Affinio announced today that the company has raised $4 million in Series A funding, led by venture fund ​Whitecap Venture Partners​.

Founded in 2013, Affinio takes an approach that’s different from that of many social listening platforms. While social listening works well when people actually say something, only a small percentage of social media users interact regularly with their chosen platform. That makes listening hard.

Instead, Affino’s algorithm analyzes the relationships that exist within any audience, regardless of whether they interact with the social network or not.

The result? The platform groups individuals into clusters based on affinities, along with the people, topics, and brands that these individuals choose to connect with.

Build Ventures — ​Affinio’s seed investor — also participated in the round, along with SocialStarts, BRaVe Ventures, and several angel investors.

The financing, which takes the total amount raised by Affinio to $5.55 million, will be used to fund its ongoing global expansion and continued development of its proprietary social and content affinity technology. Joe Catalfamo, partner at Whitecap, will join Affinio’s board of directors.

 

Creating personas in this way helps Affinio’s customers take a more empathetic approach when identifying, targeting, and building relationships with their audience. Once identified, these “tribes” can be used in marketing, messaging, brand building, ad buying, and for market research.

“The challenge of accurate and effective customer targeting is being won through new and highly intelligent approaches to segmentation and characterization,” said Catalfamo, who served as a director and early investor of social media monitoring platform company Radian6 (acquired by Salesforce.com).

So why are personas important to marketers right now?

“Customers are more complex and skeptical than ever before,” Tim Burke, CEO at Affinio told me. “They want to feel understood in the buying process. The only way for marketers to accomplish this at scale is through identifying and developing well-researched buyer personas. Finding naturally forming ‘tribes’ is critical so that you can market to real personas, not fabricated ones. This strategy also allows us to bridge the gap between planning and buying, since the personas are generated by real segments of people, not made up ones.”

The ongoing global expansion this funding will aid can be expensive for many organizations, thanks to the costs and constraints involved in translation, regulatory issues, and overcoming cultural barriers. In the case of Affinio, its technology allows for a different approach.

“We’ve made significant global moves over the last year including expanding our team into EMEA markets,” Burke said. “The power of Affinio’s tech is mining connections, meaning it is language agnostic, allowing us to identify tribes of people around the globe without needing to understand what they are saying. This allows us to automatically find the content that is resonating with them independent of language.”

Notable clients include BBC Worldwide, SABMiller, and L’Oréal.