Apple purchase of Topsy highlights rise of social media marketing

Apple announced the acquisition of Topsy, a social media analytics company. Financial details were not revealed but the trade press estimates it as a $200 million dollar purchase. Topsy is a Twitter partner and one of the handful of firms that have access to the entire Twitter "firehose" of data. Topsy analyzes twitter information to generate insights for brands. It also has indexed the whole history of tweets since the founding of Twitter (just like Google does for web pages), and lets you search them. (Even Twitter can’t let you do Twitter users know, search is not it’s forte).

Now, this acquisition has left the media a bit puzzled. What’s a hardware company like Apple going to do with a service like Topsy that mines Twitter? So, pundits have suggested various potential uses for Topsy technology with Apple. These range from improving Siri search, using Topsy to beef up the ads it will serve on iPhone and iPads, to making smarter recommendations on movies, music, and apps. My personal guess is that it has something to do with content-discovery or recommendations for a yet-to-be launched Apple TV related service.

But the larger point I want to make is this: Social has become an integral part of search. Monitoring social media, gauging public sentiment, gleaning real-time insights – all have become relevant in a wide variety of scenarios across content discovery, recommendations, or marketing and commerce. Social media marketing so far has constituted only a small niche in the larger enterprise digital marketing portfolio but I’d wager that it will feature more prominently in the future.

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