Bemyfriends Empowers Creators To Stay True To Their Fans Not An Algorithm
In today’s content economy, it seems like everyone must be a creator, whether we like it or not. And between algorithms driving viewership and advertising paying the bills, not to mention concerns about IP and data security, it seems many content creators are starting to like it less and less. Enter bemyfriends, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution with a mission to help brands and creators take ownership of their content and fandom.
At the center of bemyfriends is their bespoke platform builder, b.stage, which allows subscribers to build their own social sites to release content, sell merchandise, and communicate with fans. bemyfriends’ founders and the core engineering team have already made web history in South Korea previously, launching K-Pop band BTS to sky-high success. Now they are trying to make the solution widely available for any type of creator or vertical with huge fanbase such as e-sports teams and they want to expand to the international market.
bemyfriends’ co-CEO Steve Seo
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I recently spoke with bemyfriends’ co-CEO Steve Seo about the opportunity, as well as the potential challenges, of bringing bemyfriends to the U.S. It wouldn’t be the first social platform to challenge entrenched giants like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok (Apple tried and failed years ago with its music sharing platform Ping), but my interest was sparked by bemyfriends’ singular design to create more human connections and healthy communities than what users will find elsewhere.
As Seo explains, the problem with mass platforms is manifold. First, there is the sheer number of platforms to navigate: “There are so many platforms out there that in the end, creators are using at least ten platforms to engage more fans with their content. Engagement is a big problem to the IP holder, but at the same time, it is a big problem for the fans.” Seo says that fans have appreciated being able to access all of a creator’s content in one place with bemyfriends.
But more importantly, on mega platforms like YouTube, creators are in danger of losing their authenticity to the demands of almighty algorithms. “The creator needs to create content not for themselves but for YouTube, because the YouTube algorithm suggests specific types of content to viewers. So that means the creator needs to develop and provide those kinds of content,” Seo explains. Not to mention, these algorithms are constantly changing, causing creators to keep changing their content to maintain high traffic and revenue. “It means they lose themselves,” Seo laments. “It’s too bad.”
bemyfriends imagines a web where people can create better content and rely less on algorithms and advertising to monetize. It’s not about putting out the “right” content for the algorithm, Seo explains, but offering content of real value: “We discuss exclusive content with our clients and they think, ‘Oh my god, I need to develop yet another kind of content!’ But we’re suggesting some kind of behind-the-scenes, for example. It could be something like a B-roll, but it is more meaningful to your fandom…Simple text messages, simple images, it works very well.”
The offer of exclusive content to fans is nothing new—artists, bloggers, and podcasts regularly offer extra, subscriber-only content—but the focus here is on content that humanizes both the creator and the follower. Content that doesn’t serve to drive clicks and therefore advertising can be purer. And in the creator-owned-and-controlled space that Seo calls a “safe zone” away from the trolling, heckling, and death threats that pervade so much of the Internet, creators can feel more comfortable actually engaging with their viewers and fans. This might sound like a utopia to some, and it’s admittedly a model that might work better for smaller creators than for big-time stars.
Just as important as enabling creators to drive monetization and e-commerce, bemyfriends emphatically gives creators ownership of their content, IP, and even the data behind their fandom and the value that generates. These considerations will only become more pressing as we enter the age of NFTs and the Metaverse that will open the door to new creators and monetization options. The web 3.0 economy could present real threats to creators if they do not remain in control of their IP.
The appeal of bemyfriends is clear from a social perspective as well as financial one—but will it catch on in the U.S.? Or has Americans’ growing reservations about China’s TikTok opened the perfect window of opportunity? Despite the differences in technology culture in the West, Seo has a strategy in mind. bemyfriends started with K-pop in its native South Korea, but their model well fits the actor, athlete, or small creator in the U.S. Reaching customers will be the main challenge. Landing a deal with a few agencies in the entertainment and sports sphere might be the fastest way for bemyfriends to prove their value and start attracting individual creators.
The potential is great for bemyfriends to catalyze a cultural shift perfectly timed with the advent of the Metaverse and the new sorts of social tokens and value markers now on offer. But at the end of the day, Seo says, it’s not about the features or the technology. “We need to discuss what’s happening, what’s the problem and what can be the solution…including mental care and finances. Creators need to be taken care of. They are caring about the fandom, but they also need to be cared for… We want to be a creator-friendly company… We want to make the world better.”