Forget invite-only, everyone is invited to Houseparty

Tamara Littleton, CEO of the Social Element charts the latest must-have social media platform’s rise and asks, how can brands avoid being the dad on the dancefloor?

Tamara Littleton

CEO The Social Element


Social media has always moved fast. Think of the meteoric rise of TikTok last year, or the speed of Twitter take-downs if a celebrity makes a gaff. But social isolation has made that movement exponentially quicker again, and in no case is this better illustrated than in the fortunes of the latest must-have social media, Houseparty. 

Created long before we were all locked indoors, the app has jumped towards the top of app download lists across Android and iOS and become a verb in households across the globe: ‘let’s Houseparty later’. As people find themselves longing for increased social contact, its game add-ons and casual functionality that allows friends to join calls and hop on and off with different groups of people have made it hugely popular as a way to easily hang out with friends. Its presence as a joyful isolation relief is compounded by its integration with activities and an element of surprise around who will join any ‘room’ inherent to the platform. 

Of course, this was a couple of days ago. Since then, rumours have abounded via the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook that Houseparty is a malicious hacking agent. Given it is owned by well-established games maker Epic Games, who also own Fortnite, this seems unlikely. But fake news and concerns around privacy as we increasingly invite tech into our homes has meant that the app we all loved last week, is as likely to be deleted by a huge number of users this week.

That said, it’s still likely to be a big part of many people’s isolation daily lives, and interest in the app from a sizable group may well continue past this period. What’s more, it’s part of a growing trend, where users opt for social media that contains closed communities; where only their friends, often close friends, can find them and where conversations are kept between small groups rather than publicised far and wide. 

So, how can brands and marketers get involved in these apps, when by nature they keep our conversations between small groups?

Developing an authentic and human voice on social is an imperative [for brands] in an age where our lives play out on social.

Tamara Littleton

Authentic, human voices

When approaching social media and outlining brand strategy, the absolute priority is creating an authentic tone and voice that suits the brand but is also human, enabling genuine human connections with individuals. That may mean something different on every platform, given that each has its own culture, community and set of values. But the core principle remains the same. If brands are able to create human connections with their customers on social, they will create more loyal and longer lasting positive relationships and engagement. 

On an app like Houseparty, that might mean a brand ambassador creating small ‘rooms’ with selected individuals to give insider promotions or early access to a product or deal, ensuring that person is well versed in authentic communication on behalf of the brand while keeping it human and relatable. 

Presence without invasion

One thing that nobody likes is when a brand arrives on a platform and starts to shout too much. In these smaller ecosystem apps, they are entering a private world and must be respectful of the often-unspoken rules that govern those platforms. On Houseparty, that might mean not jumping into a room of customers uninvited, but rather setting up your own ‘room’ and inviting others to join, with incentives to do so such as a chat with a popular influencer or a custom-designed game that customers can enjoy. Brands on social media should be one enjoyable part of the tapestry for customers, not the full picture. 

Brands on social media should be one enjoyable part of the tapestry for customers, not the full picture.

Tamara Littleton

Understanding context

Every community online has a different language whether that’s gamers, sports fans, beauty enthusiasts or comic book fans. It’s important to understand your target demographic and their chosen way of interaction; in some online communities there are very strict rules about how to engage.

Watching social media and using a variety of listening tools to understand both customer behaviours and sentiment is a crucial first, and ongoing, activity when developing a social strategy and executing it. Only by using available data can we truly get a picture of a community and its behaviours, and then tap into that to create an authentic brand voice as part of that. 

Integrated approach 

Any brand must consider social media as the first port of call to understand its customers, and a key part of its overall marketing strategy. It is a crucial part of an integrated marketing approach, combining traditional media, social media and beyond in order to create a connected ecosystem of loyal and engaged customers. 

A Houseparty, or Tiktok, Facebook, even Pinterest, strategy, must be a key part of the overall marketing campaign, rather than an add-on. A one-size-fits-all approach to platforms and people, adapted from existing brand materials, won’t go down well with audiences and will most likely be either ignored or even ridiculed. 

Developing an authentic and human voice on social is an imperative in an age where our lives play out on social. Whether we are Housepartying in our living rooms with our closest friends, Instagramming our weekends, or throwbacks to the weekends we used to have, or perusing cute dog groups on Facebook, social media is where people go to talk, to vent frustrations and to make connections. Brands therefore have an opportunity to use it for strategic insight on audiences as well as for developing connections, as long as they can hit the right tone. 


Tamara founded The Social Element in 2002. Her pioneering approach has created a global business that works with some of the world’s biggest brands to ensure their social media is creating genuine human connections with consumers. She is also a champion of female entrepreneurship and an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community.

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