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A woman tweets while U.S. President Barack Obama talks during his first ever Twitter Town Hall in the East Room at the White House in Washington, July 6, 2011. (LARRY DOWNING/LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
A woman tweets while U.S. President Barack Obama talks during his first ever Twitter Town Hall in the East Room at the White House in Washington, July 6, 2011. (LARRY DOWNING/LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)

MARK EVANS

New startup captures Twitter users' imagination Add to ...

One of the most curious things about Twitter is its love-hate relationship with companies that build services that make it more useful or interesting.

On one hand, the more people who find ways to use Twitter-related services to meet their personal or professional needs, the more the value of the underlying service is enhanced.

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The problem for Twitter, however, is that some of these companies are making significant amounts of revenue while Twitter is still struggling to find a viable business model.

In recent months, Twitter’s relationship with its ecosystem of associated services has become increasingly antagonistic, as Twitter attempts to gain more control over who uses its technology and the type of services that are being offered.

Given this, it is always interesting and exciting to see a Twitter-related startup attract a lot of attention with a service that resonates with users because it meets a need that Twitter is not filling.

There is also always the risk that Twitter might decide to eventually offer a similar service.

The most recent startup to capture the imagination of Twitter users is Twylah, which provides a way for Twitter users to display the content of all their tweets on a single, personalized page.

Rather than tweets disappearing into the ether after they have been posted, Twylah lets them live on, so they can consumed by more people for a longer period of time.

For individuals and companies that generate a lot of tweets to build personal or corporate brands, Twylah is a compelling way to offer more value to potential readers and customers.

What’s so interesting about Twylah is the simplicity of the concept.

The idea of creating a service that displays the content of tweets on a page that can be branded is so smart, it makes you wonder why Twitter or another startup hasn’t already done it.

Eric Kim, who started San Francisco-basedTwylah with his wife, Kelly, said the inspiration for Twylah came after he started using Twitter, and realized how difficult it was for companies to monetize their activity.

Armed with a decade of experience working with online companies to monetize their services, Mr. Kim decided to focus on how to help people and companies monetize their Twitter content.

By monetize, Mr. Kim is not only talking about advertising or selling products and services, but providing ways for companies to generate leads by offering opportunities to sign up for things such as newsletters, webinars and demos.

“With Twylah, we have overcome some of the deficiencies of the Twitter ecosystem by addressing them through our product,” he said during a recent interview. “Twylah dissects tweets topically and presents them visually.”

In making Twitter content more accessible and user-friendly, Mr. Kim said Twylah also hopes to broaden Twitter’s appeal.

Even though Twitter has 100 million active users globally, it is arguably far from being a mainstream service that appeals beyond geeks and the digitally engaged.

“It is an ecosystem limited to people really getting it,” Mr. Kim said. “With 6 per cent to 8 per cent of the U.S. population using Twitter, you’re only reaching a small portion of your total audience. The way we are organizing and presenting tweets visually makes it accessible to the entire audience.”

Twylah is currently in limited beta as the company works on improving its technology. But early reviews from people using it have been overwhelmingly positive.

Mr. Kim said the enthusiastic response has been interesting but notes that Twylah started to foster relationships with early adopters many months before the service was released.

“There is a dynamic with adoption with a new product that I find fascinating,” he said. “If you’re an early adopter, you don’t want to be the first person to evangelize it. You may get a lot of people trying it but they won’t be standing on top of the house shouting out. Once you get a certain amount of momentum, you start to get critical mass and more people saying “let’s try it out.’ ”

In the long term, Mr. Kim said Twylah will make money by charging brands for customization and the use of premium features. He also expects Twylah to launch a self-serve platform for small- and medium-sized businesses that will feature a combination of free and premium services.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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