Nadeem Mazen studied engineering at MIT but veered into the creative industry instead directing music videos as well as doing activations and analytics for media channels like MTV and Showtime. He formed a boutique creative digital agency that offered viral marketing, experiential marketing, TV commercial production and interactive websites. Nadeem ventured into politics and was elected a city councilor. On leaving office four years later, he deployed his movement building, community organization and tech skills into the creation of a professional network for creators.
Need for a Professional Network for Creators
Nadeem estimates there are 50 million semi-pro creators and influencers in the world.
“Some 44 million of them are making very little money. They’re getting squeezed by the algorithm. They’re working hard, feeling some performance and some take off but not making it work psychologically, professionally or economically. And it’s not their fault. They’re at the top of their game. They’re beloved by their audience of 50,000 to 2 million followers. Is there a way we can bring folks together and demonstrate that this 50 million is an entire nation of potential, who are the fuel of the Internet and of many future industries?”
He feels the Internet is approaching a tipping point that will see large numbers of these influencers earn a sustainable income.
“I have been seeing over the last ten years that this tipping point is coming. Tipping point to financial wellbeing and personal fulfillment. And these people are becoming more economically, socially and mentally sustainable. Not just get paid and burnout like a celebrity but feel more complete and healthy as a result of doing this work.”
Nadeem sees this army of mid and lower tier influencers as the future.
“Micro and mid-tier creators and influencers are the future. They are the fuel behind every major Internet platform and almost all Internet ads. When you and I go to Facebook or Instagram or TikTok and see an ad, we are seeing an ad because we just swiped through two creators that got us glued. The whole reason that the entire Internet works is because of some of these 50 million who produce most of the best content.”
Nadeem sees a lot in common between politicians and influencers.
“Your average mid-tier influencer with say 500,000 to 1 million followers, is essentially the equivalent of a congressperson in terms of their ability to affect society. So we’re starting to see now the potential for the influencer to have more impact to the benefit of humankind. In terms of economic empowerment, education, social connection that audiences have with an influencer who might point them in the right direction. Even in terms of human consciousness and spirituality. You might have that person say ‘Hey, when I went through a hard time spiritually or mentally, here is how I handled it’ and that may positively impact the lives of millions of people. We are allowing influencers to use their power to improve and inform their own communities.”
What is ASMBLE
Nadeem founded ASMBLE about three years ago.
“This is the first and only professional network for influencers and creators where we focus on making sure that each individual is treated as a growing entrepreneur and have access to the peer and expert mentorship, and social and emotional wellbeing that they often don’t get from their main social media platform. Everyone on the app has to have over 50,000 followers on some platform. The number’s a little higher on TikTok. There are some investors, some business people but even they also have the following.”
ASMBLE has different ‘channels’.
“You can think of them like a Slack channel or a Discord channel or a WhatsApp group. Everyone on this network is involved in these communities, channels and groups where they are getting to know people like them, getting to know each other professionally, learning and sharing tips and tricks. And some of these channels are secret societies. You have to be invited.”
There are brand channels too.
“We work with Fortune 500 enterprise clients who will start a channel, they will invite influencers to their channel, and will create a mastermind or brain trust. You have 50, 100 or 150 creators working together. You sometimes have these large groups working on not just determining the best idea and best content but can also distribute that content and you have a massive campaign overnight.”
ASMBLE’s goal is to be a platform where creators discuss their industry and take charge of its future and data.
“Who is going to have our data and how can we bring the data not just to benefit the corporation but to benefit the influencer. How do we, as a nation of 50 million creators, have the power of a nation, have power to be treated right, have the collective energy to share our wellbeing and pick each other up. How can we negotiate a better algorithm or better pay with say Facebook or YouTube? We are starting off with creator wellbeing and connection but could turn into a powerful block for the better treatment of creators.”
Eventually, Nadeem wants ASMBLE to be a data marketplace for creators to own.
“We are in the business of giving creators an opportunity to put their data up, to be viewed and seen by potential clients. Almost like a portfolio of performance. A portfolio of open access to any creator. We want creator data from social media platforms to be more accessible for creators to be able to promote their data and performance for others to see so that they can more easily be hired and pulled into all kinds of profitable ventures.”
Nadeem believes many influencer marketplaces, chat apps and social apps treat influencers and creators as disposable, interchangeable commodities. He sees ASMBLE as different.
“We are trying to lift up each influencer. We’re not saying you’re only valuable if we can sell you to a brand. We are taking vested interest in your growth as an entrepreneur. When you are successful, we will all be successful. That is our unique approach.”
Cultivating a Good Relationship Between Creators and Brands
As far as the relationship between creators and brands goes, he identifies three levels of conversations taking place.
“First, there’s what everyone says. Like ‘Influencers are hard to work with’ or ‘Brands take advantage of influencers’. The next level down is you get into a campaign and see how it actually is. Sometimes, we have a good campaign and everyone is very polite. Sometimes, people don’t understand each other and things are tense. Traditional influencer marketing is on this second level. Not every influencer is superficial. Not every brand is corrupt, trying to squeeze the influencer and pay as little money as possible. Some pay a good rate.”
The third level conversation is about how the creator-brand relationship could be, and is what ASMBLE aspires to.
“There’s the deeper level which is the brand actually wants to do a better creative product, wants to pay more, wants to have bigger scale projects, wants to do cool projects that involve the influencer on a creative level. And so we see how it could be on ASMBLE. We see more projects like that.”
He notes that on ASMBLE, both creators and brands are often surprised by how warm each party can be
“What surprises people is that the brand is warm, loving and appreciative. They love the development of the influencer. On the other hand, the influencer is not superficial. They’re creative and obsessed and excited by the brand’s mission. They’re not just posing with the product. Instead of plastic marketing where everyone has got to be so polished and so cold, what surprises people who come into ASMBLE is that everyone involved is a master, people enjoy working with one another. And everyone benefits. The influencer gets paid more, the brand gets better content and better distribution because the content is authentic and trusted.”
Brands that are fixated on getting the most for the least money, are making a major mistake, Nadeem warns.
“When you’re in that mindset, you’re involved in a race to the bottom. When you go to an influencer and give them a deal that’s not a good deal, you’re essentially going to someone who has your brand and the future of your company in their hands and saying ‘Go do a lot of work and I don’t really care about you’.”
They should instead cultivate a relationship with the creator.
“Of course, we want to save money and want great content and great outcomes. Everyone already knows that. But how are we going to do that with a feeling of enjoyment and mutual respect? Where the influencer is not just smiling and taking your money. You’re actually figuring out together what you need to do that will benefit the brand. Everyone has to be cost conscious but you have to get the best price on the way to getting the best relationship. And when you have the best relationship, that influencer brings you the most audience trust and you can really move product.”
Nadeem Mazen: Looking Ahead
He sees bright prospects for nano and super-nano influencers.
“The everyday user is soon going to become a trusted influencer. And so I’m very excited to see what happens with the marketplace as brands begin to put together not just channels of 50 influencers on ASMBLE but communities of 1,000 nano influencers.”
ASMBLE is looking to give creators a stake in their own data and the opportunity to make it public.
“Your niche, interests, past work and portfolio all goes into you ASMBLE creator profile. What’s coming next for us is an opportunity for creators to make this data public. Something they can point to not just when looking for influencer marketing work but when looking for acting work, streaming TV work or direct investment for merchandising from investor. We’ll give creators the opportunity to do more types of business even outside of ASMBLE, using the data and portfolio they have designed in ASMBLE.”
For brands, ASMBLE wants to give them the ability to create their brain trust even faster.
“Currently, brands can create a brain trust (a creator influencer secret society for your brand) within hours. Our goal is for brands to be able to do this within minutes. What we call instant matching. It’s going to take a lot of engineering and time.”
Nadeem Mazen is CEO & Co-Founder at ASMBLE, a social network for influencers and content creators that is focused on authenticity, human development and peer/mentor connections. He is also the founder of the boutique creative agency Nimblebot. Nadeem is a former city councilor at the City of Cambridge. He studied mechanical and biological engineering at MIT Nadeem lives in Cambridge, MA.