Monday, August 29, 2011/
Socialwizz is an online media and technologies outlet, designed to promote creative projects across contemporary literature, social networks, videotainment, apps, gadgets and gaming.
The site was launched in 2009 by digital artist Prashant Harish Hari, who has since teamed up with Cloud 9 Comix director Benjamin Slabak.
Hari talks to StartupSmart about why he decided to hold off on monetising the site straightaway.
What inspired the idea for Socialwizz?
I’ve been blogging, trend spotting and giving predictions in the entertainment space since I was 13-years-old.
I always had difficulty learning in school but was always great at gaming, writing, computers and the internet overall. At one stage, I had five writers contributing to a cinema blog I’d created on a global level.
I decided to take the same skill set and dedicate it to the new media and social technologies scene.
The aim of Socialwizz was to be an authentic and honest new media and technologies outlet, which grew people’s knowledge and information, and also promoted creative projects and concepts that I was working on and those that friends and colleagues were working on.
How long did you work on the site before you launched it?
The first version of the site was launched in 2009. The first step was deciding a name, and I wanted a “wizardry” element to it, hence the name Socialwizz.
There was some basic design work done for the banner and brand, and from there I started contributing.
All up, to get the blog up and running in the initial run took one to two weeks. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to team up with the director of Cloud 9 Comix, Benjamin Slabak.
His vision with the design and concept took Socialwizz to another level, as we ensured it was focused equally on web reading, as it was on mobile and tablet devices like the iPad.
We’re now onto the fourth “concept” or iteration of the site, and are planning another complete re-haul as far as the design goes in the next few months.
Why did you decide not to monetise the site initially?
I believed that commerce would ruin the vision in the initial run. Everyone monetises their blogs through various channels (advertising, providing services and products, blogging about them, etc).
The models for how to make money from blogs had been done and tried, and if I followed those then I didn’t know how Socialwizz would stand out from the rest.
As an independent thought-leadership site, my aim was to provide authentic information, trends and predictions, and grow the readership first without focusing on the commerce.
Like [Mark] Zuckerberg said when he created Facebook, I believed more in creating something cool and unique than worry about how much money it could make.
How do you promote the site?
I haven’t spent money on the marketing or advertising of Socialwizz yet.
The main channels were Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to share the knowledge and information as well as get others to collaborate.
Also, every time I became “mayor” of a location on somewhere like Foursquare, I’d leave a note behind to check out Socialwizz.
If I was visiting the Apple store or other stores that were selling consumer electronics, I’d sneakily put up Socialwizz on the browser and leave it there.
At one stage, I was even leaving Socialwizz business cards on the train and airport lounges when I was travelling as I knew it was bound to get noticed in these places.
I understand you work full-time. How do you juggle your job and Socialwizz?
Socialwizz is really powered by the knowledge of countless amazing authors, some of whom have gone on to become mentors.
To publish a post on a site can take as little as 60 seconds. But all the reading, collating of knowledge and forming the thoughts, as well as putting a captivating and imaginative twist on them, was done afterhours.
Sometimes I’d write something but not publish it for a few days until I’d formed it properly, or seen how the trend evolved, and then hit “publish” when it was time.
I’m really genuine and passionate about the space and it’s something that genuinely keeps me motivated.
How has the site transformed since it started?
Initially, it was me putting up my thoughts on trends around new technologies, reviews of books I’d read and gadgets (apps, phones, tablets, etc) I’d used.
As time went on, I realised that although the viewership and clicks were growing, not many people were leaving comments behind.
However, I was starting to make connections with all sorts of start-ups in the US, companies who were very active in the new media scene overall and also a lot of experts in the space.
Each time I travelled with work for various speaking engagements, I was twittering using my Socialwizz handle.
Quickly, I’d started making genuine connections with authors whose work I’d come to admire so I decided to start interviewing and collaborate with them.
I’ve been lucky enough to have names like Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Mike Walsh and Tom Chatfield, who’ve all kindly contributed to Socialwizz over the years.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have any revenue projections?
I’ve always been passionate in the keynote speaking space so I’ll be actively pursuing that further where possible. Aside from that, my first eBook YOURALITY comes out later this year.
I’ll be starting a lot more vlogs, webinars and podcasts as well as my own Web TV slot again, dedicated to the same area, which is really exciting.
Again, I believe you have to focus on what you truly and really love doing with a passion, and money will follow.
What advice would you give to other start-ups?
My key advice would be:
- Know the area you’re about to tackle really well and own it.
- Don’t start off by thinking, “Where is the money going to be in this?” but rather “How can I create something that hasn’t been done before in an area I’m genuinely passionate about and do it to the best of my ability?”
- Consistency is also key. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see results straight away.
- Also, personalise and brand the design of whatever you’re creating in sync with your own personality.