For the past fourteen years, I’ve been running my own business of advertising specialties, displays and POP material, Buzzworthy Creations. My company has 1 employee: myself. Even though it has been a fantastic experience, I must confess there have been times in which I’ve felt lonely, regarding business networking online. There is Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but honestly the first two are meant for people to connect more on a personal level and it’s kind of difficult to find my business peers and connect with people sharing relevant information on LinkedIn. My Facebook friends keep adding me to their networks and I just want to use it for my business! While reading some articles for my class recently, I found out about industry-specific social media. According to Industry Specific Social Networking for Professional Services Firms, these are “social networks that are comprised exclusively of people who work in or have interest in a specific industry such as accounting, financial services, or the A/E/C Industry.” I decided to look look into one social network relevant to my small business and find out what it offers: Biznik.
Here is the definition of “biznik,” according to their website (creativity is one thing that stood out from other networks):
Biznik is an online social network that gathers small business owners (those running their own show) together in one place as a community, for sharing resources, support, advice, and referrals. People who join Biznik are looking for business connections, better SEO and visibility, or ways to build their business. Activating an account it’s free, and the only information one must provide is full name, company location, email, and reason for joining. Once the account is created, that activation includes the company website, profile picture, one business category, and a short about you profile. There are three ways to get more benefits:
- Basic SEO: (cost: $79 per year)- Includes a profile optimized for search, as well as being able to RSVP, and leave comments.
- Pro: (cost: $14 per month or $140 per year)- Includes the benefits of the Basic, plus message others, start conversations, publish articles, host events, and form groups.
- ProVIP: (cost: $24 per month or $290 per year)- In addition to the benefits above, they get featured placement, bios & signatures, extra promotion, personalized assistance, free profile assessment, and SEO optimization.
In Membership Websites- 10 Questions You Should Ask Before You Join, the first one on the list is to ask yourself what will you receive as return on investment. “You need to assess the quality and quantity of content on your membership site and the tools and resources that are available to members. Can you get the same thing elsewhere and what are other similar sites offering and what subscription fees are they charging,” says Chapman on this post. This is why I decided to create a free account with the hopes of finding out if paying for membership is justifiable.
Once the account is created (I’m using the free option) and members select their city, they they can search for other members by city, then by industry. For example, I put San Juan, Puerto Rico and there are only twenty nine members, none of them in Marketing or Sales. However, for the purpose of this analysis, I chose Graphic Design so I could see what type of information is available and here is what I get:
Since I created the free account, that’s pretty much what I can see. I tried the option of sending her a message, but I need the Pro account. I can still contact her by phone and check out her company website. It is important to note that the search results for my query only include members with free accounts, just like mine. I tried searching for people in other places, like New York, and I got more information I was actually able to see, including the events hosted by that user (like webinars) and their posts. Another feature is the events section. Here, members can search for events near the area, such as networking sessions, happy hours, wine tasting & networking, book club meetings, and roundtables. Sadly, I did not find any events in New York, San Francisco or Portland. Biznik encourages users to create events.
The 3 other sections are Groups, Biz Talk, and Articles. In Groups, I found more than 300 related to marketing. My favorite one was Networking in High Heels. Again, I was able to see the group members, events, read articles, and take a look at some discussions, but in order to join or participate I need the basic membership. On each discussion, I was able to see how many replies it had, how many members and how many views. This is how this group is presented:
Biz Talk is a moderated community forum, divided into different categories, like Hot Topics & Controversy. Members ask questions like how to make initial contact with a client and others respond with ideas, links, and other valuable information. Finally, there are more than 8,000 articles on that section. You can search using several criteria, such as hottest and highly rated. One of the articles is 7 Deadly Sins of Designing Your Own Website, offering great tips. What I like about this is that other people are able to respond by voicing their opinion, but also by adding other information, for example an 8th sin! Participation is not as high in terms of the number of people responding. Members are the ones adding content. From all the sections I reviewed, I have to say this is the one with the most current information. Most information from other sections is from 2009-2011.
I believe this platform has a lot of potential. It’s very user-friendly, the brand personality is fun and the concept is clear. I was very excited to find out about it until I took a closer look. I feel that most of the information is not current, like I mentioned above. The fact that there are no events in big cities only makes me wonder if the members really actively participate. Also, when I took a look at the groups, the last activity for the ones on the first page was more than one month ago. There are only a few from this year and more for years 2009-2012. This makes me think that they have not been able to increase the number of members or maybe maintain old ones? Finally, by taking a look at the number of comments in many articles, I could only see a few. If the idea is to find other people who run the show like me, I would expect more conversation, right? Also, the fact that I have to pay is also another factor I would take into consideration. Biznik can stand from other channels because I believe there are no other similar ones. However, in order for me to see it as a trustable source, I would like to see more action. It can stand from other social channels because it is specifically for small business owners. I’m not sure I’ll join a small business group on Facebook. That is where I meet friends and family. I would love to talk to colleagues and Biznik is an excellent channel for that!
Biznik can incorporate proximity marketing using Foursquare. According to Types of Marketing: Proximity Marketing, “the main purpose of the proximity marketing plan is to connect with customers while they are near your business or service and spur them into action.” Biznik can partner, for example, with the bar in which there will be a meet & greet, to have a special offer for participants on that particular day. If the person is close to that business, that special offer will show on Foursquare as an incentive to arrive at the seminar earlier. People who check-in at the establishment for the session before 6pm get one free beer. Another idea might be for Biznik to create a brand page and as a way to send information to their phones regarding special offers.
To help with the IMC efforts, Biznik can use YouTube to promote their events. Someone can take short videos of events and post them to Biznik’s YouTube channel and to the website in order to promote these events. Maybe people watching them may be curious about this events and may begin to organize some of them! Another vehicle that can be used is SlideShare. Members can post their SlideShare presentations on a new “Presentations” tab. In terms of other social networks. Biznik should try to increase followers, as well as keep posts more current on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, as well as encourage more participation. After all, there is a social element of Biznik, mainly with events and if members are in a meet & greet and want to share their photos with friends, they can do so on Facebook. Also, this will serve as promotion for Biznik. Changing the name of the Instagram account from @indiebizunite to @biznik, will help have a more integrated marketing communications approach across these platforms. I have to say there is a link to all three channels on their website. An email newsletter might also be a great idea to send general information about small businesses, including articles from the Small Business Administration. Finally, working on the brand image, including logo and colors in these channels might make the pages look more cohesive.
Chapman, I. (2008. October 10). Membership Websites- 10 Questions You Should Ask Before You Join. Retrieved on June 27, 2014 from http://www.iandavidchapman.com/membership-websites-10-questions-you-should-ask-before-you-join/
Hinge. Industry Specific Social Networking for Professional Services Firms. Hingemarketing.com. Retrieved on June 27, 2014 from http://www.hingemarketing.com/blog/story/industry_specific_social_networking_for_professional_services_firms
Marketing-Schools.org. Types of Marketing: Proximity Marketing. Retrieved on June 27, 2014 from http://www.marketing-schools.org/types-of-marketing/proximity-marketing.html