Despite the popularity of Friendster in the Philippines, local site Itzamatch has attracted nearly 2 million users to date where 1.4 million are active. "72% of our members are from the Philippines, 10% US, 2.6% Hong Kong, 1.8% Canada, 1.6% Singapore, 1.4% Saudi Arabia and 10.6% everywhere else, " said Faith Sabanpan Ponte, marketing and web services head of Itzamatch.
This is a huge growth to think that back in February 2006, the site has 140,000 members.
What makes the site resilient is the online services it provided coupled with offline activities. The company has to continuously evolve and the best way to do it was to start putting real faces to usernames, according to Faith. "Last year, we decided to go out of the virtual world and meet up with our subscribers. We launched our very first eyeball party mid of last year. It was pretty exciting for all of us since we have only interacted with one another online and haven't met any of the members personally. It was successful that we now have regular eyeball parties and Saturday coffee meetings since. The great thing is, our members have gotten to know each other even more and have really bonded as a community that they themselves organize mini-eyeball parties, coffee sessions or little gatherings."
Faith shared that the site has its successful stories about friendships and love that has blossomed after they coupled the online service with offline activities. "We're really happy that we've become an avenue for starting and building relationships."
Itzamatch is not just about friendship, dating or love. Last Christmas, the site's forum subscribers visited and shared what they have with the Don Bosco 's Pugad - Home for Street Children and Migrant Youth orphanage.
First reality show in Cebu
Last November 2007, Itzamatch had a band tour in the different universities in Cebu to search for the school couple representative who will compete in the Search for the Perfect Campus Couple - Ultimate Challenge. This is 6 part TV reality show and first in Cebu.
The story unfolds with brilliant, talented, and good-looking college students, who will work as couples in challenging each other for the title. The goal is for the couple to achieve a common goal together, embodying a perfect equation and perfect chemistry.
The program is now on air and can be watched online. Votes via Globe SMS and online voting have started to come in too.
Faith shared that going to the schools and doing this search has increased their subscriber base with complete and fresh data. "We have been successful in getting the market that we want, which is the 18 - 22 age bracket. Our Google Analytics data shows that we are getting an increasing traffic from the city where Itzamatch is based. We also saw potential revenue from advertisers that partnered with us. This contest has actually paved for more opportunities as we recently had inquiry from a popular FMCG company about doing the same activity in Manila."
"Lastly, the greatest achievement to date is we are getting the attention that we wanted from potential subscribers and businesses that complement this social networking business of Bigfoot."
Faith mentioned that the site is currently having a makeover to further improve its service. "Soon, users will be able to experience the features of the site simultaneously. The user will be able to drag the chat window in another area of the desktop and at the same time drag the forum in another, and some other features allowing the user to see and interact with what is going on at the same time."
"We're also working on a faster and more specific Itzamatch search for geographical targeting results within the Philippines. We are currently making our system more robust to accommodate our growing subscriber base and balancing the look and online features with speed."
About Faith Sabanpan Ponte
Faith worked with Bigfoot for a couple of years and left. When she returned to the company, Itzamatch was assigned to her. Married and with kids, I asked what attracted her to take on the assignment. "Liking, living, walking, talking and breathing itzamatch everyday proved to be a challenge I could not resist. Why I agreed to do itzamatch.com? Lets just say -- I was intellectually and socially challenged," Faith replied.