Niche, a startup that connects brands with popular users on social media, has opened its website to the public, and it’s also announcing that it has raised $550,000 in funding.
Niche isn’t the first startup attempting to make money from celebrity-driven marketing campaigns on social networks — after all, Adly has been around for several years now.
But the team seems to be working hard to recruit content creators from social media. For one thing, Niche’s creative director Cody Johns is a big deal on Vine himself, with more than 1 million followers. For another, co-founder Rob Fishman (formerly social media editor at the Huffington Post) said the early creators who have signed up on Niche reach a collective audience of 75 million people (though there’s an important caveat to that number, which I’ll get to in a second).
Niche’s offerings to creators, which are all free, include a profile that aggregates their accounts and content from across social networks (here’s Johns’ profile). It also provides analytics about their engagement, so they can see what kinds of content seems to be connecting with people and what doesn’t. And, yes, it helps them make money by participating in marketing campaigns.
On the flip side, marketers can browse leaderboards showing the top Niche users, either on a specific social network or across all of them. They can then reach out to those creators and develop campaigns with Niche’s help.
“These individuals have mindshare, but they don’t have traditional sales structures,” Fishman said. “And brands are dying to work with these people, but they don’t know how.”
(Here’s the caveat: If, say, you’re following someone on Twitter and on Vine, you’ll get counted as two people. Niche doesn’t de-duplicate users, at least not yet — Fishman admitted that’s partially because it’s a technical challenge, but his co-founder Darren Lachtman argued that if a creator can reach an audience member multiples times through multiple networks, that’s also an important indicator of reach.)
Brands working with Niche include CBS Films, Relativity, and Gap, as well as startups like Lyft, Blue Apron, and Handybook. Campaigns have included a promotion for Relativity’s film The Family that had popular Vine users posting videos from the red carpet. Another campaign for Relativity’s Romeo and Juliet increased the film’s social media following by
hundreds of thousands of users, Fishman said.
He added that Niche takes a very hands-on, customized approach to each promotion, because it’s important that creators aren’t just re-posting marketing messages that they clearly don’t care about: “The human touch is important to us.”
Niche focused on Vine initially, but it has since expanded to include all of the major social networks. Lachtman said the team sees Facebook and Twitter as platforms for distributing and promoting content which might originate in a content creation app like Vine. He also said that the Niche approach is “platform agnostic” and will add new social networks as they become significant.
The funding, meanwhile, comes from David Tisch (Box Group), Michael Kassan (MediaLink), Chris Altchek (PolicyMic), Bryan Goldberg (Bleacher Report/Bustle), John Alderman, and friends and family.