A new app is activating a business’ customer base and turning them into their photographers. BYLINED connects brands with authentic photographs of customers interacting with their products.
A conversation between BYLINED Founder Dave Hunegnaw and Walker Evans of Columbus Underground (and The Metropreneur) about how the media outlet covered Comfest sparked the idea. Instead of four to five CU photographers on the ground, Hunegnaw asked Evans about the 20,000 people at the festival with smartphones, making them photographers. When Evans paused and said he hadn’t thought about that, Hunegnaw knew it was time to connect the dots.
“We started off as an on-brand and on-demand photo app,” Hunegnaw says.
Looking at other photo platforms, the lot of stock mostly consists of inspirational shots or workspace and living setups. What was missing was photos that showed customers actually engaging with products and brands in a really meaningful way.
“We saw a void in this opportunity to provide on brand photos,” Hunegnaw says.
BYLINED wants to provide photos of those moments that can’t be captured again. Anything can be staged, but these are the moments of authenticity.
BYLINED couples that brand authenticity with demand, allowing businesses to tell their fans what they need and when they need it. As the app evolved, Hunegnaw realized this process wasn’t just about imagery.
“Over time we discovered that brands want not just the photo, but the engagement and the intelligence,” he says. “Now we’re a customer engagement app that just happens to leverage authentic photos from the customer’s perspective.”
BYLINED provides the who, where, when and how to contact for each of the photographs submitted through the app. The number of submissions can also be a valuable metric. Say a company like Jeni’s wants photographs of their salty caramel ice cream and receives 600 submissions – that’s 600 sales and interactions with that brand.
The customers that are a good fit for BYLINED are outlined by four C’s – the company itself, the category serviced, their culture and customers. BYLINED companies are typically leaders or admired in their industry with a business-to-customer focus. (Looking at B2B, nobody really wants a picture of their CPA.)
As for culture, “Are these brands that people absolutely love and trust and want to be a part of?” Hunegnaw asks.
These brands also already have customers that are out there documenting their lives, and thereby experiences with many brands, in photographs.
On the execution end, the process starts with an assignment outlined by the brand. Customers, or Byliners, that have downloaded the app receive push notifications with creative briefs that summarize the company and what they are looking for in the perfect shot, including details like if people should be engaging with the product inside or outside, portrait or landscape, and price.
Brands have the power to set the price for each shot, with smaller brands offering around $25-$50 a photo and larger institutions upwards of $100. Brands can also choose the option to pay in gift cards.
“[Brands] will own the photos once they pay the award to the photographer,” Community Manager Alissa Ohashi says.
License and royalty free, it’s up to the brand’s discretion how they would like to use the image.
Ohashi says that they are really focused on building a community around the photographers. Many individuals are already taking photos of their everyday lives and creating their own brands on social media, but now, “They can show brands how they are using their products and services,” she says. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Without the Byliner, the process doesn’t exist so the BYLINED team wants to make the things easy, casual and approachable.
“It’s really a lot about the Byliner and their creativity,” Ohashi says.
That focus on the person taking the picture can really be seen through one small detail on the app. Think of any other camera app – the photo button is at the bottom center. BYLINED places the button on the upper left or right side depending on your handedness so thumbs can easily fire shots (a process that took some convincing with Apple).
BYLINED has been lauded with much positive reception, finding both a network of businesses ready to take advantage of the technology, and a number of investors who believe in it.
“Brands get it,” Hunegnaw says.
Ohashi say that the “get it” factor is actually a great litmus test for finding their customers – if they don’t get it at pitch, it’s likely not the kind of company that would benefit from the service. The app has already captured the attention of local institutions like North Market, Hot Chicken Takeover, roll:, Tigertree and PromoWest. Festival partnerships with PromoWest Fest and Bunbury will create near real-time displays of Byliner photos, inspiring moments like spontaneous downloads to get in on the fun.
The app launched about two weeks ago and already has several active assignments from its partners. BYLINED is focused on building its user base in Columbus first, but does see an opportunity to scale as they continue to refine the process and details with feedback welcomed from the community.
For more information, visit bylined.me.