Vitrue Plans Integration With CRM and Mobile, Says CEO Bradford

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vitrueVitrue offers one of a small handful of enterprise platforms geared to marketers’ social publishing needs. The six-year-old company says it's making steady progress in tying social to various corners of the digital marketing dashboard, including analytics platforms, CRM, and mobile.

CEO Reggie Bradford recently spoke with AdExchanger about this and other topics, such as development priorities, agency relationships, and its competitive set.

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AdExchanger: At a high level, what problem is Vitrue solving?

RB: Marketers are inundated with social networking and conversations that are happening, whether they like it or not, and they need a tool to be able to be both reactive but also proactive, to manage those direct relationships and really be empowered.

We have the platform expertise and the services to help our clients through this wildly transformational and disruptive period that we're in called the shift to social marketing.

It's been interesting how user‑generated content was once thought of as more DR‑focused, and now it's become a brand opportunity. What type of advertising opportunities does Vitrue enable?  

It’s really hard to engage advertising and brand marketing just through a short banner campaign. You need that immersive experience to drive that, and I feel like that's where Facebook's headed.

Vitrue, as a platform, has tried to focus on providing the unique experiences and capabilities that brand marketers need, such as advance moderation, to make sure that their content is protected and it's kept free of spam - such as creating workflow and account management so that globally they can speak, across geographies, countries, cities  so that they can create the most unique and relevant voice based upon the market that they're trying to develop their brand in.

Marketers want to have a presence on the social web that reflects their brand in the traditional mediums.

What are the success metrics you think marketers should be using with a platform like yours?

Everybody wants to find the silver bullet, and there's not a silver bullet. There's a bunch of BBs that make up the shotgun. We’re focused on trying to find the most robust and comprehensive set of metrics to our dashboard that allow the most flexible marketer to be able to determine what are those four or five that really matter.

So, for example, we've been very focused on not only providing a real‑time dashboard that has the most insights, let's say, from Facebook's API,  [but also] insights that come uniquely from the data that we collect and manage. And now we've shifted to the most robust set of metrics in that dashboard, in the most user‑friendly way, to be able to display that. So we went from 20 core metrics that we managed actively and in real time to now over 120.

We can tell you which one of your posts drove the most engagements; which countries are driving the most engagements; which fans are the most engaged; what's the best time of the day, best day of the week to post. And we're moving even further toward a dashboard that's a CMO dashboard, that's even more granular and more strategic than that.

Is there some standardization that you would like to see that might help not only a company like Vitrue, and maybe even its competitors, but the marketer?

Yes, I think the industry could use that. Are we ready yet? Maybe we're getting closer. But you just have different opinions based upon the industries we serve. Some clients are focused on customer retention, some are focused on brand‑building, and others are focused on delivering coupons to drive revenue. I think it would probably help to move the industry forward, but it's not something I lie awake and worry about.

When I think of you guys and the competitive set, I think of Buddy Media and GraphEffect. How do you position yourself when talking about differentiation from competitors like that?

We primarily compete with Buddy Media in the enterprise. And, you know, in the mid‑tail, we'll see a Wildfire or an Involver, but primarily [it’s] Buddy.

Buddy is in the paid, owned, and earned [space] all through one company. What Vitrue believes is that we need to stick to our knitting and build the best software as a service‑based platform around the earned and owned media space that integrates with the various components of a marketer's ecosystem.

If you think about the social software that marketers are using to manage across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, that software layer ultimately needs to be able to connect from a marketer and that dashboard to the other components of their ecosystem - things Omniture, Coremetrics, Google Analytics, Webtrends. We've already done that work.

The next thing is they're going to want to see cross‑platform attribution across their paid, owned, and earned media. So we believe it's more important for us to be Switzerland and then be able to, for example, enable a marketer to use whatever one of their ad API partners they want. We want to be able to enable them to be able to access GraphEffect, TBG Digital, Spruce Media, any one of their ad providers.

Taking that same philosophy just a few steps further, you'll see us move to the other components of the ecosystem that a marketer needs to manage across. So you'll likely next see us integrate with listening platforms, with CRM.

Would you give an update on your funding?

We've raised $33 million to date in venture backing. General Catalyst is our lead investor from every round. Comcast is an investor, Base Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, and then Advent in Europe.

The category is receiving a lot of investor interest. Buddy's raised $95 million, so we have the opportunity to raise more capital, and we're certainly considering the opportunity to bring on more capital.

Can you speak at all to revenues, profitability, even just how big the team there is at Vitrue?

We're 190 employees. The staff has tripled in the last, say, 15 months, and we're growing well in excess of 100 percent a year.

Was that 100 percent on the revenue side, or in terms of employees?

Yes, revenue as well as bookings. And I don't think I've commented on size of the company in terms of revenues nor the profitability question, so I'd rather avoid that.

What would you like Vitrue to accomplish in the next 12 to 18 months?

If we can be successful, through APIs and third‑party integrations, in helping a marketer manage their big data and their consumer relationships across the social web,  I think we're going to be a very successful, very large company.

It’s really about that integration and then providing more and better usefulness of our platforms through emerging opportunities such as mobile. Optimizing the interfaces for HTML5, which we've done, making sure that a marketer, when they set up a campaign to run, that it's optimized for mobile first and not as an afterthought.

Marketers and agencies are getting smarter about that, especially when you think about retail activation and the vast array of opportunities that you're going to have as that becomes more tangible for marketers. That really starts to get at an ROI question, when you can tie this together with a mobile activation.

We don't want to compete with agencies, we want to enable them to be successful, and so continuing to build out the APIs and toolsets [is key]. And frankly, I think social is a challenge in many respects for agencies. It's hard to scale, it's hard to make money, and we really want to. We want to stick to our knitting and provide those tools and that platform that agencies can then monetize and build value on top of. I don't know that we've gotten that right to date.

If you were to provide a few tips to the agency world on how to deal with this social opportunity, what needs to be put in place that doesn't exist right now or should be done better?

The mid-size guys that are independent are building great capabilities and practices. The holding company is where it gets a little bit unwieldy in some respects.

I would love to see more unification and common use of standards and platforms and success metrics. It would be great if I could get a more common voice across a very large agency or set of agencies in terms of what they need to be successful, as opposed to, you know, a bunch of little nuggets across a thousand points of light.

I don't know who's pulled that off, honestly.

Follow Reggie Bradford (@reggiebradford), Vitrue (@vitrue) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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