Content Distribution, Content Marketing, Earned Media, Owned Media, Paid Media, Relationship Building, Shared Media

Learning to navigate public relations and obtain earned media for aspiring digital artists, creatives and the brands they serve is like going to the Internet’s school of hard knocks. It’s a brutal world that can tear you down or lift you up in a matter of moments and it often seems like there’s no method to the madness.

The thought leaders and expert agencies will tell you that building relationships is the key to success in earned media. Whether you’re courting the attention of a freelancer writing for a niche publication or stroking the ego of an influencer you’d love to snag an endorsement from, the issue is that building relationships – the real, authentic, mutually beneficial kind – take a really long time to develop.

And if there’s anything predictable about digital marketing it’s that it changes often and with incredible speed. Why invest time building an army of allies in one vertical when you could be shifted to focus on another vertical weeks or months down the road? Who has time for that?

So when I heard about a new service “for those who work and play with digital media,” called Fluence, I was immediately all ears.

Connecting Art, Ideas & Products to Curators

Fluence began with the mission to “help creators of all kinds find their potential fans around the world.”

The founders understand the relationship-building quandary – that it takes time to find opportunities to connect, and even more time to nurture those opportunities into a real relationship.

So, they set out to find a way for creators, influencers, curators and thought leaders to find and help each other in an effective way.

Here’s how it works:

Who’s the Target Audience?

While many of Fluence’s early success stories involve musicians getting feedback and exposure from influencers and critics, it’s worth noting that the service can be utilized by nearly any kind of creative person: artists, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, YouTube producers, authors, game developers, software engineers, sound engineers, fashion designers, videographers, product makers who sell on Kickstarter and countless others.

Fluence Co-Founder Shamal Ranasinghe describes their target market as, “Anyone who wants a simple way to submit [content] to people who are actively looking for collaborators or media to share.”

People who work with creators (such as managers, agents, and marketers), he says, also use Fluence to connect to tastemakers, producers, and sync agencies in specific regions or publications outside their domain of expertise.

“We see a future where hundreds of thousands of influencers around the world could help creators in a wide variety of ways from publicity to collaborations to technical feedback.”

How Can Marketers Use Fluence?

In the planning stages for a big content piece and wondering how it might resonate with the target audience? Ask an industry expert in the Fluence community if they think it’ll be popular before investing the resources.

Not sure how to find your target audience? Ask someone on Fluence for the best niche blogs and trusted experts in the field.

Trying to amplify the reach of a new piece of media? Submit it for feedback (and potential organic sharing) in Fluence to have a targeted influencer review your content and open a dialog with you. Even if they don’t like what you’ve put in front of them, imagine how much more natural it might be to reach out to them on your next campaign.

While there are certainly opportunities for campaigns to be directly impacted by engaging with the Fluence community (social shares, earned media, actionable feedback, etc.) perhaps the greater benefit is the potential for connecting with entirely new social circles. As we have discussed before, disseminating information by working with connectors – bridges between extraneous collections of people – can have a much more dramatic effect than continually broadcasting to the same group over and over again.

The Elephant in the Room: Compensation

This all sounds good in theory, but the question remains: what motivates industry experts to offer feedback and wield their influence in favor of a brand’s creative work?

Most often, passion and appreciation for the art (or a lack thereof) powers such types of engagement, right? People share content and comment on it because they highly enjoyed it or didn’t enjoy it at all.

But – just as consumers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages – influencers are constantly assailed with requests for their attention, usually for little-to-nothing in return but a “thank you”.

Fluence wants to facilitate the discussion of compensation and make it a seamless, natural part of the relationship-building process. Here’s how it works:

  • Influencers set their own rate. Influencers have the option of setting their rate to $0 if they wish to do so, and it can be changed at any time. Influencers also have the option to donate their earnings to charities instead of putting it into their pocket.
  • Creatives submit their work for feedback. Choose who your work is submitted to. Target specific individuals or open your submission to the entire community. You only pay for actual engagement when people review your work.
  • Win-Win. Influencers receive compensation according to their set rates while Creatives pay only for time spent engaging with the content.

Ethical Concerns

There has been a fair amount of contempt surrounding Fluence’s payment strategy.

From the influencer’s perspective, Fluence provides a structured approach to tackling the ole’ crowded inbox, forever stuffed to the brim with press releases and openings for interviews. Someone is interested in paying a small fee for your time and opinion? Suddenly, it’s a bit easier to manage time and prioritize opportunities.

On the other hand, from the creative’s perspective, why should you have to pay to earn the attention of influential people? Shouldn’t your incredible, unique content speak for itself? As Emma Garland asks in her interview with Ranasinghe, “Should we really still be encouraging aspiring artists to buy their way in rather than learning how to do things themselves?”

“I wish free publicity was enough, but it’s never been sufficient,” Ranasinghe explains. “If the music is good enough, the industry will chase them, but even if those artists get on radio or TV, they still may not reach all their potential fans. People rely less on broadcast media and more on recommendations from friends and trusted sources. The question we’re asking ourselves constantly at Fluence is, ‘What can we build to empower curators and tastemakers so they can better help artists find their full audience?’”

He continues, “Fluence is challenging the status quo. We’re trying to create a better way that works for everyone. We would much rather find a model where creators do not pay, but in my Topspin experience, almost all our artists have paid for some form of ads, publicity or other type of exposure without being able to show an ROI or return for their spend. We wanted to create Fluence as a transparent and fair way to directly reward the people who are actually helping creators with their promotional goals and production feedback. It’s a super sensitive topic that’s generated a lot of debate. A model like this must be developed with 100% integrity or it will be a disservice to artists.”

What do you think? Can the Fluence community shake up to be a valuable resource for marketers and PR practitioners? Will it facilitate authentic and organic engagement for the good of the digital media landscape, or is its model doomed to become over-run with shoddy content, faux influencers and spammers looking to make a quick buck? Leave your predictions in the comments below.

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