Michael Lazerow, CEO, Buddy Media
Salesforce.com's willingness to shell out $745 million for Buddy Media shows the confidence Salesforce has in the social advertising specialist's ability to turn people's love of conversation to an advertiser's greatest tool.
Salesforce announced the acquisition Monday with the intent of making Buddy's marketing tools available to the tens of thousands of companies that use Salesforce to manage customer relations from sales to support. With Buddy, these companies get the chance to quietly insert their brand into people's conversations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.
- The New York-based company has 900 customers with 10,000 brand pages on Facebook and 900 million users.
- Clients include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Taco Bell and Sony.
- Eight of the world's top 10 advertisers use social marketing software from Buddy or one of its rivals.
- In the first quarter, Buddy managed 128 billion impressions across social networks, compared to 3 billion the same period last year.
Buddy Media is not about posting banner ads. In the world of social advertising, content becomes ads and ads are the content. There's little separation between the two. Getting people to discuss new products and promotions is marketing in its most subtle form.
Companies set up Pages on Facebook to promote their brands. Buddy enables companies to collect fans and then use the content on Pages to get people to talk about products.
"Content is content, so the same post that you make – photo, video, event post, status update, application stories – anything that is published to your Page can be an ad," Michael Lazerow, co-founder and CEO of Buddy, said in a recent interview with Forbes magazine.
Lazerow goes on in the same interview to explain how effective a brand discussion can be on a site like Facebook. "When I say you have to test drive this car, because I think it's a great car, that's amazing," he said. "When 10 people say that in a socially enabled ad that's gold."
Once a company is able to get the conversation about its brand going, it can then use Buddy's tracking tools to watch which ads or content gets the most likes. In this way, companies can continuously fine-tune how they promote the brand and products to get the highest return on investment. The system also analyzes which combination of text and images generate the most fan feedback.
Buddy has two main social-marketing tools. How the software is used with Facebook provides a good example of their value.
ProfileBuddy can push out exclusive offers just to Page fans, in order to encourage non-fans to convert. In addition, the tool has ways to push fans toward becoming "brand evangelists" by making it easy for them to distribute promotions and other brand-related content to their friends. ProfileBuddy also lets companies build Pages that incorporate the language and culture of individual countries, while keeping the look and feel consistent.
The second tool, ConversationBuddy, is used to post content on the company's Wall and News Feed. The tool can also post content that links to a company's website outside of Facebook.
While measuring the effectiveness of content, ConversationBuddy can also track and flag negative comments and fans' questions and concerns. The software does this by watching for certain words and phrases. Clients can then respond directly to the fans or delete offensive language. Mentions of competitors can also be flagged.
Overall, this is sophisticated stuff that tries to subtly control people's conversations about brands, starting initially with happy customers who are likely to seek out a company's Facebook Page or Twitter profile page.
Whether Salesforce got its money-worth remains to be seen. While Buddy's form of advertising is much more understated than a screaming banner ad, it may not be as effective as advertisers would like.
A poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that four out of five Facebook users say neither ads nor conversations on the world's largest social network have ever steered them toward buying a product or service, the Los Angeles Times reported.
If the poll is on the mark, then it is back to the drawing board for Facebook and Buddy.
Photo by LeWEB11