Trading Spaces: Exclusive Interview with BT Tradespace
Doing business via social networks is a hot topic at the moment, and the hottest place for small businesses right now is BT Tradespace. New Media Knowledge’s Chris Lee spoke to BT Tradespace’s general manager, Didier Liautaud, to see how far it has come as it approaches its third birthday.
BT Tradespace was launched in April 2007 with the aim of enabling small businesses to buy and sell products both on- and offline, and claims to be the first social business network in the UK. NMK’s Chris Lee caught up with Didier Liautaud, General Manager, BT Tradespace, to see what impact the site has had on its target user base – small businesses – and his predictions for social business networking in 2010.
What is BT Tradespace?
It’s a social business network that helps small businesses get noticed online and is a place where they can go to buy, sell and network with customers, partners and suppliers.
People searching the Web looking for ideas on products and services can go to Tradespace to get a unique perspective on businesses by looking at online stores, business videos, blogs, and customer testimonials. Businesses can use the network to create stronger relationships with their customers and extend their reach through word-of-mouth.
Why should small businesses join?
BT Tradespace Version 2.0 just launched, introducing a range of new features to ensure that small businesses can extend the reach of word-of-mouth marketing online, get more noticed by their customers through influencing their search engine rankings and create more sales on and off the Web.
To give you a few examples:
· For the first time small businesses have access to the tools and advice they need to easily record and upload video content to their Tradespace profile through our work with Flip Video.
· We’ve also introduced a new customer service tool designed to help members improve their customer service. Customers can ask questions or report a problem so that businesses can resolve any queries through the community.
· Members can also use keywords for every item they add to their online profile, which helps them to achieve a higher ranking on search engines allowing consumers to find them more easily.
· Additionally, businesses can track visitors to their BT Tradespace profile using Google Analytics
BT Tradespace is free for businesses to join. But, we do offer a high value package for businesses looking to introduce more enhanced features to their profile.
What examples can you give of companies that have generated a demonstrable upturn in business by using BT Tradespace?
More than 350,000 people have profiled themselves on BT Tradespace. What’s interesting is that the most active businesses on Tradespace receive ten times the number of leads than businesses that only visit Tradespace a few times a month. You can see this in action with the following examples of successful Tradespace businesses.
BT Tradespace member Tabitha Potts, founder of London-based ethical children’s gifts and accessories company MiMiMyne quickly saw over 10,000 hits on her BT Tradespace page with some also clicking through to her main site generating sales.
Lyn and John Hill joined BT Tradespace to support their online business HedgePig, which sells a range of unusual and unique gifts to both consumers and businesses through its website. After just one month using the site they saw a substantial rise in visitors and sales, resulting in a monthly turnover increase of around 20 per cent.
You say you’re the ‘first business social network in the UK’ – but you only started in April 2007. LinkedIn’s being going for much longer. What do you mean exactly?
LinkedIn is a professional network designed for individuals, rather than BT Tradespace which is a social business network where companies can buy, sell and network with customers, suppliers and partners.
What are your predictions for social media in 2010?
Social media for small businesses is not about big budgets; it’s about big aspirations. Out of the 7,200 small businesses we surveyed in the 2009 BT Business Pulse, one in five is already using social networking in some way to promote their business. This will undoubtedly continue to grow this year, as more businesses look to increase their visibility, engage with customers, and manage their reputation.
More specifically, however, I think 2010 is the year online video truly comes into its own as a small business social media marketing tool. There has been a huge expansion of the online video market - e.g. online video advertising spend has grown in the UK to almost £11.4 million for the first half of 2009, close to a 200 per cent growth in 12 months*. We also know from BT Tradespace data that visitors spend longer on a seller site with video than one without (59 per cent spend more than five minutes versus 15 per cent normally). Our focus is on helping businesses improve the performance of their individual profiles, in order they can maximise the power of online video to showcase their unique personality; a key benefit of social media and online video marketing.
· Source: PwC/IAB