Creating Closed Social Networks for Brands

Creating Closed Social Networks for Brands

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Manu Mathew wants to put the “R” back in CRM, just as it states on the website of his new company, Cohora, a technology platform that operates invisibly on a brand marketer’s website. When a customer on a brand site chooses to share their thoughts or experiences regarding that brand’s product or service, Cohora is activated to make that a richer experience—sharing text, photos, and videos about their experience and letting other customers know whether or not they recommend it.

Using Cohora, brands can turn their websites into a type of owned social networks that drives consumer advocacy and collects first-party data to drive behavior-based loyalty.

Mathew is the co-founder and CEO. He previously led VisualIQ until it was acquired by Nielsen and, which was acquired by Cohora is backed by Volition Capital in Boston. Although still in the soft launch phase, Cohora has four clients in the travel and retail sectors.

What does the name Cohora mean?

The name is a play on the word “cohort,” which in marketing circles is used to describe a group of individuals that exhibit similar behaviors or attributes.

How does Cohora work?

The platform enables brands to build a direct and emotional connection with their customers. These are customers that are first-party customers that have purchased their product or service at some point. Essentially, they engage in a real-time dialogue within the platform. It fosters brand-to-customer and customer-to-customer conversations around experiences either with the purchase of a product or usage of the product as a starting point. The goal is to propagate user-generated content that ultimately can be used to further brand advocacy and growth.

Isn’t that what Influencer marketing does?

Influencer marketing is very prevalent on Instagram and other channels. But it’s very hard to track in terms of actual impact on the top line or bottom line. There was an article [recently] on how DTC brands are slowing spend on influencers because of oversaturation and [customer] distrust of paid endorsements. Actual customers are micro-influencers that brands can identify within the Cohora platform. Brands can observe their activity, endorsements, and sentiments and take their measure of how they think about your brand.

Do you see influencer marketing on the wane as a result?

Influencer marketing has two levels: macro influencers and micro-influencers. I think that will give rise to what we’re calling micro-influencers. This notion of influencers remains intact. It’s just a question of who is doing the influencing.

How can clients use the platforms?

I just went on a trip to Africa. I was born in Zambia and grew up in Botswana. We took our kids to South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana. I’ve spoken to many people about my travels and experience, and I love photography. I posted a whole bunch of pictures of my experience and the wildlife. The tour company that set up the trip for us will not be able to capitalize on my experience at an emotional level. The tour company missed out on an opportunity to reach out to me and say, “Hey Manu, we have this network, this brand network that we’ve built out. We would love for you to come back onto the platform and share your experience and your journey.”

Can you say for which clients Cohora has done this?

The actual client was a travel client [not the one he used]. Travel is infamous for not having a great strategy around its first-party data. We did this for a tour company in India, and most of their clientele came from Europe and the U.S. They were looking to get their clients who are from these two geographic regions to post about their experiences. [Cohora] increased the level of conversation between the brand and the prospect. The brand was able to determine a lot of chatter about visiting the Taj Mahal and could create a package around that.

Who owns that data?

All that data is now enriched and belongs to the travel brand. Brands can actually encourage me as a user to say, “Hey, if you don’t mind, here’s 10% off for your next trip. But we’d love for you to post about your experience and then post it to Facebook and Instagram.”

How can Cohora enhance omnichannel marketing?

Email has been around forever. There’s polling and survey data that sits by itself. SMS data that sits by itself. A lot of fragmented solutions are designed to capture me at a moment in time. We provide an all-in-one platform that has email, and SMS. What we’ve built is a framework that allows the user to convert another customer and have a conversation within a closed network that belongs to the brand. A lot of marketers still spend a lot of time and energy on the top of the funnel, which is acquisition, and very little on the retention side.

When did Cohora launch?

We officially launched and grabbed our first seed funding around January 9, 2023.

What is Cohora’s revenue model?

The revenue model has two components: Brands pay an annual subscription tied to the number of active users on the platform and the percentage of revenue share. For example, a customer promotes multiple products that they recently purchased and were very positive about. I read their review and purchase the product off of that post in the network. The customer originating the initial post can get compensated for the sale. In this regard, it behaves like a micro-affiliate model.

Kathleen Sampey