Twitter has generated howls of protest across the marketing world this week with the brief announcement that it will no longer support free public API access of its share counts.
For anyone with a blog that shows on-page stats of how many times a certain post has been shared, your world is likely to look different come 20 November. Traditional influence theory suggests the social proof established by high share counts is a powerful driver of consumption and credibility. What could that count dropping to 0 mean? Fewer shares? Less engagement?
If you’re an agency – ahem – or consultant who is engaged by brands to help them with social, you’re about to lose one of the easiest ways of demonstrating a form of results. As flawed as share counts are as an indicator of engagement, they are still the default mechanism for most organisations.
For a huge number of third parties that have developed applications that rely on sharing data – including numerous tools used by us here at King Content – things are looking anywhere from annoying to end-of-business-model disastrous.
With few exceptions, the response from marketers has been uniformly negative – although given the gradual limiting of firehose access to Twitter data over the course of this year, and the fact that Facebook and LinkedIn have both followed similar paths, it’s not entirely unpredicted.
The most commonly posed question is: why? Why on earth would Twitter antagonise so much of the community?
Much like Google grants greater data access to paying advertisers using its AdWords service, Twitter is now edging account holders towards logging into its own platform (rather than accessing Twitter through third parties). Once they’re logged-in, Twitter can try carrot-and-stick approaches to increase advertising sales. At the same time, surprise, surprise, there is now an (expensive) enterprise solution available through social media analytics platform Gnip – which Twitter happens to have acquired last year.
What’s everyone saying?
My colleague Dan Hochuli (@LogocracyCopy) is convinced this is a prelude to the oft-rumoured acquisition of Twitter by Google. The theory being that Twitter is taking the heat now for making this move so that Google isn’t seen as the ‘evil big acquirer’ that turns off access down the track.
The always-excellent Jay Baer (@jaybaer) jumped in with a video post (below) that serves as a pretty neat summary of the commercial realities of the move.
If you only want to read one post, Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner (@mike_stelzner) kicked off a furious post on Facebook that has acted as a lightning rod of sorts for those most impacted. The comments are from a wide range of the smartest in the social media space and provide a great cross-section of opinions on the topic.
Just like Facebook before it, as a now-listed entity, Twitter is forced to find ways to dramatically accelerate revenue. In the era of data, it is the ecosystem of tools that has grown up around Twitter’s API that’s been capitalising on the need of companies large and small to try to demonstrate social ROI. It’s logical that Twitter should move to claim a greater share of the financial benefits of its own data – and even more logical that those impacted cry foul.
For now, Twitter is positioning the move as an unfortunate by-product of simplifying tech platforms. Expect a lot more noise in the next six weeks as some interesting alliances of affected parties try to force a backdown of sorts.
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