Improving engagement on your website is hard and often unrewarding. Many publishers have switched off comments on articles and blog posts, while Facebook, Twitter, and other major players continue to usurp the commenting system.
Today, Spot.IM — a social engagement platform that offers a set of tools and technology for online conversations — is announcing that it has closed a Series A funding round of $13 million.
Spot.IM is installed on your website like almost any other SaaS platform — with a few lines of code added to the header. Once that’s implemented, users can instantly join the conversation, not just on your website, but on any Spot.IM partner site. It functions as a hybrid social engagement solution, with features like user reviews, comments, notifications, live-blogging, personalized news feeds, and cross-publisher promotion.
My own research shows that 70 percent of big brands use Twitter as a broadcast channel but most never truly engage with the audience because they’re unaware of the community that exists within Twitter.
“Publishers are not engaging their Twitter-based community because it has a minor effect on their bottom line,” Nadav Shoval, CEO at Spot.IM, told me. “Discussions that happen outside of the website only credit Twitter or Facebook, rather than the publishers directly. Encouraging discussions on social networks only cultivates a community that is not directly ‘monetizable.’ It encourages users to consume their news and talk with like-minded people out of publishers’ reach.”
So is there a bottom line benefit to increasing engagement?
“From our experience, publishers that do engage with their community within their sites see tremendous results,” Shoval said. “As an example, after embracing a strategy that focuses on engaging the audience, The Drive (a Time Inc. brand) saw an increase of 79.2 percent in their direct visits, and an increase of 41.1 percent in their retained visits. Both metrics clearly reflect the formation of a community.”
Founded in 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel, Spot.IM currently works with 4,600 active sites — which provide social engagement for more than 300 million unique monthly users — including News Corp, Meredith Corporation, Time Inc., Little Things, and Advertising Age.
Importantly, keeping conversations on-site means that you aren’t passing traffic out to the major social networks, which helps make your site more engaging. And what about mobile? Spot.IM provides a mobile SDK that allows you to bake its functionality into your iOS and Android native app, too.
“As mobile has become an integral part of everyone’s lives and people have become connected 24/7 wherever they are, mobile is the future of social engagement,” Shoval said. “Products such as personalized push notifications will enable users to become even more engaged online.”
The investment will be used to drive growth through new hires and expanded R&D efforts. So what does the future of social interaction look like for Spot.IM, post funding?
“Based on our market analysis, most of the future social interaction will be hosted in niche communities around the web, revolving around specific point of interests,” Shoval said. “In that atmosphere, the big social aggregators will be used for communication with small groups. Spot.IM is the platform that enables those communities to flourish and interact.”
Investors in this round included Index Ventures and AltaIR Capital, along with other notable technology investors and various media and marketing visionaries.