IBM Launches First Cloud Services for Twitter Analytics

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  March 18, 2015

IBM announced the availability of cloud data services that allow business professionals and developers to extract actionable business insights from Twitter data. According to the company, more than 100 early client engagements are currently underway, and the IBM/Twitter partnership is already helping enterprises apply social data to business decisions. In IBM’s view, Twitter-based analytics services on the cloud can help:

  • Create social data-enabled apps: Developers and entrepreneurs can search, explore and mine enriched Twitter content and aggregated insights through IBM’s Insights for Twitter service on Bluemix.
  • Merge sophisticated, predictive analytics with Twitter data: Using Watson Analytics to automate data curation, predictive analysis and visual storytelling can allow business professionals to use Twitter data to help identify and explain hidden patterns and relationships, and to accelerate the understanding of events and trends.
  • More easily analyze Twitter data: Using select cluster configurations of BigInsights on Cloud pre-configured with access to Twitter content, clients can combine Twitter data with IBM’s full-featured Enterprise Hadoop-as-a-Service offering which is also available through IBM Bluemix.

Over 4,000 IBM service professionals now have access to Twitter data and are trained to enrich the information with IBM analytics capabilities, industry solutions and cloud-based services.

The pitch

IBM announces its first commercial analytics services and client successes less than six months after the Twitter partnership announcement.

Final analysis

No two IT industry partnerships are alike but some appear far more counterintuitive than others, and the relationship that IBM and Twitter announced in October fits pretty snugly into that odd couple nutshell. What people initially had trouble parsing was what, if anything, the two companies – the former pretty much defining traditional enterprise computing and the latter at the leading edge of social-driven media – actually have in common.

The answer in this new announcement is, quite a bit:

  • Consider the numbers first. According to the recent Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2014, 23% of all adults online worldwide use Twitter. That translates into over 500 million tweets being logged day-, week- and month-in and out, or about 200 billion tweets per year.
  • How about demographics? Most importantly for businesses, Twitter tends to attract younger (under 50), college-educated folks who skew towards upper income earners (54% earns $50,000 or more yearly). In other words, Twitter users are exactly the sort of consumers that companies want to engage with and know better.

· What about the data itself? The numbers are huge but so are the potential insights that information offers, since it covers a wide range of individuals, groups, organizations, markets and geographies.

In other words, mining Twitter data isn’t simply a matter of finding a needle in a haystack so much as it is searching tens of millions of haystacks for tens of thousands of needles. Quite literally, the company’s information resources qualify as a classic case of what IBM considers big data – one whose information is characterized by its massive volume, huge variety and high velocity.

So what particular quality does IBM bring to the partnership? In a word, the fourth quality the company believes is crucial to any successful big data engagement: veracity. That is, IBM offers the technologies, tools, skills and experience required to make sense of Twitter data, develop deep insights and deliver measurable value to enterprise clients.

To be clear, IBM’s is not the only Twitter analytics service available or the company’s only data mining relationship. Twitter has long understood the value of the information shared on its platform, and early in 2012 began licensing historic data to companies, including DataSift and Gnip (which Twitter eventually acquired in 2014) for data mining.

But the analytics and big data landscape have changed considerably in the past three years, and IBM has been a central figure and force in that evolution. The company offers a variety of powerful, tested and, in the case of Watson Analytics, unique tools in its Twitter-based cloud services. For that reason alone, IBM’s suite of Twitter services should find interested parties within and across numerous enterprise constituencies

In addition, however, IBM has the means to enrich the results of Twitter analytics by helping clients incorporate a wealth of contextual information assets. In fact, the company noted in an analyst briefing that it typically includes about 200 data sources in its analytics engagements, far more than most competing vendors.

In fact, it is interesting to note that all three of the customer examples IBM cited in this announcement owed a significant portion of their value to secondary contextual information sources. Those included weather data (and its impact on customer churn), employee turnover (affecting customer loyalty) and using IBM psycholinguistic tools to analyze the market impact of high profile fashion bloggers.

The key point here is that IBM has numerous, dependably innovative weapons in its arsenal to bring to the battle for business analytics. By comparison, most other vendors are considerably less well-armed and at least a few seem to think that a slingshot and a rabbit’s foot will get them through the fight.

But the more important constituents to consider are the enterprises that hope to gain valuable, actionable insights from Twitter data. Many of them work with IBM in other capacities, and most recognize the company’s years-long effort to grow its analytics portfolio and capabilities. For those that wish to unlock the value lying within those billions of tweets, IBM should be a natural ally.

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