Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In the clouds

We all have seen the benefit of searching on Twitter. Twitter’s real-time conversational search is rumored to be the key to its business plan and a potential competitor to Google. However, Twitter’s keyword search is only chronological without showing the popularity of relevant keywords and trends. Tweetcloud distills the blizzard of tweets occurring across Twitter into a simple cloud of key words—a TweetCloud. Clicking (or drilling down) on any of the key words in the cloud reveals the stream of tweets that created this “trending topic.

A quick hit on TweetCloud, will show a user what’s being said right now on Twitter: key trends and their associated tweets. TweetCloud also allows users to create TweetClouds around any topic or user by using the search box at the top of the page. If you’re a baseball fan (see the Redsox tweetcloud above), and want to see what people are saying about baseball right now, enter the term and see the resulting cloud and tweets.

A TweetCloud is also a cool link to pass on to others…even those new to Twitter. TweetCloud makes it easy to do this by providing a share box, which provides links, widgets, and tweet boxes to get your TweetCloud in the hands of your followers. A TweetCloud widget is an especially effective way for bloggers to display their personal cloud, or a cloud on a relevant topic.

Finally, TweetCloud is optimized for the iPhone, providing the same real-time trend checking and drill-down capabilities for iPhone users that desktop visitors enjoy.

To learn more about Tweetcloud, I interviewed Tweetcloud CEO, Roger Katz.

What have you been doing? My company Friend2Friend connects people and products on social media. We have a range of applications on Facebook, where users perform social actions around products: gifting, recommending and commenting, creating lists, etc. We work with brands and advertisers to integrate them in such a way, that the brand a part of the conversation. Most of the product interactions are short...a brief comment about a product, gift, etc. We found that although each individual comment may or may not be meaningful, taken as a group they're quite revealing.

Why did you create tweetcloud? How long did it take you/ your team to develop? We realized we could evolve our work dealing with product comments even more quickly in an environment that has an incredible volume of short user comments about everything. Given we had the system running across our applications on Facebook, we only had to focus on integrating with the Twitter API (straight forward) and laying out the site so it was easy to use. It took us 3 or 4 weeks total, but again we were leveraging our existing core technology.

Where do you see tweetcloud headed? I think the fascinating thing about Twitter is that it's a blizzard of comments about what's going on right now...but at the same time it's unruly and hard to separate the signal from the noise. Tools like TweetCloud have the ability to help people understand what's being said and to follow the conversations that interest them. These types of tools also make Twitter far more accessible to new Twitter users. Think of someone that lands on the page for the first time, or even someone that has 100 people they follow. Without tools to help navigate the sea of content, you're simply not getting the benefit of the medium. On the marketing front, brands are absolutely interested to know what consumers are saying about them and to participate in those conversations to them. We developed TweetCloud to help both users and businesses tap the potential of Twitter. In the future we see the ability for users to track many clouds and watch how they change over time and understand the sentiment of comments / discussion threads. This area is really wide open and we see lots of opportunity.

Tell me about Friend2Friend and how the 2 sites are related? Friend2Friend is all about connecting people and products on social media. Friends naturally like to talk about things like music, gadgets, gear, food and drink, places, etc. Friend2Friend's applications facilitate those conversations within the largest community of friends online--places like Facebook. Given Twitter is emerging as a place where people and ideas interact online, we think our model works there too. The concept for a TweetCloud was born out of our work on Facebook, but it may ultimately have even more appeal on Twitter. Now that we're experimenting with Twitter I'm sure we'll learn things that apply to Facebook and other areas of our business too.

Where do you see Twitter in 2 years? 5 years? Wow, this is a tough question. A little over a year ago I would have said, "Twitter who?" I think there are 3 incredibly exciting trends playing out in the social media space right now: Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone. In each case there's a leader (the 3 companies mentioned) and everyone else in those respective segments trying to catch-up. Does it mean that these 3 companies will rule their market? Maybe, but more than likely it means that the best areas of innovation (social networks/social graph, micro blogging, mobile web and applications) will be embraced across the Internet and dramatically changing the experience forever. Specifically, Twitter has riffed off of the interest in blogging, but has significantly lowered the bar to allow far more people to participate. Writing a blog takes a lot of work, but laying out a cogent thought, astute observation, linking an interesting article or picture or just speaking your mind/feelings couldn't be easier. As a result, people are responding in HUGE numbers. Twitter is no longer a trend it's a movement and that's exciting! For these reasons we feel it's critical to be involved in the Twittersphere and with Facebook and the iPhone too.

Tell me something fun about yourself. I'm an aspiring Rock Star! After hours I riff away on a Stratocaster with my 6 and a half year old son. Actually this is why I need social media to take off, because I'm not so sure about my musical prospects.

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