Twitter marked its 3rd birthday this weekend and the site that Nielsen called the fastest growing social network last month shows no signs of slowing down. While active participation by users is a great show of strength, the use of Twitter as a platform for developers and aggregate data analysis is the most exciting thing about the company.
The story of Twitter as a platform is just beginning; the most exciting developments are still to come. Below we share our three favorite examples of what Twitter is becoming; these 3rd party uses of the service point the way for the larger Twitter ecosystem to become even more important in the future. We’re not talking about Twitter clients, we’re talking about Twitter data mining.
When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d heard of in a long time. Now I am constantly surrounded by people who talk more about Twitter than anything else – and I don’t mind at all. You can feel the creative tension just waiting to explode from around Twitter, can’t you? If you have used it much, then you’ll understand where that energy is coming from. If you haven’t really gotten into Twitter then all this energy probably seems absurd – but there’s no way you can deny that it’s building.
Of course it’s not just about Twitter the company. “Microblogging” in general has world-changing potential as long as the content is publicly and programmatically available. This is not Facebook, with its complex web of private connections, hidden content and limited APIs. Those are related phenomena, but Twitter is quite distinct and could be much more important. Things could keep moving in the same direction but led by another company, as well.
“The Future” Source for credit and blame unknown.
Twitter as Zeitgeist
“Meme trackers,” sentiment engines, social media data-mining services – all of these concepts are likely to become increasingly powerful as more people publish their thoughts online and companies roll out more sophisticated tools for analyzing those thoughts.
Twitter already “breaks news” faster than traditional media outlets on a regular basis and monitoring the ebb and flow of conversation is helping media, marketers and academics put their finger on the pulse of a significant number of people.
From the front page of Twitscoop.
We’ve seen how breaking large numbers of Twitter followers into topical groups can help make the service much, much more useful. We expect to see services launched soon that will take the pulse of topical groups. Bubbling up hot topics early in the world of physicists on Twitter, real estate agents, stock traders, etc. is a powerful tactic that more than one company will cash in on. We’ll all benefit when that happens, too.
Twitter As Real Time Communication
It’s one thing to watch what the hottest items are across a large or small group of people, but even that can take some time to emerge. Savvy news organizations are making more granular use of Twitter than that. Twitter is also a powerful tool of one to one communication.
We wrote a year ago about how we watch Twitter for individual posts about breaking news, we use it to perform interviews with people we’d never be able to talk to as easily on the phone and we get editorial feedback from our Twitter friends after we’ve written posts.
Other organizations are leveraging individual Tweets even more seriously. Earlier this month we wrote about how tech news aggregator Techmeme accepts news tips from Twitter users. The tactic is relatively new and isn’t particularly democratic (our numbers show a huge dominance by just a few people) but the most important part of that effort is this: Twitter tips help Techmeme find news that the site would have found eventually – even faster.
One man chose Twitter over dating Jenifer Aniston. Twitter user @duivestein brought this to the Techmeme robot’s attention.
Techmeme has some hardcore engineering behind it: it tracks hot blog topics every 5 minutes – but the Twitter platform makes it even faster. That’s pretty remarkable.
Show us a simple messaging tool that can be accessed through a wide variety of methods, using only a (hopefully) memorable username of the person you’re trying to communicate with – and we’ll show you a genre of technology that could disrupt not just email, it could disrupt telephony.
Twitter as Business and Competitive Intelligence.
What do you do when you find a ton of rapid, public, computer-accessible conversation going on among thought leaders, knowledge workers, corporate brand reps and all kinds of other professionals? You mine the crap out of that information to try to find a competitive advantage. That’s what you do.
Some people are starting to do just that, but we’re sure that the “brand monitoring” software that we’re seeing pull in with Twitter is just the beginning.
For another small view of what’s possible, check out our post from Friday titled “The Inner Circles of 10 Geek Heroes on Twitter.” Imagine the possibilities.
These Are Early Days
We’re not sure what the future will look like, but we suspect that the examples above provide some hints.
The future of the internet is very exciting – and a meaningful amount of that excitement will come from smart innovation built on top of Twitter and similar platforms.
You can follow the author of this post and ReadWriteWeb on Twitter. It’s guaranteed to be worth your time.