What Elaine nearly did next – the business idea I nearly explored before Web Content Partners

 Would you have backed me? On 20 August 2008, I sent a proposal for a business I called CloudCouch to the organisers of the Enterprise Platform Programme at Waterford Institute of Technology. I think I was a bit ahead of my time. The recession hadn’t officially hit, but I personally was feeling it

Think back to 2008 – what was different? As far as I was aware QR Codes, Groupon and the likes of Aertv were not around. I used Facebook but wouldn’t be a regular user of Twitter for another year. I wanted to offer everything these had and more in the one website: CloudCouch.

CloudCouch doesn’t exist now, I was full of ideas then and put together a proposal to get onto a one-year enterprise programme for business owners and start-ups. the carrot was Enterprise Ireland ‘CORD’ funding. In the end I knew I couldn’t carry out CloudCouch on my own but I still got on the course with the safer option – writing website content.

Still, I gave a presentation to get a place on the course. This blog post contains some highlights from the original presentation because I want to show that when I say I’m full of ideas for businesses other than the one I run, I really am.

Main proposal

CloudCouch is the recession-proof Web 2.0 answer to the effect the recession will have on people’s lifestyles.

It will offer home broadband users who find themselves reining in unnecessary spending a place to hang out online, where they can be entertained; a portal where they could find everything they could possibly want.

Essentially CloudCouch is a browser within a browser, containing the equivalent of a number of key sites within the one page view, negating the need to tab between sites or multitask within one online experience, but with the emphasis on staying in rather than ‘going out’.

Where the word cloud came from

Before I show you the next bit – I just want to point out that cloud computing wasn’t really an understood term four years ago. Well, not among the people I was hanging out with. And people didn’t really have smartphones then so were probably not doing the same amount of browsing and watching tv.

The name CloudCouch is derived from the cloud in a ‘tag cloud’ found on blog sites where a cloud of words are listed and browsers can click on one specific word to be brought to blogs of that topic. Couch is obvious, the seating where a web surfer at home is likely to be sitting while exploring the net, texting, listening to music, watching tv and chatting of an evening.

Every couch has a silver lining is a take on the saying every cloud has a silver lining. In this case the couch ie ‘sitting in’, is caused by the cloud of recession. The silver lining is that a person can be entertained for free at home through this site, without ‘changing channels’ as such, or flicking between other web pages or tabs.

The vision for a deals/entertainment/news platform

Of course the proposal went into detail about competitors – mainly portal sites and so on and I had all the target market data too.

What’s interesting is it had a bit of an element of content curation before I fully understood the term. What it’s missing is the whole Netflix/AppleTV adoption.

  • The site’s section editors would aggregate the best videos/photos/blogs/news stories/podcasts/radio stations/tv shows from the web and put them in the one place for users to find easily.
  • But it will offer guides to what is available offline that won’t break the bank.
  • For example, rather than focusing on cinema reviews, it would take a look at what’s available on TV for free or in the bargain bin of Tesco or Xtravision.
  • It might do book reviews of classic reads
  • There would be featured hotels, restaurants, shops, services doing discounts.
  • The site would also be a place for all things free and cheap.
  • I would envisage the site would bring together some of the elements of Gumtree, Daft, Buy & Sell, Myhome.ie, Jobs.ie but in a trendier format. 
  • The website would also have paid for sections ‘on the couch’ where local therapists/career advisors/psychologists/doctors could give advice. They would pay for the privilege, but have the opportunity of getting more customers

Naivety isn’t unique

I love the naivety of it all. I actually said it is UNIQUE! The proposal continues….

This proposal is unique in that there is nothing out there YET which is so directly aimed at this recession-hit tech-savvy youth market. It may look like iGoogle, but it will be different – it will have so much more on offer. It has a bit of everything, which means people will stay on the one site longer than average.

I also find it interesting that I was thinking about user generated content even before going into business creating content for users rather than by users.

My development method would be first and foremost to act as an aggregator of sorts, but to make the site as user-interactive as possible so that the users create content, so there is more for others to read and more reason to come back to the site.

 What’s not included is the mobile vouchers

You know the way now you can get a barcode boarding card sent to your smart phone and can scan it at the airport to get through to security? I thought of doing that with discounts.

Why I’m sharing this

I am not naive enough to think I was the only person to have these ideas. I was probably one of many, but one of few to write them down into a crude business proposal. I didn’t know what I know about business, creativity or innovation now back then. I would like to know if such a site existed would you use it now, or would you have used it at any stage over the last few years?

 

I also have other ideas for web businesses. They require a lot of development work and investment and marketing and so on. When I finally get around to pitching these, it’d be great to have some ‘CloudCouch’ research figures.

New Ross Chamber Business Awards deadline this Friday

One month from today, on Friday 9 March New Ross Chamber will hold its annual awards. Tomorrow is the closing date. Getting your act in gear to type or cut and paste relevant information into the award forms could help raise the profile of your business or community organisation at a local level.

The FBD Business & Community Awards is to acknowledge the talent, drive, innovation and success of the business and community groups and organisations in New Ross and the surrounding area.

Individual application forms can be accessed through the New Ross Chamber website.

However, we’ve got an all in one form for those entering at the eleventh hour: General Award Questionnaire

Three reasons to enter:

1) raise profile locally

2) raise profile nationally as a lot of people will be accessing the New Ross Chamber website in advance of the Ploughing Championships 2012 which take place in the New Ross area

3) the awards night is a great night and the Brandon House Hotel puts on a great spread

Next steps

  • put aside 30 minutes to fill out the form today
  • email it to New Ross Chamber tomorrow, Friday, 10 February 2012
  • book your tickets for a good night out (only €50 per ticket for a slap up meal and entertainment)

Elaine Larkin is a director of New Ross Chamber.

Quote unquote: case studies

What do you think of testimonials? What do you think of recommendations on LinkedIn?

Sometimes you don't get the full message

Sometimes you don't get the full message

When buying a book or a DVD is the few words of praise from a well know writer, journalist or publication enough to make your mind up and hand your money over to the cashier? Or will you have made up your mind based on in-depth reviews or interviews with cast/crew/authors?

When it comes to choosing a service will you rely on testimonials on a company’s website or brochure to make up your mind? If they were available would you make up your mind based on in-depth features, articles or case studies on the company/service?

When it comes to your own business, do you think potential customers or clients might make a positive buying decision if they knew the full story of how you can help, how great your customer service is, etc?

If you think that’s a possibility, have you ever thought about useful and informative articles on your website, written in a journalistic style? Why not just ditch the boring About page and replace it with text written in article style, quotes and all telling readers about the company/organisation/product? How about a profile with quotes and background info from each staff member that would normally have appeared on the ‘Our Team’ page?

And when it comes to testimonials, do you think they give enough of a picture to a potential client about how you provide a solution to their problem? Why not tell a story?Tell a story with details of your client’s business, their problem, your solution and how you used this to solve their problem. Written in a journalistic style, with background information and direct quotes, it’s bound to help them more than a sentence or two on how great and wonderful you are.

Get attention, get content, inform, get more than a pat on the back, get people interested.

Does what it says on the tin

Recently we underwent a name change and you’re now reading a blog post on webcontent.ie, the website of Web Content Partners. For a year this business operated under the business name Elaine Larkin Media.

But we weren’t happy with it. We felt it didn’t really reflect or portray in any way what business we’re in. Lots of business names don’t, but to have a more relevant business name had been important since the idea of setting up a web content business came to us back in the summer of 2008.

Elaine, the founder of this web content copywriting business spent a year on an Enterprise Platform Programme in Waterford and would regularly tear her hair out looking for the perfect business name. Early favourites were Pure Content and Fresh Content. Content, though an absolutely vague term, (it covers off audio and video as well as the written word) was high up there in the words the business name should include. Writer, writer or writing didn’t appeal – no disrespect meant to others with these words in their business names!

Some people don’t have a problem with picking a business name, but for us everything from esperanto online dictionaries to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable were perused. Online polls were created, results collated only to find the most popular names were registered trademarks in other countries or the URLs were unavailable in .com or .co.uk which can be nice to have.

One day, we came across Dropped.ie, typed in ‘content’ and webcontent.ie. It was love at first sight and out came the Laser card. As it’s no longer possible to register a .ie business name with the Companies Registration Office and because there’s a grey area about operating a business with a URL (such as webcontent.ie) we decided to register the business name Web Content Partners. (Any clarification on this welcome!)

Then it was back to both the web designer and graphic designer to make changes to existing website and logo and that was it really.

Sure, the name is a bit long, but the fact of the matter is we do partner with and are available to partner with a variety of service providers in the digital world: web designers, web developers, marketing agencies, digital agencies, SEO professionals, internet marketing companies, publishing companies and so on. That is apart from working directly with clients.

And we’re not limited to working with those just on our doorstep  Wexford or neighbouring counties like Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow or Tipperary. We regularly travel to Dublin for client meetings and this is the kind of work that can be done online and with occasional telephone contact.

What do you think of this little rebrand? Anything we should have done different in your opinion?

Do you know who you’re LinkedIn with?

Somebody posed the question on Twitter today, what do you do if someone you do not know/have never met adds you as a contact on LinkedIn?

My honest answer was, yes, I have done it in the past. But I don’t accept such invites anymore.

Creating a network of trust

LinkedIn is about “trust” you see. If we all only add people we trust, well then it’s a more secure network for contacts of mine to do business with contacts of one of my other contacts.

If a contact I trust and trusts me back goes to do business with someone I don’t know at all and it backfires, well then the circle of trust is broken.

Enough of the preaching, but honestly that’s the thinking behind LinkedIn. So, 10 minutes later I deleted about 7 contacts in my LinkedIn network that I had never had any contact with, or former colleagues who added their LinkedIn profile a few years ago and forgot about it. They’ve all moved on from the roles and companies they’re listed as working in.

Maintaining your profile

They should really just delete their profiles or maintain them – and by maintaining them I mean using them, updating them, interacting with others through LinkedIn.

By being there still as my contacts, they’re really just numbers. They can add me as a contact when they resurrect their LinkedIn profiles.

If you don’t know somebody on that network and they add you as a contact, there could be the chance they are interested in doing business with you. If you have a website or your contact details are available through a straightforward enough Google search, or directory enquiries, and LinkedIn is their first point of contact… Well, maybe they’re just not that tech savvy, or they’re just looking to add loads of contacts for the numbers as opposed to anything else.

It’s good to talk

You don’t have to say no, though. You can always just chance it, make contact and see what happens, it could be the business deal of the year. You could always ask why someone wants to connect with you. Or you could suggest connecting elsewhere if you don’t think LinkedIn is the place. There’s loads of other social networks.

Facebook friends

Sometimes getting an invite to be someone’s friend on Facebook is just as puzzling. Facebook to me is about friendship. It’s not a place I want to connect with clients, customers or competitors unless we can really both say we are good friends. If I felt it was appropriate, naturally I could set up a Facebook page for my business, but at the moment I don’t feel that would serve any useful purpose.

I already have a Twitter and LinkedIn presence (not to mention some Irish business networks) which is where, I believe, relevant conversations and connections happen – well at least for my business.

What works for you?