Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Apple acquired Topsy, the Twitter Social Analytics Firm. First-gut reactions from the tech pundit community are questioning the deal's merits and objectives:
"Topsy is an interesting acquisition for Apple because unlike its past purchases of startups, such as HopStop and Locationary, there isn't a clear product application."
"With Topsy, the purpose is less clear. The Journal posits that it could be useful for iTunes Radio — a product that already has direct integration with Twitter Music — or its flailing iAd product. Still, the purpose of acquiring an analytics firm that is so focused on one specific social network is, in a word, odd."
TechCrunch. Matthew Panazarino voiced his skepticism about the Apple-Topsy deal, and he also speculates why Apple pursued it:
"Given that Apple is a Twitter partner already, and hosts login and posting features for the social network on its iOS and OS X platforms, this seems like a confusing deal if all that it's after is the Twitter data firehose. It seems more likely that Topsy has technology or engineers (read: acqui-hire) that can parse trends in a way that Apple wants to incorporate into one of its products."
"If I had to hazard a guess, this might be related to Apple building out the relevancy engine of its App and iTunes Stores. Adding social signals to the search algorithms of its stores could help to improve the relevance of search results and help Apple surface apps that are hotter and more interesting to users. Tracking app trends across social networks would allow them to fine tune categories and collections of apps, and surface apps that are gaining steam more quickly."
My Take: Apple Wants to Know WHAT We're Thinking WHEN We're Thinking AND WHERE We're Thinking
Apple Literally Wants to Get Inside Our Heads. Their strategy doesn't just apply to selling more Apple stuff (e.g., apps, music, books, movies off of iTunes). In my opinion, they literally want to get in our heads about EVERYTHING.
David Meerman Scott's November 26th blog post, Big Data, Rich Data, provides key insights and greater detail on how Apple (and other firms) can convert the real-time data into revenue. Apple acquiring Topsy for a "mere $200 million" is a steal. And, since Apple holds $147 billion in cash on hand, they're not even breaking a sweat.
Capturing Real-Time Data and Converting the Insights into Revenue is Topsy's Business. Here's a screen shot from Topsy's "About Us" webpage:
Delivering the Right Message at the Right Time in the Right Place
The Big Data, Real-Time Marketing Implications are Huge. Samuel Greengard's great CMO.com article, Real-Time Marketing: The Reality Ahead, reinforces why Apple gobbled up Topsy. Ironically, CMO.com published Mr. Greengard's article the same day as the Apple-Topsy announcement:
"Today the Holy Grail is to deliver the right message at the right time in the right place. Of course, that's easier said than done--and breaking through the glut and getting a message to a consumer who is receptive is nothing less than daunting. Nevertheless, the tools and techniques exist to migrate to a real-time framework. "In the past, marketers had to conduct a massive amount of research to understand consumers and behavior," Vivaldi's Joachimsthaler said. 'It's now more about developing methods that allow consumers to draw a map to their doors. It's critical to capture their footprint.' "
But, Why Does Apple Want Twitter Consumer Information?
Mitch Joel Describes It Best From his book, CTRL ALT Delete. The rationale for the Apple-Topsy acquisition comes straight from this section in CTRL ALT Delete: The One Screen World - The Shift From Four Screens Down to One (pages 90 -109).
The entire chapter describes how consumers operate in a one-screen world environment. The only screen consumers care about is "the one currently staring them in the face."
Mitch further makes a compelling argument: The most important consumer screen resides on their smartphones.
Twitter Is Mobile, Untethered, and One-Screen Savvy. It's a social media platform focused on telling Apple WHAT We're Thinking WHEN We're Thinking AND WHERE We're Thinking It. This November 2013 Bloomberg-Businessweek article describes how the Twitter API, its meta data, and tweets provide rich consumer data.
Here are Mitch's thoughts on Twitter and the one-screen world (from page 99 of CTRL ALT Delete):
"Twitter's metoric rise and continued success have less to do with how many followers Lady Gaga has and much more to do with the fact that it was the first-ever online social network that worked better on mobile than it does on the Web. The sheer simplicity of those 140 characters of tweets makes it that much more workable and easy for consumers. Twitter's focus (from day one) was on connecting people as they were on the go. To this day, everything that Twitter does --- from acquisitions to business strategy --- is driven by a one-screen-world philosophy."
You May Not Agree With Me. What do you think about Apple acquiring Topsy? Does the deal make sense? Maybe, it still seems odd?
Either way, please comment with your thoughts. I'd love to hear from you.
Tony Faustino is a marketing and corporate strategist. He writes about how The Internet reinvents marketing strategy for organizations and individuals in his marketing strategy blog, Social Media ReInvention. Follow his tweets @tonyfaustino or circle him on Google+.