Monday, October 24, 2011

iContact Plans to Expand Social Networking Abilities

Excerpt from WRAL

Email marketing company iContact is looking to accelerate its sales momentum by expanding social networking capabilities.

On Monday, the Morrisville company plans to announce new software that will enable its small- and mid-sized business customers to post messages via Facebook and Twitter and measure how those messages resonate with their target audiences. Businesses also will be able to schedule social media messages in advance.

"What we're seeing, from our customers and in the marketplace, is that they want to publish to (Facebook and Twitter) and be able to do their email all in one application, as opposed to using all these different products," said Ryan Allis, iContact's co-founder and 27-year-old CEO.

iContact is one of the Triangle's fastest growing technology companies. The privately held business, which raised $40 million in venture capital last year, has about 300 employees, up from 220 in August 2010. Revenue totaled $39 million last year and Allis said the business is on track to reach $50 million to $55 million this year.

iContact's software already allows its email marketing customers to tie messages and links on Facebook and Twitter with their email promotions. But its capabilities are limited. Users haven't been able to post social media messages independent of email, something they have wanted.

"Before we had a social media feature," Allis said. "Now we have a social media product." Allis said he expects competing email marketing companies to unleash similar products. And because iContact's software can be used as a standalone product for social media promotions, it also will compete with social media marketing companies such as HootSuite.

The new offering, Allis said, should help iContact retain existing customers as well as convert more businesses that sign up for a free 30-day trial of its software. iContact is adding the new function without raising its prices, which are based on volume and start at $10 per month. Its largest customers pay more than $20,000 monthly. "All of our customers will have this over the next couple of weeks," Allis said.

The company's focus on social media also led it to launch a new division, called iConnect, in August that provides social marketing services. "If a restaurant wants to do social media but they don't know how, we have a service where we'll do it for them," Allis said.

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