Thanks so much for meeting with us, Rhonda. Let’s start off with BUSI, the “nickname” for Businessfriend. What on earth does that mean?
BUSI simply came from recognising what the platform provided. It was literally a business utility first with a social identity to help channel the tremendous opportunity that the internet provided. When you put that together you get the initials but then you also get a positive spin on the relatively discouraging word “busy.” BUSI is now the epitome of balance, specifically work-life. Culture, which is probably the most important thing for providing business success, is fuelled by people with personalities who have the work ethic to make things happen.
Sounds like the kinds of people we’d love to connect with, but surely many of them are already utilising other social sites. What’s the draw to join a new platform such as Businessfriend?
The main advantage is that we offer our members services, features and a platform that none of them do or can. LinkedIn doesn’t have the communication, brand presence or freedom that we do. Twitter has the same limitations, and Facebook is far too social to provide its users with the personal professional brand that we can.
So would you recommend that we all deactivate our other social accounts and focus our efforts exclusively on Businessfriend?
I don’t think there needs to be a switch to Businessfriend as much as an acknowledgment of its value. It wouldn’t be wise to completely abandon other networks for the sake of ours. But embracing Businessfriend as a platform is beneficial because it allows you to engage with other platforms and our own at the same time, all the while providing the tools and means to fuel a social business.
Businessfriend is a complementary platform through and through. Every platform and certainly a business’ own website provides them value and we are looking to enhance every opportunity to reach others and engage with them. We as a company don’t think it’s wise to abandon our other social media platforms and we wouldn’t advise other businesses to do the same. The internet is fantastic, in part, due to its diversity of information and the space of creativity. It’s going to be more fun and beneficial to everyone if we encourage that.
To quote LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, another powerful social network, "The Internet space is crowded. A product needs to be sufficiently innovative to distinguish itself from the pack, but not so forward thinking as to alienate the user.” What, specifically, is unique about Businessfriend?
Respectfully, I disagree with Mr Hoffman. But only partially: I think a product needs to be unique, but I think the company mentality and a commitment to excellence can lead to success, especially in the internet space. Businessfriend as a product is unique in its functionality, which provides innovative utility drawers that stay on the page, have their own refresh cycle, and allow multitasking in a way that no other site does. But what’s more unique about us is that we’re not out to make money on every instance of someone trying to use our site. Everyone has the same tools and access to them; if they want to take it to the next level and customise/optimise productivity, they can purchase those to help accelerate them.
Who is Businessfriend’s target market?
We’re marketing to professionals, students, job seekers, companies, non-profits, and colleges/universities. We’re starting with English speaking regions for now and as we grow we’re planning on including as many languages as possible to be able to provide the same benefits to everyone.
Then my next question is crucial: Howwill Businessfriend market its advantages abroad, particularly in Australia/New Zealand? Is the Asia Pacific region considered a top-priority market?
We’re looking at sponsoring professional events and earning partnerships with foreign-based businesses, associations, organisations and schools.Australia in particular has some fantastic corporate social media events that we’re looking at participating in. Asia Pacific is a highly attractive market and we’ll be considering our options for providing our platform there as well.
How about China?
It’s difficult to get into China because of the privacy laws and their business philosophies. We want that growing and valuable market but we’re going to have to tailor our approach to Chinese professionals because their needs and desires are not the same.
Are you aiming to appeal to any specific Australasian businesses or industries?
No specific business, but we’ll probably do job-function focused events such as human resources and marketing. We’re not going to be picky about industry and businesses, but we are looking for those that we can see have a need for our services or are trending towards social engagement.
Are there plans to eventually open a Businessfriend office Down Under, as Twitter is looking to do?
Our nose is to the grindstone at the moment and we’re just trying to make a new business work here in the States. Eventually, if there was a need or interest in opening an office Down Under, we would definitely be open to the prospect.
How does Businessfriend intend to convert those companies who are very socially active, such as Rio Tinto and Tourism Australia, to Businessfriend? How will Businessfriend attract the not-so-socially-active companies and industries to the site?
Socially active businesses will probably be more willing to try Businessfriend as long as we demonstrate the tandem value that we’ll provide to their current styles. Rio Tinto uses Twitter and YouTube a lot to send out messages and promote company and industry videos. We can demonstrate the added value of continuing to do both at the same time all the while providing more link backs to their site, and a means of connecting with shareholders and mining innovators around the world.
The less socially active companies and industries can be attracted in the same way. Agribusinesses are probably most in need of social but they’re starting to understand, as evidenced by the fact that over 70 per cent of them are using social. What we will do is provide case studies and examples of how they can increase their business through professional engagement as well. I find that most socially inactive companies are those that presume ‘social’ means B2C, but B2B’s are starting to realise, in droves, that there is an opportunity to increase their business amongst each other as well. I think it has to do with the fact that social, by and large, means personal.
Businessfriend is here to remind us that personal and professional coexist…and that it can mean real growth when used purposefully.
How can companies maximise the many functions Businessfriend offers?
Companies can make the most out of Businessfriend by organising their business and talent force with the utilities, marketing and provided brand presence with their pages, and cutting down on the time it takes to find talent with our recruitment solutions.
How many members does Businessfriend currently have? How many does the site anticipate to attract by the end of 2013?
Currently we have approximately 2,000 members after launching our foundation mid-February. By the end of 2013 we hope to attract 50,000-100,000 members.
We’re always projected for conservative member numbers. We’re looking at tens if not hundreds of thousands within the next year and hopefully growing millions on a five-year plan. But the membership numbers aren’t the main focus, the productivity is. If every professional found use through Businessfriend it would be phenomenal for the sake of the network while giving us impressive numbers. The global workforce is approximately three billion workers and there are about 10 million new college graduates entering every year. Shooting in the vicinity of those stars is always on the brain by advocating the opportunity of social.
Where does Businessfriend see itself in five years? In 10 years?
[In general], changing the way the world interacts online, [but] I personally don’t want to project that far. We have five and 10 year plans that include higher user numbers (millions to hundreds of millions) and more partnerships but we’re really just focusing on providing a useful site. That’s not going to change in five to 10 years. One thing I will say is that I hope that we change so much based off the needs of our members that we don’t even look the same in five to 10 years.