Russian Brands Experiment on Clubhouse With Social Audio Job Interviews and Tech Shows
Social audio has exploded this year; growth epitomized in the form of Clubhouse. The spike in user numbers has been particularly steep in Russia over the last few weeks, leading to some of Russia’s biggest companies running some wild experiments with the platform even as American brands have barely begun to test what they can do with it.
Though it’s only March, brands in Russia have been trying an eclectic mix of ways to interact with consumers. Arguably the biggest happened this week when Tinkoff Bank released a version of its Oleg voice assistant for Clubhouse. Oleg will set to go into rooms, perform secretarial tasks, moderate discussions, and transcribe the discussions to publish on Telegram.
Other Russian tech companies are using the platform to interact directly with the population, including several voice assistant developers. Yandex, whose Alice voice assistant is the best-known of Russia’s voice AI creations, has been sponsoring and running a room every evening for many weeks. Sber, the former banking giant turned tech firm with a smart speaker and voice assistant available to buy, saw another opportunity in running Clubhouse rooms. The company garnered a lot of attention when it set up a room for talking about public relations, which then morphed into a real-time recruitment drive and public interviews for a job.
Then there’s Mail.Ru, the Marousya voice assistant’s creator, which has leveraged Clubhouse to host showcases of its technology when the COVID-19 pandemic has limited in-person event sizes. COVID-19 also inspired S7 airlines, known for creative marketing, to arrange virtual flights on Clubhouse, with a room of people hearing the sounds of airports and jet engines, crew announcements, and the other minutia of flying that have been mostly absent for the last year or so.
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The companies may feel encouraged to try these kinds of ideas because Clubhouse is so new yet growing at a feverish pace. The number of Russian Clubhouse users multiplied by 20 in just one week in mid-February, according to a report from the Bell, the fastest growing app in Russia in the last five years. And Statista found that the Clubhouse app was downloaded in Russia more than 867,000 times during the month. The pace doesn’t seem to have slowed much. Beyond the brands, famous and notorious Russians are making frequent appearances, like the president of the Chess Federation, Arkady Dvokovich.
The experimental brands’ leadership is on the platform, too, including apparently every executive at Yandex. Tinkoff Bank founder Oleg Tinkov is a perennial face in Clubhouse rooms and even chose to announce his retirement on the platform. Clubhouse has also attracted interest for political reasons in Russia. Elon Musk asked Vladimir Putin if he would do an interview on Clubhouse, which the Russian president appeared to consider for a couple of weeks before declining. However, his daughter was on the platform for a while until a reporter got her to admit it, and she apparently quit.
And, while Clubhouse is free, the good ideas and production of the rooms isn’t always. The Bell heard from some highly regarded Russian Clubhouse moderators that companies are offering them as much as 100,000 rubles, about $1,350, to work with them in the app. Of course, if some of these companies follow Tinkoff’s lead, they could start generating their own branded hosts for Clubhouse very soon, assuming the platform chooses to allow what appears to be a violation of its community guidelines.