Babelguide.com launched with aspirations to become the go-to source of information regarding social media in the Central and Eastern Europe. While it does not aim to compete with Mashable or The Next Web, its founder Adam Zbiejczuk claims it has a well-carved out market niche and bright future ahead of itself.
CyberFootprint [CF]: What prompted you to start Babel Guide?
Adam Zbiejczuk [AZ]: I spoke about the idea many times with many people – it is said that content is the king and I have had a blog since 2000. Though at that time, we didn’t know it’s called a blog. It seemed logical to help my personal brand by creating something useful and innovative. My motivation has been quite simple: the lack of such a source. There are many sites about social media, but these are or written with a strong U.S. focus or in a local language.
[CF]: Is that why you have chosen to write in English?
[AZ]: I think that this should be the differentiation point and at the same time the way to connect all the CEE countries. There are servers in the local languages, but Czech people don’t speak Croatian or Hungarian, and vice versa. English is the lingua franca especially in social media, so it makes perfect sense to use it.
[CF]: We know it was the gap on the market that motivated you to start the medium. But what does Babel Guide aspire to become?
[AZ]: Babel Guide should become THE information source when it comes to social media in the CEE. I don’t want to position the server as the news source like Mashable – for such an activity I would need more writers and it would be a full time job.
Furthermore, the news in a case of Mashable and alike remain valid for a remarkably short time. I want to create articles that last and are worth a read even after a year.
Good content is a must!
[CF]: You mentioned good content, but haven’t said how you are planning to source it. Do you rely on your personal network of contacts for this?
[AZ]: I will focus on Czech and Slovak markets at the beginning where I have the most contacts. I also want to connect with people I know elsewhere, so it’s not just another Czech blog (though English-written). I have spoken to people from Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia or even Brazil about writing an article for Babel Guide. I hope to see the results in a very, very near future.
The plan for expanding the network is simple: I look for people similar to me (active around social media willing to expand from the national–level playing field). They are all over LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Klout, Google+ etc. I will simply approach them saying: “You do look like an interesting person. Keen on an interview?” I’m quite sure such people won’t refuse.
What about the team? No team, just Adam winging it
[CF]: Who is in your editorial team? Do you plan on expanding it?
[AZ]: It’s just me at the moment. I don’t know how the whole project is going to evolve, so I’m not sure about expanding the team. But in a long run, I hope this would be possible. I still want to keep a tight control over the medium.
[CF]: That’s understandable in the beginning, but you will want to expand the team later. Who are going to be the best candidates for the job?
[AZ]: The best ones are those who understand the impact it could have on their own careers, know how to write and read. And by “readers”, I mean critical readers who can synthesize information as well as deconstruct it. The skill of asking unusual and straight to the point questions is not so common these days, yet it is more important than ever before.
Clutter, clutter, clutter
[CF]: The cyberspace is filled with news outlets, especially the ones focusing on social media. How are you going to compete with big web sites like Mashable, Tech Crunch, The Next Web or Brand Republic?
[AZ]: I won’t *smiles*. I’m a small fish well below their radar and I don’t mind. Maybe I will try to guest blog for Mashable or the like, but that is still in the pipeline.
[CF]: You have to take them on somehow. What are your weapons of choice when it comes to promotion and marketing?
[AZ]: There are many, but I think I have found my niche, so I’m not really afraid of being lost or forgotten. I rely on the word of mouth. To this date, I didn’t promote the site at all – I want to do it after approximately three months when some articles of value will be already posted.
When it comes to way of doing it, I’m going to go for personal marketing. I will write to my LinkedIn contacts a personal message asking them for feedback. And tell them to share as I am telling you. If you like the content, please, find five minutes of your time and send a short note to two people out of your network to check it out. I think this works best.
Screw marketing, it’s social media time!
[CF]: So, social media marketing. That’s easier said than done. Who is your audience?
[AZ]: Good question *laughs*. I’m not totally sure, but I believe these are people like me – professionals from social media interested in what’s going on in the neighboring countries. I don’t need big numbers, I need the right people.
[CF]: As an on-line marketer, I expect you are big on the analytical side of business. What are you going to measure on your site? What are your KPIs (key performance indicators)?
[AZ]: I’m actually quite a newbie to performance-driven marketing. As I watch the Google Analytics, I want to change the share of Czech users (it’s over 80% at the moment).
The KPIs for me are a bit different. It’s LinkedIn invitations to connect, business proposals or link love that will determine the success of this project. Building a good site takes time. In an optimistic prediction, Babel Guide should start paying off by the end of the year.
[CF]: Let’s stick with numbers for a while. It must have cost some money to develop and launch the site. Are you financing it on your own or you have some co-financiers?
[AZ]: I paid it myself and I don’t have anyone to finance it – no need to. It wasn’t exactly cheap, though. From the very beginning I knew I want Adam Hrubý to do it and I wanted to pay him fair.
Stroke of luck dominates the strategy portfolio
[CF]: The latest trends indicate that people access the Internet mainly from their mobile devices. How prepared are you for this?
[AZ]: Babel Guide runs on WordPress, so it looks quite fine on my Samsung Galaxy SII. But I believe the articles there are too long to be comfortably read on mobile devices. I might be mistaken though. Only time will tell.
[CF]: On what other trends are you betting to propel you to the success?
I’m a Sunday-born lucky boy. And I also rely on academic networks. As a Ph.D. student, I see this seems to work quite well too.
[CF]: Certainly better than relying on luck. Do you plan to advertise the site somehow?
[AZ]: I don’t think I will ever need adverts. The monetization comes from a different direction. For example, I can publish a case study and finish it with a call to action. “If you like what you saw, contact us for more information. We can localize such a campaign in your country too.”
I am a social media consultant, a freelancer and I have a network of trusted people around me who take care of apps, PPC and other disciplines. Babel Guide is here to show my insights and I believe that if done well, it should earn me the respect and the “street credit”.
I want to get to a state when a U.S. company is about to enter the CEE markets, they would ask me where to begin or whom to approach. This is much more than all adverts in the world can bring me