Should retailers rent fans to create buzz for their businesses?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from The Wise Marketer, a website and newsletter serving the global loyalty industry.
A startup, Surkus, claims to remove the friction from attracting buzz around a new store opening, special event, concert or other situation in which drawing crowd is necessary to success. The disruptive model: rent customers to show up.
Via a mobile app, Surkus facilitates “crowdcasting.” Tapping members’ profiles of demographic and social media information, an advanced algorithm finds the “perfect curated crowd” to draw buzz to any event.
“Surkus enables and empowers its clients to target their ideal potential customers and delivering measurable results,” said Stephen George, CEO of Surkus and a former Groupon executive, in a statement announcing a recent round of funding. “This is done by the Surkus platform matching members profiles with events they’ll love to attend and then simply incentivize them to engage. Our goal is to create an unforgettable experience for everyone involved, every time and everywhere.”
Paid Surkus members who show up must do more than just stand around. To rate highly enough to continue to be “cast” to attend new events, members must display the requisite enthusiasm in order to earn a high reputation score, and geolocation features in the mobile app assure that they stick around long enough to be noticed. Members earn between $5 and $200 per event attended, with most events falling in the $40 range.
In two years, Surkus has grown to 150,000 members and sourced over 4,000 crowds to events, venues, castings and businesses across the country.
Some see crowdcasting as similar to how scores of influencers are earning money by branding themselves on social media. But ethical questions and transparency concerns are raised with the hiring of fake fans as well as ultimately the effectiveness of driving buzz through paid hipsters.
Kerry O’Grady, a New York University PR studies professor, told The Washington Post, “Okay, you have a bunch of pretty faces at a party, but what does that do? It’s not going to do anything if they just want to get paid to party and have no attachment to the brand itself.”
- US: Forget marketing – just rent your customers – The Wise Marketer
- See the hipsters lined up outside that new restaurant? This app pays them to stand there. – The Washington Post
- Forget fake reviews: now you can buy fake customers – Econsultancy
- Global Trust Group Leads Series A Investment Round for Surkus – Global Trust Group
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Surkus and its paid crowdcasting model? Is crowdcasting be an acceptable tactic for building buzz or does it go too far?