The market for social marketing startups is getting some natural uplift as more advertising money shifts online and marketers experiment with alternatives to traditional ad formats (like banner ads) that don’t make enough of a mark in the digital space. One such startup, Collective Bias, has just closed a $10.5 million Series A — led by Updata Partners — to expand its blogger-powered social marketing model internationally. It had previously raised $500,000 in two rounds of Angel funding, according to Crunchbase.
Collective Bias, which was founded back in 2009, operates a network of 1,400-strong “shopping-focused influencers” — most of whom are located in the U.S. and Canada — which it says have an “aggregate multichannel reach in excess of 50 million”. Brands then pay Collective Bias for their products to be covered by relevant bloggers in this network, who spread the word to their communities and thus do the marketing heavy lifting — but cunningly disguised as folksy blogging:
The company argues this model is more likely to engage online audiences than traditional display ad formats or retail circulars, being packaged in a way that encourages sharing via social sites like Facebook and Pinterest. To that end, articles are written from a first person perspective, to give them a veneer of authenticity, and typically include lots of photos which of course play well on social media.
Collective Bias opened satellite offices in Canada and the U.K. last month, and said it aims to ramp up its international presence further, using the new funding, as well as expand its team. Last year was its third consecutive year of triple-digit growth, it added. John Andrews, co-founder and CEO of Collective Bias, commented in a statement: “We will employ these dollars to robustly enhance our Social Fabric content management platform, enter new markets and grow our team.”
Commenting on the funding round in a statement, Jon Seeber of Updata Partners said: “Harnessing the power of social media to drive brand recognition, loyalty and sales are C-level priorities for consumer-focused companies, and Collective Bias has a record of delivering impressive results for its customers.”
James Socas, a general partner at Updata Partners, added in another supporting statement: “Collective Bias’ combination of shopper marketing expertise and brand and retail experience are a powerful combination in the new era of marketing, and we look forward to helping them drive even more value and growth.”
A recent Gartner poll of U.S. marketers found that digital marketing spending is expected to rise from an average of 2.5% of company revenue in 2012 to 9% in 2013.