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HooZu is a social media influencer startup acting as a casting agency for brands

It seems we can hardly go a week without seeing the launch of another social influencer platform promising to connect brands with the best of the best social media mavens. This week has seen the launch of HooZu, a Sydney startup that looks to identify not the influencers with the highest follower counts but those with the most highly engaged audience interested in a brand’s particular market.

HooZu was founded by Nathan Ruff, Justin Golledge, and Lote Tuqiri, former Australian rugby union and rugby league international, with the idea coming from Tuqiri’s own experiences watching his teammates begin to understand the influence they wielded through their individual social media channels.

“Lote saw the evolution of the influencer power and witnessed the damage that can happen when brands and influencers are matched incorrectly,” said Ruff.

Ruff, who first met Tuqiri 11 years ago at their children’s’ day care clean up day and Golledge through his previous work with a media company, brought the pair together to launch the business. Tuqiri works on the influencer engagement and talent management side of the business, while Golledge oversees sales and strategy, and Ruff is CEO.

HooZu works by working with brands to build a profile based on keywords, bringing together key phrases, words, and hashtags that represent the brand or its product and the message it wants to convey. From there, the platform’s algorithm trawls through various social media platforms to track and identify users who are referencing those keywords in conversations.

The platform also gives an overview of how the influencers are using their social media accounts, engagement rates, and fan following, looking to track whether high follower counts are a result of bots and bought followers or a real devoted audience.

“Using our technology we identify the best suited talent for a particular brand or campaign and then engage directly with them or through their management. We then also run the entire process for the influencer from reporting to payment,” Ruff said.

So, when you get down to it, there’s nothing that is really making HooZu stand out from the crowd. Startup after startup is playing in this space, from Jules Lund’s TRIBE to Scrunch, which also looks to measure the direct impact an influencer campaign has on sales, FanFuel, which focuses on the sporting landscape, and VAMP, which recently brought on Todd Sampson as a board member; all these platforms promise to connect to influencers with high levels of audience engagement and genuine interest in their brand.

However, Ruff said HooZu is not concerned by the competition; in fact, they are barely taking notice of the other guys.

“We are very much focused on what we are doing. HooZu’s key focuses are team, tech and talent. We are confident we have some of the best strategic minds in the market to assist our clients and influencers. We also spent a lot of time listening to the industry rather than just imposing,” Ruff said.

“Crucially, in Lote we have someone who really understands the talent we work with and acts as an excellent sounding board for our influencers. That’s great for influencers, but it also protects brands in that HooZu is working as a casting agency for the best talent. With a strong focus on all social technology, we will be rolling out new products, capabilities and functionality to drive more engagements and generate more sales for our customers.”

The idea of HooZu acting as a talent or casting agency is perhaps its biggest differentiator, with other platforms giving brands and influencers the opportunity to seek each other out and connect directly; it will be interesting to see how both models develop and which brands prefer, whether brands like the hands-on approach from HooZu or prefer limited input.

Managing or ‘casting’ influencers is also an interesting move in that it may help separate the wheat from the chaff and ignore those who are making careers out of being influencers, endorsing anything they can get their hands on.

HooZu has begun bringing clients on board, with Ruff saying the team has been “pleasantly surprised” at the variety of brands that have shown interest in its offering.

“The interest from brands is intensifying as they see the power influencers are wielding, and the way consumers are engaging. Many brands we have spoken to have allocated budget this year to participate in some form of activity,” he said.

Ruff added that both HooZu and its clients are looking outside the box with what they want to do, ignoring the perception that influencers are all millennial Instagrammers posting pictures of new shoes and hot new brunch spots.

“We have been working with a charity that is looking to make some really positive changes with women over 50. So I don’t think you can pigeon hole the impact of influencer marketing to any one sector or group,” Ruff said.

Over the next few months Ruff said HooZu will look at increasing capabilities for clients, and driving conversions on social media.

Image: the HooZu team. Source: Supplied.





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