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PromoJam distills social media marketing for the rest of us

The world of social media marketing is still a very new space, and while some tech-savvy companies are killing it out there, there are many businesses that don’t know the first thing about netting a Like on Facebook. If you’re strapped for cash and don’t want to hire an internal social media expert of your own, LA-based PromoJam has a solution for you.

Launched in June of 2009 and propelled into popularity with its “Tweet to download” promotions for big-label artists including Travis Barker and the late DJ AM, PromoJam has transformed from an enterprise-only social marketing platform into an affordable service for businesses both big and small.

We chatted with Amanda MacNaughton, who co-founded PromoJam with her brother Matt, about the valuable corporate experience that gave her the foundation to build her own startup, the siblings’ very first business way back in elementary school, and how the LA startup scene could change for the better.

What is the backstory behind PromoJam?

I come from over a decade of PR and marketing experience. Prior to starting PromoJam I used to run PR for W Hotels, and I oversaw all their brand partnerships and would create really engaging marketing campaigns and publicize that and circulate them throughout the brand in the West Coast.

Before that I lived in New York for seven years. I worked at a PR firm called ThinkPR and then I moved to LA and opened the LA office built around that company and then Starwood recruited me.

When I was in publicity it was really exciting because I get to work with a bunch of startup companies and help them create their brand messaging, figure out their target demographics, and what media we wanted to target to get them in front of those customers.

I helped work on a bunch of different companies that went from zero to multi-million dollar profits like e.l.f. Cosmetics, Rock & Republic Denim, and I also worked with big companies like Converse and JVC and Ford to help them retarget new markets. I come from the brand perspective, from small startups to huge corporations.

My brother comes from the digital arena. He was at Interscope Records working in the digital department. He was actually Lady Gaga’s first project manager and sent her information over to Perez Hilton and that kind of started a love story with them.

He would work on all the big artists, in iTunes and Amazon building out their digital sales structure, working with their MySpace pages, Facebook pages, and we both saw a huge shift in the marketplace as digital started to disrupt and take over publishing and music and turn those industries on their head and we both knew that we wanted to get in it.

When I was at Starwood I saw this interesting thing where companies knew that they wanted to engage in social, but these large corporations weren’t ready to do it yet because there weren’t any of these tools or protections in place. There was actually a mandate that we weren’t allowed to integrate or have any different brand presence on MySpace and different social networks.

I knew that there was a big gap in the marketplace and there was a tool that needed to be created so that brands could effectively market online, track ROI, track engagement, and then control the brand message. What PromoJam does at its core is it helps brand engage with their fans and it’s a two-way street: it challenges a brand to create something cool, because it’s 100 percent opt-in.

If a brand says, “Enter to win a $200 gift card to The North Face and unlock this brand new HD video from the number one climber in the world,” and the fan likes that and wants to see that video and is excited about it, then they’ll participate and tell their friends. But if they don’t, they don’t have to go through. It kind of challenges brands to make sure that they’re producing really cool content and experiences for their fans.

From the fan perspective it’s really positive because it’s like a pay-it-forward campaign. If you like it, you go through it and tell your friends about it and then you get to unlock really cool stuff from your favorite musicians or brands.

When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I knew when I was a kid. My mom has a really funny story that I used to set up a table in front of the TV and I’d put on the Home Shopping Network. I would take a phone and unplug it and put it on the table and I would pretend that people were calling me and I was selling things.

She said, “I knew you were going to have your own business one day when I overheard you when you were six and fake-talking on the phone: ‘Hi Mrs. Smith, how many diamonds would you like to buy?’” Not, “Would you like to buy one?” but “How many are you going to buy?”

This isn’t actually my first company with my brother. Our first company was a dog walking business that we started when we were in elementary school. I would help with the biz dev stuff. I’d do the marketing and make the posters and we’d walk around to everyone’s house. We totally had a lucrative dog walking business. I think we had six clients and we’d walk their dogs each week.

I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit but I knew I wanted to get experience at the agency level, working on multiple clients, and then working in-house at a large brand/corporation to understand those perspectives.

Once I felt that I had achieved both of those initiatives, I felt like I was ready to start my own company. My brother and I both left our jobs and here we are four years later running a startup.

What are some changes you’d like to see in the entrepreneurial scene today?

I would like to see a little bit more support for entrepreneurs getting capital. I think it’s starting to happen more. It’s different in LA, so I’m kind of speaking to that. When my brother and I started the company, there weren’t all the incubators; it was really hard to get access to capital in Los Angeles.

I think something that would be really helpful for the entire startup community around the world and in Los Angeles are tools and ways that can help young entrepreneurs find out how to get access to capital, how to build those relationships. Also I think that more access to media would be really wonderful too. A lot of the time you have to develop your own media relationships.

If there was some sort of event or online portal that could help young startups connect with popular tech media I think that would be really helpful, because when you’re starting a company you need to get the word out, you need to get the press coverage.

You need money and you need the exposure. I think those two things are something that could be helped.

What do you do for fun, to relax after a long day of work?

I’m a total dork. I like to rollerblade and paddleboard. I used to live in New York and now I live in LA, and one of the best things here is the weather. For fun I just like to be out in the sun with my friends, doing a healthy activity like paddle boarding or rollerblading or something.

After a long day of work I usually go home and veg out to totally mindless but fabulously girly television shows like American Idol and The Bachelor. I do enjoy reality TV. I also do yoga. If I really want to veg out, yoga is my favorite thing in the world to do.

What tends to be your daily soundtrack around the office?

We are a Spotify office -- we’re constantly listening to Spotify. I like upbeat kind of dance music, like EDM. Music that has a poppy, fun sound.

If you could add any person to your team right now, who would you choose?

The next person I would add to my team is someone to run our office in New York that we haven’t opened yet but we’re planning to open. So a badass sales person in New York.

What does 2013 have in store for PromoJam?

We are releasing a whole bunch of new features, everything from Instagram to Pinterest promotions. We are going to be launching a really cool advertising platform and I can’t say what it is yet. We’re just going to continue to disrupt the marketplace by offering top-tier technology at affordable prices. We’ll be expanding to other markets pretty soon as well.

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Advisors Related to the Post

Corey Cummings
Amanda MacNaughton