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Percolate helps brands act like they’re human on social media

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.

3 Responses to “Percolate helps brands act like they’re human on social media”

  1. Sounds like an attempt to create another intelligent bot program for businesses to use so they don’t have to use “real” people to run their social media accounts. Not sure we need more automated canned responses no matter how “natural” they seem. Soon we won’t know if those we share with and care about are no more than figments of some designers programming skills. I can imagine a world of bots all following and sharing with other bots no one being the wiser. It’s much like buying fake followers to look like you have many who you share and care about. What’s it purpose? Once you remove the real people behind social media do you really have social media or just another automated sales tool designed to fool us into thinking there is a person in there somewhere? And while I don’t think anything can stop this kind of thing it’s a terrible thought and my hope is that it fail! Give me real people for my followers and friends here on line I guess I’m just old fashioned that way!

    • Phil Gillman | philmang

      @kstaxman It’s seems you’ve completely misread what Percolate does and decided that it is some sort of algorithm that replaces people in running social media.

      It’s nothing of the sort – Percolate makes it easier for the “real” people in businesses to access, share, contexualise and comment on the content that the people in the business and consumers around the business are sharing and consuming. It does this by collecting said content into a single interface for business consumption and sharing – and is constantly optimising around what is shared, consumed and impactful.

      It helps community managers, content producers and social media team folks find some signal in the vast amounts of noise.

      I say this from experience using the tool – it’s a great plus to a heavy content producing and sharing organisation. And it most definitely does not provide “automated canned responses” — in fact it doesn’t provide any responses at all. It does nothing without real people being involved.