The following is a guest post from Erin Bury and it was published earlier this week on her blog.
I came back to work Tuesday after the holidays to find a new app making the viral rounds, and of course I had to check it out. The app, ThreeWords.me, is built by 18-year-old Boston entrepreneur Mark Bao, a friend I’ve made through Sprouter and the creative mind behind Ramamia and several other companies.
Like many other viral apps ThreeWords does only one thing: it allows people to describe you (anonymously or not) in three words. I decided to create a profile (threewords.me/erinbury) and Tweet it out to see what I’d get back. My friend @40deuce pointed out it can be scary to ask people to anonymously describe you, but I figured that I’d either get constructive criticism or just plain crazy people, both of which I can handle. Also you can choose to make your page private so that only you see the responses.
I checked back in on my page a day later and was pleasantly surprised by what I found – people wrote some really nice things about me, all anonymously. Words I hope people use to describe me – friendly, connected, knowledgeable. There were also a few that I deserved – OprahFanGirl being one of them. So are people being honest? Do they actually think these nice things about me? Who knows. But the fact that it’s anonymous makes me wonder why anyone wouldn’t be honest, other than not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. I know I would never write something hurtful in the three boxes knowing they would take it to heart. But if the idea is to really find out what people think about you, then honesty, not ego-building, is what you need.
In terms of business model, it seems that Bao has tapped into corporate sponsorship. Today there’s a sponsored question asking what you think about the Amazon Kindle in three words. Who knows if this is really a moneymaker for Bao, or just a hobby he pursued on the side. Whatever the motivation, it’s an addictive app – and it’s gaining a ton of traction. In just a few weeks the app has amassed 150,000 users, 650,000 submissions and over two million individual words.