How the Filipino-made app Kumu changed the social media landscape
BY Candice Laquian
November 28, 2021

Kumu, an app initially intended as a messaging platform, shifted its focus to live streaming and content creation. Now with over ten million downloads, thousands of creators, and averaging 60 million live stream views every month, it’s no wonder why Kumu is one of the highest-grossing social apps in the world.

But how did a Filipino brand achieve these milestones? Kumu’s co-founder and chief content officer Angelo Mendez and vice president for marketing Vicky Herrera gave us a glimpse into their community during their talk at the Creative Futures conference last June.

The Quarantine Effect

With strict stay-at-home enforcement, this global pandemic changed how consumers connect with news, entertainment, and more. We saw an increase in media consumption in many countries around the world, and more people are spending time online to virtually connect with others.

Many events were also forced to go virtual and digital live streaming has been the go-to for artists and content creators for reaching their audience. Data from Forbes state a 45% growth in the live streaming industry alone between March and April 2020, and since Kumu reintroduced their app as a social media platform focused on live streaming, their downloads significantly increased. Now, they have over 10 million users hooked on the app’s live streaming functionality.

The Kumunity

Mendez and Herrera called their new generation of content creators the “Kumunity,” composed of mostly Filipino Gen Z’s and millennials living in and outside of the Philippines. They believe their users leverage Kumu’s technologies in a unique way by injecting each Filipino’s creative style, thus fostering a space to earn, create, and connect. “When people are engaging and talking, you can see relationships forming,” Herrera stated. “This exploded last year in the midst of quarantine. We saw a lot of people going to Kumu, talking about [their situation], feeling supportive, finding their teams, their tribes, and eventually, they [create] content together.”

Kumu prioritizes Filipino voices and culture by providing users a platform for craftful collaborations. “The Kumu technology helped people earn by sharing their passions, their stories, and talents. It’s sort of like creating a new job for creatives,” Herrera shared. In fact, some of Kumu’s creators are creating content on the app full-time. Even if you aren’t a content creator, Mendez mentioned, there are still many ways to enjoy Kumu. “You don’t just sit there and consume the content,” he said. “You actually make friends with people that like the same content as you.”

Right now, users are creating events of their own and Kumu is very supportive of this. “We want to make sure that whoever in our platform comes up with unique, amazing, and creative ideas feel supported,” Herrera said.

A new era of Filipino entertainment

Since the spike in live streaming among Kumu users, the company began developing their products around that functionality.

With limitations in studio shoots and live audiences, mainstream TV channels struggled to produce new shows, especially during the first few months of quarantine measures. Kumu was already building their Social TV back then, or Kumu-produced shows and user-generated content. Celebrities, online idols, performers, and brands participate in Social TV, being an audience-driven form of entertainment with real-time interaction and engagement.

Combining traditional television and social media has been a promising opportunity for Kumu. Last year, they partnered with the reality show Pinoy Big Brother, attracting 180,000 auditionees from the app. The popular quiz show Game Ka Na Ba? was launched on Kumu last year, allowing users to play and win prizes straight from their mobile phones.

Kumu-fied content

Kumu is also known for their “virtual gift” function. It’s essentially a “like” users give to live streamers and content creators. It’s also a way for content creators to earn since virtual gifts turn into diamonds, which they can redeem in cash after it reaches the 50,000-diamond mark. 50,000 diamonds is equivalent to PHP 750.

Kumu supports all kinds of creatives and they are always on the lookout for new talents through multiple sub platforms. They guest potential talents and boost their profile on KumunityStage. Kumusika helps independent Filipino artists distribute their music to major digital music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. More recently, the company gave spotlight to their e-commerce arm, shopkumu – a live-selling platform. “It's a home shopping network straight from your phone,” said Herrera.

If you’re a brand looking to elevate your digital visibility, campaigns on Kumu can gamify the live stream experience. Competitions are held in the app and open to everyone where users compete with each other to collect virtual gifts. “Campaigns are basically a sport,” Mendez said, explaining how an estimated twenty-five campaigns receive around 11,000 participating streamers, each with their own style of creating content.

With all these social media innovations, it’s impressive to see how a three-year-old Filipino-made app works on product technology while housing different types of content creators, empowered by Filipino entertainment and creative culture. All these were made possible because they listened to their users to improve their services and innovations. “Watching how our users are moving and co-creating the app with us is so inspiring,” said Herrera.

To Mendez, the power of the app is in their community. “The future of Kumu is its users.”


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