Brand Networks, a company that serves the social marketing needs of large retailers and other companies with dozens or hundreds of local outlets, has raised a whopping $68 million round from AEA Investors.
As one of the remaining scaled independent platforms in social marketing, Brand Networks says it needs the capital to aggressively develop and market its platform, according to CEO Jamie Tedford. Unspecified acquisitions are also on the table. The investment represents a minority stake, so we can surmise the company's valuation is at least $137 million, probably a great deal more.
Brand Networks holds all four PMD badges and is a member of Facebook's Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer program, distinctions shared by only one other company – Adobe. Brand Networks employs 135 in five offices (Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Rochester and Toronto).
The company has a blended revenue model, combining its SaaS platform fee-based business with a high-touch managed services approach. That's necessary because large brands need to train regional marketers and store managers to maintain and promote their organic content through the Brand Networks platform. (Read AdExchanger's previous Q&A with Tedford.)
"Giving a retailer the tools to go out and become a local publisher is one thing," CEO Jamie Tedford says. "Giving them the consulting services to become better publishers and teach their operators to become better publishers, then teach them to amplify – this is a process."
But Brand Networks is still relatively early in its foray into social media advertising. The company started as an app developer, as did many companies in the Facebook ecosystem (Buddy Media, Vitrue). It then expanded into social media presence, driven by Facebook's decision to make Pages the hub of its marketing platform. The company refers to its combined tools as the Social Marketing Stack.
When it comes to paid media, Brand Networks tends to view ads as a means to amplify social app activity and page posts, primarily to drive actions on Facebook. Not surprisingly, Tedford says it has not engaged with Facebook Exchange to date.
In addition to retail clients, Brand Networks has a second line of business, helping companies with loyalty marketing programs identify their customers on Facebook and merge social data with their database files.
As part of its investment, AEA appointed three members to Brand Networks' board – two partners and one independent investor. It didn't disclose whether founders or other equity holders had taken money off the table as part of the funding round.