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With remote working, virtual experiences and small – at best – in person events continuing for the foreseeable future, the question remains: how can we maintain existing and build new relationships with our colleagues, partners and peers?  

This gap is definitely behind the year's first huge social trend – the rise of Clubhouse. This audio and Apple-only app has gone from exclusive VC talkhouse to worldwide phenomenon in a matter of weeks.

Clubhouse offers a chance for to hear from and speak to peers in a way ‘off the cuff’ way that is hugely appealing. For individuals, this means the chance to make new connections, as well as establishing and building your personal brand as an expert in whatever field you’re working or interested in. For brands, this means the chance to connect directly to others in the industry, employees, clients and prospects, in a way that’s person, conversation and ultimately community driven. An enticing concept.  

We'll have much more to say in the weeks ahead about Clubhouse. (As an Android user, I have serious FOMO). In the meantime, it's worth discussing some principles that operate across these new digital platforms. At Cognito, we're hosting a regular #PRPowerHour that's open to all on Thursdays at 5 p.m. London/ noon New York time for those who are on the platform. 

Clubhouse might have the first mover advantage but the big networks are not far behind. Twitter has accelerated the beta-launch of its ‘Spaces’ product – voice chatrooms similar to Clubhouse, which will connect to users existing Twitter followings. For its beta-launch, Twitter has focused invitations not on celebrity users, but on those it acknowledges “disproportionately impacted by the abuse and harm on the platform” – notably women and those from marginalized backgrounds. Facebook announced it is developing a similar audio-based feature, expected to come out later this year. 

We’ve had many conversations in recent weeks, with comms teams who are seeing (or hearing about) business leaders on the platform and contributing to room discussions. As a channel, Clubhouse and its competitors has huge potential for raising the profile of these executives, through talks and Q&As on topics relevant to them and your firm.

These new forums for engaging and communicating with other users  – audiences who may include employees, clients, prospects, peers, partners and investors. All of whom will be taking note of what you’re saying, as a representative of where you work. As a communications or digital team, make sure your social policies are up to date, and maybe take the time to recirculate those now – to avoid tricky conversations later on. 

For all social, brand activity should feel personal, authentic and not forced.Through that lens, think about what topics you have expertise in and can help drive interesting discussion around through a hosted or sponsored room. Is it advice for small businesses around new payments technology, for example, or support for minority owned business owners when it comes to PPP loans? Or is there opportunity to host a discussion connecting the dots between trading technology (from automation to AI and predictive analytics) and the end-benefit that brings investors? Start small, tap into your existing brand ‘friends and family’ networks, and grow from there.  

Here are three quick tips for staying excited – and connected – in a virtual world: 

  1. Engage, authentically, on other social channels. 

This doesn’t mean joining every channel, from LinkedIn, to Twitter, to TikTok. But where you do have a network, make sure you’re tapping into it. LinkedIn, for example, reported a 55% year-over-year increase in conversations among connections in 2020 (data sourced from LinkedIn and the iMPACT Learning Center). Check-in regularly to see what your connections are up to, share content that you’re finding interesting (and comment on others’ posts), and look for places you can share your expertise, be it a LinkedIn group or reddit thread.  

  1. Participate, actively, in online events. 

Industry events, large and small, have moved online. It’s easy to get distracted or feel the same sense of ‘video call fatigue’ when faced with long agendas filled with hour-long virtual presentations, so go prepared to get involved and find opportunities to connect directly with other attendees. Speak up in breakout rooms, send a note to someone who says something interesting in a Q&A, and join in with conversations on the event’s app, site or social channels. On a personal level, look for new micro-events that are popping up in addition to the established conferences – search for topics you’re interested in on Eventbrite, LinkedIn events, or Meetup and try something new.  

  1. Host your own community experiences. 

Don’t get stuck on repeat on your usual video-call software. Explore new ways to come together, as an internal team or with clients, prospects and peers. Miro is an ‘online visualization tool’ for collaboration between teams; we love using this as an interactive online whiteboard (think virtual colored pens and sticky notes!) for otherwise standard video-call workshops. Glimpse is a ‘social video chat’ platform, which can turn the usual ‘breakout rooms’ into fast-paced, fun speed networking – a great way to meet and talk to lots of new people (we used this at our recent virtual global company conference with great success!). Discord taps into the Clubhouse-style social audio, enabling you to create a ‘server’ and invite connections to join you for voice-only conversations, organized by theme.  

Jade Bestley is a vice president based in New York focused on digital and social media