Marketers are already taught to think of brands as humans. But in an age of social media, where a brand can tweet and update dozens of times a day, the challenge is to help them come up with interesting things to say, stuff that actually sounds like it’s coming from a real person.
That’s where New York startup Percolate is making its mark. On the surface, the company looks like it plays alongside a bunch of other social software startups like Buddy Media, which got picked up by Salesforce (s crm) for $689 million in June. But while Percolate does some analytics and scheduling of posts, its real bread and butter is its ability to help a brand figure out what to share through all of its social channels. That differentiation has caught the eye of many Fortune 500 companies and investors, who on Wednesday poured $9 million in Series A funding into the company, led by GGV Capital.
What Percolate realized is that for a brand to come off as authentic, it needs to take in content the way regular human beings do. That means it needs to follow different people and interests online and discover content, just like regular social media users do. So when it comes time to share, a brand is pushing out stuff that fits with its personality.
Percolate works by understanding what a brand cares about and then fills out that list of interests with content from 6 million sources. It also reaches into the company’s archived content across all of its regions and divisions and finds stuff worth sharing. Then, when a community manager logs in each day, they get a prompt showing ideas for a post and interesting topics that are trending in their industry. Percolate can tie real-world events to archived content so a brand can share something relevant. It also helps get a post started by securing images that already have creative commons licenses. The Percolate dashboard changes throughout the day and continues to offer up suggestions on what to share next.
“If you’re a brand, you compete with a person’s friends for attention so you have to be relevant. What’s really changing here is that brands are (having to communicate in real-time), which they didn’t have to do before,” co-founder Noah Brier told me in an interview. “But to do this and be more human, you need to consume content and brands are no different.”
Previously, a company might turn to their in-house community manager, or a manager at an agency, to help figure what to Tweet, post and share. But that puts a lot of pressure on a small number of people to determine the social voice of the brand. Now, with Percolate, there’s a systematic way to approach sharing that doesn’t depend on any one person.
Percolate also helps companies continue to create content without significantly upping their spending. And the feedback it gets from this quick sharing of content can help in the creation of bigger, more substantial content.
Currently, customers spend $10,000 a month for Percolate’s software. Since launching the service in January of 2011, the company has signed up more than 30 Fortune 500 companies, including American Express (s axp), Diageo, IBM (s ibm) and GE (s ge). It has been profitable for most of the year. Percolate raised a $1.5 million seed round in December last year from First Round Capital, which is also participating in the Series A, Lerer Ventures, SV Angel, Transmedia Capital, Advancit and investors like Dave Morin and Rick Webb. Percolate is now looking to expand its team of 28 people and build out its technology and products.