Los Angeles Business Journal

Linking Up

Software maker SocialEngine looks to click with consumers via account and community management services. By Adam Popescu Monday, April 23, 2012

After focusing on selling custom-made social network software for the past five years, a Silver Lake company is launching two services its co-founder hopes will change how people manage their online communities and social media conversations.

SocialEngine.net has sold its software to more than 9,000 customers including hobbyists, schools, professional organizations and people who want to build specific niche communities online.

Cupertino’s Apple Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. in Redwood City use the software to build themed online communities for educators and gamers, respectively. Among the company’s other customers, the most popular types of communities center on pets, parenting, traveling and dating. The software is available for as little as $299 per site, and offers the basic essentials to quickly build a community website for those who don’t have the time or skills to do it themselves.

“It’s a build or buy question,” said Alex Benzer, SocialEngine co-founder and chief executive. “The overall vision for our company is to allow people and brands to build and manage and grow amazing online communities.”

But now, Benzer wants to move the company into the consumer market. One new site, FanMix, is geared toward social media professionals, collecting online accounts into one e-mail inbox. The service is a one-stop view of a person’s conversations on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs.

The other new site will also be called SocialEngine, which will focus on community building and themed content sharing.

The company’s traditional function of software sales will be called SocialEngine PHP.

FanMix, which is built for use with Google Inc.’s Gmail, is in its testing period. The service will offer one account free but a subscription will be required for multiple accounts.

“Ultimately that’s the future of this company: a migration toward the subscription model,” Benzer, 27, said. “FanMix is sort of the management and growth component, and SocialEngine is the build-create component.”

The company had revenue of $1.4 million last year.

Jacquie Phillips, co-founder and head of product at Santa Monica-based social activity site Lifecrowd, said FanMix has tremendous potential for social media professionals handling multiple accounts.

“If all of those social conversations and online activities are coming together in once place, it’s very useful, very powerful,” said Phillips, a former business product manager at Menlo Park-based Google.

But Chris Winfield, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Tampa, Fla., online marketing agency BlueGlass, questions whether enough people will sign up.

“There’s constantly new social networks coming up,” Winfield said. The site can have “all of the coolest features,” but it’s still “hard to get your customers to have another log in.”

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