A new breed of social media sites led by visual rather than text-based interactions is now spawning a new breed of marketing service catering to the new format. The latest of these is a startup called Curalate, which is officially launching today with $750,000 in seed funding from NEA, First Round Capital and UPenn-focused MentorTech for a service that lets brands search and track its images across the social network, whether they have been posted by the brands themselves or by everyday consumers.
Although the site is only officially launching today, in its beta format it has already managed to pick up more than 150 brands as customers, its co-founder and CEO, Apu Gupta, tells me. That speaks to how, up to now, there hasn’t been an analytics service available quite like the one that Curalate is offering.
Gupta notes that while there have been a number of companies that have jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon and started to offer analytics to measure how brands are resonating on the social network, Curalate is the first to look not just at what a brand is posting on the site, but it can also track what regular people are posting. In other words, not just the sweater as J.Crew pins it, but as you or I might pin it, too.
“Think of us as playing a giant game of Memory,” he says. “Every time someone adds that sweater it adds that brand. We play that game of memory and deliver the conversation and analytics behind it, all at ‘Pinterest scale.’”
Curalate is then able to track how that one piece of content moves throughout Pinterest and potentially eventually goes to a company’s site to convert into a purchase. Gupta notes that the solutions Curalate has built are proprietary but are based on some known techniques in visual search.
This is a gap that Patrick Chung, a partner at NEA, says is only now starting to get addressed, as brands continue to see huge traffic coming from the image-based social network — contrary to whatever reports we’ve heard that traffic seems to be leveling off at the site.
“Pinterest is being crushed under the weight of its own traffic,” Chung says, who notes that brands can tell that there is a lot of traffic coming to their e-commerce sites from Pinterest, but that’s effectively all they know.
“Brands have no idea how it’s all happening, it’s a massive amount of traffic being driven to their e-commerce sites. Right now, it’s coming from a magical black box. The complaint is ‘we have all this traffic from Pinterest and we want to know more about it.” The idea, with Curalate, is that they will be able to now track exactly how that user arrived at its site — so that the brand can then hone and improve how it interfaces with sites like Pinterest in the future.
Chung notes that while NEA invests in other social analytics companies — for example Hearsay Social and Sprout Social. Curalate is the first to concentrate on visual-based analytics.
Companies that have already signed up to the service in two months of beta use are a testament to how the service, in its early days, is appealing both to other tech-savvy startups but also more traditional brands. The customer list includes Birchbox, Bonobos, Kraft, Neiman Marcus and Curalate’s Philadelphia neighbor, the online eyeglass sensation Warby Parker.
Pricing comes in three tiers: $19/month, $49/month and $99/month for varying levels of service and tracking, Gupta says.
While Pinterest will be the initial focus for Curalate, the plan is to extend it to other social networks that are also making a significant impact not through text but images: other sites that are likely to be added into the mix are Polyvore, Fancy, Wanelo and Instagram, says Gupta.