The Beef With Trusted Herd (Part 3)

As the world started to get antsy about being inside for so long due to COVID-19, the live events industry timidly restarted with trepidation. While there is not quite a definitive date or moment in which live events marketing restarts, by Spring 2021 there was starting to be a noticeable resurgence.

Trusted Herd emerges as the “largest reputation site”, having seemingly beat out their closest competitor: PopBookings.

So how exactly was Trusted Herd able to achieve this feat? The answer to that may be a bit more complicated than it seems at face value.

PopBookings was founded in 2014 with the goal of streamlining the job posting, hiring, check in/out, and payment system into a centralized platform. The concept is meant to be user friendly regardless of whether you are an agency looking for staff or someone looking to be hired by an agency. The idea took off rapidly, partially due to the intense marketing campaign by the company in top markets such as Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. It was not long before they were able to build a sizeable number of agencies and brand ambassadors due to the level of control that the app gave everyone. The events industry loved it.

But almost from the very beginning, the platform was plagued with problems, with many people reporting various glitches: trouble checking in/out, incorrect timesheets, communication issues with the agencies and the staff through the app. A number of scams also started popping up on the app as well, ranging from having people work an event and simply not paying them to the classic "pay to play" where an agency wants you to pay a fee to be on their roster.

Trusted Herd's launch in January 2017 was a part of the response to being able to figure out what agencies were scamming people and which agencies were legit. The idea is that the community of people would be able to tell each other who to avoid and that certain types of scams could be exposed. While PopBookings has a ranking system, it is more so geared towards the agencies looking to hire you than it is towards being able to publicly showcase the profile as your resume.

It was evident that Trusted Herd was keeping a close eye on PopBookings, as well as other industry standards at the time. It made sense as these were the companies that most event workers would use to be able to book events. TH was still pitching as a reputation site for the workers at that point, though there was obviously consideration for agencies as TH needed them to endorse the company in order to gain relevancy.

In January 2019, TH seemed to double down on PopBookings. Where platforms such as ShiftGig had hopped on the TH train, it looks as if PopBookings did not. Subsequently, TH seems to have started seeking their top agencies in order to poach them. In April 2019, TH announces Premium Trusted Herd Companies. This coincided with their partnership with Senegal Software.

The premise behind the Premium membership was that an agency would be able to post jobs, accept applications, and hire staff via Trusted Herd and then both the agency and the worker would have the ability to rate each other once the event was done. This would help to weed out people leaving reviews for agencies that had not actually worked for the agency. This would also allow workers the ability to see which agencies and fellow co-workers are trustworthy. It seemed like a win-win for everyone.

However, it wasn't long before people started noticing that there was a discrepancy in the pay rates between the two platforms, with TH having the higher rate. This was a logical fallacy: while the rates were different, TH and PopBookings were not offering similar services. In fact, TH was (and in some ways, still is) playing catch up to PopBookings, since that platform includes everything from job posting to payroll. An agency could post a job on TH offering a high rate in order to get a high number of applicants, but would have to interview and onboard those individuals off-platform. This meant that TH could serve as a great way to build a personal agency roster, since an agency could just create a fake job posting and have all applicants sign up to their site (many of which were using StaffConnect, which is a more personalized software of agencies).

Trusted Herd spent much of 2019 getting agencies to sign up for premium membership, which may be why Philip Victor Ongert, owner of the BA for FB groups, agreed to a partnership in December 2019. This allowed TH to be much more visible to more people, but it also meant converting the members of those groups into TH profiles and site hits. The site hits become the most important, since that is how many views the site gets in a day and one of the key selling points of TH.

I had been keeping an eye on both Trusted Herd and PopBookings since 2019. I was much more interested in Trusted Herd than PopBookings solely because it seemed much more worker oriented. I had been keeping notes on the industry for a VERY long time, initially just to help me with my own hiring process. By 2022, I was already trying to convert those notes into something that would be helpful to the overall experiential community. So naturally, when I saw TH post about wanting feedback on the application process, I happily chimed in and offered up my industry notes to the founder, Brian A. Fox.

In May 2022, the founder of Trusted Herd and I had a video call. And it did not go anything like I expected.

Read the next installment of the series: The Beef With Trusted Herd (Part 4).

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