A Conversation with Tasha Nesbitt, the Head of Growth at Vyrill
In today’s MarTech conversation, we speak with Tasha Nesbitt, the Head of Growth at Vyrill, an AI-driven video content discovery platform that enables brands to find and use relevant user-generated video content.
In this conversation, Nesbitt explains how her small marketing team works. She also discusses what she envisions for the future of video content.
Vyrill is a user-generated video content discovery, analytics, licensing, and commerce platform. It’s powered by proprietary AI technology to enable social commerce and product marketing.
Using our platform, brand managers can initiate searches by typing in the brand, product, or associated keyword or hashtag into our search engine, to find videos and creator profiles that align with those search terms. Then, license fan videos to be integrated along the sales journey.
The goal is to connect brands and shoppers with video given the massive amount of user-generated video that is constantly being created on many social platforms. We want to make it easy for brands and companies to tap into how their products are being used and what people are saying about them. It’s also our goal to make it easy for brands to license videos from creators so they can feature all of the good reviews that are being created online.
This, in turn, can help companies deepen their connection with their community by making touch-free shopping easier and helping customers find what they are looking for faster
Vyrill is one of the first AI “in-video” search companies. Most social listening companies out there today can only look at text formats on the internet. We pull in videos from the internet and search within the video, looking at the audio, the text, the metadata, and even the moving images inside the video itself—something few companies do. Vyrill is the only company that does this for repurposing user-generated video content for brands: Creators can work with brands and make money, and brands can work with creators to tap into their network and to find amazing reviews in order to get more fans. Everything we do is GDPR compliant because we’re only accessing public videos, in case anyone is worried about that!
For instance, when Rihanna’s brand Savage X Fenty was a client, we were able to pull together user-generated videos of its reviews, unboxing videos, and testimonials in one place and provide detailed analytics about their customers, such as age, location, name, ethnicity, and even contact information.
Ajay Bam is the CEO and Co-Founder of Vyrill, and Dr. Barbara Rosario is the other Co-Founder. Barbara specializes in machine learning and is a professor at UC Berkeley and Ajay has a history in mobile and has built and sold a technology company in the past. They started the company about five years ago, and built this brand-new technology from scratch. Now we’re bringing it to the market and so we're still a relatively young company. We are wrapping up our second seed round of funding, and our platform continues to be refined based on customer feedback. We want to make sure that we have a very customer-centric SaaS business model.
My background is actually in film and video content creation. So I didn't come into the world as a marketer; in fact, I still don't technically call myself a marketer—I’m more of a digital strategist. My undergraduate degree is in graphic design. So I started off doing print production and creating content there, and then I went on to do website design. Then I went to film school for a stint, but quit to make a feature film, which launched my career as an Independent Producer creating videos and doing digital strategy for clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lot of the time, I would build the whole suite of marketing collateral for film projects, including the website, the copy, the print ads, everything. This role at Vyrill combines all of that, so I do a lot of hands-on things like creating digital content and writing marketing copy myself—along with a myriad of other things that one does working for a startup!
We're a very small team at this time, and we wear a lot of hats. I’m often at meetings where I support the product team with development and user experience, and sometimes I lead client and investor projects. I work with Sara, who supports our customers and also has her toe dipped in the product side. Together, we create our social media strategy, the content, and do all of the posting ourselves. And it’s a lot—social media can be a bear; it's just always hungry.
So, we try to organize our time between creating social media content, writing new things, and working on the other urgent projects that we have in the company. It's just a matter of being organized, having meetings regularly, scheduling our time well, and thinking in advance about what needs to be done.
I'm big on working smarter and doing more with what I’ve got, and I feel like normally I can only do so much with the time I have. So I believe one of the best gifts that AI brings to us is that it helps us basically 10X our time. I actually found a company called app.conversation.ai, and it helps me write copy faster. Based on a sentence of your idea or concept, it offers many examples of writing that you can choose from, then I personalize it and give it a certain voice. That’s pretty profound for anyone who needs to write for business because you can write content much faster.
Sara uses Canva, which is a similar tool, though it’s not AI-driven; it has hundreds of well-designed templates that help her create graphics faster. Since I came from the design world, I was skeptical and still think they can improve their interface but in general, Canva is perfect for anyone to create any visual content quickly. That’s what marketing is demanding from us these days—that we all go faster. The trick is to find super smart ways of working, stay consistent, and do it with grace.
In terms of my typical day, I begin by looking at my calendar, my meetings, and my to-do list, and then just getting started. Coming from the film/video production world, as a producer I can’t help but be uber organized. It feels really good to draw a line through projects on my list when they’re done!
We use the Google Suite—so Google Sheets, Google Drive, and so on. We also use Monday.com so I can see an overview of all of our projects and stay organized. Our website is built on WordPress. Our socials are LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, but we really heavily focus on LinkedIn to build our networking community since we’re mostly B2B.
I’m looking forward to the day I can build a whole team of whip smart people who can knock it out of the park!
Half of my day is planning for the future and creating content, and the other half is addressing everything that arises and demands immediate attention. I work very closely with Ajay, the CEO, and Barbara, the other Co-Founder, on projects that cross into product, UI/UX, research and business strategy. We have frequent strategy meetings to maintain our momentum, address issues, and pivot on projects if we need to. I really enjoy the culture that Ajay has built and I’ve learned a lot from him.
Sometimes there just aren’t enough people and there isn’t enough time in the day—it’s a startup! But we're super excited right now to be hiring an amazing Director of Engineering and a few incredible sales folks. We’ve also just hired Brengi, a super sharp UI/UX designer. So we’re growing!
One of our goals is to really refine our platform to serve our clients in the best possible way. And then the second goal is really to take the product to market—we're still new. In general, we haven't actually arrived in the marketplace yet; this technology is brand new and we’re “emerging.” And so the goal is to keep pounding the pavement and making a splash on the market.
All the signs confirm we are on the right track. In July, we won first place in the TechCrunch Early Stage Startup Pitch Battle, which has given us a lot of exposure. We went up against nine other incredible companies that were hand selected by TechCrunch to participate in the Battle, out of thousands of companies from all over the world.
When they announced Vyrill as the winner, it felt really good to hear them say, “This company showed a high level of technical capacity and the judges felt this company was really well positioned to make a disruptive impact in their industry.” That is huge validation for us.
We really use our email lists. We take them seriously, we build them, and we use them to connect with our community. We have buckets of email lists with certain brand marketers, our data scientists, our users, our mentors, and our advisors. So we have a lot of different people to speak to, and we try to speak to them all directly. We don't put them all on the same email list; we segment the email list. It’s a little more work, but it's important that we're talking to each segment directly and sincerely and not talking at people.
Recently, I used the email list to launch an automated series to reach out individually to our past clients and users to announce our new free 14-day trial feature. And that was pretty successful. We've gotten some great feedback from that campaign.
Something that hasn't worked well is when an ad campaign is initiated too late. For instance, because of some exciting traction we were seeing, we decided at the beginning of March to do a virtual LinkedIn event showcase in less than three weeks. We promoted the event leading up to the showcase, and in the end, had less than 20 people. Of course, I had wanted a lot more people.
The takeaway is that planning and giving yourself lead-up time is key. You just want to do yourself a favor and give yourself enough time to do it well and make it a success. Don’t just bang out an event. I would never have gone into a film shoot without some proper development and pre-production so I was pretty humbled by that. Unless you have an incredible list of incredible networkers, unless you have those people in your back pocket, I wouldn't suggest doing any last-minute events.
The trend of companies integrating video into the buyer journey is just beginning. It's happening slowly for some industries and fast for others, but I think it's going to be big. Beauty and fashion are embracing video quickly. Right now, people will go and do their own research and look up videos to find a good product and learn everything they can about it before they buy.
I recently went on the hunt trying to find a specific kind of new cat litter we had tried and that our cat liked, and that never stunk, and that was super duper easy to clean. But I couldn’t remember the name of the stuff. So I did a bunch of web searches for videos where I could see what the actual cat litter and packaging looked like to see if I could recognize it. I eventually found it and bought more! So that was a success. But it started with watching videos.
People are already incorporating videos into their own research. More and more in the future, videos will also be integrated into the buyer journey by brands themselves. And videos will be integrated into everything. And when integrated well and smartly, the value of it all is that shoppers find what they need faster and brands deliver better service. Videos deepen the value of almost every aspect of marketing—in fact, of just about everything.
I would have loved to have found that cat litter in a fraction of the time it took me to find it! I’d rather be actually playing with my cat than on the computer.
I think that the truth is everybody likes to consume content differently. There are the readers and then there are the watchers. So I don't think that video will ever replace text—I think that text and video go hand in hand.
And I also think that it's helpful to have the transcript of the video because not everyone can watch videos all the time. At night, sometimes I prefer to read when I’m surfing the web. It’s just quieter. Both forms of content demand a different type of attention. So it's important to be able to offer value to all the different types of people.
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