Data Economy

Marketing dream comes to life in 425 billion tweets

Lou Dubois, Social Media Editor, NBC News
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Whether he's tweeting or being tweeted about, Justin Bieber's dominance on Twitter is just a given these days. His name alone accounted for three percent of all Twitter traffic in 2010, according to one employee at the social network. But did you ever wonder who tweeted about Bieber first? It was rapper Asher Roth—in a roundabout way, anyway.

On Aug. 8, 2008, Roth tweeted a link to a blog post talking about Roth's team, including manager Scooter Braun (now known best for his Bieber discovery). About halfway through the post, you'll read the line, "Scooter recently acquired another incredible talent that I'd like to introduce you to: Justin Bieber." Hard to believe that was just five years ago.

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This is one of the many artifacts you can discover via Topsy, a social analytics firm which announced on Wednesday that it has now indexed every public tweet sent—with the exception of those which have been deleted. "That amounts to 425 billion tweets, including all linked Web pages and all Web content," Jamie deGuerre, Topsy senior vice president of product and marketing, said in a statement.

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You can now search and discover all those tweets via the Topsy index. With access to Twitter's advanced API, Topsy gained access to what Twitter calls the "firehose," a feed of all tweets live as they happen (previously, search went back to 2010). And with this new advanced search index, free to consumers and publishers, you can find any tweet sent by a particular user, including a set of words ("Justin Bieber"), or mentions of a particular handle ("@barackobama"). DeGuerre compares this ease of search to adding the Dewey Decimal system to a chaotic library.

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"Imagine you were at a library and you were trying to find every book that mentions the word economy," deGuerre cites as an example. "Now imagine no Dewey Decimal system and no index at the back of each book. The only way to find those mentions would be to read each book at the library to find the word 'economy' and rip it out. With this announcement, this is the Dewey Decimal system and the index copied into the library's computer software, so when you type in any key word or phrase or hashtag or handle, we instantly show you results of everything."

While the search tool certainly has appeal for news organizations and marketers—appeal Topsy expects to be paid for—regular users can try it out for free. Finally, you can pull up quirky tweets from your past life, even if you aren't going to bother downloading your whole tweet archive, a feature Twitter started enabling last December.

—By Lou Dubois, Social Media Editor, NBC News