Pay per minute (PPM) chat and video chat has been widely used for a number of years between clients and professionals. The pay per minute industry has evolved rapidly using various chat clients and payment methods as new technology has been introduced over time. In this post we share the pay per minute evolution and our thoughts on where the industry is headed with Instagage.
Pay Per Minute History
Prior to Skype being released in 2003 professionals could conduct sessions online with clients with less commonly known chat and video software. There were many chat and video clients that segmented the market and almost all required sign-up and installation. Payment could be submitted with a credit card or traditional money order until Paypal was introduced and became the standard for online payments.
While this process worked it was largely inefficient for a variety of reasons. Professionals were required to keep track of each session’s time since they were billing by the minute. They also had to use to a different payment engine to process the transaction. Having a separate bill from the transaction was cumbersome and often times confusing for clients. Further, if professionals sent out a receipt it required another manual process through different software.
Once Skype became the standard chat client it made this process a little easier with everyone using the same communication platform. However, it wasn’t until 2007 when Skype introduced Skype Prime (link) that pay per minute transactions were efficiently conducted. Prime allowed clients to call professionals and pay by the minute for advice on a particular topic. Unfortunately this service was short lived as Skype decided to later discontinue Prime in its newer versions.
Around the same time Skype Prime was introduced LivePerson (link?) that is most commonly known for their customer service software acquired Kasamba. Kasamba was an online provider of expert advice. With the acquisition LivePerson allowed pay per minute transactions with experts on their website. While their PPM community represents a small portion of their business today it is still one of the largest on the market.
Where does Instagage fit into PPM and where is the industry headed?
Instagage pay per minute software (link) was introduced in 2011. We initially focused on building our own community of experts similar to LivePerson. Experts specialized in a variety of categories and would be available for clients to engage with. After starting with the Instagage community we shifted our focus to working with individually run businesses. (link) The model worked by supplying a widget that could be placed on a sole proprietor’s website and clients could to communicate with them.
More recently we started launching a community widget for large businesses with pre-established communities. The software allows them to monetize interaction between parties and encourage experts to provide knowledge to clients. We believe this will help online communication thrive along with the increased acceptance of WebRTC communication technology.
The pay per minute chat and video chat industry has evolved dramatically from the manual process it was over a decade ago. Technology and new business models have introduced a more efficient environment for PPM sessions that will continue to encourage an expanding industry. We believe PPM and online consulting will be a key component of many online transactions in the near future.
What do you think?Leave a comment
In this post we discuss what WebRTC is, a few of the benefits and problems associated with the WebRTC technology, and how WebRTC is relevant to Instagage. We also discuss the future of WebRTC and possible implications of the technology.
What is WebRTC?
Web RTC or Web Real-Time Communication enables browser-to-browser audio and video conferencing. It is a communication standard that was developed by W3C and enables the embedding of RTCWeb’s functionality into websites and applications.
This means a user on a website can click on a button to establish a call and talk to another person using their built-in microphone and webcam. WebRTC takes the place of a traditional conferencing client and is built into the internet browser.
What are the benefits of WebRTC?
The major benefit of WebRTC is the lack of a conferencing client. This allows users to instantly communicate without installing or registering additional software.
WebRTC allows your internet browser to communicate with a website or application. The browser will ask if you want to allow the use of your microphone and webcam. By accepting you can video chat or talk with a website or application representative. This type of communication can also be used on a social media site to talk with a friend or colleague.
Eliminating clients and plug-ins also increases security. Communication is also more reliable and all you need is an up-to-date compatible web browser.
What are the problems associated with WebRTC?
While Google is promoting the technology and implementing it in Chrome, Microsoft does not currently support WebRTC. They have decided to support WebRTC once the technology is widely adopted and becomes a standard. Even though Microsoft’s Internet Explorer serves only a small portion of the internet browser market their lack of support could hinder the advancement of WebRTC. Apple with Safari also does not currently support WebRTC.
You can view other browser compatibility for WebRTC here: http://iswebrtcreadyyet.com/
At the time of this article Chrome and Firefox browsers support WebRTC as well as the less commonly known Opera. WebRTC also works with Android using the mobile versions of each of the above mentioned browsers.
How is WebRTC relevant for Instagage?
The Instagage platform has recently implemented WebRTC technology as our form of communication. While WebRTC currently limits the selection of browsers while interacting we believe the benefits far outweigh these constraints. WebRTC is more reliable and secure which we believe will benefit our clients moving forward. We recommend using Chrome with our platform.
What is the future of WebRTC?
The future of WebRTC will depend on the support and adoption of all internet browsers. Once Microsoft and Apple decide to allow WebRTC functionality it will help spread the technology across all major web browsers.
It’s likely that you will begin to see widespread adoption of WebRTC for websites and applications within the next six months. This will be a great benefit for users as they will be able to connect directly with a business without leaving a business’ website or application.Leave a comment
You spoke! We listened! We are so excited to finally be officially launching The Instagage Button! It’s a completely different model then what we started with, but isn’t that awesome, that you told us what your challenges were? We love that! We had so many of you that told us how we could help you be better, make more money and use your time wiser. We learned so much, some from you and some from our own challenges.
Here are a few things we learned:
We learned that it is really tough to build another community, especially one with two different customers even with experience doing just that.
We learned that it doesn’t get easier to get people to care about what you are doing. We are all so busy, our in-boxes so full. Who really has time for another start up that doesn’t solve a real problem for you?
We learned there is a lot of noise in the larger entrepreneurship space. Can you say, “Focus?”
We learned that with a boot strapped company, it isn’t smart to go after two markets at the same time.
After all we learned, we launched today as a much more limited, but focused product for solo practitioners. That is who we can help, solo practitioners. So, for now, we decided to focus solely on these ultra important and driven entrepreneurs. Many are what I call, entrepreneurs by necessity. These tough times have forced many of us to take risks we otherwise would not. You say, you are not an entrepreneur because you don’t employ people? Well, read this definition and then decide:
“a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
Don’t you take risk every day? Don’t you manage a business that takes initiative? Instagage is all about helping with the many challenges that these very specific entrepreneurs face. In particular, how to make money from the traffic you have worked so hard to create. We know you are called many things (most of which are good); Lawyers, Marketers, Copywriters, Bloggers, Freelancers and many others.
One thing remains equal for all, we are all given the same amount of one resource; TIME.
“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”
What you’ve said over and over… is that you struggle with time. You are required to maximize it so effectively that it remains your biggest challenge.
What else we now know from you is:
You receive emails asking you for a “really quick answer” that you never get paid for. A few of these at one time can soak up a good part of your day.
You struggle with how to provide real value to customers online and trying to turn emails, web traffic and social media contacts into real paying customers.
You spend too much time billing and managing your accounts receivables when you really should be monetizing your time.
The result was that Instagage had to change its focus and solve these very issues for solo entrepreneurs. So, we created the “Instagage Button” to put on your web site and social media profiles. It’s really a new and easy way for you to engage/convert your traffic, track your time, and pre-bill your clients, so you can get paid automatically. No more chasing your accounts receivables.
I would love for this blog to represent you solo entrepreneurs and the challenges you face. We know the Instagage Button is a new way to do business online, so it will take discussion, brainstorming and learning. We hope you are up for the challenge as we help move the internet to the next level. Please begin a discussion here about the difficulties and opportunities. I believe we are just seeing the beginning of what is possible online.
So, here we go……please comment and lets start talking about monetizing your time efficiently and converting those contacts by providing real value.
What challenges do you currently face trying to provide consulting online?Leave a comment
For Those Who Lose Time and Money Online, Instagage Button Provides Online Time Tracking and Automated Billing
Buy Now’ button for online services allows professional service providers, bloggers and other consultants to capture and monetize their time
Clovis, Calif. February 16, 2012 – What is your time worth? That’s the premise behind the new Instagage Button, an online time tracking and billing solution that helps professional service providers, bloggers and other consultants capture and monetize their time. Using the Instagage Button, businesses and individuals have a new way to record time they spend online providing advice, consulting and related services, and then receive payment instantly.
The Instagage Button is a lightweight, turnkey application that encourages clients to engage in micro-consults through chat, video call or messaging. Each session is billed by the minute and conducted on a secure server. Since a preauthorized credit card is on file for the recipient, the provider eliminates the hassle of invoicing and chasing accounts receivable, receiving payment via PayPal or check.
“Those who offer any sort of services or consulting face several distinct problems in adjusting to an online existence including converting customers online instantly, monetizing their presence and competing in a global economy,” Tina Henson, founder and CEO of Instagage. “The Instagage Button is available to anyone who equates a ‘time is money’ approach to their daily activities. Think of it as the ‘buy button’ for online services.”
Among the additional features of the Instagage Button is the ability to allow clients to know when a provider is online and then send a request for chat or a video call, as well as a dashboard that provides easy view and management of communication and projects. The solution also lets users generate leads and acquire projects by allowing clients to request projects or project proposals.
“The Instagage Button is a practical, easy-to-use solution for service providers and clients alike,” adds Henson. “It allows service providers to account for the portion of their time that often goes unaccounted for, while offering a clients the most efficient means to the services and information they’re looking for.”
More information about the Instagage Button is available at http://www.instagage.com
First of all, I want to greatly thank everyone for their patience and help as we launch Instagage. We are so excited about the future potential of this community and technology. We continue to learn everyday about how far technology has come and yet how much time it takes of our lives to truly embed.
We at Instagageare probably the extreme of that given we decided to take on the whole virtual work in the cloud idea. We have had many days lately where we are spending our time doing things over and over that we thought would only need to be done once and when we aren’t testing, it seems we are complaining about testing or test results.
We have certainly learned a hard lesson here. Whatever time to plan to dedicate to your technology, triple it! We are spending 80% of our time on technology, testing of technology, troubleshooting technology, etc. We truly thought that by now, all would be working smoothly, and we would be spending time fund raising, showing off our great product, marketing, driving traffic and so on. Instead, when your basic product function doesn’t function, it is extremely difficult to do anything else. You can’ t drive traffic, you can’t market, you can’t fund raise…..
Have you ever faced anything like this? Are you spending way too much time on one aspect of your business? Has it taken over? Share your experience with us.
Instagage enables both small businesses and entrepreneurs to locate expert Business Consultants, and pay them by the minute using an innovative platform that incorporates chat and video call — allowing entrepreneurs to pay only for the amount of time they need.
So, lets say a small business owner needs to consult a business lawyer for a question. The business owner chats with the lawyer online for 15 minutes and only has to pay the expert for 15 minutes instead of an hour. We save small businesses money on consulting costs and traveling expenses. Try it out the next time you have a business question and get the first 3 minutes for free: Business Lawyers, Business Finance, Marketing Consultants, Software Developers, Business Non-Profit, Computer Support, Starting a Business, and Business Administration.
Instagage is founded by myself, Tina Henson and my business partner Kelsey Warnock. Both of us are entrepreneurs and have had many, many interactions with start-ups and small businesses. We found very common problems and both feel very passionately about solving them and most importantly we get the challenges that small businesses face. Prior to creating Instagage, I founded Plastic Jungle in 2006 to help consumers unlock the billions of dollars of gift cards that go unused each year. My company raised more than $35M in Venture Capital. While growing Plastic Jungle, I was challenged to find quality experts. And when I was able to find them, the cost often exceeded my budget limitations — something most entrepreneurs struggle with. As a result of our frustrations we created Instagage in early 2010.
We created Instagage to make the lives of small businesses easier. We want to give businesses of all sizes instant access to quality Business Consultants and help them save money in costly professional services like legal and accounting by allowing them to pay in smaller increments known as “bites.” We believe that there are many days when business owners simply need a couple answers, and they may not have the money to engage a professional for an hour, nor do they need an hour’s worth of information. Most simply just need an answer or feedback to decide which direction to take an initiative. Is this sounding familiar to you?
The business sector is an interesting one and considering the size of the market there is no “go to” destination online for help. Did you know there are 20 million single person businesses in this country? The industry is very fragmented and seems to have no real organization. So, we built Instagage to change the way small businesses get answers to their questions to be that “go to” destination for instant help so we can stop business from biting.
We know that business can bite, especially if you don’t have the right answers when you need them, to move your business forward. The “bites” in Instagage is symbolic to our business philosophy. We thought long and hard about how to grow a business- take it one step at a time. If you try to think about all the stuff that needs to be done, you just might get overwhelmed and stop. But if you break things down and do the most important things first and keep moving down the list, you will see progress. Besides that, the name is sticky, easy to remember and it helps us in SEO. If our SEO consultant had it his way, he would have called it “Instagage.” We liked the name because of the double meaning.
We look forward partnering with both small businesses and business consultants who want to do business in an exciting and new way. Our ultimate goal, is to help your business succeed.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the model and how you think it will help you move your business forward.Leave a comment