Connect Brings JibJab 1.5 Million Facebook Users

gregg[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Gregg Spiridellis, CEO at JibJab Media. JibJab is a ten year-old company that offers customizable digital greeting cards and videos — and it has been working hard to implement Facebook Connect, with some good results. Below, Spiridellis shares his perspective on his company and Connect.]

As I write the headline, I can hear the yawns in Silicon Valley from all the way down here in Los Angeles. One and a half million users? That number may or may not be big; I will leave that for the reader to decide. Instead, I will use that milestone to (i) compare and contrast content distribution and audience aggregation in a pre- and post- Facebook world and (ii) share some of JibJab’s best practices for building a Facebook audience in ways that create value for both JibJab and our users.

jibjabJibJab was founded way back in the digital dark ages – 1999. Huddled around our blueberry iMacs, dialing up on 56k modems, struggling to keep our videos under 300k, my brother and I flew over the bleeding edge of technology Thelma-and-Louise-style because we believed that the combination of falling production costs and opening distribution presented a once in a lifetime opportunity for two guys with no media experience to build a worldwide entertainment brand. Our premise was simple: amazingly talented artists creating great made-for-the-medium entertainment could attract an audience and that audience could be leveraged to attract more audience. Today it’s called viral marketing. In 1999, it was called “and you are going to make money how?”

To achieve our viral ambition in a pre-Facebook world, we had only two tools in our toolbox. First, we used an “Email to a Friend” form on every page. Second, we had a persistent “Sign Up For Our Newsletter” on JibJab.com so that we could notify people when we released new work. It took almost five years to build our list to 130k people but the effort paid off big time when a single email to that list sparked a chain reaction that sent our animated political satire “This Land” (and JibJab brand) from inbox to inbox across the globe. When we saw news clips from South Korea covering the video we knew we had, in a small way, achieved our goal of creating a worldwide brand. When NASA called us for a copy to send to the International Space Station, we joked with glee that we had surpassed our goal and gone galactic!

The lesson of ‘This Land’ validated in the real world what we always knew in theory. Distribution was no longer about pipes; it was about people. Despite a dozen follow-up videos, all of them world-premiering on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and garnering pervasive traditional media coverage, audience aggregation was a slow game in a pre-Facebook world.

It took us 8 years to reach 1.5 million registered users in the era of email. It took us only 5 months to acquire the same number of users on Facebook.

Even more noteworthy might be the facts that (i) we did it all via Facebook Connect, with no on-site Facebook experience, (ii) we did it without using any of the prevalently (ab)used “optimization” techniques such as forcing users to invite friends or sending notifications or posting feed stories of questionable value to users to maximize exposure and clicks.

How did we do it? We started with a simple but powerful question: how can we leverage Facebook tools and data to enhance our user experience? Our product and technology team identified four key integration opportunities, some of which are universally relevant to all publishers, some very specific to our offering, and all of which created scale for JibJab by providing value for our users.