Twitter's "firehose" of tweets is already an important revenue
stream for the company, and it takes a cut from sanctioned
resellers that furnish raw data to enterprise customers. But it's
also been looking to restrict the firehose access of existing
partners. Facebook, meanwhile, has nothing resembling a firehose
and keeps the majority of conversations taking place on its pages
under wraps. Brands that want to know what's being said about them
can use listening tools to tap into public posts that haven't been
hidden by privacy settings, but no more.
"My standard canned response to clients is , "I can only see
what Facebook lets me see, and that depends on each individual
user's setting and what their API feels like giving me at the
time,'" said GolinHarris Director
of Insights Eric Swayne.
The social network has no agreements in place with data
resellers, so in theory an individual who knows how to code can get
just as much out of Facebook's data conduit—its
Graph API—as an enterprise-level service. (API
stands for application-programming interface; it's a set of rules
that enables third parties to interact with platforms and
services.) In practice, of course, the infrastructure that
social-listening companies have built up makes them better equipped
to handle the available data.
There's a broad consensus among marketers that Facebook
furnishes rich data insights on a one-off basis to high-spending
media partners. (Facebook declined to comment.) If and when the
social network decides to make enhanced data insights into a
product that advertisers can pay for—offering a view into how
many mentions of a brand are trending across the network, for
example—it could have a robust new revenue stream.
"It would be a pretty valuable tool, one that people would be
willing to pay for," said Tim Fogarty, lead strategist for the
social-media agency M80.
Twitter, on the other hand, is already realizing the value of
its 400 million daily tweets. It has three authorized
resellers—Gnip, DataSift and Topsy—which can provision
companies that need Twitter data to fuel a service, like Gnip
customer Klout, or listening platforms and business-intelligence
As Twitter data have become more sought after, the company has
moved to clamp down on access. Last fall it tried to cut out the
social-analytics firm PeopleBrowsr, but the company won a temporary
restraining order and then earlier this month prevailed over Twitter's attempt
to have the case adjudicated in federal court.
An order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern
California moving the proceedings back to state court reads: "The
fact that the removal shortly followed the state court's issuance
of a [temporary restraining order] suggests that Twitter's decision
to move this case was born out of a desire to find a more
PeopleBrowsr claimed it had been spending upward of $1 million
annually on the firehose and that pulls from Gnip or DataSift
couldn't substitute for the full
access its business was modeled on.
Twitter-data pulls from Gnip or DataSift can get expensive, but
some agencies have little choice but to buy in. WCG Director of Analytics Chuck Hemann
said his team is tasked with building custom platforms using social
data, and pulling Twitter results from the Radian6 API now yields
only links to tweets. Twitter is making the full body of tweets
that are needed for sophisticated analytical work available
exclusively through the resellers.
"It's definitely an expensive proposition," he said. "[But] it's
becoming incumbent on agencies or corporate partners to develop
relationships with a DataSift or a Gnip to get content in any