PromoJam founders reinvent their company -- again

By Andy Meek , written on January 23, 2013

From The News Desk

LA-based social media marketing startup PromoJam raised $1.2 million in Series A funding last year, a round that included NYC-based Golden Seeds and Band of Angels. The company spent that money building a completely new version of its service, which it’s unveiling today.

Moreover, today’s announcement is part of a pattern of reinvention that has characterized PromoJam since its founding by a pair of brother and sister entrepreneurs.

The company was started in 2009 and has served its social promotions to several million users. PromoJam has created a suite of tools to help companies develop marketing efforts that rely heavily on social media, and they're good enough at what they do that they work with really big brands on this. Clients have included NBC Universal, Clear Channel Radio, Rock the Vote, Warner Bros. Music Group, Rihanna, and Pearl Jam, among other marquee names.

“Up till now, we’ve been an enterprise social marketing platform, so huge companies like NBC Universal would license our software and build promotions on their own, but you had to be a big enterprise company to work with us,” MacNaughton said. “Our price point was very high.”

It started at around $5,000. Companies also had to have someone on their team who knew how to do CSS or HTML.

PromoJam spent the money it raised last year building what it’s calling PromoJam 2.0. It’s essentially a hybrid of project management like Basecamp, campaign design simplicity like Mailchimp and turnkey self-service social promotions that can end up looking like something an interactive agency was hired to create. The other big kicker: they’ve not only stripped out complexities in the original version of the platform, but they’ve also removed the restrictive high-cost contracts.

The result was built while working hand-in-hand with existing PromoJam enterprise customers like NBC Universal, Virgin America, Redbull, WetSeal, and Warner Bros.

An interesting part of this new chapter in PromoJam’s story is that it doesn’t look a lot like the version that preceded it, in terms of scope and direction. And that version doesn’t look anything like the idea that likewise preceded it – the original vision Amanda and her brother had when they first launched.

It was around that time that Amanda and her brother decided they wanted to develop a social network focused on “content monetization and distribution.”

Before PromoJam, Amanda ran PR for W Hotel’s West Coast division, among other things. Matt worked as a digital marketing product manager at Interscope Records.

For the new venture they were trying to launch, the siblings raised $500,000 and were pretty much off to the races. At one point, they found themselves temporarily transitioning their energy to work on a side project for a friend.

It seemed like it had the makings of a one-off favor. Their friend was involved with the music industry, and that was how the MacNaughtons learned that the music duo of Travis Barker from Blink 182 and turntablist DJ-AM wanted to give away a digital mixtape to their fans, but in an innovative way.

Amanda and her brother came up with the idea of selling the mixtape in exchange for a Tweet. As in, users tell their friends about it on Twitter, and then they get to download it for free. Thus their concept, “Tweet-to-download.”

They slapped the project together and then called it a night.

They were already seeing results by the next morning. The promotion garnered Tweets from Ashton Kutcher and Puff Daddy and coverage from prominent tech blogs. By the end of the day, they’d lined up more than half a dozen more promotions.

They kept chipping away at the social network they envisioned, but this side project kept threatening to become more than a side project, until the inevitable become impossible to ignore.

Their social media marketing was what was catching fire, and that’s the direction toward which they ultimately chose to shift gears. (Not by happenstance, there’s a kind of Yammer-like mini-social network embedded in PromoJam 2.0 for participants and their team members to communicate with each other and stay connected on a project.)

Among its more recent efforts, PromoJam has worked with clients like Rock the Vote as part of RoTV’s young voter registration drive in the presidential election. And PromoJam teamed up in August with Virgin America to help the San Francisco-based carrier launch its first nonstop flight from San Francisco International Airport to Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport.

For that effort, the voter drive was carried into the sky, allowing guests on Virgin flights to use their smartphones to register to vote.

PromoJam 2.0, the new version of the company’s service, will let users run multiple promotions at once across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, mobile pages, and websites. There’s Dropbox integration, users can see what their promos will look like while they build it and they can track traffic, engagement, reach, conversions and more in real time.

“It’s interesting, you have a lot of these tech powerhouses in Silicon Valley, and some in New York, but we’re here in L.A. – which makes sense, because L.A. is the home of media,” MacNaughton said. “My brother and I both come from media. Matt used to work at Interscope. I worked in PR and entertainment. My clients were movie studios and fashion brands. Matt and I worked with all these big brands, in them and alongside them, and this platform is literally built for those people. Because we are those people.

“PromoJam is interesting, because we understand if you are a huge brand, if you are a huge entertainment company, you have to have everything customized. We’re making this the way marketers think and the way marketers work. And we have so much stuff still up our sleeve.”