Talkwheel, a startup that aggregates the social media conversation around a company or topic in, yes, a wheel format, is announcing that it has raised $1.2 million in funding.
The idea sounds a little odd at first, but founder and CEO Jeff Harris said it solves a major problem for brands. He argued that the traditional linear format for presenting comments and social media posts doesn’t really “facilitate group conversation” — instead, you get a lot of “random, one-off comments.” Plus, those conversations are happening in a bunch of different locations, including Facebook, Twitter and on a company’s own website.
Talkwheel, on the other hand, turns everything into a wheel where you can see who’s talking to whom. The idea is to represent the real-life complexity of conversations, where lots of different people might be talking at once, and replying to different threads in the larger discussion.
These comments can come from the Talkwheel integration with a company website, or they can be pulled from social media. (And if you comment on something via Talkwheel, you can push that comment back out to Facebook and Twitter, too.) Businesses can use it to see what topics are trending, participate in the discussions, and conduct focus group-style discussions.
Harris added that the product can “visually map hundreds of thousands of people in the conversation and shows you the most relevant conversations” based on the number of responses and the past influence of who made each comment.
You can see the service live on the website of balloon maker Qualatex — just click on the “Join the Conversation” button at the bottom-left of the homepage and it will bring up a menu of different topics.
For what it’s worth, when I tried it out myself, I found the wheel a little confusing at first, but it became clear pretty quickly, with the initial comment at the top of the wheel and arrows pointing in different directions to show who is replying to who. It doesn’t entirely abandon the linear format, either, since you can see the comment thread on the left-hand side.
As for the funding, it comes from former About.com CEO Peter Horan, former Yahoo vice president Randy Haykin (Outlook Ventures), Informix founder Roger Sippl, nComputing and eMachines founder Young Song, Reply.com CEO Payam Zamani, Adify and Flycast founder
Larry Braitman, Yieldex founder Tom Shields, eGroups co-founder David Jeske, and other angel investors.