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Apple needed Topsy, just not for social analytics

As of yesterday, Apple decided to pull the plug on Topsy, a service it acquired for a $200 million fee in 2013. To add insult to injury, the current page goes to an unrelated Apple support page. This has followed a similar shutdown by Apple for another acquisition, HopStopearlier this year.

In the social media world, this is reminiscent of the impact that was felt by Twitter’s acquisition and eventual shutdown of blogging service Posterous in 2013. All these acquisitions seemed ‘hot’ new inroads at that time, but have now seemed to have fizzled into a quasi acqui-hiring strategy for bigger players. Apple did indeed need Topsy, but perhaps just not for social analytics. This has opened up the space again for competitors as social media practitioners have been left out wondering where to fill the Topsy void.

Utilising the fact that Twitter’s own native search was often limited, Topsy was an early partner of the social media platform and used by several social media experts and brands. Often seen as a go-to tool for running searches, identifying influencers, finding tweets over a time period, running hashtag queries and other such cool analytical data in multiple languages, Topsy was a commonly used tool. It also came in handy to really see top trends, and high performing content in various niches.

As an outsider, it was perhaps shocking to see it disappear in a matter of seconds as the service Tweeted its last yesterday. What was previously at our fingertips was gone indeed, forever. Although, the signs were out there, as last year itself, Topsy had stopped allowing premium users to renew their contracts, according to a TechCrunch report. Tweeting from the account was also absent from the time of the acquisition till yesterday.

Startup win-win: why was Topsy acquired?

The presence of multiple competitors may have been the reason why Topsy didn’t really stand the test of time, but that begs the question on what the real aim for Apple’s acquisition for Topsy was. It was yet another foray into social media by Apple (after acquiring Ping, which was also shut down) and some analysts speculated that Apple would integrate the search features into their own algorithms for social recommendations. Many of the older staff of Topsy are now working for Apple, allowing them access to a new talent pool, which definitely seems to have played out well.

While many may see this as a failure of the service from the consumer perspective, those following the Shark Tank startup methodology will see the win-win situation. For Topsy itself, apart from the loss of severe nostalgic value (true for any startup that builds a well-liked product ground up), it could be seen as a big gain in terms of recovering and making a ton more over their Startup investment.

The valuation seemed to have really played out well. It’s hard to fully judge the impact on Apple itself, because the exact product level integrations – if any – may not be made public. Apart from potential integrations into the their existing search and social programs, they’ve definitely gained a new set of engineering and startup talent. It’s important to note the importance of that for a big company like Apple, so that they continue to innovate and be agile, rather than settling into the role of a slow, large tech giant.

Apple may not have needed the exact product that Topsy had, but what went behind it definitely made it through to them. There’s a lot to learn from a startup perspective. If you’re a consumer, you already know not to fret- there are more tools out there. And so, merrily we all do move on, RIP Topsy.

What can marketers use instead of Topsy?

From the consumer aspect, the loss of Topsy does not need to be the end of the social media analytics world. In fact it only brings into light the various other tools that are available for individuals and brands alike offering great functionality. My top 3 tools to this end include:

  • Keyhole.co: Real-time tracking and historical data are both available on Keyhole’s twitter search. The stats are compiled in decent looking charts and you see a dashboard where the data representation is simple and easy to digest. At any point you can select Instagram and Twitter hashtag searches of your chosen keywords. It’s possible to monitor and track campaigns. 
  • BuzzSumo: This tool helps you determine trending content as per your chosen industry. You can select content trending from 24 hours to 12 months. You can also choose content types from articles, infographics to videos. You’re also able to identify influencers, bloggers and other social media users based on your niche or keywords. 
  • ManageFlitter: This is a great tool to identify social media users who you may like to follow by really nailing down the industry, bio information and tweets. You can also monitor your account performance, follower analytics and content performance. 

Image: Topsy co-founder Rishab Aiyer Ghosh. Source: TopEntity