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Game-changing epiphanies always originate from the simplest ideas. Spending time on Clubhouse gave me one such epiphany that made me rethink and radically restrategize how we communicate on all social media to grow website traffic, followings and sales.
For those not aware, Clubhouse is the internet‘s latest obsession: A social media app that only enables live voice conversation with no method of recording conversations. To contribute, you must communicate and connect with people directly. Clubhouse taps into a concept we easily ignore in the online world, yet is impossible to ignore in the real world: Genuine conversation is the key to growing your connections.
But what if you applied the concept to other social media platforms?
Being an early adopter has distinctive advantages for audience building. When people are new, they’re eagerly looking for people to follow and connections come easy. After all, a social media app without anyone to talk to is pretty boring. Inevitably every platform ages and growing your following becomes challenging. The question then becomes: What can you do now and in the future to guarantee growth?
Established platforms are difficult to grow organically and excruciatingly painful for new accounts. What you need is a style of audience building that is evergreen and works across all platforms. Clubhouse’s unique conversation style provides a glimpse into how an evergreen growth framework might work.
Every social media platform has aided in the evolution of how we communicate digitally. Facebook got famous for the “wall,” which allowed you to see all your friends’ activities in one place. Twitter gave you the ability to text the internet. YouTube enabled widespread video publishing. Instagram deepened visual communication.
In 2010, only weeks before Instagram officially launched for iOS, I was hired by a small aquarium business to run its online store. My core objective was to grow the online business and that meant getting more traffic. Of course, being the “whiz kid who knows computers,” figuring out social media became my responsibility. But the problem was that social media was still new and largely unproven as a business growth strategy so there weren’t any how-to guides. At the time, I had to lean on prior experiences to grow website traffic. This meant focusing on writing unique content and utilizing good visuals.
The strategy wasn’t complicated: Post a lot of great pictures and insightfully written content. In the end, we settled on a rhythm of 3-4 posts a week.
A year later and results were beyond what we could’ve imagined: We passed 40,000 followers on Facebook and a million views on YouTube. We built the world’s largest following in our aquascaping niche and got treated like rockstars. The company transformed from a small business into an internationally recognized brand. We gained thousands of customers, opened the door to do deals with the largest companies and emphatically stamped our mark on the industry.
We didn’t think about algorithms and only focused on inspiring content and the frequency of posting. Unfortunately, if you did the same strategy today, it’d take far longer and far more effort to achieve the same results.
What we didn’t realize at the time was that social media sites relying on text, photo and video posts implicitly create a “speaker on stage” mentality. You’re speaking “at a crowd” rather than having a natural conversation. Crowd-dependent content delivery means numbers matter above all else.
What exactly is “speaker on stage” communication?
When you post on Facebook, you’re only talking “at” your audience because of the way the platform is set up and how content is consumed. Engagement is dependent on numbers, so you’re reliant on audience size. You’re completely dependent on the algorithm that powers someone else’s feed and their whims for your content to get seen. Plus you’re competing against hundreds of other people posting for the same attention. So if you’re new, or are unknown to your followers, you’ve got a long and difficult road ahead.
Without consistent and reliable engagement, you get stuck in an algorithmic black hole cycle of obscurity.
The same problem exists on all the platforms. Almost all are speaker-on-stage style with the same challenges to overcome. “Speaker on stage” locks in a “my turn, your turn” style of communication because of the technological limitation of text, video and photos. This style inspires creator tunnel vision to continually focus on better posts in speaker-on-stage style rather than on having an actual conversation.
A speaker is only as good as their audience. With engagement tied strictly to posts, newer accounts get halted in their tracks. Creating a following from scratch is daunting, time-consuming and difficult to maintain enthusiasm for.
Clubhouse introduces conversation as the new digital communications model
Voice as a content medium is compelling. It’s familiar, it’s convenient and it’s conversational by default. It feels more human than photos and text and is more free-flowing and relaxed than video. By creating a voice-only platform, a whole new digital communication style emerged: conversation style.
Real-time conversations that anyone can hop in on, at any time, from any place is possible. The conversations are both temporary and fleeting. No recording means no waiting to listen. If you don’t talk, then you can’t create a connection because nobody knows who you are. Talk too much and you get a bad reputation for monopolizing the conversation. Focus only on selling your goods? People sniff it out in a second and shoo you away.
Building a following requires actively listening to the conversations you’re in, providing value in a respectful amount of time and knowing how to ask fantastic questions to keep the conversation going. You have to care about your audience and who you’re talking to because you have to have an actual conversation.
Applying the conversational style to other social media platforms
Applying this method to other platforms means you have to start acting like a leader. Reach out through direct message to your followers, create conversations and trust. Over time, you’ll see them follow your lead and engaging with all your content, sharing your stuff and helping you build your network. The game becomes less about quantity and more about quality of relationship.
Your goal in this isn’t to “sell” someone. It’s to create a bridge to start a relationship. I never think about the sale, only about how I can help them by sharing my insights or expertise specific to their situation (sharing appropriate content and articles is fantastic for this). We’re all trained to think we “must” ask for the sales appointment. What I’ve found is that people will ask you for a meeting on their own when they trust you and have a relationship with you. Treat your following like treasured connections and soon you’ll be the authentic superhero of your network.
The internet is biased towards speaker-on-stage style communication. This makes it easy to forget the simple things that work time and time again: real conversations. Be genuine. Be interested and interesting. These are all simple strategies that don’t require sophisticated tactics or complicated algorithm hacking.
Talk to the people on your followers list. Most people, especially entrepreneurs, are friendly and truly desire to have authentic and interesting conversations. Whether Clubhouse is here to stay or not is irrelevant. Our approach to digital strategy has already been changed forever.