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IBM taps Twitter's data to drive business insights

Matt Kapko | Nov. 19, 2014
IBM and Twitter say they will 'change the way business decisions are made' by pairing Twitter data with IBM's analytics tools and new apps for the enterprise. But CIOs won't buy in until the two companies can bring structure and context to the 500 million tweets that are posted every day.

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Credit: Thinkstock

The enterprise sector is undergoing such a transformation that companies recently deemed unfit for the corporate world are now sitting at the head of the table. So if IBM's partnership with Apple seemed like a hell-freezing-over moment in the middle of summer, last month's follow-up deal with Twitter would have to be characterized as a deep freeze.

Enterprise is no longer exclusive to the stodgy or empowered companies that coast by on conformity. IBM and Twitter proclaim that they will "change the way business decisions are made" by integrating Twitter data into IBM analytics tools, developing mission-critical apps for enterprises and training 10,000 outside consultants to create other custom apps.

Once the initial shock of IBM making such a profound bet on Twitter wears off, CIOs might find at least some of what they've been looking for all along in Twitter: unprompted, real-time sentiments and insights from consumers. It could also provide a much-needed boost or reinforcement for CIOs who feel especially threatened by the rise of CMOs.

"It's about social data maturing and coming out of its own little bubble, and starting to flow through the veins of big business and big organizations," Will McInness, CMO at the social analytics platform Brandwatch, tells

IBM Validates Twitter's Value for Enterprise
"It feels like a real mainstreaming of social data," he says. "What happens if you merge social data with point-of-sale data? What happens if you apply big data competing to that? Not in some sort of theoretical way, but in a practical corporation or government context."

Twitter and IBM want to bring structure and context to the 500 million tweets that are posted every day. Although most companies still base their business decisions on an incredibly small set of data, the companies are confident that tweets deserve to play a much greater role.

Twitter aspires to become the "world's largest archive of public human thought that has ever existed," Twitter's vice president of data strategy Chris Moody said during last week's day-long presentation to analysts.

"Our data does tell businesses what the world is thinking about any topic at any given time," he says. "In the future, every significant business decision will have Twitter data as an input."

CIOs will have to look beyond the inherent and perhaps more natural marketing strengths of Twitter to get there, however. While most CMOs have already worked through some of their questions and doubts over the past few years, most CIOs are still rather skeptical of social media and Twitter in particular, says McInnes.

"[CIOs] will have questions about the utility and integrity of the data" and "some valid questions about the ability to derive useful sentiment analysis from this data," he adds.


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