Thoughts on the launch of BizFace

Recently, we launched a new business forum, blogg and showcase called ‘bizface’. The plan is to develop it as a true community, allowing organizations to communicate, learn and promote their company – all for free. But why on earth did we do it? We run a small consultancy business (Crosslight Management Ltd) and have always gained business through word of mouth, but everyone tells us the key is to network. Yet whenever we try networking face to face, we end up pinned to people we don’t know anything about and (often) who we will never buy from/sell to. Inevitably we cannot make the time anyway to attend the face to face sessions, especially when they are lunches or breakfast meetings. Running the business takes all of our time. There are a number of benefits of doing networking online, at least initially. Firstly, you can ‘get to know’ people a little bit, find out if you have shared interests, get a feel for their responsiveness, even get ‘feedback’ about them from others, without getting too involved or spending too much time on it. You can then communicate with them asynchronously, so you don’t both need to be there at the same time. If you want to meet up at a face to face network you can exchange photos and agree to meet to discuss specific times, making best use of your networking.

When we looked for something that would allow us to network online, most of the forums gave some things for free, but charged for ‘premium’ services. Some were inactive, others had many members but seemed to have no ‘soul’. It also seemed hard to match people in your own area, something we felt was important. Furthermore, between us the team at Crosslight have many years experience, and multiple degrees in diverse subjects including psychology, IT, marketing, project management, change management and business administration – so we felt we had a lot to offer.

We decided to launch Biz Face and start populating the site with tips, white papers and a broad range of general information that would be helpful to businesses. I personally am very interested in the link between IT and psychology (interests shared with Temi) so have been developing that area, including inviting colleagues at the British Psychological Society to join in. Psychology can also help with all areas of managing people, so we are building quite a knowledge base there.

One thing I want to do some research on, and need to make time to do, is to consider online registration. Even though we stress that BizFace is free, and that email details will not be used or sold-on, people are very reluctant to actually join. Our main principle is that we will keep everything accessible so that as broad a range of people as possible can find our information and tips, so we allow guests to read all posts and bloggs. Only if they wish to download or actually start creating their own bloggs (or posts except in the guest room) do they need to join. I think that is fair, yet perhaps that is why some don’t join – they don’t need to…I have discussed some of this on my blogg

In summary, I think the psychology around joining websites such as BizFace is about commitment, exchange, and social identity. People may be nervous about both the time and effort involved with becoming members, may wonder whether they will get sufficient back from other members, and be unsure about whether the site and membership is a good ‘match’ to their own social identity. Although we can try to be of broad appeal whether they identify well with us and start to feel a part of a community is partly up to the individuals too (and of course most marketing courses will tell us we have to segment the population and target specific types of people – how well we can do that with online resources is something I guess we have to learn). Once people get involved they may find themselves not only feeling a part of the community, but they may start to experience flow (optimal flow experience is a state where you find time flies, you are lost in the moment and find the experience rather pleasurable). Research has shown that this happens regularly when people are online (as well as work and pleasure activities), but I suspect that could also backfire – busy business people may wonder if it was time well spent – it is up to us to give them high value services.

— Post by Dr Stephanie Morgan —–