"We're pioneers in mining social intelligence," Ian Swanson, CEO of Sometrics, told me during our interview today. Swanson was one of the presenters at yesterday's Under The Radar conference at Microsoft's campus in Mountain View. "We've figured out to supply both publishers and advertisers the metrics they need to monetize the social web."
Big words from a small company (headcount: 18) that only in January launched its suite of utilities for targeting subnetworks of users among the ever-shifting millions clicking their way around Facebook, MySpace, and the many other social networking sites.
Sometrics looks to be one of about a dozen firms racing to unlock the potential treasure trove awaiting advertising and branding campaigns once they can understand who's doing what where within these vast networks.
According to Swanson, there are upwards of 200,000 online social networks around the world already, and that number continues to grow every day. His company says it is currently tracking 15 million unique users in this space, a number he predicts will double by the end of July.
(Before privacy advocates raise a complaint here, I should note that this data is generic demographic data, not personal information. What is tracked is gender, age, location, etc., in order to identify clusters of users that might appeal to publishers and advertisers.)
Yesterday, Sometrics unveiled a new ad serving technology specifically engineered for the social web. It's a free platform, for now, that allows developers to "hyper-target" their ads both within the major social communities and smaller social niche sites.
Swanson mentioned that his core strategy was to build the "picks and shovels" for grabbing the analytical data already piling up high in the social-networking world, a cliche often heard in Silicon Valley. But this time, for some reason, I thought back to a guy who got rich during an earlier gold rush -- in 1849. It wasn't the miners, for the most part, who made it, but guys like Sam Brannan, who sold them the picks and shovels they needed to pursue their dreams.
That's how Brannan became the first millionaire in California history.