Off-Duty: Vitrue Shares the Secret Charm of Hudson Yards

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ADOTAS – A stone’s throw away from the Hudson River, the industrial area for shipping companies known as Hudson Yards doesn’t seem like the kind of neighborhood you would head to for a posh cocktail party. However, that’s one of the joys of New York City — things are rarely what they appear to be, and Hudson Yards Kitchen (from Union Square Events) offered plenty of charming surprises for attendees of  social marketing tech and services firm Vitrue’s gathering on Wednesday night.

The industrial kitchen/event space was the scene of the cocktail reception following Vitrue’s first annual client summit, humorously titled “Vitrue School for the Socially Gifted.” Keynote speeches were given earlier in the day by Brian Solis, principle for the Altimeter Group and author of the book “The End of Business as Usual,” as well as Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist for Intel. Vitrue had plenty to talk about itself — the company acquired social gaming platform GamesThatGive in July before rolling out the initial upgrades for version 3.0 of its Vitrue Social Relationship Management platform in August.

But after the business talk was through, it was time for drinks and food — and Hudson Yards Kitchen had plenty to offer on both fronts. The venue featured four food and drink stations that not only served delectable edibles, but also offered workshops on mixology (the alcoholic variant, as opposed to the DJing kind), smoking meats and pasta production.

The smell of pulled pork lured me to the Southern-style (or Suddern-style) station, but it was the country fried chicken with spicy ketchup that made my tastebuds sing. In addition, succulent mac and cheese and green bean casserole made me wonder if I’d been magically transported to Atlanta  — which happens to be where Vitrue is headquartered.

Founder and CEO Reggie Bradford had been keeping tabs on the station as well, monitoring the progress made on the Boston Butt, a massive slab of pork from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg. His interest led to some discussion about the roots of that name as the Northeast isn’t really regaled for its great smoked meats — turns out it’s a colonial phrase referencing the way the meat was cut in Boston and then packaged into barrels called “butts” for storage or shipment.

Bradford boasts a diversity of marketing experience, having served in marketing and management positions at Miller Brewing Company (before the merger with Coors) as well as WebMD CMO in the 90s. Vitrue is actually Bradford’s third startup, originally developed as a tool for helping brands build communities based on user-generated online video content. However, discussions with clients awakened the need for a more holistic social marketing system.

To that extent, Bradford sees (and Vitrue has been compared to) the social media marketer’s version of SalesForce.com. At its core, Vitrue is a technology company, he said, offering a white-label platform for branded social media efforts. But in addition to software-as-a-service, the company has broken into providing actual social marketing services rather than just the toolkit.

But Bradford is quite fun to chat with not just about social media, but also sports — he loves his University of Georgia Bulldogs. He also told me about living in the Upper East Side in the early Giuliani days — the transition period, when you were more likely to be mobbed in Time Square rather than run over by a mob of tourists. As a big beer fan, I told him he should really take a trip across the East River to sample the craft brews served at the Brooklyn Brewery.

Enjoy some snaps — I wish they could capture how delicious that country fried chicken was.

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