Mike Lu (pictured) is the CEO of Triller, an AI-powered music video app that lets users create celeb-quality videos in seconds. Most recently, Lu helped the company launch Triller 7.0 – an overall refresh to the app’s design with a monetization structure for creators to raise money from fans, brands, and music labels to meet purpose-driven goals such as college funds and buying new equipment to further their careers. One of the first examples of success from the new monetization structure is from French influencer Lea Elui who used the new feature to raise $50,000 to fund her first year of college.
Lu has over 12 years of product and technology experience working in mobile/social games and online media. He co-founded Fusion8, which was acquired by popular social media company RockYou in spring of 2016. Prior to Triller, Lu served as VP of product at GREE and executive producer at Funzio when it was acquired by GREE in 2012. Before mobile, he was employee five at YuMe, an online video advertising technology company.
This week we caught up with Lu to talk about the importance of influencer marketing and how it can be tweaked to better fit the needs of the industry.
VideoInk: Is the age of the influencer a fad? Why?
Mike Lu: The age of the influencer is here to stay. The reason why we know this is because influencers did not just pop up in the last 3-5 years; they have been around since user-generated content began two decades ago. Influencers are more visible now as the marginal cost of content creation is approaching zero, meaning all you really need to make a professional video these days is your iPhone. We believe we are in the third industrial revolution – a concept popularized by professor Jeremy Rifkon based on the notion of a sharing economy, where everything is becoming decentralized. Examples of this include the business models of Uber, AirBnB and Bitcoin, which all aim to put the power back into the hands of the public rather than just those at the top. Entertainment is the next industry entering this third industrial revolution, and we at Triller are constantly working on our platform to help drive this transformation forward.
VI: What would you change about the current model for agency/brand/influencer relations?
ML: The current model must adapt to provide deeper insights into data such as engagement levels. We live in a world where you can buy loads of followers on social media for a few bucks. Brands and agencies must understand that value comes from more than just surface-level numbers – engagement statistics such as views, likes, comments and reach are more impactful for any brand. We see some influencers that have more than five million followers across their social channels get an average of one million likes and eight million video views, while other influencers with five million followers see about one-tenth the amount of engagement. Paying attention to these details will help brands and agencies develop partnerships with influencers that will truly move the needle for them in a way that matters.
VI: What recent developments have been of key importance to the influencer ecosystem?
ML: Alongside the rise of influencer marketing budgets within agencies and brands, new ecosystems such as IGTV have developed to fully compete with YouTube. Tik Tok is another popular video platform with 200 million daily active users that is fully taking over in Asia, making it clear that video is now the dominant media format. Photos are secondary. What’s unique about Triller is that we now have the same footing as a platform for influencers as other platforms that have been around for 14+ years.
VI: With over 28 million downloads worldwide and zero dollars spent on marketing, what has been the biggest asset to Triller’s growth?
ML: We’re actually about to surpass 30 million! We attribute our growth to placing an emphasis on authenticity throughout every aspect of our business. Our number one company policy is that we do not pay for content – any Triller video that you will ever see will be made organically. We first applied this emphasis on authenticity to the urban hip-hop market, where our growth initially started. From there, we kept this emphasis in a world where an attempt to beautify everything is becoming the norm. Remaining authentic among Generation Z is crucial. We’ve tested this by comparing user engagement with content that is authentic versus content that appears overly staged and scripted – the authentic content will always come out on top.
VI: What is the biggest challenge ahead for social video ecosystem and what will the industry need to do to overcome it?
ML: Content discovery. Many foreign companies have developed recommendation platforms similar to Instagram’s algorithm that sorts specific content based on what the AI believes to be in your best interest, making it difficult to find content from new creators trying to gain exposure around their content. This is an issue for every platform. We need to give everyone a fair chance at getting their content seen by the masses and stop dehumanizing the discovery process. Since day one, we’ve centered our business around the goal of having the next Justin Bieber be discovered on Triller. The only way this can happen is if we continue allowing new and unknown creators to shine based on their own authentic content.