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Twitter's "Public Interest Graph"

By - April 18, 2010

Twitter with WHing.pngIt’s been a few days since Chirp, and I’ve had some time to digest all the news that broke last week. Certainly we’ll have another meal this Weds. with Facebook’s F8, where it’s already rumored that Facebook will both reveal its new “firehose” of public data (a la Twitter) as well as new approaches to monetization (see this piece from The Next Web, for example). I doubt we’ll hear that Facebook is ready to create a syndicated network on the back of Facebook Connect – a la AdSense – but one never knows, it just might.

But while we have a few days, one thing really stands out for me in Twitter’s announcements last week. As you might expect, I’m going to focus on the advertising platform, though I think the annotation and othe r news will prove important shortly, when developers figure out their true power.

But let’s focus on the money for now. To me the most interesting concept Twitter introduced last week was how they planned on tuning their ad platform to something Twitter COO Dick Costolo, in an interview with me on stage, called “the public interest graph.”

More likely than not Dick’s been talking about this for some time, but so far not many folks have picked it up. The first mentions of “public interest graph” (as related to Twitter) first appear on Google April 15th – the day Dick mentions it. On stage, I was taken aback, because the concept struck me as pretty powerful.

Dick first mentioned the interest graph when asked about how Twitter’s new “Promoted Tweets” platform will determine the relevance of a promoted tweet to a user’s Twitter stream. Costolo pointed out that Twitter has a lot of powerful information about each of its registered users; in particular, it knows what that user Tweets about, who he or she follows, and what the folks he or she follows Tweets about.

In short, Twitter knows who you are connected to, and what you (and they) are interested in.

Fashion that into a graph – the same kind of graph that powered Google’s graph of web links, or Facebook’s social graph – and all of a sudden you have a pretty powerful organizing principle for relevance in the Twitterverse.

And when you can decode relevance in what was previously an extremely noisy environment, you can build platforms that connect marketers to users in a fashion that adds value – because the ads are natively relevant. That’s what AdWords did in the environment of search, and that’s what Facebook Ads did in the environment of social.

That’s why for me, the most important thing to watch as Twitter develops its admittedly very nascent Promoted Tweets platform are any developments around the Public Interest Graph. I’ll be watching, for sure.

(BTW, I did ask Dick about whether positioning Twitter’s “graph” as public was something of a shot at Facebook, which can quite legitimately claim to also have access to an “interest graph,” albeit one that, until recently, was predominately considered to be made up of private information. He didn’t take my bait, but if I were running sales and marketing at Twitter, I’d sure make hay on that distinction, at least at this moment…..)

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5 thoughts on “Twitter's "Public Interest Graph"

  1. Richard Lusk says:

    I don’t think Dick Costolo was the first to use the term “interest graph”. I recall Gravity using the term in December 2009.

    See: http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/16/exclusive-ex-myspace-execs-launch-gravity-into-private-beta/

    From the article: “Gravity is building an Interest Graph, which shows the relationships between people and topics that they are passionate about.”

    Read more: http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/16/exclusive-ex-myspace-execs-launch-gravity-into-private-beta/#ixzz0lXt2BlZ2

    MySpace is also using that term.

  2. Vischameel says:

    John, you are easily impressed.

    Twitter just built a clone of the ad system in Feedburner — not something to be proud of I might add.

    Dick Costello might be a smart guy but he’s no social media or ad system guru. Let’s remember what happened to feedburner. It’s essentially dead.

    Facts are facts. Think about them once in a while.

  3. Rick says:

    CNN makes a lot of money from natural disasters. (indirectly… they’re the network we turn to when something happens, that boosts their numbers and eventually they get more advertisers, etc)

    I see Twitter ads in a similar light. I can imagine news/media outlets buying Twitter ads on big news events in order to gain a lot of traffic.

    I see Twitter ads with time and interest interlaced.

  4. Just a quick note: Twitter search seems to be broken (see e.g. http://news.dir.eu.com/73 ). I haven’t been using twitter much lately, but since I was interested to see what people were saying about Pierre’s “Civil Beat”, I noticed that search @Twitter is actually broken. IMHO this is extremely bad news for Twitter.

    So it goes.

    ;) nmw

  5. Kevin Burton says:

    We’re actually working on something like this over at Spinn3r.

    Both for the large scale web graph but also Twitter and Facebook.

    Might also be a way that FM and Spinn3r could work together too if you wanted to use this for better ad targeting.

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