Since downloading it six months ago, Knotch, which lets people share their opinions on a wide range of topics using an 11-color “feeling thermometer,” has become one of my favorite apps because of its strong community. The startup launched a redesigned version of its iOS app today, along with a new website called Knotch.It.
I like Knotch, which has received $1.5 million in seed funding, because if I regularly posted mini-rants about topics ranging from music and TV shows to mental health and politics within a few minutes on Facebook or Twitter, I’d probably trigger a mass unfollowing. But I haven’t clicked with anonymous social networks like Secret, Whisper, or Yik Yak because I want to know who I am chatting (or debating) with.
Knotch’s new design features cards you can swipe to the left or right to browse topics and opinions and is much more visually appealing, lightweight, and easier to use than its previous version. The updated app also includes a new private chat feature, since many Knotch users were connecting in the comments section of individual posts.
The startup’s website, Knotch.It, lets users see real-time infographics that show sentiment on trending topics and can be downloaded as APNG files. In the future, Knotch plans to release a bookmarklet that will allow people to post videos, articles, and other content on the site.
When Knotch first launched sixteen months ago, it was presented as a potentially useful way for companies to collect data about their target demographics (many of its users are in their 20s and 30s). Though that is still part of a potential monetization strategy, co-founder Anda Gansca explains most of Knotch’s users stick around because they find groups of people they enjoy chatting or debating with.
“They don’t go on it every day to see how people feel about ‘Captain America.’ That’s not the main use case. Some do that, but the main reason is that they ultimately want the promise of some sort of mutual connection,” she says. “It’s not necessarily about making new friends. It’s about being able to join a party where there’s a lot of fun, like-minded people who are willing to be genuine and vulnerable.”
Opinions shared on Knotch frequently get dissenting responses, especially in sensitive topics related to politics or religion, but I’ve found that they are almost always civil and often quite funny. I’ve also found that discussions on Knotch are much more substantive and interesting than what you’d expect from a mobile app.
Knotch’s upcoming plans including expanding to Asia, especially in Japan, where the app has received a positive response. The company plans a low-key launch to see how people there use the app before focusing on partnerships and marketing. Other idea include creating products for online publishers that will allow them to embed Knotch on their sites so people can use it to respond to an article’s content.
(Here’s a preview of the media cards Knotch can embed in online publications. Scroll left or right.).
Gansca says that the startup’s team does not have to moderate content and has only had to delete a couple of inappropriate posts. She is upbeat about the app’s retention rate, which is currently 60%.
She also says that 95% of Knotch’s users who currently follow one another weren’t connected on other social networks before signing up, though the app encourages you to invite friends. This is one of the main reasons Knotch decided to introduce its new chat feature and user recommendations.
One reason why Knotch has managed to build a strong community is because people have to create accounts using their real name. Another factor that helps users achieve a balance between candor and civility is Knotch’s mood thermometer, or a color scale that allows them rate the strength of their reaction to something (dark blue means extremely negative, dark red means extremely positive, and beige, unsurprisingly, just means neutral). Since it already captures strong emotional responses, the scale gets rid of the need to post verbal attacks.
Though Knotch’s redesign focuses on connections with other users, it’s like not the typical social discovery app that matches people based on shared interests or geographical proximity. Instead, it introduces you to individuals who have similar or dissenting opinions on specific topics.
In my first post on TechCrunch about Knotch, I noted that some of the most popular topics are open-ended questions that don’t necessarily work well with the app’s mood thermometer, like “what are you listening to right now?” and the startup might have to figure out a way to reduce their frequency if it decides to hone in on a monetization strategy using aggregated user data. These questions are especially popular, however, and help with user retention, explains Gansca.
“First and foremost, we want Knotch to become a habit for those people,” she says. “We want them to use Knotch whenever they feel passionate about anything. The data is not valuable unless it’s creating value for users as well.”