New Topsy tool can spot Twitter trends before they blow up

Anyone wanting to get ahead of the latest hot topic can use Topsy Pro Analytics to identify terms as they begin to accelerate on Twitter, but before they officially become "trending."

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
3 min read
A new tool from Topsy can allow businesses to see, in real time, where tweets are coming from. Although Twitter provides some such data, Topsy says it can identify the geographic location of 25 times as many tweets as Twitter can. Topsy

With more than 400 million daily tweets to draw data from, the trending topics that Twitter constantly identifies are one of the best ways for everyone from marketers to news organizers to determine in real time what people are talking about the most.

Those that are able to most quickly make decisions -- buying promoted tweets, or covering a news story, for example -- based on those topics can see a distinct advantage over their slower competitors. But even the fastest have had few tools designed to help them spot trending terms in advance. Until now.

Today, Topsy, a San Francisco startup that provides analytics designed to help its customers understand in real time what's really going on amidst those millions of tweets, unveiled two new tools, including one aiming to help businesses predict -- and act upon -- topics picking up speed on Twitter before anyone else notices.

Already, Topsy's data is behind Twitter's political index. The idea, explained Topsy vice president of product Jamie de Guerre, is that customers using the service can pick terms they want to follow, and define thresholds of tweets per hour they think indicate that the terms have entered the zeitgeist and are picking up momentum.

Topsy's new tools allow businesses to see when terms they're following start to accelerate in usage on Twitter, letting them take action before those terms are publicly known to be trending. Topsy

If one of their defined topic exceeds that threshold, they get alerts sent to them that, among other things, identify the top three tweets that got the ball rolling for the term.

How is this useful? Potentially in lots of ways.

A business, for example, could sit on a search term, and when its tweets per hour rises above a defined threshold, the company could launch a marketing campaign. Similarly, a political campaign could jump on a soon-to-be trending topic and get its supporters fired up by buying a promoted tweet tied to the term. And a news organization could assign a reporter to cover a story based on seeing specific topics picking up steam on Twitter.

Geographic identification
At the same time, Topsy's service also now gives customers a way to spot where certain topics are beginning to accelerate. De Guerre pointed out that though Twitter allows user to see where tweets are posted, but just 4 million to 8 million tweets each day include geographical data. But Topsy Pro Analytics is now designed to pick up on a number of signals that can determine -- with a high degree of accuracy, de Guerre explained -- where a tweet was made. At a minimum, he said that Topsy can provide geographic data on between 15 and 25 times as many tweets as Twitter does.

Knowing where topics are popping up can be valuable to businesses that, for example, are trying to determine where to open a new store. Or for political campaigns trying to decide where to put resources. Or for a company looking for a place to launch a new product.

By correlating a number of signals -- such as where someone's profile says they live, or the use of terms that reliably come from a specific city -- Topsy believes its system is a highly accurate way of getting a real-time view of where Twitter users are.

All together, Topsy is hoping that its analytics tools can help its customers get the most out of Twitter and stay ahead of their competition. If enough such customers agree with that, Topsy will find itself making a real difference in the kind of messages people see every day -- and that are increasingly targeted directly at them.