Companies are increasingly turning to social channels for advertising opportunities, as audiences plug in and spend the bulk of their time interacting with media online. And more and more, those social channels are going mobile. San Francisco- and New York-based Unified offers enterprises a one-stop solution for deploying and monitoring cross-network social media campaigns, and it just raised $14 million to help it get the word out about the services it’s offering, courtesy of a natural partner: Advance Publications, Inc., the parent company of Condé Nast Publications.
While other companies like Hootsuite and Radian6 deal on the listening side of enterprise social media management, and the recently acquired Buddy Media handles content creation and distribution on said networks, what Unified focuses on is specifically helping brands manage their paid social media advertising campaigns. It offers a Social Operating Platform (SOP), which is what it calls its centralized management tool for the automation of Facebook, Twitter and other social media campaigns, which includes a full suite of reporting and progress monitoring tools. Unified also delivers information about earned media value, which shows how paid social media ads convert to genuine, unpaid social sharing through likes and reposts by members of the networks on which they appear.
Unified hopes to get the word to even more brands about its product with the help of this new funding, which could lead to a lot more business. Consider that even without any kind of dedicated sales team, Unified has managed to attract some major clients across a variety of industries, including Microsoft, Samsung, GE and Nestle. The new funding will give them leverage to build out sales and marketing departments to get more on board, and will also help the company build out its product and attract new engineering talent.
“We’ve got a combination of on-shore and off-shore tech development today, this is going to give us the ability to expand more on-shore tech development,” Unified CEO and co-founder Sheldon Own said in an interview. “It’s going to give us the ability to have some new product development and expertise both in New York and San Francisco, so we’re going to be able to strategically align our tech team with our partners such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn out of the Bay area.”
For Unified, tight integration with the platforms they support is a key part of their business. For instance, since Facebook’s mobile ad platform just went live, it also went live simultaneously at Unified, meaning the company’s customers can now include mobile Facebook ads in their Unified-managed campaigns. Depending so much on integration with social networks means that Unified will always be up-to-date so long as Facebook and others continue to provide the same kind of access, but it also means the ad manager is just as susceptible to the vagaries of user interest as the networks themselves.
Of course, unlike the social networks themselves, Unified can just hop to whatever platform is proving most popular and effective for its agency and brand partners. Like Condé Nast, who are themselves dealing with having to find footing in a new advertising environment as audiences move away from print, with its lucrative advertising inventory, and online, where social channels show signs of being among the best ways for advertisers to reach content consumers.
Having just launched in April 2011 and bootstrapped their financing until now, Unified’s investment round is a sure sign that media companies are looking around for new solutions and new ways of managing marketing efforts. Young companies like Unified might best understand this new climate, or are at least approaching the problem with an approach that’s nimble enough to roll with the punches as audiences move away from traditional advertising vehicles and towards new ones.