A couple of weeks back, blogger outreach platform InkyBee finally came out of private beta after two years in development. Having been party to the development process, I was keen to find out more about what looks like a promising UK-based start up. So I asked Co-Founder of Forth Metrics (the company behind InkyBee) Hugh Anderson all about it…
Where did the idea for InkyBee first come from, and why?
Having worked with lots of small businesses, we were aware of their pains of being unable to measure their web-based activities. There are lots of monitoring tools which track the “buzz” or the “chatter”, but very little that take a step further to actually measure the impact. We market-validated this pain and whilst pretty much everyone “got it”, PR professionals were by far the most enthusiastic. So we set out to build a measurement tool to measure web-based outreach. In discussions with testers during development we identified the further pains of “where do I target on the web?” and “how do I track my progress?”, so we built Inkybee to do it all!
What were/are the major challenges of developing a tool like InkyBee?
It has been immensely challenging, but we do believe we have now created something quite special and valuable. The challenges lie in the areas that will be familiar to web entrepreneurs – collecting, storing and analysing huge amounts of “big data” (hundreds of thousands of blogs and many millions of posts, tags, social media profiles, etc), making the proposition scalable, and, at the same time, making sure the user-interface is slick and user-friendly. It should be said that whilst we believe Inkybee does already deliver value and a great experience, there is a lot more clever stuff to come that is not visible in the beta phase.
What problems and issues do you think InkyBee resolves for those undertaking blogger outreach?
The four principal pains Inkybee solves are:
- Finding the most relevant blogs to target;
- Deciding which ones are the most “influential”;
- Managing the whole process in one place and keeping track of the work done in building relationships with bloggers; and
- Measuring the results of any outreach.
All automated, simple, user-friendly and affordable.
You talk in your launch materials about the PR industry specifically, but who are the primary targets for InkyBee? Who do you see using it?
You are right that we see PR professionals as the primary target audience, both agency and in-house. Web-based outreach and its derivatives such as influence marketing are growing and all indicators suggest that blogs will remain a strong element of that. There are lots of other professionals working in this area, including social media managers and digital marketers. Plus, after the Google Panda and Penguin updates, blogger outreach’s importance to SEO professionals has increased dramatically. Finally, we see that it could also be useful for bloggers themselves – just to understand their own niche better, or to look for guest blogging opportunities.
There’s a big emphasis on education when a user first logs in to InkyBee, with video guides as well as downloads of the two free blogger outreach guides you put together. Why is this?
We don’t want to just be seen as a software tool. Web-based outreach is still a relatively new concept, so we see the need to help people to understand what it is, why it is important and how to do it well. The PR industry is getting a bad rep for doing it poorly, so we recognise the importance of helping everyone improve. We see this as win-win for comms professionals and for bloggers who are frustrated with the approaches they currently get. Helping the comms industry do a better job in terms of outreach and measurement is a core objective of ours.
The InkyBee interface is very minimal and clean. Where did the balance lie between the UI and functionality/detail when developing InkyBee?
It’s a difficult balance and there are big improvements still to come in both the UI and the functionality, but the start point is functionality that works and delivers value – we needed to make sure that what we were building did deliver tangible value to users. Only then did we focus on designing a slick, user-friendly UI. We want Inkybee to be a pleasure to use, not a chore and we want it to deliver fast, valuable insights – to do both of those requires excellence in both UI and functionality!
InkyBee makes it very easy to compare blogs according to a number of factors, including potential audience, social network followers and various SEO factors. But a request I receive a lot and something which I noticed was missing in InkyBee is an option to filter blog searches by country. Is this something you have planned?
That old chestnut! The short answer is yes, but it’s difficult. At the moment it is possible to sort by location sourced from the social media profiles and a user can also add a location as a discovery keyword, but we appreciate that this is far from perfect. We are working on geo-targeting and aim to have this running in the months to come.
What do you think makes InkyBee different to similar tools like GroupHigh and Traackr?
I’ve not had access to either of these tools, but from what I’ve seen, GroupHigh does a similar job of finding and comparing blogs. Inkybee’s measurement capability is an area of focus for us – providing an easy way for comms professionals to objectively understand the value of their work and learn from it. Plus, we will shortly be doing some really clever stuff with blog relevancy and context that will greatly improve the blog discovery results. Traackr are also doing some great stuff, but I believe they are specifically focused on “influencer” identification which is very different to our proposition of helping comms professionals with their outreach. There is no scoring system in Inkybee; it finds the most relevant blogs and let’s the user decide which ones are the best based on a variety of metrics.
You’re in early public beta, which obviously means there’s still plenty of development to be done. What timescales have you set for coming out of beta?
It might be an early public beta, but we’ve been in private beta for a long time, as we’ve been developing for over 2 years. Development will inevitably be ongoing to make Inkybee all we want it to be, but we aim to commence a 30-day count-down to a paying monthly subscription model in the coming weeks. It will be very affordable with options for individuals and agencies, there won’t be a contract and all beta testers will get a significant discount.
And finally: the name. What? Why?
Inkybee! It’s a bit of fun really. We don’t want to be boring and we liked the concept of the bee buzzing around the web and I suppose the “Inky” bit is the stories and content that he finds. It’s got a buzz to it!
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Posted by Paul Sutton