Lithium Raises US$ 50 Million in Pre IPO FundingSocial business vendor Lithium has announced it raised US$ 50 million in pre IPO funding, and it's also hired Tapan Bhat, a former Yahoo executive as SVP and chief product officer.

No Date Set for IPO

Raising funds and hiring a product point person are two key steps on the company's path to going public, but there's been no time table set for when exactly that might be. Investors likely want the company to grow a bit more before the IPO, and that is exactly what this round of funding will be used for, Rob Tarkoff, Lithium CEO said in a statement.

Lithium counts recent customers like Barclays, eBay and Axiom Telecom as proof of its steady growth, and the company even moved into a larger San Francisco office this summer. Furthermore, Lithium was also dubbed a leader in what Forrester is calling social depth platforms.

This is a new category, and Lithium pretty much took the top spot for its simplicity, ease of use and even its professionals services. Social depth platforms are social communities that take advantage of user generated content, and help organizations connect with potential customers.

Forrester also liked Lithium's Tribal Knowledge crowdsourcing functionality (above image) and its SEO and analytics tools.

Social Customer Experience

Forrester calls it social depth, but Lithium refers to itself as a social customer experience tool. That's a pretty good way to put it we think, considering how important both social media and Web experiences are for the Lithium model.

Lithium focuses on engaging customers on social media, but also on helping organizations manage their own customer communities. The Tribal Knowledge Base is one of these customer communities, and it's a wiki style site where customers can contribute in an orderly way, but not just in a forum or review site style.

Engaging customers on social media is equally important for Lithium, and it's recently added analytics to its social media toolbox. Social Intelligenceallows managers to review different dashboards or drill down into conversation threads. Analyzing employee performance based on how they engage with customers across networks is another valuable metric there.

Lithium has shown strong growth over the last two years, one of the reasons it made it into the leaders quadrant in Gartner's 2012 MQ for Social CRM. One of the Gartner cautions in that report was a perceived lack of analytics, something the company appears to have addressed with the Social Intelligence package.

Is Lithium ready to become a publicly traded company? It does seem like the timing is good, and with a slowly recovering economy overall, investors may indeed be drawn to it.