Lithium, which helps large companies harness the power of their fans for marketing, has raised a new $53.4 million funding round.
The 10-year-old company’s mission is to help Fortune 1000 companies figure out who their biggest fans are, and then get those fans to write positive things about them on social networks and custom fan communities.
It can also help companies stop negative comments from spiraling out of control.
CEO Rob Tarkoff, who just joined the company from Adobe in August, explains.
“We have monitoring technology built into the platform…We can actually tie that into analytics, so you can see what influencers in your customer community are saying. We have ways to actually motivate customers to act on your behalf.”
The company’s founders have a background in gaming, which helps them figure out how to spur people to action — without bribing them, like Google’s marketing partners allegedly did to get positive posts about Chrome.
“We understood the notion of gamification way before it was called gamification. We had a vision of hiring PhDs from Berkeley, social scientists and biologists, and teaching them how to program so they could start to build in scientific motivation elements used in gaming.”
Investors in the new round include NEA, whose partner Peter Sonsini will also join Lithium’s board, and SAP Ventures, the venture arm of enterprise software giant SAP.
NEA has been bullish about investing in disruptive cloud-based enterprise companies — it was an early investor in Salesforce.com, led a $75 million investment into Workday in 2009, and last year chipped in to Box’s huge $81 million round.
NEA partner Jon Sakoda said that the firm has been looking at Lithium since 2007, but “a lot has happened in social over the last five years. Facebook has now passed more than one billion users, and when we first met I don’t know the exact number but it was probably less than 10 million….The enterprise has gone from experimenting with social to embracing social in a big way.”
CEO Tarkoff told us that he plans to use the money to expand Lithium’s sales methods — previously, the company sold directly to enterprises, but it will start working more with digital marketing agencies who in turn sell to big brands.
Tarkoff wouldn’t share growth stats for the company, but in a press release Lithium said it expects to double in 2012. It currently has about 200 employees and is based in Emeryville, CA, across the Bay from San Francisco.