Tag Archives: BigTent

BigTent Focuses on Leveraging its One Million (Mostly Women) Users

Groups have been using the Web since the mid-1980s for a wide range of activities, such as scheduling, discussions, photo sharing, referrals etc. Groups have been a special strength for Yahoo.

BigTent, a group software company based in San Francisco, has recently been vying with Yahoo for the same market, focusing largely on women. It now has over one million members, who reside in more than 50 percent of U.S. ZIP codes. The question for BigTent and Yahoo, in the age of Facebook and other social media, is what will keep users on a dedicated platform? And what will be their own revenue model?

BigTent CEO and Founder Donna Novitsky says the answer is easy: Facebook is great, but BigTent’s groups, which have sizes ranging in size from 10 to “hundreds of thousands,” tend to require a lot of customization and special features. BigTent groups now range from simple mailing lists to groups with discussions, events, memberships, payments, classifieds, reviews, and more.

“Many BigTent groups are local and use the technology to schedule events every week and track participation, in addition to hosting lively discussions 24×7 online, by email and on mobile devices,” says Novitsky. “As groups have grown, they need subgroups to maintain intimacy, so we provide that as well, with all the functionality of the top level groups. It’s all about continuing to scale and deliver value to more local clubs, schools, parenting groups, neighborhoods, sports teams and scout troops,” Novitsky adds.

From a business perspective, one of the core challenges for BigTent, a free service, is how to leverage its aggregated user base. The answer: advertising with national brands who want to target women, such as Clorox and Old Navy; and various marketplace opportunities.

Novitsky notes that one marketplaces effort the company is doing is a partnership with RedBeacon, which helps members find local service providers like babysitters, plumbers and painters. “Much of the discussion in our local groups is seeking referrals and recommendations from other group members so this is win-win-win for the members, partners and BigTent,” says Novitsky.

Deal referrals are another big marketplaces opportunity for Big Tent. The majority of deal a day subscribers, after all, are educated women. “Our audience loves deals,” confirms Novitisky. “But the deals space has gone crazy with too many different providers sending too many emails — it’s deal overload. So BigTent is working with several of the deals providers such as Groupon and The DealMap to bring together the best deals and sort them for our audience. This is respectful of our members’ time and attention, and delivers better results for everyone.”

Red Beacon Teams with BigTent, Adds ‘Friendly Advice’

Red Beacon, one of the new breed of social/local leads providers for SMBs, said it is now available throughout the entire Bay Area and teaming up with BigTent, a mega-moms network in the Bay Area with more than 100 local cells. BigTent will receive a revenue share carved from Red Beacon’s 10 percent commission.

The deal between BigTent and Red Beacon positions the company not only against Yellow Pages and other newbreed leads providers (i.e. ServiceMagic, AlikeList, HelpHive, ThumbTack and Sears’ ServiceLive) but also against other sites that specifically tailor to moms (and women generally). These include sites such as Angie’s List and Center’d. It plays on the theory that some women are intimidated by home and trade professionals and may be more likely to seek out a social network for advice and recommendations.

For BigTent, the partnership marks the first time it has partnered with an organization to promote local businesses. It had previously worked deals with a number of national brands.

The BigTent news caps off a campaign to land associations and other organizations as partners. The results of the effort means that the site now boasts listings of 16,000 service pros with the badges of their organizations – a major trust factor. One of the key prizes has been the local branch of the Better Business Bureau, which previously hadn’t loaned out its list.

In other site developments, Red Beacon, which won the top prize as best new idea at TechCrunch 50 six months ago, is adding “Friendly Advice.” The feature lets friends comment on job bids (and the bidders). This complements the company’s matching engine, and reviews and ratings found on other parts of the site — including both positive and negative reviews.

“We’re crowd-sourcing recommendations and sharing,” says CEO Ethan Anderson. One added benefit is the viral element and the added exposure for Red Beacon: 500 views may become 2,500, he says.

Anderson notes that the company has been in a constant state of “iteration” since launching, and will only begin the process of raising money when it is satisfied with the end product. So far, the site has added several features, such as enabling private communications between consumers and providers in the middle of a bid; and allowing providers to additional information upon request. “Consumers need lots of information to make a decision,” he says. The site has also syndicated reviews from Yelp, Google and Yahoo to complement its own.

One milestone reached by the site is that it can now successfully furnish a quote for every job that is bid. In fact, it had over 1,000 service providers almost immediately after launch, and continues to rapidly grow its base. “We don’t have a chicken or egg problem,” says Anderson. “Signing up (service providers) has been easy.”

Red Beacon CEO Ethan Anderson will join AlikeList CEO Jim Delli Santi and Reply.com COO Sean Fox on the “SMB Marketplaces” panel at Marketplaces 2010. ServiceMagic CEO Craig Smith is a keynoter at the conference.