Web 2.0

HootMonitor: a Twitter app with a strategy

Ollie Parsley is a developer from Dorset I’ve been following with much interest since his first appearance at the London Twitter Devnest last May (you might remember I blogged about it) as his work is often pointing mind-boggling problems in a developer’s everyday life (read about his Cease&Desist experience, for example).

HootMonitor is his latest Twitter application, even if I would say it’s reductive to call it a “Twitter application”. As it’s been introduced during last Devnest, HootMonitor is simply speaking a website monitoring tool using Twitter as a communication device. I.e.:

  • you get an account on HootMonitor linked to your Twitter account
  • add a web site you want to be monitored
  • HootMonitor will periodically monitor the web site for you
  • the service will send you a Twitter direct message/e-mail/sms if the web site goes down
  • you will also get aggregate status reports (uptime and downtime, average response time, etc…).

As there has been much interest lately over the use of Twitter as a corporate tool, and never ending discussion over the possibility of a business model that allows Twitter to monetize its success, it looks like Ollie has touched again some issues and addressed the whole process of bringing this service to user in a way that resembles the classical case study from literature. I believe that HootMonitor is going to be an interesting and possibly successful experiment for the following reasons:

  • Mashup use of Web 2.0 technologies: HootMonitor is not the first try of creating an application out of Twitter and there have been many mashups that received extensive press coverage. Nonetheless, HootMonitor is the very first application, as I’m going to explain, to deliver a service over Twitter that carries together: intrinsic usefulness, a business model, and a good “marketing” strategy.
  • Useful service: HootMonitor adds value to user experience solving a real problem without disrupting the users’ life. There is plenty of monitoring tools out there, but not many of them generate reports in a way that integrates seamlessly into their lives and jobs.
  • Freemium model: this is the most interesting aspect of HootMonitor. It can be used for free, but it has premium functionalities that you can get by paying a (reasonably priced) subscription. As far as I’m aware of, this is the first application with such a business model to have emerged over Twitter API. There is plenty of possibilities of trying the service for free. You can experience all the usefulness of it without paying a single penny. The functionalities you pay for, though, are worth the price (for example: personalised statistics or mobile text messages). Many other successful Twitter applications do not have a business model at all and it’s hard to imagine how they will ever lead to generate profit (unless they’re used as an advertisement tool for other products/services).
  • Marketing strategy: Ollie has been developing HootMonitor for some months, letting the users of his other apps and his Twitter followers know about this idea. The steps here were developing some kind of “corporate” HootMonitor blog, a Twitter account to engage with potential users, a small company under whose name work (HootWare). Moreover, HootMonitor was launched exactly the night after its presentation at the Devnest. I believe this was a smart marketing move that made the service getting the highest level of advertisement possible.

Naturally, I can’t forecast whether or not HootMonitor will be a successful venture but I’m optimistic about it and of course I wish Ollie to get there. And as I’m finding it very useful for my websites, and I’m aware of many other people trying it, given its strategy and model it’s likely we’ll be hearing more about it in the short (and maybe longer) time.

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