Written by Kelly Stincer.
The surging popularity of social media platforms has brought with it a new class of celebrity — the Instafamous. These Average Joes showcase their lives on social media platforms like Instagram, highlighting the fun and exciting things they do and amass millions of followers as a result. People choose to follow these individuals because they want their lifestyles — from the food they eat to the clothes they wear to the cars they drive. SEEN in Columbus, Ohio, connects brands with the Instafamous to reach consumers and influence their buying habits in an organic way.
“Our company is centered around the belief that mass marketing like billboards and commercials doesn’t cut it anymore,” said SEEN founder and CEO Brian Zuercher. “Instead, we pair our clients with what we call expressionists, those people who will truly embed a brand into their life and showcase it for the world to see. It’s all about replacing the spam with genuine connections.”
After SEEN connects a brand with an expressionist, they use an internal analytics process to determine which of the expressionists’ posts are resonating with followers and which are not. For instance, if an expressionist working for Reebok posts a photo of the shoes in their box on Instagram and it receives a lower than average number of likes, SEEN may instead suggest a video of the expressionist wearing the shoes at a concert.
“We’re also tackling the problem of blatantly sponsored content on sites like Facebook and Instagram,” said Zuercher. “People have learned to scroll past those ads as if they were pop-ups. Our system uses a more authentic form of communication that users choose to follow and receive.”
Before starting SEEN, Zuercher created a digital travel recommendations platform that compiled information on fun things to do in cities based on people’s feedback on social media. While the product never got enough traction to launch as a company, it did pique the interest of a few brand managers and businesses.
“We found out through those initial connections that companies were facing challenges reaching their consumers and building relationships with them,” said Zuercher. “That was the catalyst that led us to create SEEN.”
SEEN received funding from the Ohio Tech Angel Fund, a central Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. The funding helped the company make technological advances to their software and expand their workforce. SEEN works with several national brands including Hershey and Chevrolet and has doubled its revenue over the past year. The company also plans to double its workforce by 2017, from 12 to 24 employees.
Zuercher says central Ohio offers immense creative talent, which is exactly what he looks for in employees to help the company stay on the cutting edge.
“Being located in Columbus is a major strength for SEEN. We work primarily with large established consumer brands, and Columbus is home to some of the biggest companies in the world like Wendy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works,” said Zuercher. “This means we have access to a city full of people who are passionate about marketing and have experience working on similar projects.”