Soci Raises $1.5M to Expand Social Media Management System
As marketers become more sophisticated about the use of social media, Afif Khoury says it’s clear that increasing the size of your fan base can be a misleading statistic. It’s not enough to just sign up fans online.
Instead, the goal for social media marketing has shifted to building an audience that is engaged, and supportive of your business, cause, or community. “The key to social media is content,” Khoury says. “You can’t just inundate [fans] with coupons and deals.”
Managing social media is a complex challenge that requires a holistic approach, Khoury says. To address that challenge, he founded San Diego-based Soci, which he describes as “a unifying management platform for social media.”
Khoury, who also is affiliated with Scatter Ventures and Axon Ventures (two early stage venture firms that invest on behalf of high net worth individuals), says “Soci is doing for social media marketing what Moz did for SEO management,” a reference to the Seattle company that provides Web-based search engine analytics and marketing services.
Khoury founded Soci in mid-2012 to develop Web-based software that simplifies the management of social media marketing. To get through the first two years, Khoury says he raised about $500,000 in initial funding from Scatter Ventures and his own investment accounts. Now the startup is targeting media companies and the diverse market of small and medium businesses that they have traditionally served.
“We built this from the ground up to solve a very specific problem—how do you scale a social media management service, not just at a low cost, but at a low cost that can deliver actual results,” Khoury says. From the outset, Soci sought to integrate its social media-marketing platform with software tools for creating Web and mobile pages, reputation management, ad scheduling, and other operations.
“It’s built for scale and mass management,” Khoury says. “We built something that was intended to manage thousands of accounts.”
Soci now has nine employees and has been seeking customers among digital media companies, marketing agencies, and corporate marketing departments. Last week, Soci closed a $1.5 million Series A round led by Peter Fisher, a San Diego angel investor, which included the Silicon Valley Growth Syndicate and other individual investors.
Khoury plans to use the fresh capital to expand the company’s technology, marketing, and business development efforts.
While raising capital for his Web startup wasn’t easy, Khoury says that finding capital in San Diego wasn’t impossible. “Almost all my investors were individuals who had recently exited their businesses. You just have to be smart about it.”
For example, Khoury says Soci investor Asaf Benhaim sold his San Diego-based Internet marketing firm iMatrix in late 2013 to Internet Brands, which was itself acquired in June for $1.1 billion by the private equity firm KKR). Likewise, investors Trevor and David Klein sold AutoAnything, a San Diego auto parts Web retailer, to Tennessee-based AutoZone, (NYSE: AZO) in late 2012.
While content is the key to social media marketing, Khoury says it also can be the hardest part to get right.
To help digital marketing firms manage social content, Khoury says that Soci searches social websites for content related to a client’s website. For example, if the client is a dentist, Soci searches the Web for every dental-related page and post, scores each one on relevance, and ranks the results according to how well target audiences are engaged.
The search results can be surprising, and enable marketing teams to identify topics that spur users to follow and share their relevant content through their own Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media networks. As Khoury puts it, “Would you rather go fishing with what you like to eat, or what the fish like to eat? Soci goes out, and tells you what the fish like to eat.”
Khoury says the process also can help customers unify their marketing message.
For example, a car manufacture may have hundreds of dealerships across the United States, with each dealer managing its own website and social media. “Most are ineffective in the way they manage their social media, some are effective, and some are so bad they are actually hurting the brand,” Khoury says. By using Soci to manage their social media marketing, the content-scoring algorithms would be applied uniformly, Khoury says, providing dealers with more consistent results in terms of the most relevant social media content for their customers.
As promising as the technology might seem, Soci is entering an intensely competitive market with a number of well-established players, including Vancouver, BC-based Hootsuite, which has raised $285 million in venture capital and claims 10 million users, and Chicago’s Sprout Social, which has raised $27 million and claims 10,000 customers.
But Khoury says he’s undaunted. “Our ability to compete with Hootsuite and Sprout is very real,” he says.
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