WayIn takes on Twitter-based voting with TwitPolls

So WayIn — it’s that startup from former Sun (s ORCL) head honcho Scott McNealy that is designed to allow you to create and respond to instant polls about, well, anything you want. It launched with a consumer-facing website and mobile applications and somehow (probably based on the former success of McNealy) has managed to rope in more than $20 million in two rounds of funding since then.
But I’ve never actually known anyone to use it, outside of those who sat in on that initial press demo, and a quick peek through the app today shows that the poll-creation is evidently being dominated by some serious anti-Obama libertarian interest groups and voters, some race car fans, the Washington Capitals and, well… McNealy himself. So it didn’t quite live up to expectations.
But, WayIn’s got back-end technology for creating those polls, and those polls don’t necessarily have to live in the app that no one uses. That is probably why WayIn is announcing TwitPolls, the creatively named platform for distributing polls on — you guessed it — Twitter.
TwitPolls will let sports teams, brands, TV producers and ad agencies build Twitter polls and measure voting in real time, increasing interaction and building loyalty with fans. For the fans, polls look the same as any other tweet that comes from a brand’s Twitter account — and responding to the poll with a certain hashtag will count as a vote. The platform uses Twitter’s API to weed through the noise of certain hashtags to directly link responses to questions that are asked through TwitPolls system.
The service is launching with a freemium model, initially letting anyone to create a poll on Twitter for free. But it’s got some bells and whistles and extra features that it’s willing to extend to enterprises — stuff like leader boards, additional games or customized charts and graphs — for a fee. For WayIn, that’ll provide a path to monetization — particularly as McNealy can work his rolodex to get sports teams, TV programmers and other brands on board.
Of course, there are some companies already doing social TV polling, but most of those — like Yap.tv or Loyalize, which was recently acquired by Function(x). And then there’s big data companies, which are making direct response polling obsolete by measuring sentiment from social messages. But few have created an end-to-end platform for enabling users to respond to brands directly in Twitter, without having to use another website or app. Let’s see if WayIn succeeds where others have failed.