Fishbowl, the anonymous professional networking app that has gained popularity with agency employees, including as a vehicle to spread rumors, is now targeting brand marketers.
According to Fishbowl co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Loren Appin, the decision comes as interest rises from "thousands" of marketing employees from companies including Nike, PepsiCo, Google, Facebook and Apple who have been sitting on the waiting list to be admitted into the app. Anonymous users are required to sign up for Fishbowl using their work emails for verification and Appin said those who have tried from the brand side previously hit a wall explaining that "bowls" would be opening up for them soon.
"This really has always been part of our plan and strategy," he told Ad Age, adding that the app recently also expanded to educators and is exploring rolling out to human resources and tech industries next. "What our approach has been is to gain really deep adoption for different professional verticals and then roll out from there."
The app was originally made for consultants but was opened to the agency industry in 2017. Appin said about 40 percent of agency professionals in the U.S. are now using Fishbowl.
The app is comprised of various "bowls," or essentially chat rooms, specific to each industry. There are specific agency bowls for roles including creatives, copywriters, media buyers and planners. Other bowls are dedicated to minorities, including "Black in Advertising" and "Women in Advertising." There's even a "Bad Clients" bowl, which Appin assured brand marketers won't have access to.
"In time, we do think there are many bowls where it will be relevant to have overlap," Appin said of agency and brand marketer users. "We think the overlap will be quite interesting," noting the "bit of tension" that sometimes exists between those on the agency side and those in brand marketing. "It will be an interesting way for them to learn from one another," he added.
For instance, marketing and agency users will have access to the same bowls for topics such as diversity and inclusion and to discuss platforms such as Instagram, according to Appin. But agency and marketers will still get dedicated bowls. For instance, marketer-focused bowls will target specific in-house departments, including separate bowls for product marketing, digital production, social media management and business development.
Although Appin said Fishbowl aims to be a positive place for professionals to gain insight and advice from others in their respective industries, he did acknowledge that the app also carries a negative perception of being a place where people go to complain about their employers, colleagues and clients. For example, in one recent post where an art director asked "how's Mullen NY?" a MullenLowe employee responded snidely, "no better than Mullen anywhere."
"Most people are coming to our platform to seek advice and engage with one another," Appin said. "Whether we like it or not, the things that are more sensational are the things that tend to stick out."
He said Fishbowl tracks the commentary "extremely closely" and will notify a user and pull his or her input if it is too negative to the point that it's not constructive, which is the goal of every conversation on the platform. He said those rules will pertain to brand marketers as well. According to its own analysis, 75 percent of the content on Fishbowl is neutral, 15 percent is positive and 10 percent is negative.
Meanwhile, Fishbowl employees aren't the only ones tracking the conversations. Appin said organization leaders themselves peruse the site to gauge the attitudes of their employees. He expects that to be the same for brand marketers, so a word to the wise: don't reveal anything that could link you to a specific situation or experience if you don't want your boss to find out you're talking about it.
"We care about creating a positive environment," Appin said. "That's really our intent. We want to give people a space where they can talk openly and candidly and won't have to worry as well."