33Across Taps More User Data Than Facebook or Google for Marketers

2/14/12Follow @jpruth

In the race to make mountains of social Web data useful, social targeting technology company 33Across says it is getting ahead of the competition by gathering anonymous information from more users than even Facebook has access to.

That might sound surprising. But thanks to its recent acquisition of Tynt Multimedia, New York-based 33Across has the pulse of more than 1.25 billion unique users on the Web and the content they share; that’s information that publishers and brands can use to better target their ad promotions. By comparison, Google weighs in with 1 billion users, and Facebook has 800 million users. “We’re building what Facebook should build,” says Eric Wheeler, CEO and co-founder of 33Across. “We’re doing what Twitter should do, which is empower these brands to take action across the Web.”

The late January acquisition of San Francisco’s Tynt added more than 1 billion users’ worth of data to 33Across’s resources. Tynt is a social publishing tool used by content providers such as CBS Interactive, New York Post, and Condé Nast. Prior to the acquisition, 33Across had data on about 220 million unique users in the U.S., Wheeler says.

He is hungry to make four-year-old 33Across even bigger. Thus far the company has raised $12 million, and Wheeler says it is seeking more funding to help it grow. Investors in 33Across include Flybridge Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and QED Investors. The company’s angel investors include Jerry Neumann, Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan, StubHub.com co-founder Jeff Fluhr, New York Angels founder David Rose, and Whiskey Media founder Shelby Bonnie. Wheeler says 33Across has 80 employees on staff with plans to double its ranks this year. (The company has 11 offices across North America with plans to open offices in Brazil and Britain.)

But mounting competition is keeping 33Across busy. Wheeler says he expects players such as Amazon to also look for ways to use data that shows what people share with their friends. Brand marketers want that kind of information to entice existing and potential customers with marketing campaigns. Wheeler says Facebook, Twitter, and others with social data are eager to lure marketing dollars from major brands, but possessing the raw material is not enough. “It’s one thing to have data, it’s another thing to know what to do with it,” he says.

33Across’s technology gathers data that helps brands deliver targeted marketing messages within hours rather than older methods such as surveys, which may take days to compile results, Wheeler says. Tynt’s technology lets publishers keep track of when users copy and paste text from online stories into Facebook, Twitter, or search engines. The technology also inserts links into pasted text that connects back to the original sources, which Wheeler says helps with copyright protection and increases search engine optimization. 33Across’s proprietary technology, called SocialDNA Targeting, helps brands understand the social characteristics of their most loyal customers and find potential new customers through their social connections. With Tynt now in the fold, Wheeler says 33Across’s technology is at work across more than 600,000 websites.

Data from the social arena can pay off for marketers when used smartly. 33Across worked with apparel brand Jones New York, for example, to target people connected to loyal buyers of the brand, as part of an advertising campaign. Wheeler says 33Across’s efforts represented about 30 percent of the budget but produced a big return for Jones New York. “We drove over 90 percent of the sales [for the campaign],” he says.

Wheeler also says his company is trying to help more brands find ways to tap social connections among users of the Web while preserving some levels of privacy. “We don’t know anybody’s name,” he says. “We’re not taking Twitter handles and de-identifying them.”

33Across was created by Wheeler and co-founder Greg Levitt, based on understanding how people share interests in the social space and drive consumer purchases. “Recommendations from friends are incredibly powerful,” Wheeler says. And even recommendations from strangers can sway how others spend money, he says. “If 4,000 strangers say, ‘This is a good movie’, I’ll probably go,” he says.

Wheeler adds that the immediacy and influence of social connections has forced marketers and publishers to shorten their reaction time with the public but change, as always, is hard. “The biggest brands and advertisers don’t do real-time so well, particularly from a marketing standpoint,” he says. “This is a massive transformation of the ecosystem.” Wheeler expects his industry to become more competitive as social data becomes more useful. “We’re in the first innings of a doubleheader on the impact that social is going to have on the publishing world,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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