Thursday, April 18, 2013

Congrats to our buddy, Sam Yagan!

In 2011, Buzz Referrals went through a program called Techstars, which was know at that time as Excelerate Labs in Chicago.  The program here was founded by Troy Henikoff and Sam Yagan, two amazing entrepreneurs that our team had the pleasure to work with.  Both have founded several companies, but Troy is largely known for Surepayroll (acquired by Paychex) and Sam is known for OKCupid (acquired by

This week, Time magazine named Sam as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  You can see the full article below.  I'm not sure I can even get my head around what that means?!  I do know that Sam Yagan makes my own personal list of "Top 5 most ridiculously smart people I've met" as well as "Top 5 people to have on a road trip" and "Top 5 people that I don't want to negotiate against."

Sam worked with the Buzz Referrals throughout the summer, challenging and pressing us as much as any mentor possibly could.  For Demo Day, the culmination of the summer where we pitched to investors, Sam was absolutely clutch.  He taught us about how you want to come out with something that will surprise the audience and get their attention right off the bat, and how you are there to entertain as much as you are to present your business.  As far as Buzz Referrals, Sam has definitely been one of the most influential people.  And it seems that the rest of the world agrees!  :)

To Sam!


Sam Yagan

Matchmaker, 36
Illustration by David Despau for TIME
Illustration by David Despau for TIME
What do you get when you combine big data, the quest for love and complete irreverence? The hippest spot on the Web: OkCupid. Co‑founded by serial entrepreneur Sam Yagan — who’s now CEO of the world’s largest e-dating site, — OkCupid took the online dating world by storm, pairing people on the basis of their answers to a mind-boggling variety of questions. Crunching these data, the wonks at OkCupid come to many unexpected conclusions: One of the best predictors of the long-term success of a relationship is whether the partners share an attraction or revulsion to horror movies. If sex, not love, is what you are after, a man’s best chance of achieving that goal on a first date is with a woman who says she “likes the taste of beer.” At a time when businesses talk a lot about big data but often struggle to put it to use, Yagan’s approach stands out. In his own words, “You give us data. We give you dates.”
Levitt is a co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

Read more:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Goodbye Google Affiliate Network?!

I can't say I saw it coming, but today, Google sent out an email to all of its publishers on the Google Affiliate Network stating that it was closing up shop.  Goodbye.  Kaput.

The email that was sent is below.

At Buzz Referrals, the Google Affiliate Network (GAN) is sometimes used for clients who have trouble placing a conversion pixel to track referrals.  If they already have an affiliate program (through CJ, Shareasale, GAN, or anyone else) we can direct our referral sharing links through those affiliate links.  So it's a nice way for them to track all the purchases from our promotions with zero tech integration.

Affiliate marketing is not core to the Buzz Referrals business, but it's related.  In Buzz Marketing, customers are like your affiliates, talking and sharing with friends to drive a new customer.  The difference is that they are much more motivated by social equity - turning a friend on to great product or service - than the financial reward that motivates the hired guns known as affiliates.  But we've become very familiar with the different networks and unbiasedly, GAN was one of the best.

Strong points:
  • Strong selection of premium advertisers
  • Integration with other Google tools like Google Analytics
  • Fairly good interface, though finding advertisers was sometimes not intuitive
  • Trustworthy and consistent tracking.  No outages.
  • Prompt payment.  You knew that they were not going out of business!
However, it's different being on the publisher side, and we weren't exactly demanding.  The advertiser relationships are where a network lives or dies.  The affiliate manager - who is the face of the network to the company - has to be both smart, professional, technologically-savvy, and most importantly, always available.
Google clearly had the resources to make that happen, but it just wasn't a priority for their overall business.

We can see the Google Chicago office from the windows of Buzz Referrals, and we have some good - and ridiculously talented - friends over there.  Hopefully, they will find a place within the organization, but if not, 'cmon over to Buzz Referrals guys!

Google Affiliate Network
  An update on Google Affiliate Network  
  Important updates for Google Affiliate Network publishers and advertisers  
Our goal with Google Affiliate Network has been to help advertisers and publishers improve their performance across the affiliate ecosystem. Cost-per-action (CPA) marketing has rapidly evolved in the last few years, and we constantly evaluate our products to ensure that we’re focused on the services that will have the biggest impact for our advertisers and publishers. To that end, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire the Google Affiliate Network and focus on other products that are driving great results for clients.

Publishers can continue to earn revenue through the AdSense network. And marketers can take advantage of other CPA-oriented Google tools like Product Listing Ads, remarketing and Conversion Optimizer to drive valuable online sales and conversions. These areas are growing rapidly and we continue to invest significantly in them.

We’ll continue to support our customers as we wind down the product over the next few months. While we will no longer be adding new product functionality, we will maintain the platform during the transition period. We plan to disable publisher relationships from advertiser programs on July 31, 2013. Publisher payments will be disbursed for network activity generated through this date. We will continue to make certain functionality available through October 31, 2013 for retrieving reports, reconciling orders, and processing payments.

A huge thanks to all our advertisers, publishers and the team that has worked tirelessly on Google Affiliate Network over the past few years. We look forward to helping you grow your business in the future.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

The Google Affiliate Network Team


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Buzz Referrals on Chicago Innovation Awards 2011 List

We are excited to announce today that the Chicago Innovation Awards has named Buzz Referrals to its Top 75 list of Chicago area companies!  The full list is here, and we are honored to be in such awesome company!

Voting is open for the "People's Choice Award."  Why not show us some love??? 

CLICK HERE to vote for us!

Immediate Release                                                                             September 6, 2011

Buzz Referrals, Inc is Named One of the 75 Finalists  
for 11th Annual Chicago Innovation Awards

Chicago, IL— Buzz Referrals, Inc. is one of the top 75 finalists for the prestigious 2012 Chicago Innovation Awards reflecting a cross section of the Chicago and surrounding regions’ business communities.  The final ten winners will be announced Monday, October 22 and celebrated at an event with over 1,500 business and civic leaders at Chicago’s Harris Theater.

The Chicago Innovation Awards, celebrating its 11th year, is the only organization in the country dedicated to honoring the most innovative new products or services brought to market or to public service from a specific region.  This year almost 400 nominations were received.

The innovation nominated by Buzz Referrals is the Social Referral Platform, which enables any business to grow revenues through a state-of-the-art customer referral program.  The platform integrates sharing through Facebook, Twitter, email, and SMS text messaging, allowing customers to easily share exclusive discounts with friends in exchange for rewards from leading retailers like Amazon, Starbucks, and Sephora.

“The most important message of the Chicago Innovation Awards is one of confidence and courage,” said Thomas D. Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards.  “The economy is challenging but each nominee believes the simple truth that a powerful new product or service will find a rewarding market and has the courage to pursue their vision.”

Jordan Linville, founder and CEO of Buzz Referrals, said,“Buzz Referrals is honored to be included among the Chicago Innovation Awards Top 75 finalists.  The exciting innovations that these companies have achieved within their respective industries is a testament to the incredible entrepreneurial environment in Chicago right now.”

As one of the Top 75 finalists, Buzz Referrals will receive a scholarship to attend a day-long executive education program on September 18th titled “The Practical Innovator”, taught at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  It is a full-day executive education course teaching the practical skills of innovation.

This year 13 judges, representing a range of Chicago’s business community, will be involved in an exhaustive and complex judging process to select the final ten winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards as well as ten “Up & Comer” award winners for smaller organizations still in the start-up phases of their innovations. In addition, each of the 75 finalists is automatically in the running for the annual “People’s Choice Award,” selected through online balloting at

#                      #                      #

Contact:  Buzz Referrals, Inc: Tony Johnson

Chicago Innovation Awards:  Bryan Brochu

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Refer-a-friend + Pinterest = Awesome

It seems that social media marketers have not known quite what to make of Pinterest.  The site has grown by leaps and bounds in 2011 (check out our infograph: Pinterestingly Enough), but it has remained unclear exactly how one should harness its insane referral power.  

Buzz Referrals recognized the potential of Pinterest relatively early, and we were quick to incorporate Pinterest sharing into our standard referral product. One of our clients, Sittercity, had a target demographic that was highly correlated to the Pinterest users.  That is to say – female.  Sittercity is the leading website to find babysitters and nannies in your area (personal note: I used the service to find a nanny for our 18 month old, and our nanny has been nothing short of amazing).

We knew that Pinterest could be explosive for Sittercity, so we re-purposed their Buzz Referrals promotion into a Pinterest engagement email like the one below.  The sharing results have been incredible.

The Stats

·      Sharing increased 45x from the prior month
·      The email resulted in 612 Pins within the first 6 hours of being sent
·      Referral clicks to the Sittercity website increased 32x from the prior month

The green area of the graphs below represents Pinterest. As you can see Pinterest, makes up the majority on the July graph.


The Hurdles:

The Pinterest offices in San Francisco are probably one of the craziest work environments in the world right now.  You can imagine the array of business decisions that management is debating.  “Do we create an API?”  “Do we make pages specifically for businesses?”  “Do we allow apps?” 

As they grapple with their own growth, Pinterest constantly changes the rules.  In between the date that Buzz Referrals started creating the Sittercity email and the date that they launched, Pinterest decided they would start showing an intermediary message for any links that redirected to a URL other than the final page. Likely intended to curb affiliate usage on the site, this meant users would see the image below:

Regardless of their motivation (AllThingsD wrote on this specific Pinterest change at: “Despite Its Reputation for Referring Traffic, Pinterest Is Blocking All Sorts of Links”), it was not particularly helpful for the Sittercity campaign.  But hanks to some quick thinking by the Buzz tech team, we were able to stay one step ahead and Sittercity users skipped this page.

The Take Away:

It’s not surprising that Pinterest has to change the rules – after all, they are creating the game.  Facebook did the same thing.  This will settle down with time, but there is no question that right now and for the foreseeable future, Pinterest represents a huge opportunity for digital marketers.  Like any social media, the largest growth will come from continual, genuine user engagement which means creating compelling content to be pinned and participating in the community yourself.  But there will also be huge opportunities for promotions and contests enabled by technologies that help companies easily track the success of such Pinterest campaigns.  So what are you waiting for?  Pin something!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Referral Marketing: The Stats You Need to Know

You have customers, they have friends, and their friends tend to act a lot like them. They are more likely to dress the same, live in the same place, and shop at the same stores. Social media and referral marketing are based off of the fact that your best prospective customers are often the friends of your current customers. Referral marketing uses incentives to encourage the distribution of information.

“The Wharton School of Business found that a referred customer has a 16% higher life-time value.”

“People trust friends and family more than virtually any other information source, and pay 2x more attention to recommendations that come from friends than other sources.”

With stats like that, it only makes sense that customers gained from a refer-a-friend promotion are valuable and should be treated as such. Current customers are a great resource to gain even more customers who may be interested in your products. With the popularity of social media your current customers can easily share products they like with their friends. 

“83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services. But only 29% actually do.”

While this stat may be surprising, you can utilize a referral program that makes sharing easy by integrating it with social media. When all a customer has to do is click a “share with Facebook” button or “tweet this” button, sharing products and services becomes easy, especially if your customer gets some sort of incentive for sharing. There is a multitude of rewards that you can offer, like cash, third-party credit, in-store credit, future discounts, or a rebate. However, non-cash rewards seem to be the best option.

“A University of Chicago study found that non-cash incentives are 24% more effective at boosting performance than cash incentives.”

With the rise of social media, every consumer has become a publisher capable of reaching a targeted audience. Companies have a tremendous opportunity to use referral marketing to drive sales and awareness while gathering new customer insights, and increasing engagement with current customers. For more information about our referral program visit and download our FREE white pages. It’s full of more interesting facts and stats.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Social Media Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of Engaging Your Users

From Baby Boomers to dogs and cats it appears as though everyone has a presence in social media nowadays. But for most e-commerce companies, a mere presence in the social media ecosystem is not enough.  A well thought out social media strategy has become a critical component to the digital marketing strategy of any business. Brands and products strive continually to find new and innovative ways to engage consumers. Upon seeking out such methods it is important for companies to remember to remain vigilant in observing the unwritten rules of social media etiquette. How companies manage their pages and posts can potentially determine whether customers become advocates or enemies. When leveraged properly, Facebook and other social media channels have the ability to increase brand awareness and customers engagement.

Below are a list of some Do's and Don'ts  for building user engagement.

DO post photos 

Have a cool or beautiful photo that will catch a customer’s attention? Then post it! Photos are an easy way to communicate with customers without burdening them to read a lengthy paragraph. Just make sure to have your brand or company name somewhere on the photo. Facebook is a great avenue to post photos, but why not make your photo pinable to Pinterst? If a user sees the photo on Facebook they can pin it or repin it if they see it on Pinterst.
Photo from Coca-Cola Facebook page

DON’T write lengthy posts

Consumers tend to dislike (and not read) 3-paragraph post about why your company is awesome, particularly if you state no legitimate reasons. While its definitely advantageous to give yourself or your company some props for its accomplishments, keep it short and sweet.

DO post tips, questions, & quotes

Not only are these generally short posts, they keep people interested.  A quick tip someone can implement right away and share with friends is going to be memorable. Have a question about your product? Why not ask your fans for their thoughts on it. This is a great way to get customer insight. People also love to read short quotes, but they should have something to do with your product. These types of posts work great with Facebook, but can also be used for Twitter. 

Quote from NARS's Facebook Page

DON’T posts about untimely topics and have bad headlines

One major thing that will draw a user in is the topic and headline. If the topic is yesterday’s news, don’t expect too many folks to read your article or view your photo. Witty headlines or captions can also increase your user engagement. With so many other companies and people posting your posts need to stand out
45% of Facebook users time is spent in Facebook's newsfeed section so it is important to make your posts stand out.

69% of Facebook users want to hear from some brands more than others. Take this into consideration when making your posts. What’s your product and who is your target audience?

78% of people who “like” brands on Facebook like fewer than 10 brands. If you want to be one of those brands than your posts better engage users.

57% of people like a brand on Facebook because they want discounts and promotions. (hmmm sounds like a good idea for a post!)

The Takeaway

There is no silver bullet for success when it come user engagement on Facebook and other social media sites. However, following some of these social media etiqutte do’s and don’ts has the potential to increase user engagement. Keep in mind that what may work for one company may not work for another. It’s all about trial and error until you find the best combination for your company.  With that being said, social media is an easy and relatively cheap way to stay connected to customers and should be taken seriously.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Charity Gone Social

A hot new trend in social media has been its use by non-profits and charities. Causes and charitable organizations are using social media to their advantage. From Facebook to Pinterest to Foursquare, social media is helping to spread awareness, raise money, and give a voice to charities that would have in the past received no exposure, and it seems to be working. The best part is that social media users are very perceptive to these causes and more than happy to donate or help drive awareness.

VH1 raised $35,000 for “Save the Music” via Foursquare
. Whenever a Foursquare member checked into a music venue and unlocked a badge, VH1 would donate one dollar for each badge earned. VH1 not only raised money for “Save the Music” but they also promoted awareness for a worthy cause. Save the Music helps to restore music programs in public schools. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which could be why Pinterest is so appealing to non-profits. Donors are not only able to read the impact their donations have but now they can see it too. Such non-profits like UNICEF and Operation Smile  have really leveraged the power of photographs. UNICEF posts high quality pictures and Operation Smile regularly posts before and after pictures of children with cleft pallets.  For Operation Smile, Pinterest is an ideal medium to visually convey the impact that the organization makes in the life of a child.

A recent study indicates that 75% of Millennials give to charity and 43% of those surveyed looked to see who the funds were being used hence the popularity of Pinterest where donors can see actual pictures.  Young adults are avid social media users and possess the power to make or break a brand. They have the ability to make a campaign go viral, but they can also  tear it to shreds. Currently, social media has raised awareness about many charitable causes and non-profits. When done right, social media only helps spread the positive message along to  friends, because who doesn’t feel good about helping out a good cause? 

And doing well by doing good is a message that resonates with consumers.

Many companies have made it core to their mission.Take TOMS shoes for example, for every pair of shoes bought they giveanother pair of shoes to a child in need. Their site lets consumers see how the shoes are given out, where they are given out, and whom they are given to.  TOMS launched in 2006, but has become widely popular especially with the millennial generation. TOMS use of social media has definitely aided in this.  Another popular campaign is “Box Tops for Education” which helps earn money for schools. Many products proudly wear the Box Tops logo. It has become increasingly common for businesses to team up withcharities fulfilling their corporate social responsibility and putting themselves one step above competitors.

So what’s the takeaway from all this? People like to feel good about the products they buy.  To the extent that businesses can involve philanthropy in a genuine way, social media has made these efforts significantly more successful – for both society as well as the bottom line.