Seenit, a collaborative video creation platform, is allowing brand marketers to outsource the creation of their video content to their employees, brand advocates and experts. Founder Emily Forbes tells Toni Sekinah how using her platform can help to document conversations instead of just events.
This year is the year of video marketing. So says a Forbes magazine author who gives a couple of reasons why people connect to videos over text. He cites the comparative ease with which the brain can process visual information and the way videos offer a multi-dimensional experience. According to a Cisco report, by 2019 video will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic.
Emily Forbes (no relation) who has a background in film and film production, has long felt that there has been a huge shift in type of videos being watched online. She feels there is a trend away from polished content and toward user-generated content.
However she set up her company, Seenit, to create a bridge between the two types of content. The SaaS platform allows brands to harness the creativity and enthusiasm of their employees, fans, customers and experts by turning them into mobile film crews.
Seenit provides a private online studio into which clients can load a filming script and direction. These instructions go into an app that is pushed out to an unlimited number of specifically chosen contributors who then know what to film and for how long.
“The clients are easily able to direct and collect videos from the ‘film crew’ and can produce much more collaborative, authentic and creative stories,” says Forbes.
She gives the example of the BBC, which uses Seenit to facilitate the creation of a series called ‘You the pundit,’ a show that draws on content from a community of football fans.
“Fifty football fans from all over the UK respond to different questions about football – gossip or something that happened on the weekend. The fans can answer questions in the app, film their responses and everything is uploaded to the BBC,” she says. In one particular episode, 10 fans discussed whether or not manager Rafael Benitez could save Newcastle FC.
Seenit also works with The Body Shop, which is using the platform to draw on the talent and influence of its beauty consultants and create branded marketing.
Forbes says that the beauty consultants download the app, film their make up looks, tutorials and tips. They upload them and then they are edited, branded and pushed out to social media channels like YouTube.
The filmmaker founded the business after a revelatory experience in South Africa three years ago, where she was able to fully understand the power of crowd-generated content.
Forbes was in Cape Town to make her own film, after working for a production company in London. She set out to film a protest but as soon as she got to the demonstration, she realised that everyone was already filming the event on phones, cameras and on GoPro.
“The people within the crowd were so opinionated, so passionate and telling a far more fascinating story than I was ever going to be able to tell,” she says. She ran around the crowd and collecting their videos and later sat down to edit them in her kitchen.
Forbes realised that despite having no budget and no camera equipment, the footage she had was very powerful.
She says: “I realised I was documenting a conversation rather than an event. So I was much more excited about the new way of storytelling. It is ongoing, it is a narrative.” Forbes returned to the UK and set up Seenit in early 2014.
The platform allows the brands to be very specific with their contributors about how they want that story to be told. They can dictate camera shots and the length of time they want a specific clip to be.
“The brands can guide the person filming and give them feedback so that they get much higher quality, more concise sound bites,” she says.
The members of the film crew upload their clips through their Android or iOS apps and the footage arrives in the online editing studio. The clips are ordered according to the script that the brand created. They can be edited in the Seenit platform or downloaded and edited with a package like Final Cut Pro. Seenit also has a third option as there is a network of freelance editors who can edit instead.
Seenit allows its clients to white label the technology and put their own branding on it, which Forbes says allows for much faster engagement with the community. She adds that there is also an SDK so Seenit can sit within an existing app.
Chief technology officer Dave Starling built the platform in Python. He says that Couchbase, an open-source database software, is used for a lot of the “heavy lifting,” storing of things like metadata around photos and videos as well as user profiles.
Starling says: “Seenit has been designed and built from the ground up to scale. We’ve used the best technology and suppliers such as Couchbase and Google to ensure that we’re able to operate cost-effectively while still providing the performance and security that our clients need.”
He adds that Seenit operates entirely in the cloud, which allows them to rapidly react to change in demand and capacity within minutes.
This has allowed Forbes to almost double the size of her team in recent months to 15. One new recruit is Nick Verkroost the new chief operations officer, formerly of DC Thomson, who was mentoring Forbes for about a year prior to joining.
“She says: “When you are looking to scale your team, you really want to brig in people that you trust and know your tech and your product and align with the same vision of what you want to create, so it was great to be able to bring Nick on board.”
Buoyed by the recent milestone of hitting £1m in revenue Forbes wants to ensure that her company can scale within its client organisations. This will mean that different teams with one company could all seamlessly use the Seenit platform. She also looking to grow Seenit in its own right and do so quickly.
“For the next 12 months there is a lot of focus on on-boarding, automation and scale.”
*This article was first published on TechCityinsider in May 2016.