Sun Co-founder’s WayIn Launches End-To-End Platform For Easy Twitter Polling

In late 2010, Sun Microsystems Co-founder Scott McNealy and finance veteran Scott Johnston, launched WayIn, a mobile Q&A and polling service designed to let individuals and brands quickly create and respond to polls on anything their hearts desire. Thanks to the managerial clout behind it, the Silicon Valley-based startup has gone on to raise $20 million in venture funding. Now WayIn is extending its functionality with a new service called Twitpolls, which enables users and brands to engage with (and gather) realtime feedback from their Twitter followers.

While there are plenty of websites and apps that allow content producers, brands, or individuals to take the pulse of their readers and customers (like Gopollgo, Quipol, Poll Authority, Poll Everywhere, Precision Polling, and CMSes like WordPress have their own polling functionality, thanks to startups like PollDaddy, for example), few have been able to build that much-coveted end-to-end platform that enables simple, direct polling inside the Twitter platform.

And that’s how WayIn believes that TwitPolls can differentiate — and succeed where others have come up short. You don’t have to use a another website or app, meaning that users don’t have to leave the comfort of their tweet streams to respond to polls, an experience that can be a deal killer on a mobile device. As to how it collects its poll data, TwitPolls uses Twitter’s public APIs, and WayIn CEO Tom Jessiman tells us that Twitter is very much aware of TwitPolls and is helping the team find the best ways to engage with its platform.

Naturally, this raises the question of why Twitter doesn’t build its own proprietary polling app, and whether the team sees its host as a potential threat down the road. But, as has been the case over the past few years, both Twitter and Facebook have focused on building platforms, allowing third-parties to build the applications and tools that best extend its service. This basically has allowed them to keep watch over the flock, acquiring or acqui-hiring the teams and apps that prove most successful — or would be best suited by integration.

While Jessiman doesn’t see Twitter building its own app as a real, near-term threat — or TwitPolls as an acquisition target (yet) — Twitter yesterday acquired stealth startup, to beef up analytics tools for its advertising and publishing partners.

As we see ads infiltrate our tweet streams, some look back fondly on the time when the company didn’t have a business model. Yet, as the company continues to focus on ads as its main source of revenue, it’s looking to provide brands and publishers (advertisers) with more advanced targeting and segmentation tools. Advertisers want to optimize their branded content, and, in turn, they want to know how effective their campaigns are at reaching their intended audience, and whether or not they result in conversions.

TwitPolls doesn’t fit in neatly to Twitter’s advertising strategy, but there’s definitely overlap. Twitter is also increasingly being used by brands as a form of social CRM — for sentiment monitoring and realtime customer interaction. Brands can easily ask their followers how they like a new feature, for example, and see the results in realtime. If they find the response is 90 percent negative, probably time for some iteration, and they can react immediately.

What’s more, when it comes to live events, Twitter reigns, especially if you want to see that stream of consciousness from those outside your social network — why Twitter beats Facebook in this regard. TwitPolls can potentially make enjoying live events even better, because, instead of having to leave another app or website open while watching a sporting event, users can just look for the TwitPolls link in their tweet stream and reply directly. Responding to those hashtags counts as a vote, with TwitPolls utilizing Twitter’s APIs to wade through all the hashtag noise, funneling it into signal by directly linking responses to their original questions.

Obviously, for TwitPolls to really take off and offer significant value to everyday users, it’s essential that it encourage big-name brands and organizations to begin using its platform. If TwitPolls links can become regular citizens of your tweet stream, the more recognizable the name becomes as it starts to sound familiar to users (like TwitPic), and engagement increases as a result. The TwitPolls team tells us that, within 48 hours of launch, brands like the NFL, PGA, WebMd, UnderArmour, EMC, the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Washington Redskins, Texas Christian University, and Liferay had begun using the platform to communicate with their followers.

In this regard, the TwitPolls team fancies its service as an enterprise product, designed for companies. Thus, while the platform is initially free for all to use, it’s employing a freemium model that offers a set of advanced features for a fee. In the next few months, it will begin offering leaderboards, games, and customized charts and graphs, making these features available for companies willing to pay a premium.

Considering that WayIn already exists as a product that brands can use to increase social engagement in standalone form, or by embedding into iterations on other websites, mobile apps, and Facebook pages — and has over 65,000 developers already in its fold — moving to Twitter is a natural evolution for the service. Twitter holds the most potential for the service, as it can become a smart B2B and consumer play, allowing anyone with more than a handful of followers to tap into the pulse of their network.

There’s a good chance that TwitPolls can succeed where other Twitter-based polling systems have fallen short, but time will tell.

What do you think?

For more on TwitPolls, check it out at home here, or find WayIn here.