At Sprout Insights, we comb the web to bring you the most up-to-date and actionable resources on how to use social media to grow your business.

To that end, we’re pleased to present the Sprout Insights series Spotlight on Startups. We’ll find the most innovative, useful startup companies out there, get the inside track on what they’re doing, and tell you how you can leverage their products and services for your own business.

This week we’re pleased to cast the spotlight on ThingLink — a platform to create interactive images — with offices in Helsinki, Finland, New York, NY and San Francisco, CA.

What Is ThingLink?

ThingLink is a free tool for making interactive photos and enabling them to be published on various online properties like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, and more. ThingLink’s online editor allows you to include rich media “tags-in-image” links in your images, transforming them from static photos into compelling, interactive media platforms (see interactive, clickable image above).

Embedded media can include video and music clips, Wikipedia info snippets, social sharing buttons, and even e-commerce links that can be viewed and used, right within the image itself. Unlike similar features like YouTube annotations, all embedded links can also link to any external sites you wish.

ThingLink is a free application and launched out of beta in early 2011. Over 57,000 publishers, worldwide, currently use ThingLink to add interactivity and engagement to their images.

What Needs Does It Address?

According to Neil Vineberg, CMO for ThingLink, “whether we are brands, marketers, bands or individuals, we’re all seeking more effective ways to connect, engage, and convert”. As Vineberg points out, “photos are the most popular content on Facebook, and for just about every business, photographs are a primary marketing tool.” Vineberg says that “although every image contains a story, ThingLink helps you tell your stories in a more interactive, engaging way.” And when people are engaging with you, he says, it becomes easier to build a relationship and gain the trust of your audience.

Websites and blogs with ThingLink-enabled multimedia images embedded on their pages are “doing way better than traditional sites in terms of average time on site, click-through rates, and even conversions,” according to Vineberg. He says that an independent retail study showed increases of between 100 and 600 percent more time spent on retail sites with interactive images. He also cites ThingLink’s own research, based on an analysis of over 8.5 million ThingLink image views, that showed an average 3.5 percent click-through rate (CTR) on embedded ThingLink-enabled image links. “That’s well beyond rates you’d see in traditional online display advertising”, says Vineberg.

Mr. Vineberg says that ThingLink makes photos a more productive and effective platform for connection, engagement and conversion. “We see ourselves as the ‘Etsy of images.’ We support a hand-made approach to making photos interactive, entertaining, and ultimately, more effective as a marketing tool,” he says.

How You Can Leverage ThingLink

Ever post an image to Twitter, or Facebook? Run a website or a blog? Well, at it’s most basic, ThingLink is for you. And if you’re a marketer, or a business attempting to engage at a more meaningful level with your customers, then you can use a tool like ThingLink to creatively add multiple layers of added information and value for your target audience.

Vineberg provides the following examples of how ThingLink publishers leverage interactive images. There’s the singer-songwriter, Ingrid Michaelson, who’s getting “a click-through rate of over 82 percent” on her interactive image promoting her new album. Online publisher, Huffington Post, is using interactive images created in ThingLink to increase the average time each reader spends on a given post. Even car manufacturers, like Chrysler (pictured above), are using interactive images to tell stories about their cars that go beyond what a typical display ad could convey.

Creating interactive images with ThingLink is incredibly easy. You can preview the ThingLink gallery for inspiration, then sign up for a free account of your own. You’ll also find ThingLink on Twitter and Facebook, so be sure and send them a link to your first interactive image you post on these platforms.

Know of any other startups that would make a good feature on Spotlight on Startups? Contact us, or let us know in the comments below.

[Image credits: ThingLink,]