Twylah Founder Eric Kim Discusses Organizing and Monetizing Tweets and the Twitter Universe

Written by Bonnie Boglioli...August 23, 2011
"Twylah Founder Eric Kim"

Chances are you’ve long given up on testing new Twitter apps and tools even if you count yourself as an early-adopter or brand manager. That’s because there are hordes of new ones cropping up and most serve very specific, if not niche, needs. As today’s interview will suggest, however, you should probably reconsider your resistance for at least one of those apps. Twylah identifies Twitter’s major flaws, cleans them up through effective features and capabilities and allows for users to take effective control over their Tweets and their brand.

Launched in beta in 2010, Twylah has carefully cultivated the right concoction of features that attract non-Twitterers to tweets with SEO-optimized brand pages, filtering and more. Reading like blogs with imagery taking front and center, users can readily share or reply to tweets that they would have otherwise missed on fast-changing Twitter feeds. In turn, brands and power-users draw in a wider audience, monitor them effectively and (here’s the big kicker) monetize their Twitter feed (in the near future, that is).

We were keen to hear about the genesis of Twylah and what’s on the horizon from founder Eric Kim. No stranger to social media with an enviable career in online marketing and two Masters degrees from MIT, Kim’s combination of industry experience and cerebral brawn show in Twylah- where the proof is in the pudding.  (The following phone interview has been edited for length and clarity).

STR:  Eric, thanks for taking the time to speak with us about what’s new at Twylah. For those that aren’t yet familiar with your tool, it creates pages for brands and power-users which take their tweets and organize them in a digestible way. With curation so big right now, was this the initial inspiration for Twylah?

EK:  No, curation wasn’t what I set out to address. A few years ago, when I started thinking about Twitter, it had been growing like crazy in terms of both volume and users. I was trying to discover a way to monetize it and that’s really where it all started.

The problem with Twitter was that it wasn’t obvious to me- and I’m pretty savvy when it comes to new technologies. After spending a good amount of time getting acquainted with Twitter back then, I started noticing its pain-points. One of those is that there’s so much information coming at you all the time and it’s random and unorganized. I also kept asking myself why people cared about the kind of coffee I was having at Starbucks or which badge I just unlocked. Some tweets I thought were great and others I could care less about. I knew if I had these questions and problems with it, most other people probably did, as well.

I thought it would be easier to follow tweets if you could find them by a particular subject, so I decided to organize tweets on Twylah.  In addition to that, the way that people interact online is visual- we look at pictures and they grab our attention more than words. So what we did on Twylah was to take someone’s Twitter stream and organize topics with visual elements at the forefront so that it looks like a website that people are used to interacting with and can immediately understand.

STR:  Right… Twylah’s UI is very easy on the eyes compared to the standard Twitter feed which is in constant flux. What has been the feedback from the non-traditional Twitterers since you launched last year?

EK:  The feedback has been great. A nice example of the power of this is when I tried explaining Twitter to my 72 year old mother. She didn’t get it at all by looking at Twitter, but when I showed her tweets on Twylah pages, it clicked for her. Twitter didn’t look familiar to her, and to many people, so we made Twylah look like other websites and that seems to work.

STR:  So Twylah pages appeal to a broad audience of people that otherwise might not be utilizing Twitter or following brands there. How does it then engage those people differently than if they were just checking the feed directly from Twitter?

EK:  We lift the engagement on Twitter from a matter of seconds that a tweet might be viewed in someone’s feed to minutes, hours and even beyond (with SEO). People can find categories of your tweets on your Twylah page and as they spend more time with your content, they tend to respond and retweet more.

On the SEO part, by organizing your content on a page it suddenly becomes findable on Google and Bing. That means you can reach a much broader audience than would normally find your tweets on Twitter. Beyond that, we allow users to easily share right from the Twylah page without having to go to Twitter. Before, if a tweet wasn’t noticed right away, it probably would never be but now we’re seeing older tweets that are once again getting picked up and retweeted and engaged with.

Below is a screenshot of Lady Gaga's Twitter feed using Twylah. View it live here.

STR:  Analytics play such a crucial role in social media, particularly for brands looking to monitor the effectiveness of their campaigns and strategies. I hear that Twylah analytics are impending. When can users expect this and what stats will be integrated?

EK:  Yes, this is an important element. We’ve been testing (analytics) out with a group of early users and we’re hoping to launch in the next couple of weeks. It will focus on strategic reporting so that users can see which of their topics gets the most feedback, what hours or days solicit greater response rates and other statistics that can help drive engagement.

STR:  And what’s on the horizon for brands looking to leverage Twylah for monetization and advertising?

EK:  We’ve been working this out with a select group of early clients, as well.  Right now, it’s mostly limited to driving traffic to email newsletters or websites. On Britney Spears’ Twylah page the ad directs users to the (Apple) App Store for her latest download. Once we’ve worked it all out in beta, it will be available to everyone.

STR:  And would that be part of a freemium monetization model where users would pay for additional features?

EK:  Yes. Longer term, we’re looking to roll out a freemium model for these types of upgrades. We are also looking at enterprise solutions so larger brands can get up and running quickly on Twylah.

STR: Do you envision a time when Twylah will be integrated with other networks such as Facebook or Google Plus?

EK:  That’s a great question. We have focused on Twitter because there are problems to address with it which creates the biggest opportunities for us on that front. Only about 10% of American adults are on Twitter and most aren’t active in large part because they don’t understand it. In comparison, people already understand and use Facebook so there isn’t that necessity. We are trying to unearth issues by focusing on Twitter but in the future there is a potential for other platforms. More immediately, we hope to have a way to integrate Twylah pages on Facebook.

STR: It sounds like things are really rolling right along. Eric, it’s been great speaking with you today and following Tywlah as it continues its progress.

EK: Thanks Bonnie. A pleasure!

Check out more interviews at Social Technology Review Interview Series.

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