Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Involver Helps Brands Speak the Language of the Social Web

Involver, one of the leading social marketing start-ups, doesn’t want to be an ad agency. It wants to be a tech company. So instead of moving to do more specialized and custom work for its brands, as its competitors are doing, the company is now offering a tool to help brands do the work for themselves: Social Markup Language. The idea behind SML is to provide shortcuts and frameworks to enable front-end designers to easily build Facebook applications and Pages with elements like videos, music and coupons.

Involver, which is announcing the product today after beta-testing it for most of this year, will offer SML on a subscription basis. Brands receive hosting for the duration of their subscription. If they discontinue, they can take their app UI with them but have to redo the backend.

SML is a vast improvement on a previous WYSIWYG tool the company had offered, according to Noah Horton, Involver CTO and co-founder. He said brands, big brands especially, want their apps to be as customized as possible, so a template-based approach is less viable.

San Francisco-based Involver has 60 employees and has raised $10 million in funding. The company has helped brands from small to large create 250,000 total applications with 700 million fans. Customers include Sony Music, The White House, Real Madrid and Facebook. Involver’s biggest competitors are Vitrue and Buddy Media.

The majority of Involver’s business is on the Facebook platform, but the start-up also offers tools for other platforms. Facebook itself is actually one of Involver’s largest paying customers, according to CEO and co-founder Rahim Fazal. Involver built applications for such events as Facebook’s 500 million user celebration (a tool to share stories about experiences on Facebook) and the recent U.S. November elections (an app at the top of American users’ homepages asking them if they had voted).

I’m not saying anything’s happening, but you can imagine that if Facebook ever stopped making acquisitions purely for talent, it might want to take a look at helping marketers use its platform, and it’s clearly aware of what Involver is doing.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.