After a bit of internal monologue, I decided to skip the last Tuesday push (for DineToRead.ie). I didn’t find it particularly ground-breaking or innovative and what value could I really add to a description besides the fact that it’s an “online book club”? I felt my last push for MyMunster.com missed the mark mainly due to the fact that it’s a forum for Munster rugby fans, and I don’t particularly believe that a forum (however nicely implemented) is the sort of ground-breaking innovation that’s going to drag Ireland by the scruff of it’s neck out of the economic dark ages.
Random sycophantic linking adds some nice google juice for the recipient, but I don’t think it makes for interesting reading on this blog, so I’m going to take a more critical view of future pushes from more of a business perspective and gracefully opt out of any future pushes that I believe are just an off-line business with a nice website. This week’s Tuesday Push is for www.loopthing.com which purports to be
“a new online business network which provides businesses with an opportunity to control all of their online business information through a dedicated profile page”.
Unique Selling Proposition
Immediately I’m wondering where the unique value proposition is. In the general area of “business portal” websites I can think of the following list before even hitting up google:
What qualities differentiates loopthing from these other sites? What differentiates loopthing from the presumably hundreds of other business portal sites that I would find with a google search? To be honest, I can’t determine that from the site.
From a business model perspective, the revenue stream for loopthing seems to be direct advertising and affiliate sales (via the “discounts” concept on the front page). This may work if the site gains a following but I would have the following specific criticisms of the site itself which may hinder them in getting that following:
- No SEO – I’m not an SEO expert by any means, but the site has no meta information for keywords and description, and the content doesn’t seem to target any specific keywords that I can see.
- No analytics measurement – I’ll freely admit that they may be using their web logs to determine user intentions, as I’ve only done a very brief search in their code for google analytics, but it doesn’t seem to be present. How do you know if you’re gaining traction if you’re not measuring every tiniest detail of your users’ interaction with you? How do you know what is working and what is not working?
- Content – All web2.0 huggy-feelyness aside, user-generated content only happens after the site reaches a critical mass. In the meantime loopthing need to enter every business they can think of to build up the site. The claim on the front page that “everyone is on loopthing” is very wishful thinking at the moment. Get a harem of student interns on board to enter business profiles until their fingers bleed. This is something that should have been done pre-launch – content is still king.
My final criticism is that of consistency. Here’s a quote from Loopthing’s latest blog post on improving your social presence:
Engage with social media – Social media has turned the way people search the web on its head. A few years ago all people did was search for words in search engines and read articles…there’s no reason not to make a move into social media circles.
So what’s my problem with this? Nothing in itself, but loopthing have a twitter account with a grand total of two followers, and no updates. There’s a facebook fan page that can’t be found from the main search page. Consistency is key – you need to practice what you preach.
In terms of improvement, I would suggest the following to try to engage loopthing users more:
- Business suggestions – On the user’s dashboard suggest businesses that they may be interested in. The current user area is pretty empty and the only “call to action” is to edit the user profile. If the goal is to get people to engage with businesses, suggest some businesses they may be interested in or give them more specific actions that they can accomplish when they get in.
- User suggestions – Suggest people that they may know ala facebook etc.
- More social media links – Allow the user to enter social media profiles – twitter, facebook, linkedin etc.
- Rethink the “features” list on the main page – At the moment the main page lists features, not benefits. For example, it lists “Boosting profits” and “Exploring a new route to market” as a benefit of loopthing, but offers no specific ways that these can be accomplished.
- More content – Content, content, content. CONTENT.
- More customisation – Allow companies to style their own pages.
In summation – The technology looks like it works, and the site has a clean and professional design, but that’s only a small part of the puzzle these days. I think that loopthing need a concentrated focus on what user value they’re trying to deliver, a differentiated product offering from the dozens of similar sites, and a rethink on their marketing and SEO strategy.
This may be a case of the ubiquitous tech maxim “Ready, fire, aim”, but I think for a saturated market like business portals you really need to market the hell out of it before launching and use social media more effectively.