Once upon a Twitter time

Earlier this week we learned that Twitter has started letting its users download all of their tweets. This feature will allow people to browse tweets month by month and search their entire archives (Stephen Fry might need to hire a team of analysts for that!). Currently just a small number of users are able to test this new function, but this could be rolled out soon if testing is successful. Sadly I’m not one of the ’chosen ones’, but according to those who have tried it, a ‘request your archive’ button comes up on your Twitter’s setting page and once you activate it, you get a link to download your archive as a html or csv file.

In a time where people are increasingly concerned about their personal data and information, Twitter wants to show how open and transparent it can be. Twitter was subjected to significant criticism earlier this year, when it was announced that third-party companies such as Gnip were selling access to historical tweets but individual users could not easily gain access to their own.  Competitors like Facebook and Google+ already allow users to download some of their data, trying to appease users who want greater control of their data; quoting Google’s open data team – the very cool-sounding Data Liberation Front:

 We’re doing this because we want our users to stay with us because they want to. While locking users in is a way to keep them in the short term, we believe that the way to keep users in the long term is to keep innovating and making our products better so that they choose to stay with us.

Giving users access to their tweets is a step in the right direction, but you might be wondering what you would do with your tweets once you have them.  Probably the first sensible thing to do would be to store your data to reduce the risk of losing content. Once you have your data I bet you’d be tempted to start browsing through the archives: looking at what you said three years ago, the great restaurant you took that person to or the cool article you read and have been trying to source for the past few months  - and maybe also that embarrassing tweet you wrote after a couple of drinks. Like your Facebook timeline, you could arrange your tweets to tell the story of your life and share it with friends and family, in a digital scrapbooking way.

This new feature could be very interesting for brands. There are a wide range of analytic tools that allow marketers to monitor number of followers, retweets, replies, mentions and even key themes…but so far I haven’t seen anything that enables users to analyse the actual content of their tweets. By being able to look at their tweets archive, brands could review their social media activity on Twitter, looking at content, language and tone of their tweets overtime and seeing how they are telling the brand story. Linked to analytics data, this could help to easily gain insight into the type of tweets that resonate with your audience and generate the most engagement.

I am sure there are a lot more ways to use this information and I expect to see start ups coming up with new services as soon as the feature is officially launched; allowing users to play with their data and making it easier to share it across other platforms like Tumblr and link it to other data sources. I can’t wait to see what cool innovations this new feature fuels. In the meantime, I’m  constantly checking Twitter to see if I get to be one of the lucky users who can get access to it – as a proper geek I would love to create my digital Twitter scrapbook under the Christmas tree (if the world doesn’t end on Friday, that is).

Ines Nadal is Head of Trends & Futures at Ipsos MORI. Follow her on Twitter @inesnadal

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