It’s a pain point for many brands and media companies: creating compelling content for their customers on a unrelenting, regular schedule. Matt Meyers, CEO and co-founder of community content curation company Tidal has been trying to relieve such agony for his clients for a while.
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Founded in 2011, Tidal is an Saas — Software-as-a-Service — business that operates between individual content providers and companies that publish. On the content side, individuals join a network of writers, visual creators and bloggers who then through Tidal’s platform are curated and served up by the publishers or brands to be distributed on behalf of a wide variety digital properties.
Companies that combine very scalable SaaS with relative non-scalable assets have a particular place in media heaven if they succeed. Tidal is in good company other well-known start ups that have to succeed with this duality such as BuzzFeed and Contently.
How does Tidal manage the non-scalable side of this business of finding, training and incentivizing the contributors (who they call creators)? In a recent email exchange, Meyers explained how it has been working so far.
- Tech with the human touch. In evaluating contributors, “we use information on how prolific and influential a creator is across all of the various channels they are creating to predict if they’d be a match for an editorial campaign. But great content always takes a human touch. Work is spent to develop, guide and promote the best creators involved with a partner, and to editorially manage content contributed in a campaign.”
- Scalable for the un-scalable. “We use two-step programmatic and editorial screening. Creators link their social networks and our tech goes to work, pulling in content and profiling each creator, highlighting their social influence, topics covered and relevance. Our partners then have a quick way to scan through and editorially evaluate each potential candidate.”
- Organic creators. Tidal has no marketing costs for this side of the business, says Meyers. And they have 33,000 creators in their network so far. “The majority of creators find us organically— they see that someone they know and trust is associated with one of our partners and want to join as well.”
- Network effects for the network. “New partners [help] us to expand into new areas.” Expanding to new areas creates its own momentum; by adding new customers with content campaigns, Tidal can then attract the fans and bloggers because of the opportunity to distribute a creator’s content who has a special interest to the people he wants to reach.
- Meyers gives a concrete example. “[W]e helped Athleta launch a “Fit Style” campaign on their content site, Athleta Chi. The Athleta team was looking to expand their fashion content and were eager to leverage fashion influencers to promote their brand across social media. The campaign was a success, and Athleta has signed on to our network, giving them the opportunity to re-engage these fashion influencers, along with new additions, in future campaigns revolving around topics such as nutrition and travel.”
- Creators’ comp is psychic – but it can be more. “There are many people whose traffic has been augmented due to their involvement in Tidal both directly (clickbacks) and indirectly (status) and there are some select few who really took off solely because of their involvement. Bloggers tend to reach very specific people through their own sites and can tap into new networks via our partners.” Tidal has no exclusivity arrangements limiting its creators to its network, nor that brands or publishers impose on creators.
- Native advertising assignments for creators. “We’re seeing a ton of interest, both via our publisher partners looking to influencers to help meet the demand for content for marketing partnerships and also from brands directly. We’ve run three successful campaigns with Old Spice in which they use our platform to find appropriate creators and reach out to them for paid product reviews. We want to facilitate the creation of guided editorial, while ensuring that our creators maintain their own voice.”
Tidal has 15 full-time employees, with half building the company’s “content campaign platform” and the others working with clients and contributors who use it. Meyers says Tidal was profitable last year but declined to disclose any revenue information.