Startup Used Viral FaceBook Posts to Top $100 Million in Sales

Kayla McDonald and Dylan Kingsberry pose on the JVZoo red carpet.

Kayla McDonald and Dylan Kingsberry pose on the JVZoo red carpet, before entering the party.

(Here’s an article that features some marketing insight on how we launched the Zoo.)

You may not have heard about the startup company JVZoo.com, but its members have a whole lot to shout about. In the last three years, members of the site have generated $100 million in revenue and the site’s founders say they owe most of that to pictures posted for free on FaceBook.

JVZoo is a fast growing performance based marketing platform. The site boasts over 83,000 products in a wide variety of niches, mostly in the business to business or B2B categories. Product creators, known as vendors, list their digital goods and make them available for others to promote in exchange for commissions. Promoters of products are known as affiliates. They generally use blog sites, social media, email lists, and paid advertising to promote products in the marketplace. JVZoo makes their money by taking a small transaction fee on every sale.

“The company started in January of 2012,” said co-founder E. Brian Rose. “We knew we had something special, but we didn’t have the budget to get the word out.” That’s when Rose and his partners decided to use a little outside the box thinking and let the company’s potential customers do the bidding for them.

“With a budget of around $2,000, we threw a party at an online marketing conference in Raleigh, NC. Before entering, all of the attendees had to stop and have their picture taken,” Rose said.

In person, the photo set looked like a cheap rug laid in front of a banner that sported the JVZoo company logo. But in pictures, partygoers appeared to have attended a high class red carpet event. “We got the names and FaceBook addresses of each attendee. Then, we posted the pictures to FaceBook, tagging each of the people photographed.” By tagging the attendees, this made their pictures viewable in the newsfeeds of all of their friends. Comments and Likes began to pour in for each picture. Soon, the photos were all over FaceBook. The 200 or so attendees were “used”, as Rose called it, to spread the brand to tens of thousands of other FaceBook members.

The effort was duplicated at several more Internet marketing events, over the course of their first year. The company credits this tactic for the acquisition of their first ten thousand members.

In the next two years, JVZoo continued the practice of using social media to advertse their brand. As the site grew, so did the profits, allowing the company to stage larger events. In September of 2013, the company held its first live conference. During the day, they offered presentations that helped attendees grow their own online businesses, but at night, they used parties and entertainment to further grow their brand through social media posts. The company hired 90’s rap star Coolio to play a private concert and the results were amazing.

Rose said, “We wanted to bring in somebody that everyone knew and wanted to get their picture taken with.” Coolio fit that bill. His high standing dred locks made him instantly recognizable. By night’s end, hundreds of pictures and videos were uploaded to FaceBook, most with JVZoo logos somewhere in the shot. A year later, the company duplicated the effort when they brought in Vanilla Ice for the second installment of their live events.

Rose maintains that none of this would have been possible without the exposure they have received from the social media posts. He estimates the kind of exposure they received would have cost more than $100,000, had they been using traditional advertising.

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