An interview with a social media network founder
We went and met Shoreditch based start-up Hinterland to interview founder Andrew Nicholas. Discussing his views on the social landscape, influencers and exploring how brands can win on social.
Tom - So, what is Hinterland?
Andrew - Hinterland is a social live streaming platform.
Our job is to let people try and find a new way to communicate with each other.
Live streaming is the core of the platform.
We think that it's something that needs to be democratised.
You have platforms like Twitch specialising in gaming but we are focused on the more social side of Live Streaming.
Similar to the Asian live streaming platforms (but more on that later).
Tom - Why should brands be on Hinterland or why would they work with Hinterland?
Andrew - This is what I've got my big answer for.
Tom - Amazing!
Andrew - So, people spend a lot of their time on social media and that’s often where their opinions are created.
Brands can use social to create goodwill with their consumers and essentially own that point of influence.
If someone has good feelings about your brand, they're more likely to buy your products.
I don’t see social media as a platform for selling. It's more about providing value.
We need to meet people in their online world and provide value to them through interesting content.
For Hinterland specifically, the platform's about creating an authentic connection between people, which is really powerful.
As we're primarily a live streaming platform, this provides brands with a new and fun way to interact with people.
They can show their products, they can share their process, whatever they want.
And because it's live streaming, it's live, it's authentic, it's you, it's not prepackaged.
We also want brands to have a two-way relationship with the users so they can interact with them in several ways and give them an unfiltered inside view to the brand and what they are up to.
The video below provides a interesting insight into the size and power of the live streaming industry in Asia.
Tom - When we talk about brands on social we have to talk about influencers.
I'm interested to hear how influencers would work with Hinterland and also get your thoughts on how you could create new influencers.
Andrew - For existing influencers, they're used to showing their perfect lives on Instagram, but I get the feeling that trend is dying out.
We think that the trend will be moving towards true authentic representations of ourselves on social media, as a rebellion against the fake world of instagram.
That naturally suits a live streaming platform.
You can't get your publicist to do your live stream. It's gotta be you!
It's wherever you are and whatever you're doing right now.
And, influencers can only talk directly with the people watching at that moment in time, which is a level of engagement and authenticity that you don't get otherwise.
We think it will be a really interesting way for existing influencers to find a new way to engage with their audiences.
And, we feel that Live streaming isn't something that has been brought to the western market so we hope that new audiences will engage and hopefully with that new content creators will emerge.
Tom - So on the Asian based live streaming platforms the influencers are paid directly by the users instead of being paid by the brands.
Is that, that's the same in Hinterland?
Andrew - Yeah.
Tom - Does that mean that influences will be able to be more authentic? Or will they just have two revenue streams, are you going to be able to stop influencers still doing brand deals through the platform as well as getting donations?
Andrew - It’s probably something that we will evolve over time and gauge the reactions from users.
Tom - Okay. I suppose that’s how it kind of worked with Instagram? It was a bit of a Wild West and then they started to police it...
Andrew - Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Up until 2017 you didn't have to put #Ad on instagram so for years influencers posted with little regulation.
That’s definitely something we want to address and continually work on.
Tom - So I'm really interested to get your point of view on the influencer market and the ethics of it?
Especially within Live Streaming, where there is the potential for instant payment by audiences.
Recently we’ve seen TikTok under fire for the actions of its users
Andrew - I think there are certainly challenges.
We've spoken before about some of the potential negatives of a live streaming platform as seen in Asia and we’ve focussed to address this.
Specifically through the platforms tech, addressing potential issues before they emerge and encouraging the right behaviour.
I think if you talk about gifting people, that could enter a territory which you don't want it to go into.
We will have built strict rules for all users to follow and also a mechanism where people can report questionable behaviour but it will be a challenge and we have to make sure we are constantly figuring out how to get it right.
When it comes to TikTok, as a platform, I think that it's a really cool platform that people love spending time on. And when you add a tool to the platform, it's kind of natural that people end up using that tool. It's just essential people use it correctly.
Tom - I suppose there is a balance, gifting improves authenticity and maybe means the creators can make the content they want unaffected by brands. However, there are also issues if people break the rules.
Andrew - Platforms like Patreon are examples of companies getting it right and encouraging good content creators to keep going powered by donations .
Tom - Even Twitch have similar models…
Andrew - And, there's elements about Twitch, which are difficult to explain. I’m sure they worry about some of the behaviour on their platforms and are constantly finding ways to address it. I don't know if there's an easy solution to it, but I think you just try and constantly evolve.
Tom - So, what do you predict will happen with influencers and social media networks over the next few years?
We’ve certainly noticed people are more conscious of their usage, less engaged with certain platforms and are spending more time on dark social, are these trends you and the team are seeing and experiencing?
Andrew - So you see a lot of youtubers now with declining viewing figures per video and we feel that the number one trend is going to be Authenticity, we think you will see a decline in the clout chasing, ‘doing it for the gram’ behaviour.
It’s just got really boring and people who are now a bit too savvy, they're seeing through it.
So for influencers what's the next step, if people are bored of you selling your detox tea and teeth whitening?
Authenticity is the thing that will come to define the next wave.
We think we will all come to value the people for who they are rather than the persona’s that influencers currently present.
Tom - So when it comes to social media have you got any thoughts on the future and what will happen over the next few years?
Andrew - There's a lot of real and important issues that you see people talking about, like usage, addictions, mental health issues, bullying, and we need to be conscious of them and work to address them as an industry.
The fact is, people spend time on social because they enjoy it. That doesn't mean it's not without problems, but it comes down to the fact that they do like connecting with people.
As I was just saying before, we're kind of becoming much more wise to the idea that the millions of people that we follow or follow us, are not our friends and the companies that run these platforms are trying to sell advertising.
I think we definitely need to find a healthier way to use social media.
We're seeing a shift from traditional social platforms like Facebook and Instagram towards ‘privacy first’ platforms. Where people interact in smaller groups looking for more authentic connections.
And you look at platforms like Discord people are finding these small little niche groups where they enjoy interacting, rather than being part of a huge platform where everyone can see what's going on.