Text comments can be so dry. If Jesse Moeinifar could have his own way the comments sections of every Web site would spring to life with sound bites from snarky readers, vivid video clips from contributors and even badges and loyalty awards for frequent critics.
Moeinifar, founder and CEO of Viafoura Inc., a software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm in Toronto, is offering up a series of widgets that can be installed into a company’s Web site to enable that site to host audio files, video clips and even online games.
These days, every business has a Web site competing for the attention of potential clients. A key differentiator for businesses, said Moeinifar, is the quality of online experience visitors get when they visit a business site.
“At the moment, the most prevalent way for visitors to interact with a brand is through the comments section, and that is carried out through text,” he said. “Viafoura is changing all that by allowing site visitors to interact through text, photos, audio and video.”
The widget is so simple to use that visitors can easily upload content to a site by using the cameras on their desktops, laptops, cell phones or tablets. Audio files can be uploaded by using USB drives or connections or the internal microphone of a device.
Viafoura, which has about 15 employees, was founded only two years ago. Moeinifar said they now have several online publishing sites as customers but he is not yet at liberty to release their names. There are now more than 2 million users of Viafoura’s product.
The company is targeting businesses that are in the premium online publishing space which is populated by companies such as the Globe and Mail and the New York Times.
Pricing for the widget starts at around $1,000 a month. The price increases based on the amount of traffic the site experiences.
Version II of the company’s widget which was released only recently adds a social networking and gamification layer to the product.
The social networking feature enables customers to build their brand community. “This feature fosters better conversation between the company and visitors and among the visitors themselves,” said Moeinifar.
The feature provides feedback on items such as what are the trending topics on the site and what are the most liked posts. There are also controls that enabled Viafoura users to moderate conversations and manage or filter content being posted to the site.
The new version of the widget also enables sites to offer badges and rewards to visitors. Gamification is a Web strategy that is increasingly popular, according to Khal Shariff, CEO Project Whitecard Inc., a Winnipeg-based company specializing in virtual learning technology. Project Whitecard was recently contracted by National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) to create a game about space colonization.
“Gamification simply involves injecting elements of games into online activities and offering rewards in order to obtain a desired action from the site visitor,” said Shariff.
In many cases this could involve visitors navigating through a site and collecting online items that have “badges” associated with them. Accumulating a certain number of badges comes with a corresponding reward such “status’ within the site or online community or even actual physical prizes.
When applied correctly, Shariff said, online games have the ability to increase visitor engagement, lengthen their stay within the site and boost the viral nature of the brand.