Appature Labs Experiments with Twitter Search Engine, Chatterfly

7/1/09

Even with only 180 characters per post, it can be hard to find what you are looking for on Twitter. Sorting through the stream of tweets from the people you follow, let alone the entire Twitter network, can be daunting. Seattle-based healthcare marketing firm Appature recognized this fact, and so early last month released the first product from its long-term development group, Appature Labs. The product, called Chatterfly, is a Twitter client—a way of using Twitter and extra features at the same time—that can search through a feed for keywords and trends, as well as archive tweets for later perusal.

Chatterfly is not the first search engine out to help navigate the Twitter flood. Others are starting to crop up as well, such as Seattle-based CrowdEye, which launched two weeks ago. But Chatterfly is one of the first created specifically for marketers. “More and more, our customers are asking questions like, ‘What is this Twitter thing?’” said Appature CEO Kabir Shahani, in an interview. “Brands are starting to make communities around Twitter.” With companies scrambling for ways to exploit online social media, creating a place for long-term idea development in this space makes a lot of sense, even for relatively small companies like Appature.

Appature was founded in early 2007, is self-funded, and now has 14 employees. The company provides ways of gathering and analyzing data on everything from website traffic to publicity campaign success for marketers and brand managers, using software and Web applications. Its customers include medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. Earlier this year, Shahani was named one of BusinessWeek’s Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs.

At the moment, Chatterfly is still in beta trials and open to public use. “We want feedback not just from our customers,” Shahani said, adding that Chatterfly is being integrated into a service package for customers. “They’re excited to use it,” he said. Getting comments from non-customers will help the company adapt Chatterfly to appeal to a broader group, and may even garner new clients. Chatterfly is designed for simplicity and usability, which Shahani said are traits Appature customers look for. “We’re getting good responses so far,” he said.

Chatterfly works both for companies that have yet to make a presence for themselves on Twitter as well as those that have been exploring opportunities on the site. Those already using Twitter can use Chatterfly to find out how often those following their brand discuss relevant topics (like heart disease and new medicines), while those just starting out can use it to create related Twitter communities and gather intelligence about which products and services would find the widest customer base. And by archiving tweets, comparisons can be made over a longer period of time, increasing the usefulness of the data.

Appature Labs may only have one product so far, but Shahani foresees a lot of useful applications coming out of it. Researching future ways of marketing might seem impractical for a startup, especially with the fast rate of online application development, but Shahani says the point is for Appature to be ahead of the curve so it can adapt its products quickly. Chatterfly seems to fit well with Appature’s main product and service line, in that it takes advantage of Twitter as a social network to improve Web marketing. But Shahani said it’s too early to tell if Chatterfly will stay free in the future.

Shahani is unsure if Twitter will have staying power as a marketing resource, but Chatterfly’s utility during the current Twitter craze is undeniable. Shahani wouldn’t say what Appature Labs will work on after completing Chatterfly, but expects it to push the state of the art in software as much as possible. “Innovation is critical,” he said.

Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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  • http://www.twitterdirectory2000.com Twitter Directory 2000

    We really need something to cut through the clutter of Twitter. Chatterfly sounds like a good idea to do so.