Having direct access to one of the largest social media feeds, along with full ownership of Topsy's sentiment analysis engine, just might allow Apple to continue its reputation of remaining ahead of the market curve.
Apple acquires a great deal of companies. In 2013 alone, the company acquired 10 startups with expertise in everything from mapping technology to HTML5 web app development and audio.
Yet the recent $200 million acquisition of social media analytics firm Topsy has analysts scratching their heads. Topsy is a company that has direct access to Twitter's entire catalogue of tweets since 2006. With such pervasive access, Topsy is able to conduct in-depth sentiment analysis regarding almost any topic imaginable.
For marketers, Topsy's service is an invaluable tool for understanding brand perception, brand notoriety and customer feedback in the social media age. Although the existing Topsy service is straightforward, integration with Apple's services remains a mystery for many.
As CEO of Icreon Tech, a software solutions and web development firm, I view such revelations through the lens of a developer. It is more than likely that Apple will focus on improving their software and service offerings (which generated over $16 billion this year).
There's legitimate value in augmenting the entire iOS experience with the powerful analytic and sentiment measurement capabilities of Topsy. From a software development perspective, Topsy's services could be used to enhance search functionality within the app-store and throughout the entire iOS experience.
A Move to Enhance A Variety of Apple Services
The Apple App Store is one of Steve Jobs greatest accomplishments. He effectively consumerized software on mobile devices. Yet despite 50 billion downloads, one area of weakness rests in the app search experience. Pfeiffer Consulting, a tech-oriented consultancy, recently assessed the major app store offerings for search sophistication.
Although the Apple App Store ranked best, the quality of search functionality left much to be desired. While app stores are a groundbreaking way to access software products, the means to search through them is anything but innovative.
There is much room for improvement in the areas of natural language search, typo recognition, and personalized search results in the Apple App Store. Topsy's engine that powers its social analytics functionality will greatly enhance the app store to solve the issue.
An ideal move for Apple is to use the new technology to personalize app suggestions and top ten lists by analyzing a user's Twitter and app store data. Recommendations for trending apps can then be precisely targeted via the Topsy engine.
Apple now has the capability to not only monitor Twitter traffic, but also rank sentiment of app reviews and related customer commentary in additional social networks. That same approach can also be applied to iTunes for discovering shows, movies, and music.
Reviews within the app store and iTunes can be ranked by sentiment and relevancy to the user. In addition to reviews, the Topsy-Apple system could also assess existing apps on a device to personalize suggested downloads. Recommendations will become heavily personalized and contextual for Apple users.
**There Is Still Hope for iAd**
Topsy empowers Apple to augment their existing software and services, but it can also help Apple gain a foothold in the digital marketing space. Although it experienced a rough launch, Apple's iAd service will benefit greatly from Topsy's analytical capacity.
The capability to analyze millions of points of unstructured data, as performed by Topsy's proprietary analytics engine, will be tremendously valuable to marketers.
Marketers will be able to use the service for assessing a segment's most common attitudes and interests, and decide which personalized ads to target. Brands could also use the service to assess audience sentiment related to a trendy TV commercial campaign that took off on YouTube.
An iAd service integrated with the Topsy engine would empower brands to attain a new level of real-time insight regarding their marketing efforts. But iAd as a standalone, has remained unattractive for brands as a marketing channel. And a major factor stems from the fact that Apple set excessively stringent guidelines for ad designs and monitoring.
Apple can also improve on the service by utilizing their recently released iRadio product. It has already attracted millions of users and is set to compete with Spotify and Pandora. iRadio can serve as the medium for an improved iAd offering.
iRadio could allow for varying formats of advertisements, potentially attracting greater interest. Audio messages, full-screen hover ads, and the traditional mobile banners used by Pandora could all be potential options. An accompanying sentiment analysis function from Topsy would be welcomed with the eager and open arms of marketers.
Topsy is Apple's first move towards social (aside from their ill-fated social iTunes service, Ping) and it comes at a time that social media is in a transformative state.
Apple is effectively positioning itself for long term viability when it comes to social. Having direct access to one of the largest social media feeds, along with full ownership of Topsy's sentiment analysis engine, just might allow Apple to continue its reputation of remaining ahead of the market curve.
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Himanshu is responsible for the strategic and overall business development of Icreon. He founded Icreon in 2000 and grew the company through a mix of acquisitions and organic growth. Under Himanshu's leadership, Icreon has grown to become a leading IT consultancy in its space working with some of the world's largest and most influential brands including National Geographic Channel, Fox, PepsiCo, Nokia Siemens Networks, and more.
A strong business-informed technologist, Himanshu has directed Icreon's heady growth through diverse economic climates, dot-com booms and busts, by maintaining a long-term view on relationships, keeping a close eye on the data and business dashboard, and by enabling informed decision-making. Himanshu is a natural entrepreneur. His first encounter with entrepreneurship was a comic rental business at the age of 13. Other ventures he started and exited successfully included an ERP consulting firm, an education-training institute, and a real estate trading business. He has also been as a technology advisor to boards of non-profits and SMBs in New York and globally.
Himanshu is part of the Owners and Presidents Program of Harvard Business School. He received his MBA in international business from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. Aside from his work and family, Himanshu is passionate about keeping up with the latest technology trends, physical fitness, and supporting entrepreneurship and the tech community.
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September 23, 2014