Twitter has been and remains one of the social media tools that I find most valuable. It’s a useful way for me to get information, and it’s a useful way for me to share information with a group.
It’s a useful way for me to communicate directly with someone. And because the relationship mechanism of Twitter is "asynchronous" (i.e., you don’t have to be my "friend" to get my attention on Twitter or read my stuff), it’s a handy way to discover new voices and ideas.
But one area that has always been lacking in Twitter is the profile page. Twitter profile pages lack usefulness for business users.
Even with recent refinements, a trip to the Twitter profile page of a business isn’t going to give much insight or meaning into the organization. Rather, it may provide a picture, a background image, and whatever was most recently posted.
Compared to other social media sites, Twitter’s profiles are just not that helpful for a potential audience member to figure out what the business is about or for the business to put its best foot forward.
Before I go further, I need to give the obligatory warning: this is beta, early-version software. Consider yourself warned.
Twylah exists to solve the business-profile problem on Twitter. Once attached to your Twitter handle, Twylah will review your Tweets, create a list of categories, and then create a profile page that has sections of your Twitter posts.
In some ways the result looks like a less typographically refined version of a Paperli page, except instead of being organized around generic newspaper sections, it’s organized around words you tend to use in your Twitter posts.
In terms of helping an audience figure out how you use Twitter, it’s no contest between the Twylah profile and the standard Twitter profile: Twylah’s is way more useful. Plus, it’s got nifty inline images and video and all of that other goodness.
Twylah gives you some ability to prune the sections visible on your profile page. You can insist that three tags of your choosing are always shown. And you can prevent up to five tags from being shown.
Which means you’ll still not have 100 percent complete control over the information presentation. Obviously, since all of the content is coming from your own Twitter stream, you do have control over what appears in the first place.
Twylah also has a feature called "Power Tweet." I’m not entirely sold on the Power Tweet, but I haven’t messed around with it enough.
How it works: You tweet out a piece of content using the Power Tweet Web "bookmarklet." Someone clicking on the Power Tweet (which looks like any old normal Tweet but is shortened with the Twy.la link shortener) is not brought to the content you described, but instead brought to a customized landing page that contains:
- Your tweet (which could be longer than 140 characters).
- The introduction of the content you posted, plus a link to the complete article.
- Other tweets from your stream that Twylah thinks are related.
There are some advantages to this, such as the ability to construct a longer tweet and to get other topically related posts from your Twitter stream in front of your audience.
The disadvantage is the annoyance to the viewing audience that comes with any interruption-based marketing. Someone clicked on the link thinking they’d view an article, and instead they get what they already saw, plus a little bit of an article. They must click further to get at more information.
This might not be a big deal — maybe it’s just me who is annoyed by this. But it’s like when people use TweetDeck to write a long post, and then it turns into a link that brings me over to some stupid TweetDeck page. I get annoyed by that, too. But again … could just be me.
And the custom landing page idea is interesting.
Some reasons to try out Twylah
Business profiles on Twitter aren’t great. They’re barely functional. In some ways this is nice because businesses can focus on their content instead of tricking out their business page. (Do you know people who spent more time and money on their Facebook business pages than they do on the content they shove through them?)
Twylah does a good job of turning your content into a useful profile page, quickly and easily. There isn’t 100 percent control over the display, but there’s enough control that the system will keep you honest.
This alone is worth trying out the Twylah profile.
SEO benefits, sort of
Then, there’s the whole search engine optimization angle. This one is a double-edged sword, as all SEO stuff tends to be. Your Twitter posts are generally indexed by search engines but not useful as a backlink.
Your Twitter posts also have a limited shelf life in that they disappear relatively quickly. As a result, standard Twitter usage has a very specific tactical usage in SEO efforts.
The Twylah profile expands that usage slightly by providing a greater density of Web addresses on a page. But it still doesn’t provide actual links (what appear to be links to content on the profile are not coded as such in the HTML — the stuff that the search engine sees). So it’s a slight variation on the same specific tactical usage.
The Power Tweet, heading to the custom landing page, will perhaps give a little bit of search engine benefit to the Twylah.com profile. This sort of falls into that zone where SEO benefits start to accrue for the service you’re using more than for your business.
It’s sort of like optimizing your Facebook.com page — it’s great as long as you don’t mind not being in control of the organization getting the benefit.
You could do some technical work to create a subdomain that puts the Twylah profile on your own Web domain (i.e., http://twitter.yourdomain.com). In this case, the SEO benefits are increased and your efforts are at least directed toward a Web address you control.
The result of doing this technical work is that you then create a subdomain that is refreshed as often as your Twitter stream, and hopefully contains content that is relevant to your audience — both the audience using search engines and your Twitter audience.
I do wonder, though, whether it would be just as well to create a WordPress plug-in to accomplish the same benefits from your primary domain. But that’s just some geeky musing.
And Twylah’s already put in the effort to make the categorization code, so if what Twylah is doing there is acceptable for you then it’s probably easier to just use that system.
Which brings us to …
The parts of Twylah that garner the most attention — greater control of content being displayed, and greater control of page design — are really sideshows to the important work Twylah is doing.
There’s nothing that Twylah gives you, in terms of profile-branding capabilities, that exceeds what is possible in your own design on your own platform. The display capabilities of Twylah are important only because the Twitter profile is so impoverished to begin with.
The interesting work that Twylah is doing is in categorizing your Twitter posts without you having to manually tag all of your content. Whatever unstructured data tweaking and sorting Twylah is doing is the important part.
If Twylah provided an application programming interface into that system, you could benefit from its on-the-fly categorization of your Twitter content and put it wherever you like — however you like.
That would be truly useful, with few drawbacks in terms of branding, search or display.