Over the last decade, there have been numerous attempts to create an news aggregation tool for web marketers — Threadwatch, Sphinn, Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, Alltop — but none of them quite scratched the itch. Plus, almost all of them were susceptible to rampant spam and/or ugly drama+trolling in the comments.
Casey (SparkToro’s cofounder) and I have lots of experience in this world, and a lot of passion for solving this problem. We both work in web marketing. We both like to read a lot about the field. And we both worked on Inbound.org, prior to its closure earlier this year. So, when we started SparkToro, we thought it would be a great test of our product building abilities to take one more stab at solving this problem. That attempt became SparkToro Trending:
Like many sites that aggregate news, it has a ranking system with a decay algorithm. That means something rises as it earns “votes” and falls as those “votes,” get older. But Trending does a few unique things:
- Trending uses tweets as votes. If a connected account shares a URL, that counts as a “vote” in the system.
- Connecting your account means that your tweets can now be considered by the algorithm.
- Not all accounts that connect earn votes — Trending will look at an account’s history and watch its tweeted URLs. If an account doesn’t share good stuff, shares too much from one website, looks like it’s tweeting lots of URLs in attempts to manipulate, joined at a similar time as other accounts tweeting URLs that no one else in the system previously has, etc. — Trending will remove those votes from the algorithm. In beta testing, this has been extraordinarily successful at limiting spam and manipulation.
- There’s no commenting, and we won’t add it. Instead, we let Twitter be the place where those interested in “comments” about a URL can go.
- The “share insights” page highlights interesting tweets about a URL, and provides some links to other URLs that those accounts have also shared (which is often very cool and useful)
- Unlike many similar systems, Trending keeps specific days and months of “most tweeted” content available, so you can look back at what you might have missed while on vacation or offline or doing heads-down work for a few days (a feature Casey and I both love, and have come to rely on)
Above, for example, are the headlines and URLs that got the most sharing activity on May 21st, a day I spent doing mostly offline, heads-down work. I’d missed the Microsoft acquisition, the GDPR pieces, the Social Media Examiner report, and more, but Trending’s daily summary let me catch up at a glance.
The monthly summaries can be useful for an even wider range of applications. Knowing what resonated with marketers, what was especially big news, and what I already clicked-on vs. didn’t gives me a better picture of our industry than anything I’ve had in the past decade.
The final feature — the “Share Insights” pages — help give a look at what folks on Twitter are saying about a given URL. They function similarly to a comments section, but remove a lot of the bad incentives and trolling/comment-war issues.
SparkToro Trending isn’t built to create an addiction or to sell advertising. It’s built to give value, with nothing asked in return save a Twitter oauth connection (and even that is totally optional). Our goal was to scratch our own itch around these problems, and we hope that for many of you in the web marketing field, it’ll do likewise. If you’ve got feedback, feel free to leave it in the comments or tweet to @CaseyHen and/or @Randfish.
p.s. This is NOT SparkToro’s core business or paid product; it’s a side project, an endeavor of passion, and an experiment. We hope to have our actual product ready in the next year or so.