David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

A Taste of Future Twitter Technologies

Twitter is losing money and is much smaller than Facebook, so new technology is more important than ever.

  • October 4, 2013

Now that we know Twitter isn’t making money (see “Twitter IPO Filing Shows it Ain’t No Facebook”), it’s worth looking at emerging technologies that might help the company turn that around. Though Twitter is much smaller than Facebook, most tweets are public. So the company has an advantage to work with.  Here are examples of how it can do better capitalizing on the crush of real-time information it trades in:

Predicting Trends: Researchers at MIT have been honing a way to predict Twitter trends hours in advance. Their analyses suggest with as much as 95 percent accuracy which words, phrases or hashtags are going to suddenly get very popular.  This can be of importance to marketers and public relations officials who might want to capitalize on (or react to) that trend, and also to public safety agencies.

Sorting through chaff: During emergencies and breaking news events, Twitter feeds get overwhelmed.  But real-time information contained in some of those Tweets can be uniquely valuable.  In a project at the University of Colorado, Boulder, researchers were able to identify the most important tweets–with objective, factual information-with 80 percent accuracy. The same researchers were later able to classify the important tweets by various categories, such as requests for help and reports on damage.  Such analyses could bolster Twitter as a must-use platform.

Discerning location: Fewer than 1 percent of tweets are “geotagged” by users, and IP addresses are always changing on mobile devices.  Yet location information could greatly improve the value of Twitter as a real-time news source–and help them sell sponsored Tweets. Help is on the way. For example, recent research has shown that the locations of friends—people you follow on Twitter who are also following you—can be used to infer your location to within 10 kilometers half the time.

Twitter surely has more such tricks up its sleeve, and is working out how to make money from them. For more on such ideas, see “How Twitter Can Cash in With New Technology”.

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