Giff Carter & Shanna Liu: How Seek Is Connecting Consumers, Creators, & Businesses
Seek CEO Shanna Liu and COO Giff Carter created Seek to provide value to the lives of consumers, influencers, and businesses.
Seek CEO Shanna Liu and COO Giff Carter have been working together for years. Both with backgrounds in the financial sector, the two previously worked on the startup Stash, an app that helps people new to the world of stocks easily and quickly start investing, and that’s where they realized the influencer economy was growing and presenting new opportunities. So, that’s when Seek, Shanna and Giff’s recommendation-focused app, was born. As Giff noted, the appeal of branching out into a field that’s in need of new services with Seek was “seductive.”
“In the gig economy at large, there was an under-focus on the creator economy. And in the creator economy, there was an over-focus of — I’ll call it — the large medium, and an under-focus on the small medium. And so we could see that there was this opening in the small medium space and the influencer economy to come in and help them.”
So with Seek, Shanna and Giff are aiming to help creators with their content and finances, while also helping consumers receive their favorite creators’ “expertise.” So, if people want to hear about a new restaurant an influencer — or curator, as they’re called on Seek — is loving, Seek is the app to use.
“The two big things: One, it’s a very subjective space, and two there’s such, like, a seductiveness in ‘I want to be in the know, I want to know what the hot influencers are doing, where they’re going.’ So this is the perfect space for it.”
While Yelp boasts business reviews, Seek features business reviews from influencers, as well as useful information about neighborhoods — like where the coolest graffiti is located in a city. That way, people can get information from creators they trust who share similar tastes, and they’ll have opportunities to interact directly with those influencers.
So, with Seek, there’s benefit to all those involved — consumers who want recommendations, curators who want to provide content to fans, and the businesses that are reviewed and recommended.
What Makes Seek Unique
Shanna shared that the influencers they spoke with expressed the desire to boost their follower count while providing valuable content for their fans that they can monetize. So, that’s just what Seek set out to do, providing unique capabilities that differ from popular social media platforms.
“Unlike Instagram or TikTok, where the medium is a pretty picture or it’s like a funny video — which, in our mind, they’re not actually competitors, they’re very much complimentary — the way that we surface our content is in a very sort of curated and more detailed manner.”
So, for example, curators can not only share a review of a business, but they can also give tips on how to best enjoy the services or products from the business in question. That could be a suggestion of the best time to go or a super tasty dish to order. Curators can also use the more than 100 tags to describe the business, such as “waterview,” “budget,” or “attractive people,” which were designed to help influencers share the most insightful information and to allow consumers to learn a lot about the businesses. Curators can then monetize “premium recommendations” and any one-on-one interactions they choose to do with followers.
And while the value Seek provides to consumers is fairly obvious, there’s a lot to be said about the value businesses receive. As Shanna pointed out, at one point in time, restaurants would need high ratings like a Michelin star to become “famous.” But with the help of Seek curators promoting their favorite restaurants, just about any business can gain popularity.
What Seek Aims to Do
Though the platform will only be available in New York at first, Seek will eventually expand into other locations in the future. Giff shared that “content leads the consumer experience,” so, before launching in a new area, Seek will connect with influencers to provide interesting recommendations as “founding curators.” That way, when Seek is available in new locations, there will be a wealth of content for users to consume.
And while there needs to be content, it’s also key that Seek provides a meaningful way for users to locate the information they need.
“When you think about Seek, it’s organized, it’s built to be evergreen, it’s searchable, it’s indexable, and that’s how the creators then manage to put together this really beautiful sort of catalogue of their expertise and share it. And that forms then the baseline of ultimately the premium content.”
Shanna added that they help categorize curators with between 5 to 10 vibes, helping creators grow a following of users who will best connect with them. Seek also offers perks to its curators like event parties, opportunities to monetize, and even a videographer to help them make content.
“In our mind, if we can really help these leisure curators be their best selves, be the business that they want to be, that’s our vision for them. Our vision for consumers is … whether it’s a Thursday night or whether you’re traveling to Rome, really being able to help you save time in discovering and have a good time so you are really figuring out what you do best and be able to go and have the best time that you have.”
As for businesses, Shanna stated that the COVID-19 pandemic provided a lot of challenges to businesses both big and small. Seek aims to help businesses get discovered and receive much-deserved credit for the products and services that people love.
Seek Is Dedicated to Creating Personalized Experiences
While other platforms may offer reviews or may offer personal insights, none offer exactly what Seek does. The platform is capable of crafting an individualized experience for each user based on their interests and lifestyle, as Shanna stated.
“We have the functionality, we have the sort of personalization, and then we have the bandwidth and diversity to really offer everything you need for consumer leisure.”
This personalization kicks off right at the beginning for consumers. Seek users are given the opportunity to select what interests them at the start of their experience, rather than later on in the process, something Shanna noted is of major significance.
“We’ve changed the consumer journey, where it’s not like you come in and you immediately get [bogged] down by all these recommendations and all these curators, like you don’t know who they are. We’ve made it a lot simpler, where in registration you are asked 5 to 10 of your vibes and then we have an algorithm that matches and suggests for you what are the top curators that you might like.”
Notably, Shanna and Giff see influencer marketing becoming more prominent for local businesses in particular. While this is great for businesses, it’s also wonderful for influencers looking to become authorities in their neighborhoods.
“I do think historically where influencer marketing has been started is with the large fashion brands and with the large makeup brands. And so, as it gets into the other industries like consumer leisure, which hasn’t seen a lot of influencer marketing yet, there’s a lot to be tapped, and especially the smaller, the mom and pop stores — I actually think that’s where the influencers have the most say.”
While Seek is only available to its founding curators at the moment, consumers will be able to use the platform in New York soon. Seek is set to officially launch in the App Store on October 25. Those interested can join Seek’s early access list and can learn more by following Seek on Instagram.