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Berlin-Headquartered Social Media Platform Jodel Enters The MENA Region Jodel allows its users to follow and participate in online conversations with like-minded users around them, allowing them to meet each other physically, after breaking the ice through online chat.

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Jodel, a Berlin-based social media platform, has made its foray into the MENA region, with its team in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, already growing a 3.5 million user base in the country. "The region is also becoming increasingly important for us from an economic point of view, and we have already achieved initial successes with campaigns for companies," says Tim Schmitz, COO at Jodel, adding that the engagement rate in that region continues to expand greater than those encountered in the EU regions.

Jodel was created out of its successor tellM, which was aimed at allowing an anonymous communication among friends, in 2014 in California. However, Schmitz explains that the concept was not well-received, as there were few use cases for anonymous communication; however, it did reveal that the core idea was appealing to potential users. "We iterated to this solution, and with our last money, launched back in Germany, where it suddenly worked," Schmitz says. "More and more, we learned that the location focus was the actual big thing here, and that the "anonymity' (we prefer to say that there are no public profiles) just makes it very easy to interact with people nearby."

By using the geolocation services offered by smartphones, Jodel allows its users to follow and participate in online conversations with like-minded users around them, enabling them to meet each other physically, after breaking the ice through online chat. "With Jodel, you can really become part of a local community like you've never could before," Schmitz explains, noting that one of Jodel's strengths is in the number of use cases it offers. "No matter if you are in Riyadh today and in Berlin the next day, by opening our app, you will instantly know what is the latest social news in your current location. Moreover, no matter what you are interested in, you will most likely find someone on Jodel to talk about it within minutes, be it about football, a Netflix series you watch, make-up, the best restaurants, and so on."

Earlier this year, a Wall Street Journal article titled "How a German Social-Media Company Tamed the Trolls" that focused on how a certain image that was posted on the app crossed the privacy guidelines of Jodel and affected its users. Basically, those were the actions of the so-called "trolls"- a social media term coined for those who share or promote content that gives out a sense of mockery or abuse of others. The team at Jodel were able to quickly identify the problem and work out its solution, which led to a hashtag campaign #goodvibesonly. "Compared to other platforms this actually leads to a lot less abuse as a percentage of total content," states Schmitz. "You will never be able to get the platform 100% abuse free. We developed a very sophisticated user moderation model that we still use today. It allows us to make quality decisions that are supported by our community very quickly, meaning that we spend less than a minute per review, and therefore that kind of content gets a lot less visibility which, on the other side, reduces the abuse on the platform again."

Related: The Three Golden Rules Of Social Media Visuals

To date, Jodel has raised US$12.3 million in four rounds, and its three current goals include achieving financial independence, developing advertorial formats and content, and establishing contacts with brands and ad agencies. Speaking of the second goal, Schmitz says, "We believe every person has the need of interacting with like-minded people in the local community, but we still have to become better in allocating the right content to the right people, i.e. personalize the experience." Similarly, Schmitz explains that its third priority -improving the app's moderation mechanisms- can never be "completed'. He adds, "Because in the realm of social media operating platforms, the fresh content from new and existing users belonging to various geographic locations keeps pouring in, and hence, you can only improve your algorithm to get better at moderating content towards guaranteeing a positive user experience for fellow Jodelers."

'TREP TALK: Tim Schmitz, COO at Jodel, shares tips for tech entrepreneurs

1. Don't wait too long with making revenues "Ultimately, revenue enables many growth loops. You can hire more people, you can do paid acquisition, you are not dependent on external investors, you get users used to it more easily, etc. What people always say is that you first need a lot of users, in order to start the monetization project. However, this creates a lot of pressure for founders, as you are always short of money. Also Facebook already in its first months did significant revenues, which many people don't know."

2. Build MVPs for every use product "You won't have many resources, so it's important that you learn as quickly as possible. Even when you have built your app, what should be the next feature? Test your hypothesis with the easiest possible possibility. For example, the first test we usually do when we build a new feature is to test our hypothesis using fake buttons in the app that do nothing, but give you data on how many people would use this feature. Should we develop video or audio for our users? Developing both and testing it is a one-year-project."

Related: Five Hacks To Make The Most Of Your Social Media Strategy
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