While Thinglink might not be a brand new company, it certainly behaves like one. Unable to leave well enough alone, it keeps on finding new ways and new places to allow the creation and posting of rich media interactive visuals. While in a  challenging segment – most similar companies pivoted or shut down – it seems to be thriving on its own path and growth. We caught up with ceo and founder Ulla Engeström just as the company released a new Shopify extension.

– In a few words, what is Thinglink and what does it solve.
Ulla Engeström, founder & CEO, Thinglink
Ulla Engeström, founder & CEO, Thinglink

ThingLink is an interactive media platform that empowers publishers, brands, and educators to create more engaging content by adding rich media content to photos and videos. We are driving deeper engagement and more immersive experiences within visual media by adding layers of functionality (e-commerce, social sharing, polls, audio/video, text descriptions, etc.) within photos and videos. By annotating images and videos around the world, the ThingLink community is advancing visual media as the key interface for browsing the web.

– How many active users does Thinglink have overall ? in which countries?

There are ThingLink users in every country of the world. Most of the 2 million creators in the Thinglink Community are in the US, but we also just launched Spanish and Russian versions of our mobile app. On average, a user creates 3-7 interactive experiences per month, mobile users are more active than desktop users. Our average MAU among content creators is +10%, with educational users it’s +30%.

– Thinglink is the only remaining company offering the ability to add rich media tags to images and video ( Luminate sold, Stipple closed, others have pivoted). What is your secret to success?

Early on, our mission was to bring more meaning and context to everything we see in the physical world. We then set out to build the best flexible set of tools for our diverse community of content creators and we’ve seen this payoff. For example, New York Magazine uses ThingLink for an interactive version of their “Approval Matrix”; musicians like JES integrate the iTunes store into their music videos to drive sales; Doctors Without Borders published a virtual tour of their MY Phoenix Rescue Boat, and IKEA’s blog links all catalog images to individual product pages to share more information about each item.

We also have half a million users in education who are changing the way visual media is used in the classroom by creating flashcards, slide shows, and interactive videos.

Thinglink works on social media like Facebook
Thinglink works on social media like Facebook
– Who is your target client?

As a publishing tool, ThingLink serves various kinds of use cases. We sell Premium and Corporate licenses to brands, agencies, online publishers as well as individual media professionals and educators, who want to tell engaging stories with images and video.

– What kind of CTR does Thinglink deliver?

In addition to CTR, we’ve learned that an equally important indicator of consumer interest is “link views” – previews of the embedded content per embed location. We call this “hover rate” and it’s provided in our analytics for premium customers. Link views deliver real-time understanding on what aspects of the image/video capture readers’ attention. This is valuable feedback for building consumer attention.

In general, we see significant differences in engagement between verticals and platforms. Our global average CTR is 5%, but great editorial content, creative product launches, and band promotions can easily reach over 30% CTR.  

– Your latest offering is an integration into Shopify stores, can you explain how it works?

Any Shopify seller can easily activate and use ThingLink’s image editor inside their own store. This gives them the ability to add details to product images and bring context to their brand’s story by linking images to interviews, music or instructional / inspirational videos about the product.

All they need to do is copy paste a link from a website to the ThingLink image editor that is now available directly on the Shopify store page. An additional bonus for Shopify users is our new HTML5 integration with Facebook that allows sharing interactive product images to Facebook News Feed.

– What is your most popular ( most used ) type of tag? And why?

ThingLink offers over 70 rich media tags including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, Wikipedia, YouTube, Vimeo, MailChimp, PollDaddy and more. Plain text, video, and audio are the most used tags. We continue to innovate in this area and introduce new rich media templates that feel more intuitive and natural to the user.

– Thinglink seems to stay away from being a pure advertising tool, why?

ThingLink is a storytelling platform and visual media is playing a starring role in the future of online / mobile publishing. Photos used to be considered “only” as illustration. Now they are becoming THE platform for web browsing, content discovery, and consumer action. Great advertising has always been about storytelling so our product enables both editorial and advertising use.

Thinglink is very popular in the education world, helping teachers make their classes more interactive.
Thinglink is very popular in the education world, helping teachers make their classes more interactive.
– When will we see auto tagging via content recognition on Thinglink?

Object recognition is key for building image-based search functionality so that is certainly one of the key areas of interest for our engineering team. There are multiple ways to utilize automated tagging, and we can already offer automated solutions for large image and video archives as part of our VIP package.

– What would you like to create for Thinglink users that technology does not yet allow you to build.

Virtual reality will help both realize and bring us back to our early vision of ThingLink. We want to transform everyday “things” in images, videos, physical or virtual worlds into “traversable links” that can take anyone touching it into a specific environment. Think of it as a simple version of a wormhole where relocation does not happen in space but in your perception. A “thinglink” is like a portkey – an object that opens up to an additional dimension and experience.



Photo by Magdalena Roeseler

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.


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