents, who promptly ruined it for us.
I’m still on Facebook, because who isn’t? But its appeal definitely waned when my mom’s neighbor started commenting on my posts (signing them all with her full name, of course).
Cut to now, and The Big Four (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter) are generally widely accepted as the mainstream social platforms of choice. But there’s still the occasional outlier looking to claim its own piece of the social pie.
This was the case for Path when it came on the scene in 2010. As a “social networking-enabled photo sharing and messaging service for mobile devices,” Path targeted users who only wanted to share content with a limited network, i.e. close friends and family. My two sisters and I joined it to stay in touch from our separate corners of the country (before group texts were a thing) and our parents even joined to stay in the loop. We may have been some of its only users, though, because the app was terminated in 2018.
Even after losing both Path and (what I knew as) Facebook, I joined several other channels as they came along, namely Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Luckily, I avoided MySpace, Friendster, Vine, and Google Plus, and their eventual demise. I use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram regularly, while dipping in and out of Pinterest, Facebook, and TikTok.
And now Clubhouse has entered the fray. But with seven social channels to choose from, each offering its own take on the user’s experience and content sharing, why should I give Clubhouse a chance? Why do I need to join yet another social channel?
What are the benefits of joining a new network early on without knowing how its future will play out in the hands of venture capitalists?
Or when its most draw-worthy features, like audio-based networking conversations in the case of Clubhouse, are pirated by more well-established channels?
Audio rooms are poised to make their debut on LinkedIn and Twitter is releasing Twitter Spaces. Both are the Big Four’s answer to my question of “Can’t I just do this on a channel where I already have an audience?
What are the incentives to make the leap and create an account on a new network? In other words, What’s In It for Me?
1. A fresh new take on personal interactions and connecting
2020 changed how we do EVERYTHING, and social media is no different. Between seemingly endless months of quarantine and social distancing, Hubspot aptly observes that most of us were left with immense voids where we used to have in-person human interactions. Because of this, we began to use social media in a way that would fill these voids, desiring more personalized interactions.
In the past 12 months, an array of networks have popped up in an attempt to satiate our need for more personalized, authentic interactions. Clubhouse is one of the more promising of these networks.
Since it came on the scene in 2020, Clubhouse members are using the network to engage in more personal, raw, unfiltered conversations with each other. No one is given priority based on verified status or number of followers, you just have to be a member of the platform.
As someone who solely orders takeout or delivery online so I can avoid conversing with a stranger, this audio-only feature was a little off-putting to me. Friends and co-workers of mine who are already big fans of the channel say it allows for more authentic interactions by encouraging off-the-cuff, spontaneous interactions in a “pass the mic” setting where everyone has a voice. Users aren’t prioritized by the size of their following or real-life fame, and everyone shares the stage.
2. Ground-Floor VIP
The only hint of exclusivity is in attaining membership since you have to be invited to join. Available as a beta version for IOS users, membership is limited to those who are directly invited or by biding your time on the waitlist. Anyone can open up the floor and engage with each other by creating “audio rooms” for discussions on anything from digital marketing to relationship advice.
3. Who uses it?
Before I create my brand new social account, I like to look around and see who else is hanging out there. The same should be true of your company in that based on who your brand is targeting, you need to know if they even use this channel. Research regular user demographics and statistics, measuring them against those of your marketing personas to see if this is a good fit.
And by regular users, I mean the people who are active on it. Even though an insanely large percentage of the population still uses Facebook, this age group has drifted away from relying on the platform for valuable social interactions. I prefer to hang out where I can be myself and share my opinions WITHOUT my aunt’s neighbor chiming in that she’s disappointed in my political opinions.
4. Early Bird Gets the Content Worm
Adopting a new social channel in its digital infancy can give you a distinct content advantage. Being one of the channel’s flagship users means more time to really explore its features. Experiment with different kinds of content and see what other users are more receptive towards. Long-form or short-form content? Text, audio, or video? With or without creative assets? Illustrations or photos? There are so many variations to try, and once you find what works and see how it resonates with the channel’s audience, then anyone who comes along using that same formula is just a follower.
Finding the right content type and mix on a new social channel gives you an edge over your competition, especially if those users don’t join the channel until later when it’s more mainstream. While your competitors struggle to come up with ideas for fresh, original content that plays well, you’ve already found a comfortable content niche with an engaged and loyal following.
What Do You Think?
Will you be giving Clubhouse or any of the other new channels a try? Or are you like me, preferring to let them battle each other first? I’d love to hear from you and know your thoughts, as well as what other channels you’re curious about.