A New Clubhouse for Kitchen and Bath Designers?

When my holistic vet friend sent me an invite to Clubhouse, insisting that I “needed to be doing this,” I admit that my first reaction was less than enthusiastic. I’d been planning to straighten up the house for a week and it was still about as unstraight as a house can be — did I really need yet another time-consuming social media channel?

But my friend would not be deterred. “It’s such a great way to connect!” she enthused. “You can jump on, join rooms where discussions are going on, network with people from all over. It’s like a podcast program, audio only, totally low pressure and fun!”

“So it’s like Zoom, but without the video.”

“Yes…but no. You need to go on it to really understand it.”

Since the pandemic, I’ve spent enough time on Zoom to feel like I qualify for my own TV show, so I wasn’t sure why I needed more Zoom – even a lower-pressure, cat-can’t-embarrass-me-by-climbing-up-the-screen, video-less version.

But my friend is nothing if not persistent, so the next thing I know, I was in a dog group “room,” listening to a conversation about dog health.

I’m passionate about both dogs and design, and can talk happily about both topics for hours, so it was actually surprisingly fun to jump into a conversation with fellow dog lovers. Not having the video element did make it feel a bit more low key (no need to put on makeup or stress out if the dog tossed a gloppy tennis ball in my face mid meeting), and unlike Zoom, there’s no recording (which gives it a more casual feel).

Within minutes of signing on, I began getting invitations to connect with people I knew (and some I didn’t). We had a nice group chat, and it was a fun way to kill a half hour, but when I signed off, I promptly forgot about it.

A week later, I was on the phone with my vet friend again talking about my dog vacation camp (a sideline business I’ve run for 12 years), and she said, “Hey, let’s go on Clubhouse and have this talk in a room so people can listen in. It’ll be good marketing!” Before I could object, she’d hung up the phone and pinged me on Clubhouse to co-host a “room” with her (on Clubhouse when you want to start a group conversation, you create a “room” and type in a topic so people can see it and join in if they feel so inclined).

It felt a bit weird, talking on the phone, but with random people potentially listening in. But then we just picked up our conversation where we’d left off, chatting casually about plans for camp, and people joined in. Some popped in and quietly left, some stuck around and listened, others would tap the “raise your hand” icon to ask questions or join the conversation. Within 30 minutes, we’d chatted with a veterinarian from the UK, a dog trainer from Ireland, a social media influencer from the West Coast and several dog lovers who were interested in learning more about my dog camp (there’s no message capability, but you can add your Instagram and Twitter handles so people can follow you, or reach out to you if they want to connect later). It was not only a fascinating way to network with people I might never have had the chance to meet in real life, but it was the easiest, most laid back marketing I’ve ever done.

The next day, I decided to see how this would work for design.

Now Clubhouse has “groups” you can follow or join geared to a wide variety of interests, the advantage of which is that if you start a “room” in your “group,” others in the group are notified (meaning you’re likely get more traffic). But you can also just sign onto the app and click “start a room” and type in a topic, and people randomly browsing can (and likely will) find it and join in if the subject appeals to them.

I hadn’t joined any design-related rooms yet, so for this experiment, I just signed on, typed in a topic I enjoy talking about (pet-friendly design), started a room and began talking. Soon I had 8 or 9 people listening and asking questions. It was incredibly easy to make connections, and people quickly invited me to join other related groups.

Over the next few days, I dropped in and out of conversations, amazed at the wealth of free knowledge being shared. You can sit quietly and listen, or jump into conversations and network. You can find colleagues, potential customers, sources of inspiration. You can start conversations, join conversations, or do a little of both.

Clubhouse is all the rage right now with marketing gurus, venture capitalists, celebrities, and the early adopter crowd, and there are some big names on there – the co-host of Shark Tank is very active on the platform, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to end up running into Oprah, Ashton Kutcher or Chris Rock.

So what’s the downside? Well, it’s still time consuming – some “rooms” go on forever, with people dropping in and out continuously, so it’s good to limit your time on there so you don’t fall down a black hole (and if you’re going to start your own room, give your time parameters up front, say, you’re going to be there for 45 minutes to an hour).

Clubhouse is only available for download on iPhones right now (though that will likely change). And part of the hype, its exclusivity (like a real “clubhouse,” you need an “invitation” from another member to join), means a lot of people aren’t on it yet. It’s also global, so if your goal is to use it to market yourself locally, it may not be the best use of time (though you could label your room accordingly, i.e. “Design Trends in NY” to try to draw more people in your area).

But while it’s not going to replace Houzz, or Facebook, or targeted marketing efforts in your geographic area, Clubhouse is super trendy right now, and seems to draw lot of high-powered types and social media influencers who could potentially be great connections for someone looking to showcase their expertise, market their business and build their brand.

It’s also a great way to grow your Instagram account (you can click on anyone’s profile while listening to them and then follow them in a single click). And, because it’s such a casual forum, it doesn’t require a lot of planning to participate. You’re not making a presentation; it’s just conversation.

You’re joining a large community, with smaller communities built into it. And, as we’ve learned from building the community, communities have real, tangible value.

Other things to know about the Clubhouse app:

–You can’t create a “club” until you’ve hosted three “rooms.” And even when you apply to create a club, it may take a little time to get approved. (Clubhouse wants clubs that will be active, so they look for people who will make a commitment to regular conversations.) But having your own club is a quick way to get noticed and make connections, and if you’re consistent, it can provide a terrific forum for building your brand.

–You can “schedule” a room and a topic in advance, which allows people on the app who are interested in the subject matter to be notified and plan for it, rather than just relying on “drop in” traffic. (If you schedule it in advance, you can also promote your talk on your own social media channels.) Having a regular time slot will help to create anticipation and build an audience.

–The Clubhouse app is being potentially valued at a billion dollars, so expect the hype to keep growing. This will be a “celebrity maker” for some, so it’s worth getting in on the ground floor and checking it out!

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