Analysis: Clubhouse Payments shows influencer marketing’s shift from PR to D2C

Clubhouse users can soon send money to their favourite creators on the platform. The company recently announced the launch of its Payments feature for Clubhouse creators and will be testing it out with a small group before rolling it out in waves.

According to Clubhouse, 100% of the payment will go to the creator and the individual sending the payment will be charged a small card processing fee, which will go directly to the payment processing partner Stripe. Clubhouse will take nothing. "This will be the first of many features that allow creators and to get paid directly on Clubhouse," the company added.

Subsequently, Stripe CEO Patrick Collison tweeted that it is cool to see a new social platform focus first on participant income rather than internalised monetisation or advertising. "Excited for the burgeoning creator economy and next era of internet business models," he added.

Clubhouse has been making waves over the past couple of weeks. Last month, it poached former Netflix director, editorial and publishing Maya Watson to join the company as head of global marketing, hitting the accelerator on its growth and brand awareness. Meanwhile, the app had 8.1 million global downloads by 16 February, up from 3.5 million on 1 February, App Annie said. It also surpassed 2.6 million downloads in the US in February. 

With Payments, it can be said that Clubhouse has the potential to draw more creators to its platform. 

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Isobar Malaysia MD Ruhana DaSilva explained that the move is in line with how the industry, as far as content is concerned, is evolving and should be pioneered into. She added that Clubhouse Payments is a direct-to-consumer opportunity for creators.

This is part of social media's evolution from only using influencers as a mode to communicate the key USPs of a product and brand.

This is also seen with the rise of content subscription service OnlyFans and Patreon, which are being used by content creators to push out exclusive content. "At the heart of it, quality content takes effort, precision, and a good gauge of the audience, and what type of content will truly add value to the consumer. With the ever-evolving landscape of advertising, and change in algorithms, more and more creators are seeing their value rapidly increase directly with their audience versus what a brand may value them at," DaSilva added.

B2B marketer Wendy McEwan who heads up marketing and digital at Knight Frank added that the move will aid smart creators build and expand on their existing DTC revenue streams (and/or brand sponsorships through more direct payment channels). She likened the move to what established platforms such as Instagram, Twitch, and TikTok have embraced.

“Micro-transactions are the easiest path to monetise beyond merchandise sales and creator monetisation is a way to retain the community, which will enable growth, leading to sustaining capital investments and brand interest. It's the best way to retain the voices who will keep subscriptions growing,” she added.

How can brands make the best use of this new feature?

Kiron Kesav, GM for strategy and platforms, at PHD Malaysia added that there could not be a better time for Clubhouse to experiment with this model. The recent success of platforms such as Patreon, OnlyFans and Cameo, and the increasing popularity of non-fungible tokens, has revealed that there are audiences willing to pay for content that they have an affinity towards.

While Clubhouse has decided not to prioritise advertising as a monetisation tactic for now, this could be an opportunity for brands to reach potential consumers by partnering with creators with "authentic" followers (the ones who support the creators through payments). He added: "This could even bring about new models of engagement in the sphere of influencer marketing.

CMO of Branded Timi Siytangco lauded the move saying it is great to see a social platform support creators so soon out of the gate. She added that it is another signal that the creator economy is continuing to grow and become a viable path for more creators. As for brands, this is a tool that can become part of their Community Engagement toolbox, but as with other social channels out there it needs laser focus on one customer segment, and consistency, she added.

While Clubhouse Payments is in the early stages, Isobar's DaSilva said the ability to send and collect payments expands the creators’ and their communities’ impact beyond the content and conversation within the rooms with a chance to raise funds for a good cause, highlighting an important CSR initiative. "It is also an incentive as platforms such as Clubhouse, which are promoting creator funds, are likely to get creators to spend more time on their platform versus others," she added. 

Clubhouse, according to DaSilva, is also definitely one to watch for brands and advertisers, to diversify their content pool, beyond a single post. From a discovery standpoint, she says it will be interesting to see how recommended content will be displayed, based on the consumption of content.

Instead of only looking at fanbase metrics, DaSilva advises brands to focus on the quality of content and storytelling when working with creators, as well as how that drives the other areas of the funnel. "With Clubhouse, users can join a room, and connect with the speakers, this is also a great space for brands to connect with their consumers, understand their feedback in relation to products, experience, and their journey with the brand," DaSilva explained.

Dollars for creators always a plus

Miguel Bernas, founder and lead consultant at Timber Wolf Media, said the creator's dilemma is always how to justify the time devoted to ongoing content creation and its opportunity cost versus more lucrative work that pays off in the short term. According to him, offering creators a monetisation model is always good thing because it incentives both experienced and emerging creators alike to produce high quality content regularly.

"YouTube, on the other hand, failed to offer a similar opportunity outside of their ad revenue share, creating an opening for players such as Patreon to fill that void," he added.

Bernas hopes Payments will open the doors to more discussions on even more niche topics, as creators are given a path to immediate monetisation without having to attract massive audiences, which is something required by ad-driven monetisation models. He added,

More intimate discussions such as this could offer opportunities for brands to partner with creators, especially in the B2B space.

Kesav added that for the audiences, the 'optional' aspect might be the motivation to respond positively to this and in the long run, possibly benefit from the creators vying for their attention (and money) with the best possible content. “Given that Payments works as a tipping model, rather than tickets for rooms or subscriptions to clubs, this looks like a smart move to get 100% of the payment to the creators themselves,” he added.

“By introducing the payment option, Clubhouse is possibly trying to deepen the relationship between the content creators and the consumers of those content. While this might not translate to huge volumes immediately, it has the potential to substantially increase the time that the audience spends on Clubhouse. This move would also encourage the content creators on Clubhouse to build their audience and monetise their presence on the platform itself, without having to look for other options,” he added.

While this move is a step in the right direction for Clubhouse creators, Neal Moore, content strategy and storytelling consultant at Moore's Lore Media, said he can't wrap his head around why Clubhouse could not just pay its creators.

It is great that Clubhouse wants to pay creators but with a US$1 billion valuation, I do not understand why they cannot just...pay creators!

While no one is forced to create for Clubhouse, Moore explained that the model "is nuts" as Clubhouse should be the ones directly paying the creators, rather than waiting for audience members to do so. "Its like if I raised a ton of money to buy a pencil and paper then asked you to write me a book that you need to research, write, proof, edit, design and market to your audience and I will just hope they pay you for it. Meanwhile, I will keep raising money on the back of your success - but don't worry because I promise not going to stick my hand in your tip jar," he said.

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