Why Filipinos are born to Multiply

logo-on-letters-140By David Dizon – There’s something uniquely Filipino about social network Multiply. In an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com, Multiply CEO Peter Pezaris and vice-president for business development David Hersh says the Florida-based Multiply continues to ride high on the success of the social networking movement in the Philippines. Two years after partnering up with ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., the company has seen its user base in the Philippines skyrocket from 600,000 Filipino users to 3.5 million, which is a third of its 12 million plus total user base.

Why the popularity? Pezaris says that while Filipinos are exposed to other social networking sites, Multiply taps into the Filipino culture of closely-knit families who love to share photos and videos of each other.

“While our competitors do support photos, I don’t think any of them do it quite as easily as our service does. We’ve got lots of customer feedback, a lot of research that shows that the primary reason why people are using Multiply in the Philippines is because it’s easier to use, faster to upload, and they find it’s a better way to share photos with friends and family,” he says.

Pezaris says the willingness of Filipinos to share their photos online has made Multiply the country’s largest online photo repository. “There are more Filipino photos in Multiply than any other service. So we’ve created this opportunity to users to repurpose those photos and to really do as many things as possible with them and preserve them online,” he says.

Paolo Pineda, head for business development of ABS-CBN, says ABS-CBN constantly promotes the social network by creating Multiply pages for almost every new ABS-CBN show being launched. ABS-CBN acquired a five percent stake in Multiply last November.

He says the ABS-CBN-Multiply partnership has allowed the network to tap into online communities that congregate around specific shows. Ironically, some of the Multiply sites have become even more popular than the official ABS-CBN site or even the site for reality shows like Pinoy Big Brother.

“Last year, we did a Multiply page for every show because we were testing the behavior, but now we’re seeing that we can kind of group them. There are the Koreanovela fans, the reality show fans, the showbiz fans…For www.abs-cbn.com, there’s a parallel site we called Team Kapamilya. The traffic in that Multiply site is equal or sometimes surpasses the ABS-CBN site because of the engagement,” Pineda says.

“It’s like getting together with your friends and talking about what’s going on. It’s giving them a choice,” he adds.

Multiply 4.0 and beyond

Pezaris says the success of Multiply in the Philippine market has made it a top growth area for the social network. Plans are now underway for Multiply to open a local office in the country as well as launch a mobile service that will allow users to update their accounts via MMS and SMS.

“The Philippines is the first country where we are offering both MMS and SMS. We’re now finalizing the MMS part and SMS will just follow,” he says.

He also notes that, due in part to the economic downturn, some Filipino users have turned their Multiply accounts into online stores with an estimated 50,000 shops already active in Multiply.

Pezaris says the network will also be launching Multiply 4.0, which will update the site’s inbox features as well as increase use of Ajax technology to make the pages load faster. More importantly, he says the new site will allow users to edit their photos using more sophisticated photo editing software.

“If you are familiar with desktop applications in your computer such as Picasa, ACDSee and IPhoto, we are going to give the power of those services on Multiply directly tied to your account. We will be the first company that’s going to do that,” he says.

He also predicts that Multiply may soon ride the next wave of the social networking phenomenon, which he says will target the 30-something demographic.

“The market is moving towards the service we’ve built. It’s exciting for us because we see the arcs of activity in the United States where one social network becomes really popular for a while and then the next one will come, and then the next one. I think the next big arc is going to be Multiply because we had the teen fascination in the US, originally from Friendster, and then MySpace made themselves a teen-based music site. Facebook was more college-based. Now the next phase is going to be the 30 somethings, the soccer moms that want to share photos of their kids, and Multiply is perfect for that,” he says.

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