Social media expert Leslie Carothers explains
why Clubhouse is a valuable addition to the social media toolkits of home furnishings retailers and brands.
What is Clubhouse?
Question: There is a new social media platform that has the potential to be useful to many segments of the home furnishings industry. Can you describe Clubhouse to Furniture World readers?
Answer: Clubhouse is an invitation-only social media platform that grew in four months from about 900,000 users to 10 million late in April.
The app allows users—including furniture retailers and designers—to connect with, interview, promote and network with people via audio-only. Unlike Twitter, there’s no written content, and unlike Zoom, there’s no video or presentation sharing.
The platform creates a certain intimacy and allows users to make deeper connections. For an interior designer or retailer, it’s almost like a social media app that’s also its own radio show. It was introduced, invite-only, for iPhone first, then more recently on Android.
The developers took a cautious approach to work out any bugs and to ensure the platform’s stability. But, the platform grew much faster than the developers expected, so they’ve been busy hiring staff and scaling up.
Question: What’s the difference between this platform and a conference call or what used to be known as a party line?
Answer: Conference calls are closed loops. Clubhouse is an open loop. Zoom isn’t a social media app, but Clubhouse is. That’s because users follow people on Clubhouse just like they do on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Anyone who downloads the Clubhouse app and is invited by another user to join the platform can start a “room.” There are three room options available: open, closed and social.
Later this afternoon, for example, I could start an open room that anyone on the platform can join. Alternatively, I could start a closed room by invitation only, or a social room that anyone I follow could join. As the moderator, I wouldn’t know who would join me.
It’s the open room option that makes Clubhouse valuable for home furnishings businesses. Anyone on Clubhouse can pop into a room started by a retailer, a manufacturer, sales associate or designer.
Rooms have topic-searchable titles. So, if a Clubhouse user is looking for open rooms where home furnishings design is being discussed, they can just tap to enter. Everyone in that room will see their photo and be able to access a full bio that builds credibility with anyone listening. There are a million YouTube videos right now that can help Furniture World readers create their bios and see some of the different, personal, cool and fun things people are doing.
Clubhouse also allows users to form their own club which is a bit like a Facebook group. My club, for instance, is #DesignCoffeeChat.
Let’s say that a furnishings retailer wants to introduce a hot new line by Libby Langdon that has already received national publicity. An obvious format would be to interview Libby. The Clubhouse interview could be promoted via email, in-store signage, Facebook and other social media tools by saying, “join our Clubhouse room at 6:00 pm ET, and meet celebrity interior designer Libby Langdon, whose new collection will be featured in our showroom starting August 5th.”
If they’re on Clubhouse already, all they need to do is go to that Clubhouse room at that appointed time. Moderators’ and speakers’ images will be listed at the top, with everyone else who is listening listed just below.
Once people enter a room, if they want to contribute to the conversation, they must first “raise their hand” by clicking on the hand icon. The moderator is notified and has the option to move them to the top so everyone can hear what that person has to say. Then, the moderator can choose to move them back down to the audience. Let’s say I’m the moderator, but there are three other people who have been contributing a lot. I’ll leave them on top. But if someone raises their hand to ask one specific question, I will move them back down to the audience.
An open room can have an unlimited number of people listening in. This gives larger retailers the opportunity to interview, for example, sports or media celebrities to attract large audiences.
Control The Conversation
Question: Let’s say that a retailer schedules an open room to discuss the latest design trends with a celebrity designer. Someone raises their hand, gets moved to the top and turns out to be an angry customer who has been waiting for their sofa for six long months. What would you suggest the retailer moderator do?
Answer: This person could be moved back to the audience or blocked, but honestly, I think a smart retailer would let everyone hear what they have to say, and respond with something like, “So sorry that you’ve had that experience with us. You may have read in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or your local newspaper that the entire supply chain for all products in the United States, not just furniture, is experiencing delays. Many of us are short-staffed due to COVID issues so I certainly apologize for that. But you are welcome to email my assistant Joe Smith at this email address and I will be glad to give you a call back later today when we are offline.”
Question: Are there enough people using this platform so that retailers should take the time to investigate it?
Answer: I believe that the time is now for retailers to grab their real estate and develop their audience.
When doing this it’s important to get some practice, for example, by opening up rooms to anyone in your trading area or beyond who has questions about home furnishings for half-hour sessions. Or, do closed-room sessions with one or more employees. Right now you will attract young people and tech-savvy creative people who are, or can be, customers. Your efforts will be much more effective if you have something interesting to say, are well known and liked in your community and active on other social platforms.
Clubhouse can also help retailers communicate with employees in closed rooms about any number of topics of interest when in-person meetings are impractical. Retailers can set up multiple consumer-facing or employee-facing clubs.
A lot of designers are already on Clubhouse, so retailers who sell to designers can form a club and invite every designer they do business with to join. People listening in a room can let other Clubhouse members know that there’s a room worth listening to. That’s another powerful option the platform provides.
About Leslie Carothers: Leslie Carothers is the CEO of Savour Partnership. Her company provides a wide variety of strategic positioning, digital marketing, influencer marketing and copywriting services to both manufacturers and luxury interior designers. She is a 40 year veteran of the home furnishings and interior design business and pioneered the use of influencer marketing/social media marketing within the home furnishings and interior design industries. She is a 2021 Top 200 Influencer in the design industry and has been profiled on Forbes.com. She is a well regarded speaker and has keynoted many tradeshows and events within both industry segments. Questions about this interview can be directed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada. In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact email@example.com.