INTERVIEW | Youssef Ali, founder of Syft, talks RiceGum, Social Media, and his studio burning down!?
After helping RiceGum record his album, Syft lost their studio
I was lucky enough to talk on the phone with Youssef Ali, founder of Syft.
The internet is always changing content creators, and social media influencers have changed the landscape of pop culture. Websites like YouTube, Facebook, etc. are no longer simple pastimes that you scroll through - the are well-oiled machines dedicated to giving visibility to those who have mastered their algorithm and have the ability to keep up. But it's not always in the hands of these social media starlets - in fact, there are groups of people who have dedicated their time to helping influencers and brands chisel their way in this ever evolving landscape. I had the pleasure of talking to one of such people, Youssef Ali.
So, tell me about Syft!
Syft is an agency for influencer and digital marketing services for brands. We built the agency to make sure people aren't taking advantage of our influencers or brands and to provide a one-stop shop solution. Our goal is to help online creators monetize their social media influence and help brands maximize their ROI. We also have developed an app called Churro.io - it is an app where influencers can collaborate with each other on brand campaigns and online content. It's for members only, so you have to be an influencer or an approved brand to use the app. Everybody goes through a pre-approval process.
Once you are logged in, influencers can communicate with one another and brands can communicate with influencers. Influencers can also reach out to brands not only for campaigns, but also for events and investments - it's all done through the app. There are a lot of different filters and options regardless of the influencer's reach or the brand's magnitude. The process is simple and the app is easy to use.
What is your background?
I went to school for psychology and then got my Masters in business - I have an MBA. Before I started working in the industry, I worked in importing and exporting. I really started getting into the industry after I did some production work on some music videos. Everything took off from that point forward.
What's it like keeping up with the constantly shifting and changing social media landscape?
Its like a game to me. One minute we've got a good amount of income on Facebook, and then Facebook decided to change the algorithm so the income took a hit by 75-80%. The same thing happened on Twitter. Last month, Twitter shut down a lot of accounts and they took away about 70% of our network. Our accounts would share each other out - they would help grow one another, and they (Twitter) didn't want that, because they wanted to monetize further. The way they make money is by making us pay to increase our reach.
So for us, we have to figure out how to get around that, because, one: their rates are not fair. So, for instance, if want to push 1000 impressions on Twitter right now, it's like $75 - and we don't really get $75 worth of value from that. So, what we try to do is work with their algorithms - work with the way their current rules are setup - and it's constantly changing every day.
Right now, on Instagram, the algorithms are pretty gnarly because a lot of creators are actually losing followers. So what you kind of have to do for Instagram is be really active, and that's what they want to see. A given user's reach is reflective of their activity and the quality of their content - this applies to video content and Instagram stories - you have to be responding to comments on your own pictures, etc.
So we have to figure it out and play around, but it's a process and it's fun, that's why there's a lot of new apps that are coming out - saying that, "We don't know how the algorithms work" or "We don't have this function" but we know that data is the greatest asset, so we just stay on top of it all and collect data. We like to see what our influencers are looking for and what they enjoy working on. But the most important thing for us is to create marketing value out of technology and different social platforms.
We like creating viral and engaging content for our audience. And try to blow it up as much as we can.
You talk about how much of a process it is. What do you guys do specifically to push your clients forward?
It depends on which content creators we're working with. I'll be honest, RiceGum doesn't need too much help from us. With Rice, what I do is mainly help him with music. So, I help him create his music, work with him in the studio with the producer and setting up the sessions, and making sure all that is taken care of. Then I help him with the song releases. And that's where I have most of my fun, the content creation itself.
For other influencers - we have a lot that is still growing - we help them create their content and then we set them up with a shared rotation with other influencers that are more engaged. This process helps increase their reach and helps them gain momentum. Create better content and see what's translating with their audience.
Speaking of Rice, congrats on the song going platinum! That's a pretty big deal.
What was it like making that song? I heard that your studio burned down three hours after making it?
We finished the song at 3:30 AM. Rice and Alissa went home, the producers went home. My studio was actually at home, in the garage - it was detached in the back. I had just moved to this house. It had been like a month, and I had just finished remodeling the studio. We made it look a spaceship landing site - it was beautiful. And that same day was the last day we finished construction. It was completely done and the next day we were supposed to have a celebration for it. But Rice wanted to record the song and release it the following week, so we had to record the song that night.
So, that night he started recording and writing at 9:30 PM, at 3:30 AM, Rice finished recording. At 6:00 AM I got woken up in my bed by firemen.
Oh my god!
He said, "You're garage is on fire," and I'm like, "What kind of prank? Someone must be pranking me." So, I told him that I was going to sleep, and he said, "No, sir, your garage is on fire." So I go outside and the garage was in complete flames. I'll send you some videos it was - a - it was a pretty intense day.
Yeah it sounds real freaking intense!
But you know, we had some people say that song was actually flames and fire so it burned the studio down, you know? And it was the only song recorded in there and it went platinum so it's good vibes.
I know that diss tracks are common. Did you guys expect this one to skyrocket into the success that it's had?
Given the fact that Drake's diss track to Meek Mill didn't go platinum, we never thought this track would go platinum. We never expected it, and when it got platinum, we were in disbelief.
It's a damn good song.
Thank you, man, thank you. We started the process of submitting with RIAA. There was a lot of delay because they weren't answering during Christmas, and then January is when we went full throttle with certification and stuff.
Was this something you'd always seen yourself doing?
I always loved music and I knew wanted to do something with music eventually - and that's when I got into the music video production. It's another big part of our company, we do a lot of music videos. Our company actually won, for the past two years, best videos of the year in the Middle East and Bollywood. But for the past few years, I've been really focused on the tech part, and launching that.
So, my very last question: Social media is one of the most influential mediums, and the content creators you work with are some of the most influential people in world right now. Do you think this is the new norm? Is this how we're going to start getting all of our information, and even finding our new celebrities?
I think over the next ten to twenty years everybody is going to be a social media influencer and a celebrity in their own kind of way. I think the internet is really going to empower a lot of people to be entrepreneurs and is going to empower the world to be a better place as long as everybody keeps pushing forward. Everybody is on the internet, everybody's making accounts, everyone has something to offer. Eventually, everyone is going to have thousands of followers - everyone is going to have someone watching them do things. We are getting connected more and more every day.
This has been great! It has been really cool talking to you.
Thank you, Shann!
Shann Smith is a freelance writer, screenwriter, playwright, gamer, music lover, and film/TV lover. When he's not working on his columns for Popdust, he's doing his best to create and consume as much media as he can!
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