Lithium Raises $53.4M Fourth Round To Push For Lead In Social Brand Software

Big consumer brands generate all sorts of consumer interest and expertise, but they’ve generally struggled to capitalize on these relationships to improve themselves. Lithium has been building itself into a market leader at solving this problem over the last ten years, offering white-label community sites and related products that allow brands to let users share ideas with each other — and tell the brands what they’re doing well, or not.

The company is now doubling down on its business, raising a $53.4 million fourth round of funding on top of the $39 million that it has previously brought in.

The competition has been heating up as more brands wake up to the value of user-generated content, with relatively established competitors like Bazaarvoice, Jive Software and Get Satisfaction being joined by newer entrants that have focused on the Facebook platform, like Buddy Media and Vitrue. This additional money will help Lithium build up more of a lead, especially on Facebook where it is relatively new.

New chief executive Rob Tarkoff tells me that the additional funding will go towards doubling the employee headcount from the 200 or so it currently has through hiring and acquisitions (like Scout Labs in 2010). Its existing set of products include support sites and forums, including game mechanics and social ranking features to encourage quality participation, and analytics software to help brands understand what their consumers care about. Beyond building out sales and marketing efforts in the US and around the world, and continuing to invest in its core products, you should look for it to move into adjacent areas.

It only launched its Facebook product in May, for example, which mainly meant introducing its technology for identifying and promoting top users. But maybe it will expand the products it has available for pages — page apps, possibly, or more ways of buying Facebook ads to help page engagement? Tarkoff didn’t confirm that line of speculation, other than to say they were potential new opportunities.

Tarkoff himself has been at the company for around 100 days, having previously been an executive at Adobe, in charge of its digital enterprise solutions businesses. The new round of funding is being led by new investor NEA, with SAP Ventures also getting in, as well as all of the existing investors — Benchmark CapitalDAG VenturesEmergence CapitalGreenspring AssociatesShasta Ventures and Tenaya Capital.