Startup offers DIY way to build a website in minutes

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    Surveys show that more than half of small businesses still don't have websites. That number represents a huge opportunity to help busy people on budgets establish themselves online inexpensively and quickly. Among those competing for that prize is RebelMouse.

    CEO Paul Berry, who served as CTO at the Huffington Post for 5 years, founded RebelMouse a year ago because creating a good website should be as simple as “point, click, boom,” he says. “You shouldn’t need any developers or designers. Too many people are struggling too hard with their websites.”

    Meanwhile, Berry says many small businesses are starting to see a return on social media investments, but their posts are scattered all over the place, and quickly get buried in various platforms' chronological streams. The several million dollars in venture capital his idea has reeled in indicates Berry is not the only one who thinks this is a problem.

    The RebelMouse concept: Pull all of your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr activity together onto one great-looking page. RebelMouse’s content management algorithm aggregates—and lets a user organize—various social media posts, including relevant content from outsiders. In just minutes, anyone can use the tool to create a new site. RebelMouse's own website is an example of what the aggregated-content design can look like.

    If you already have thousands of Facebook fans and Twitter followers, why bother? “The truth is, it’s hard to reach those people who find you on Facebook. And on Twitter you get lost in the real-time stream,” Berry says. A RebelMouse-aggregated website enables fans to keep up with a business they like through its website, and lets the business control how long a given post remains prominent. It can “connect the last mile on social so businesses get more return on their online efforts,” he says.

    At its core, RebelMouse is capitalizing on the idea that, in the social media age, every business needs to be part publisher—pushing content out to draw customers in. For example, Berry says: “If you’re a Brooklyn bike shop, the big top story on your page could be that there’s a bike ride in Brooklyn this weekend.” No need to produce that article yourself; just grab the link from the event sponsor’s page. Next to it, hang the photo and testimonial that a happy customer posted on your Facebook page. And feature the local newspaper’s story about your business atop the next column.

    Aggregating content via RebelMouse has already caught on with big brands including Fox, GE, NBC, and Oakley. And individual profiles, such as columnist Anand Giridharadas's, are highly represented among the nearly 300,000 RebelMouse sites.

    A few weeks ago, RebelMouse introduced a new deal specifically targeted at small businesses: a "fully powered domain" for $10 a month. Berry says the offering includes traffic stats, alerts so owners know what’s clicking, and plug-ins to include blogs, video, and slideshows. Businesses that have decent traction on an existing website can embed Rebel Mouse there. And those with online sales functions can lead users from RebelMouse to their own e-commerce page. An example is handmade-crafts vendor The Happy Red Dog, which lets visitors easily switch to its Etsy page.

    Berry says one of the best outcomes of creating a RebelMouse site is when an individual or business sees all their fragmented social media posts pulled together in one place and realizes, “I’m more interesting than I thought.”

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