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ShortStack widens reach beyond focus on Facebook

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

ShortStack rode the explosive growth of Facebook for four years.

But as Facebook’s popularity as an advertising venue cools, Reno-based ShortStack is managing the tricky transition from a Facebook-only platform into a company that’s platform-neutral.

“We’re future-proofing the company,” says Chief Executive Officer Jim Belosic.

ShortStack is about six weeks into the launch of ShortStack Campaigns, software that businesses can use to create campaigns that can be used on any social media platform — or on stand-alone Web sites, for that matter.

The company positions the new product as an extension of its Facebook-only platform rather than a replacement.

Still, Belosic acknowledges that its development reflects the reality that businesses are growing less enamored with Facebook advertising.

“Businesses have realized that the meaning of a Facebook ‘Like’ has depreciated, and leads are the most valuable thing businesses can collect from their online audience,” he says.

ShortStack began working on the platform-neutral software about 18 months ago, but the work took on urgency in late 2013 as Facebook changed the algorithms behind its News Feed. Those changes, Belosic says, dramatically reduced the organic reach of posts by businesses.

But the decision to widen the company’s base beyond Facebook carries risks.

“Facebook was the biggest game in town for a long time,” says Belosic. “We’d put all our eggs in the Facebook basket, and now we’re headed into uncharted territory.”

Since the launch of ShortStack in 2010, some 300,000 ShortStack users have signed up to utilize its software to create promotions, conduct polls, and launch coupon offers. They pay subscription fees of $29 to $499 a month for the software-as-a-service.

Development of the new product stretched the privately held company’s resources — 17 employees who work in a Liberty Street office that’s undeniably tech, what with its Mario Brothers-themed conference room and unused air hockey table littered with Lego pieces.

The new software allows customers to place their campaigns — a contest, a sweepstakes, data-collection forms — on a single site with its own URL to which they can link from social media platforms or anywhere on the Web.

While companies long have been using “landing pages,” Belosic says they’ve required work by software developers. ShortStack Campaigns, which is mobile and desktop friendly, removes the need for companies to use a Web developer to create multiple software tools.

ShortStack launched the new software quietly at the end of May, mostly to have some time to hear what customers were saying.

“All of the numbers are trending up,” Belosic says.

Equally important, he says churn appears to be falling. That’s always been a headache for ShortStack as users sign up for a single campaign, then sign off as soon as it’s completed.