Twitter brings analytics firm Gnip under its wing

Twitter is hoping that analyzing your 140 characters will bring in big money. The social media site announced it bought social analytics firm Gnip Tuesday, adding to its growing nest of data companies.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters/File
The shadows of people holding mobile phones are cast onto a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture.

Twitter is taking a social media analytics firm under its wing.

On Tuesday, the social media platform announced that it is acquiring analytics firm Gnip (pronounced “geh-nip”). The Boulder, Colorado-based company was Twitter’s first data partner, meaning it was the first firm to have access to the “firehose” – the moniker for the surge of tweets generated by Twitter’s 241 million monthly active users. The purchase indicates Twitter is taking a solid step toward monetizing its vast amount of crowd-sourced content, as the social analytics war heats up.

“Every day Twitter users share and discuss their interests and what’s happening in the world,” says Jana Messerschmidt, vice president of global business development and platform at Twitter in a blog post Tuesday. “These public Tweets can reveal a wide variety of insights — so much so that academic institutions, journalists, marketers, brands, politicians and developers regularly use aggregated Twitter data to spot trends, analyze sentiment, find breaking news, connect with customers and much more.”

In other words, Twitter knows that it has a lot of valuable content on its hands, but it is of little use to people if it comes at them in full force. With the power of an analytics firm, however, Twitter can parcel that information into digestible packets, which will likely prove very useful to researchers, marketers, journalists, and many others. Plus, it will likely prove very profitable for the social media service, which has largely relied on ad revenue and data licensing thus far.

Already, Gnip has been successful doing exactly this. It was originally founded in 2008, and since then the company says it has delivered more than 2.3 trillion Tweets to customers in 42 countries. Its services include offering access to the firehose, filtering tools to define the information, and data maintenance.

“We believe Gnip has only begun to scratch the surface,” adds Twitter. “Together we plan to offer more sophisticated data sets and better data enrichments, so that even more developers and businesses big and small around the world can drive innovation using the unique content that is shared on Twitter.”

That being said, neither Gnip nor Twitter was clear on exactly what Gnip’s role would look like after the acquisition. In addition, Gnip works with several other social media companies, such as Tumblr, Foursquare, Instagram, and Facebook, and there was no mention whether those relationships would change. Right now, it looks like the firm is mostly focused on the resources it will gain by being a part of Twitter’s expanding nest.

“Combining forces with Twitter allows us to go much faster and much deeper,” says Gnip CEO Chris Moody in a blog post Tuesday. “We’ll be able to support a broader set of use cases across a diverse set of users including brands, universities, agencies, and developers big and small. Joining Twitter also provides us access to resources and infrastructure to scale to the next level and offer new products and solutions.”

So how much is analysis of the firehose worth to Twitter? The social media service is keeping quiet – on Tuesday it did not release the financial details of the acquisition. But a look at Twitter’s previous data acquisitions may hint at the money in the deal. Over the course of 2013, the company acquired eight data companies for a combined sum of over $468.7 million, including Bluefin Labs (a social TV analytics firm) and MoPub (a mobile ad exchange).

In the meantime, Facebook acquired mobile app analytics company Onavo last fall, and Apple acquired rival-analytics firm Topsy Labs, Inc. last year.

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