Buddy Media’s Brand Platform Grows with Facebook, Goes Global

Buddy Media is a New York-based company that’s been helping brands take advantage of their social media presence since Facebook opened the platform in 2007.

The idea was to assist companies with establishing themselves on Facebook. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we wanted to participate,” founder and chief executive Mike Lazerow tells us. “You basically could build on top of Facebook and reach consumers directly, rather than dealing with the traditional gatekeepers of the web.”

At the time, Facebook had about 30 million monthly active users — 470 million or so later, Buddy Media has a solid and growing business. Check out our interview with Lazerow, below, for lots of key details on its experiences to date, and its plans for the future.

Note that the company also does work on Twitter, MySpace and iPhone platforms, but has focused its energies on Facebook by offering primarily larger companies, brands and agencies a content management system that includes an application library, as well as publishing and analytics tools. Some notable clients include Anheuser Busch, Southwest Airlines, the NHL, L’Oreal and TJ Maxx.

It has raised $10 million from a variety of investors, including Peter Thiel, Ron Conway, Mark Pincus, Softbank Capital and the European Founders Fund, among several others.

Inside Facebook: What products and services does your company provide to clients using Facebook? What types of clients are you aiming to reach?

Mike Lazerow: The business is a software as a service platform, any company can subscribe or license it to help them manage their Facebook presence. Buddy Media is more of an enterprise player, versus custom app shops or the small business players. Our strongest categories are CPG (consumer packaged goods), travel (Four Seasons, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines), tech (Samsung) and fashion (L’Oreal, Diane Von Furstenberg, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s).

IFB: Can you share some highlights of how your company has helped clients meet their goals using Facebook?

ML: Summit Entertainment (“Twilight”) is a company that we started with that had very few fans. Through Wall posts and managing of very creative ad promotions on our platform they’ve gone from 4.5 milllion to about 7 million Likes since January — which has been one of our biggest fan growths. On the retail side, Redbox, we started working with them in January and they had about 400,000 Likes, or fans. They are now one of the largest in their space with 1.1 million Likes without a lot of marketing, mostly just content management. +Global (more here) lets companies scale their Facebook presence by geo-targeting by language or country, whether it’s one Page in one country or 1,000 Pages in 100 countries. According to our clients we’ve cut over 80% of the cost out of the equation.

IFB: Overall, can you share metrics on the scope of your business?

ML: Across the platform we have 80-90 million total connections, fans, Likers. It’s not unusual for our clients to have 10% of all their Facebook fans engage them on a monthly basis. We now have 75 agencies, primarily advertising agencies and public relations firms, that actually use a white label version of our platform; we let (them) do most of the creative work. Buddy Media is growing by over 50% quarter-by-quarter in terms of revenue. We’re on track to do probably over $20 million this year. We have 85 employees in New York, New York.

IFB: What metrics do you use to determine the success of a given campaign?

ML: Typically we look at client success through APIs that we can set up on our platform, which lets you track fan growth, user engagement and activation. It’s very hard ROI metrics tied to their campaign: How many people signed up for a sweepstakes, we got 300,000 people to redeem the coupons, how many people bought from a retailer, how many people signed up for a test drive? So, if you set up the dashboard correctly, everyone can be on the same page in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish.

IFB: What have been your biggest challenges building on Facebook platform? What mistakes have you made and learned from there?

ML: I think the biggest challenge for everyone working on the platform is keeping up with the changes Facebook is making. Every week there are minor changes — things open up, things close down, how you handle notifications, how you handle publishing, how you handle user data. Facebook is basically building the airplane as they’re flying it. You realize that you can’t have projects that last three months and then launch, because the platform changed. The mistakes that we’ve made have been in building things that we’ve had to rebuild because Facebook has changed. So, now the way we build our products is very open, very modular because, now we don’t need to change our entire platform — we just have to change a part of it. The changes also pose the biggest opportunities.

IFB: Beyond your own efforts, what Facebook changes have noticeably helped your company?

ML: The number one change was the opening up of Facebook Pages. That was an important change that sent our company into orbit because every company, all of a sudden, needed to manage those Pages and they didn’t have people sitting around, necessarily, who knew FBML and Javascript. The change that has recently really helped our clients and our business is the introduction of the Open Graph. The idea that a company’s web site can also be social is enormous. It’s what I call a branded viral loop, it’s basically free traffic. The other major change I think that Facebook has made is they’ve recommitted to the user experience by cleaning up the ecosystem a lot, and ultimately, that helps everyone but it also helps brand that want to be in a clean environment.

IFB: On the other hand, has Facebook made any recent changes that have noticeably hurt your company?

ML: We’ve been in the business long enough with Facebook that changes aren’t good or bad, they just are changes and we basically evolve and make changes.

IFB: If you could ask Facebook to make a single change, what would it be?

ML: I think the ability to geo-target your Wall posts through third-party platforms would be amazing. The ability to target content on a more granular level through Facebook Pages would be great, whether it’s by interest or by profile data so if someone comes into a Facebook Page it would be great to show local offers on the tab. The one thing they shouldn’t change is the commitment to the user experience.

IFB: How does your work on Facebook relate to your work on other platforms?

ML: There’s no other property other than Facebook that has the scale, the reach, the stickiness globally that Facebook has (so it) ties into a lot of different stuff that you’re doing digitally. We integrate with Twitter so if you’re doing stuff on Twitter, you could very easily link to your Facebook Pages. If you’re on YouTube, you can use that content on your Facebook Wall and Facebook tabs. Most importantly, Buddy Media has been very active in linking your web site to Facebook, and Facebook to your web site. And then the last kind of area which I think it’s really important for our clients is, how does their email system and their current CRM (customer relationship management) system interface with Facebook. So, having it all work together in a way that works for the company is much more important than, “What’s your Twitter strategy?”

IFB: Do you have any specific plans that you can share?

ML: One of the areas we are most excited about right now is social commerce. We’re going to continue to roll out our +Global offering, which includes more granular targeting of content. Starwood hotels is a great example, (the company) doesn’t care about China as just one country, they care about China as a series of cities they do business in. +Global is a Facebook management system right now at its core, but as Facebook goes to 1 billion users, it’s really a web-wide content management system. There’s no reason why it just stays within Facebook. As Facebook infuses itself to other websites, we will also be able to control third-party web sites and other microsites. We’re going to broaden our reach significantly there.