Is Data Mining the Future of Twitter’s Monetization Strategy?

Until recently, Twitter has been happy to offer companies access to the "firehose of data," but the next step could be exploiting user data for profit.

data mining

Twitter has had its fair share of problems since it went public last year. There are two main problems: growing the user base and establishing a solid revenue model. The first problem can mostly be solved by making the site more accessible, and waiting for users to see the value in the service. The latter may only be fixed by further exploiting the user base.

The biggest value Twitter can provide is its audience, and the data that they generate. Users send 500 million tweets per day, with 78 percent of those users active on mobile devices. In fact, Twitter already has an exploitation strategy — the company acquired TapCommerce, which delivers targeted ads on smartphones.

According to PandoDaily editor David Holmes, social media marketing platform Leadsift could bring Facebook-style ad targeting to Twitter. “It’s called the Audience Intent Miner, and it combs through millions of tweets in an attempt to determine the same kind of demographic information users willingly give Facebook,” Holmes writes.

“For example, if a user tweets all day about One Direction, Leadsift can make some reasonable assumptions about that person’s age, gender and purchasing power to help advertisers launch paid campaigns on Twitter.”

This would be a departure for Twitter. While the service has been offering targeted advertising based on live TV events, it doesn’t necessarily mine user data directly. To date, Twitter has been quite fond of offering services access to the firehose of data, rather than access to targeted user behavior data.

“Even if we prefer a service like Twitter to Facebook because it requires less personal information upfront, advertisers (and governments) can still scrub our tweets to potentially learn just as much about us — and target us accordingly,” Holmes writes.

This raises an interesting point: Are Twitter users willing to expose their browsing habits to companies other than Twitter?

It’s difficult to generate value in the social media world without exploiting user data. Ello has seen huge surges in user signups recently, perhaps because of its “You are not a product” motto, but it’s unclear if the service will stick to that when it eventually tries to monetize. If Twitter adopts the Leadsift algorithms, it could greatly increase revenue, but it could also drive users away.