Armed with a degree in Marketing and Business from University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and an Operations experience from Ireland, UAE and Egypt , Ciaran Connolly, 36 teamed up with Ernist Turdubaev 33, with a Master of Arts – Retail and Government Sector to launch ProfileTree.
At the moment, Conolly heads the startups social media team in Egypt while Turdubaev looks after Russian countries and translation of the site.
The rest of the team is based at their head office in Northern Ireland with heavy remote collaboration to drive ProfileTree to an international scale.
TechZulu caught up with Conolly and this is what we learn.
What is ProfileTree?
It is a platform that allows anyone who offers a service to advertise it for free – we promote this profile on the most popular social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Stumbleupon and many more. We seen that Linkedin does an amazing job at looking after people who are employed – not so good as self employed or small business owners who do not have the time and money to learn multiple social networks and be there promoting themselves always. We help them with this.
Why the name?
We wanted the name to also reflect what the company is about – Profile – was an important word for us – as people create profiles on the site – then it was finding possible domain names that would work. ProfileTree was a good fit – the branches – network, leaves – people. When we heard the name – it just made sense.
What are your backgrounds?
We have many people on the team who have been with us from day one – at all levels in the company. Believe it or not – all but one of the people working with us now was unemployed before joining us – which is an important uniting factor in the team. We came together to help others in the same situation – ie starting a business but not knowing how to market it. We have a great variety of skills in the team from Media, Marketing, Operations, Retail – all very focus on customer service, highlighting a product or brand in the best way for the least amount of money. We all had a keen interest in the online world – so a great fit.
What inspired you?
Where does someone who is starting a hairdressers advertise their business? Show the photos of their work and actively promote themselves across the internet? Most people now useFacebook- but it is a platform that is changing a lot since it floated on the stock market. More and more small business are becoming disillusioned with having to pay to have posts shown to fans they worked hard to get to like their page.
Others struggle to understand Edgerank - don’t have the time to learn and to be honest – possibly don’t care what it is. These small business owners have more important things to focus on like serving customers and putting money in the the business. We use our combined networks to promote people on our website – so we share profiles on our Facebook page, Tweet them out - interview these small business for our blog to give them more coverage, Share them on Google Plus, etc. Small business owners do not know about Pinterest nor how to use it – in creating one profile with us – we will promote it in all our networks on their behalf.
Any funding yet?
Friends and Family – we are working on this at the moment – first thing was to prove the concept – and get a beta product live – we have done this and traffic is growing in double digits month on month – all organically. Makes talking to people about the project a lot easier with hard facts and figures behind it.
What problem are you solving?
Small business owners who are not internet savvy - do not know how and where to advertise their business. We guide them through creating an online advertisement for free – prompt them to complete the best possible detail – and now they have a free online profile or advertisement for their business.
What is your business model?
Sponsorship on the website – we have business owners asking to advertise on our site – this was never our intention – but due to demand, looking at building this into the platform. We are talking to companies now about sponsoring the entire site – so their branding will be throughout each page. It is a great opportunity for a company to get behind and support small business and self employed and do good in the community. Its right business owners should not be afraid to get their business online – if they have their own website – brilliant – they can link to it from our site to help it rank better. If they do not have their own website nor money for one – excellent – list your services onProfileTree – its totally free.
We also plan to introduce a premium profile – with onsite advertising for the subscriber – due to demand from our users. Some business owners want to advertise to other business people on the site – this will be build in shortly. The core product is free to small business and self employed people and always will be.
Why this region?
We are allover, we have users from across the world. You look at the US and you see passion, you go to Africa and man, Africa is amazing – so many entrepreneurs - the spirit to be successful is strong, there is no feeling sorry for themselves over recession or anything, people want to get on and make a business for themselves and that is the spirit behind ProfileTree.
How does it work?
Sign up manually with email and password – or we have built in 24 of the most popular social networks/login’s around the world – for very quick sign up. The service provider – create a profile, multiple adverts. They can add photos, video and even a blog article to improve their profile. We have social share buttons on every page to encourage sharing from visitors and the business person themselves. We also share the profile across our networks – the more information we have the more networks we can share it in…for example – photos – we can add it to Pinterest, and so on.
Have you had any challenges?
Everyday! :-) We share the same pain as our users. We do not want to spend a lot of money on advertising our business – so we use social networks - practice what you preach! Most of our traffic is from social networks – so our engagement on these platforms needs to be amazing. For example on Facebook we have had 3,248 comments on the last 100 posts. We have replied to 93% of these – still not high enough. But we engage. Same on Twitter we invest a lot of time engaging with business supporting in any way we can. We are going the same road as the small business we are helping and showing them it can be done. We use what we have learnt from our mistakes to promote these small business in a better way each day.
Any competition at the moment and how are you solving it?
We are a media company – so have a lot of competition – from newspaper classified advertisements to online free advertising sites – to international competition. We provide a boutique human experience – big enough to have a voice and strong networks, small enough to engage, have fun and help small business around us. Our focus is on our users – they are spreading the word about us. It is the best marketing we have.
How different are you from the competition?
We allow multiple social networks to sign into our site – some website only allow Facebook and twitter – we actively promote business every day across our network – this is what we do – all the time. Other companies leave it to the search engines – but SEO is starting to see a decline with less searches being actioned each month in traditional search engines.- social is where it is. We are free – many marketing companies want to be paid for each advertisement. We do not have shareholders and have a different focus for our business.
This is the exciting part of the job we are working on now. Soon to be announced – and if anyone wants to talk to us more about this, more than welcome.
What’s next on your plate?
We are working on improving the Beta site – there are a lot of things we are working on in regards to speed, features and mobile site – which are all very important in our future roll out plans.
What do you have new at the moment or in the pipeline?
We just launched our “Advert Grader” to help people fill in the best possible profile – giving as much detail to customers and ensuring the advertisement will perform well in online and social search. As the user adds more information they get a grade – an A grade allows them to add a live link to their own website. Right now we are making a B grade allow the user to add live links to all their social networks. So encouraging people to help themselves and give us more to work with.
We already have users in 42 countries – but we want to focus on key locations and build a community of business who support each other. This is what is happening in each of our social accounts.
Is this your first startup?
We believe that people are innovative in their own way – every day, just they do not recognise it. It is the biggest project any of us have ever undertaken and that brings excitement and joy to see the number of people we are already promoting and connections that have been made via ProfileTree.