BlogFrog doubles down on influence marketing and Colorado startups

What does a startup do with a $3.2 million Series A? Load up the truck and head to Beverly Hills, Clampett-style? Or create a whole new money-making product out of Web 2.0 black gold—the globs of data buried in their servers?

BlogFrog, the venerable Boulder influence marketing startup, revealed how it’s spending some of its GroTech Ventures windfall after closing its financing round in March.

In a triple announcement, cofounders Rustin Banks and Holly Hamann introduced a new product launch, a new publishing partner and spiffy new offices in New York City.

Spoiler alert: Unlike some recent series A-fueled departures, no, they’re not leaving Boulder. [skip to Swimming Pools. Movie Stars if you're impatient.]

Big data, the bubbling crude of the 21st century

BlogFrog’s new Influencer Marketing Platform aims to connect consumer brands with bloggers who hold sway with prime target audiences. Unlike typical wing-and-a-prayer online persuasion campaigns, this one comes packed with data about BlogFrog’s network of 100,000 bloggers and social media mavens.

For brands, it measures the bloggers’ broader network effects as well as more granular content performance analytics. Bloggers benefit from an easier engagement process with brands to integrate messages into the content and out of the wasteland of webpage sidebars.

“Social media is being integrated into all aspects of a brand’s operations and not just marketing,” says Hamann.

“They’re using social media for sales, distribution, customer support and marketing. So having influencers create content for an audience that is trusted is getting brands much further along and creating much more engagement and loyalty. By having bloggers create sponsored content, they’re able to insert themselves much higher up on the food chain online where people are talking about what they plan to buy.”

It’s an interesting turn of events for bloggers who have long been considered the poor relations of the writing class—an unruly rabble of hyper-opinionated, factually-challenged bumpkins shouting into the ether.

That view has shifted in recent years with the rise of content marketing and recommendation engines that place a premium on authenticity and personal endorsements.

Big, dumb and slow: Banner ads are the Jethro Bodine of the web

Besides the ability to boost real brand engagement, Rustin and Hamann make no secret of their desire to kill ugly, ineffective banner ads—the bane of all web denizens who’ve ever gotten zapped by obtrusive popups and auto-play video.

“We want to fix what we view as a broken system of ‘distraction advertising,’ says Rustin. “That’s what banners are. It may be five years or 10, but the future of all advertising is integrated. The viable channel is to partner with content creators as integrated advertising.”

Despite an estimated $62 billion in online ad buys distraction ads don’t work, says Hamann.

BlogFrog’s Influencer Marketing Platform gets its first big public test through a new deal inked with Meredith Corporation, one of the top women-focused media and marketing companies which boasts the likes of Parents magazine, Fitness, and Better Homes and Gardens.

The two companies have previously rolled out successful marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 brand clients with influential bloggers who actively share stories, start conversations, post photos and respond to brand-sponsored content. According to Hamann, that previous, unconstructed campaign data was rich with insights. “We spent a lot of engineering hours on the dashboard” to scale and filter content performance metrics that brands are accustomed to getting with traditional advertising buys.

Swimming pools. Movie stars

Yet BlogFrog’s funding success and rapid expansion, as with any company, sets tongues wagging.

The Colorado startup ecosystem is akin to a small rural town where everybody knows everybody and there’s a celebration of “kissing cousin” relationships between founders.

Those rock-solid kinships can become a little frayed, however, when startups are lured to the big lights, big city by investors after completing a big financing round.

Serial entrepreneur Hamann has seen it before.

“I’ve been fairly vocal about [Colorado companies moving after getting funded],” she explains. My experience personally, I’ve been in the tech startup scene between Denver and Boulder for about 18 years. Every single startup that I’ve worked with and helped along remain in Colorado.”

That’s an important point that often gets lost in the weeds of splashy move announcements. Along with the growing ranks of Colorado founders who are now making angel investments in and mentoring promising local startups after coming into wealth from their own success.

“Folks like Brad Feld and David Cohen, who is an investor in BlogFrog, were part of a community that is very much about not keeping companies here for the sake of keeping them here but creating an environment where they want to stay here. I see that over and over again.

“I love that people are talking about it. There are people in Colorado that are great advocates and are making sure people know this is a great place to start a company, keep a company and grow a company.”

To that end, Rustin and Hamann are adamant that BlogFrog’s New York office is a satellite to more easy engage its clients on Madison Avenue—not a new headquarters.

“As long as Holly and I are at the helm of the company,” says Rustin, “I can assure you that Boulder will be home.”