The following post is authored by Christopher Moyer, and was first published on October 2, 2015. Christopher is the Vice President of Technology at ACI Information Group and the author of “Building Applications in the Cloud: Concepts, Patterns, and Projects”. With a B.S. in software engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Christopher studied under the creator of boto and went on to create two Web frameworks based off of this client library, known as Marajo and botoweb. In addition to being an expert and frequent contributor to Tech Target, Christopher’s personal blog is at coredumped.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @kopertop.
Twitter recently announced they will be removing the API that allows you to gather and display statistics about how many times a URL has been shared. This has a huge impact for systems like AddThis and SharedCount, which will no longer be able to retrieve statistics for URLs that are shared on twitter.
These tools will continue to be able to show the same statistics for other social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc. What does this mean for Twitter?
Why would Twitter do this?
First, lets understand why twitter would do this. It’s pretty obvious in their notice that they want people using Gnip instead of their APIs directly. Gnip is a paid service, and although it’s a very good service, it doesn’t offer nearly the same functionality as “hey, here’s a URL; tell me how many times it was shared on twitter”. When Twitter acquired Gnip, they slowly started disabling other big-data entities like DataSift and it became obvious they wanted to control the statistics coming out of Twitter. They want to use you as the product, and they want people to pay for their data. It’s not really surprising that they’re disabling more APIs, but it’s quite confusing that they are not offering a paid alternative to this counts API.
What does this mean for my site?
What it means for the average publisher is that you can no longer get statistics about how often an article, blog post, or website has been shared on Twitter. You can get a 30 day count (how many times it was shared in the last 30 days) by subscribing to Gnip, or you can get an approximate count using the Search API, but you can’t just display a button saying “this is how often this was shared on twitter”. That means getting popularity for an article on Twitter is now nearly impossible.
In the age of Alternative Metrics for publishers and deep analytics for all of the social media space, this move makes no sense. It makes twitter quickly approach irrelevancy.
Twitter is nearly irrelevant now.
At ACI, we use SharedCount to get statistics on how often an article is shared. We get statistics from all of the major social media sites through one simple API call, and we use that to determine popularity of a story, not just in ACI, but throughout social media as well. When this news first came up, the first thing I did was a quick check of how many shares in twitter we see vs other social media sites. What I found was astonishing:
- Facebook: 311,338,380
- Twitter: 10,519,290
- Google+: 9,220,078
- LinkedIn: 2,085,853
People are almost as likely to use Google+ to share an article as Twitter.
Let that sink in for a moment. Who do you know that uses Google+? Compare that to the number of people who use Twitter. What does that tell us about Twitter?
Basically it means that Twitter is not used for anything professional at all. It’s just quick ranting. You can’t get a full story in there and you can’t really do much on twitter BUT post a link, so the fact that people are not posting links to scholarly content says that the academic community doesn’t use Twitter.
Facebook has over 30x the usage as Twitter in the Academic space.
That means Facebook, and not Twitter, is the social media platform of choice for Academics. So what impact does this have on ACI? Practically none, because even if twitter doesn’t eventually include an API in Gnip or some other paid platform to get these statistics, they’re minor in comparison to Facebook stats. Our most popular articles in ACI are not shared on twitter, but rather on Facebook.
Facebook gets it. They work directly with Publishers to make their content more targeted, work very well to support insanely targeted advertising, and they still want you to get at some overall statistics for free. Why? Because there’s a lot of usage on Facebook, hell they even passed one billion users on a single day.
This move by Twitter says they aren’t generating the revenue they should, and it’s a last straw effort to try to get something going. Don’t be surprised if they continue to “trim the fat” and continue to bring down the service to remove pieces that people actually use.