Have you heard about Clubhouse? An audio-only chat app that quietly launched in early 2020, it’s been building with shocking speed ever since. By the start of 2021, the platform boasted 10 million active users a week and was valued at a cool $1 billion. What’s the story behind this buzzy new tool? Is it time for you to open your own dispensary Clubhouse account and make it part of your dispensary social media marketing strategy?
Clubhouse: A Rare Instance of Perfect Timing
While most of us look back at 2020 with a shudder—despite the positive upshot for the cannabis industry—for some entrepreneurs, the timing was fortuitous. Clubhouse, the brainchild of ex-Google staffers Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, launched its beta version in March of that year, just as waves of COVID-related shutdowns were putting an end to many of our IRL interactions.
The platform is admirably simple. Dispensing with video entirely, it allows users to chat in real-time, collaborate, make presentations, and generally bounce ideas off of each other without the need for special equipment of any kind.
What’s more, the feel of the app is uniquely transparent. As one social media commentator observed: “It takes the media out of social media.” There aren’t algorithms feeding us sponsored content. What’s left is what was always supposed to be at the heart of social media: The social aspect.
Clubhouse is based on “Rooms” in which anyone can give presentations. You can raise your hand, take the stage yourself, and mingle with other users from all around the world. It’s a tailor-made opportunity for people to network, take deep and immersive dives into new topics, and build their authority and reach. The more topics and Rooms you follow, the more the app will suggest similar or adjacent ones.
Another important aspect of Clubhouse is its relative exclusivity. New users have to be invited by an existing user to join, and there’s currently a long list of hopefuls waiting for that golden ticket. That’s a perfect segue for us to introduce some of the fans who have flocked to the app thus far.
Clubhouse: Who’s Using It & Why?
As you can see, there are already a number of strong attractors to Clubhouse. But there’s one we haven’t mentioned yet: Everything that occurs in the app is ephemeral: Nothing is recorded, so once it happens, it’s gone forever (of course, people are already figuring out workarounds, like live-streaming Room chats to YouTube).
That already suggests a strong affinity with cannabis, given its ambiguous legal status. And indeed, a goodly portion of Clubhouse users come from the industry, with many Rooms being devoted to discussions of cannabis culture, consumption, and commerce.
One aspect of Clubhouse that marries perfectly with cannabis is the liveness and immediacy of the experience. Many users report that they love the visceral experience of interacting—often partaking of their favorite plant in the process—in real-time with other fans and peers from all over the globe. And because the app is audio-based, you can actually hear the nuances and emotions in peoples’ voices, things that tend to get lost when they’re read on a tiny screen.
Lacking any video capability, the user profiles—each with an image and a bio that’s not character-limited—offer a more-than-adequate representation of who’s who. Anecdotally at least, in this early phase of the app’s life cycle, most users appear to be using their real names. It’s a welcome sign, if not one that may last.
Who else gravitates to Clubhouse? The app is huge with Silicon Valley types: Tech innovators, venture capitalists, and other participants in the information economy (none of whom, we’d like to point out, are mutually exclusive to cannabis culture). Ditto the Black entertainment community: Kevin Hart, Drake, Joe Budden, Tiffany Haddish and others have taken to the platform and lent it ever-increasing clout.
And that leads us to our final question: Given the growing buzz around Clubhouse—and its growing resonances with cannabis culture—is it time for your dispensary to create its own account?
Should You Create Your Own Dispensary Clubhouse Account?
While Clubhouse is still technically in the beta-testing mode as of early Spring 2021, it’s still early days. But the buzz around the app is considerable. Even without COVID supercharging our natural and human desires to connect with others, the app’s innovative concept has many suggesting it’s going to be the next huge social media platform.
Should you create a dispensary Clubhouse account? While we lack the proverbial crystal ball to see into the future, at this stage of the game there are a lot of upsides:
- The app already has a strong fan base among the cannabis community, both in terms of industry figures and casual fans
- It offers the opportunity to connect and engage with peers and consumers outside of your customer base, niche or address book
- There’s far less of the “echo chamber” effect that dogs current social media platforms; Rooms are spontaneous, and you can share invites to pre-planned presentations or hangouts at will
- The costs of presenting content are low; the immediacy of the audio-only platform shifts the focus from highly produced content to high-value conversations; you can create Rooms specific to your dispensary, neighborhood, or even products in which users can hang out, discuss, and sample those products together (but separately)
- It’s a great tool for building communities around virtual events, or—if you’re up-front about your intentions and create a purpose-built Room for this—gathering testimonials and other content for use in your own promotional materials and posts later down the road
- At present, the app attracts users who are protective and intentional about whom they invite; this helps create an air of exclusivity that may dovetail with your dispensary’s messaging and brand
Of course, the app’s not perfect. In October of 2020, Clubhouse had to institute community moderation guidelines because of, well, jerks. Clubhouse also suffered its first data breach when a third-party company designed an Android version of the app that wouldn’t require an invite. And while Clubhouse doesn’t allow you to record your chats, that’s not to say they’re not doing it. They are.
Still, at the moment we’re going to give a thumbs-up to Clubhouse. As a dispensary owner/operator, having access to an industry-friendly platform that allows your followers to congregate, absorb presentations, or discuss products and trends relevant to your business? It’s a no-brainer.
How Do I Join Clubhouse?
Method #1: When someone joins Clubhouse, they’re granted a single invitation they can share using their phone number. This may be hard to score, given that current members are most likely to send invitations to close connections. But once someone is on the app for a while and participates by moderating rooms and presenting, they can earn more invites to send.
Method #2: When you visit the Clubhouse website, you’re given the option to download the app from the App Store so you can reserve your username. If any of your contacts are already using Clubhouse, they may receive a notification letting them know that you’ve reserved your username and downloaded the app. If so, they get the option to wave you through even if they don’t have an official invitation to send.
Note: At the moment, Clubhouse is only available for IOS. According to one of the app’s co-founders, the roughly 130 million Android users will have to wait “until we can scale infrastructure.” Sorry.