When advertising can be used to create a service. Started as a “first of its kind” application for small businesses to network within a network, we launched the Visa Business Network on Facebook with invaluable tools, content and a way for small business owners to connect. The network grew to over 90,000 members and was eventually made into its own freestanding social network.
Small business owners are focused on their businesses. They usually work alone and usually don’t have like-minded peers to ask questions, get help or figure out how they can get the most out of digital. User research helped the network evolve to be very helpful. SBOs could set goals with goal tool kits, get help from mentors with Q&A, learn via the wisdom of the crowd and connect with other like-minded SBOs Art Directors/Designers: Alice Sladek/Jonathan Burkett, UX: Aynne Valencia/Margo Hays, Copywriter: Mario Biancalana
Most SBOs work alone. On the VBN they could search and find similar and like-minded businesses to their own to network and get advice. Searches could be based on location and business type. They could also connect with a range of mentors. Topics of expertise ranged from finance to social networking. We created the “Featured Business” section to encourage SBOs to become thought leaders and encourage engagement.
Goals aren’t necessarily things SBOs set up for themselves so we created goal tool kits in a range of different topics. These ranged from how to promote your business on Facebook to how to get paid with credit cards. All mapped out by a step-by-step process. The goal also featured relevant content such as articles, blog posts and member-generated information. SBOs could see and connect with other businesses working on the same goal, as well as each goal had an assigned professional mentor.
The Library featured articles, blog posts, podcasts, relevant links and videos. They could be searched by keyword, topic (marketing, finance, networking, etc.) or type. Media partnerships for both online and traditional advertising helped leverage key content partners like Entrepreneur and WSJ for articles. Featuring key bloggers created a symbiotic relationship helping to spread the word about the network.
In Answers, SBOs could ask a question on a range of topics such as Entrepreneurship, Finance, Marketing and Networking, as well as many others and have them answered by other network members as well as experts. Users could also search previously submitted questions and answers. The VBN became a place where an SBO could harness the network's collective power for knowledge to help run their business.