Clubhouse, the audio-based social network, became a phenomenon early in 2021 when millions of users started to use the invite-only, iPhone-only app to connect. Clubhouse had 10 million weekly active users in February 2021, up from 600,000 in December 2020, according to available statistics that document its rapid rise from launching in mid-2020.
The social network has, to date, raised $110 million, plus another undisclosed funding round that recently valued the company at $4 billion. From its inception, Clubhouse used the JoinClubhouse.com domain before acquiring Clubhouse.com in April 2021 for an undisclosed, but likely substantial, fee.
Why did Clubhouse bother acquiring Clubhouse.com? That’s a question that has been asked several times since news of Clubhouse’s domain purchase surfaced. Here’s why I think Clubhouse acquired Clubhouse.com.
Email & Traffic Leakage
This is by no means the most important consideration for a domain acquisition that likely cost seven figures, but it is a bonus to a popular company. Up until Clubhouse’s recent transition to Clubhouse.com, the company used JoinClubhouse.com to not only host its main website, but also for emails.
Emails going awry is something that should be considered when a company doesn’t use its exact-match .COM, especially when that company has been in the public eye as much as Clubhouse has been. Before switching to Clubhouse.com, the company used email addresses such as email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most important considerations for a domain name acquisition of this magnitude is, I think, brand protection. Clubhouse has grown exponentially in the past year and although it currently doesn’t receive as much user attention and positive press as it may have done a couple of months ago, Clubhouse is still one of the most notable new social networks in the World.
When you’re that popular, it’s more costly not to own your exact-match .COM. As we’ve explored, there are email and traffic costs to not owning the exact-match .COM, but also from a brand protection perspective, owning your exact-match .COM means that you essentially own the brand online.
Thanks to .COM’s dominance over the years, popular brands have had to upgrade in order to control. Grab acquired Grab.com, Tesla acquired Tesla.com, View acquired View.com, Facebook acquired Facebook.com. I could go on. But the common theme is companies with growing popularity paying vast sums to acquire the exact-match .COM, to control the online brand.
What if another startup named Clubhouse managed to acquire Clubhouse.com before the audio-based app managed to do so? It certainly wouldn’t be the end of Clubhouse, but it would make the life of its staff and marketers that much more difficult to be operating a company on JoinClubhouse.com while another company uses Clubhouse.com.
In order to grow, and company needs some level of marketing, whether that’s online, offline, or even word-of-mouth. Owning and operating on a simple domain name is something that benefits all three of these marketing efforts.
Why? Clubhouse has developed a marketing strategy similar to that of the early days of Twitter. In 2007, Twitter used influencers at SXSW (South by South West) to create a buzz around its product and used celebrities to get fans to sign up to the platform.
Minus SXSW, this is fairly similar to Clubhouse’s approach — using influencers and celebrities to create an air of exclusivity around its product. The arena for promotion has changed from in-person meetups to existing social media platforms, but by owning Clubhouse.com and operating on @Clubhouse on Twitter, Clubhouse creates a consistent branding message for its product.
Although Clubhouse is app-based, Clubhouse.com is the company’s main base on the Internet. The domain offers instant trust, legitimacy, and establishment that may help augment the company’s marketing strategies. As in-person events begin again, Clubhouse may decide to promote its products there, where the Clubhouse.com domain and branding may take centre stage.
At the moment, Clubhouse is an app. Until recently, even Android users were excluded from the party. However, what if Clubhouse wants to make a web-accessible platform in the future? Instagram, for example, started off as an app-only venture, but two years after it launched, Instagram rolled out a website version of its product. What if Clubhouse wants to do the same?
In that case, the domain name would be central to the company’s product. While the company could create a platform on JoinClubhouse.com, there may be some confusion among the average Clubhouse user, who may try to visit Clubhouse.com only to be perplexed by an irrelevant web page.
Owning Clubhouse.com gives Clubhouse the option of creating an easily accessible web platform in the future.