Tweets for Sale

Your tweets from two years ago? They're for sale.

Two companies licensed by Twitter to analyze archived tweets and information about Twitter users will soon be offering their data to paying clients, according to Reuters. This seemingly inevitable development puts in stark relief two truths about social media: Twitter, Facebook and the rest have opened up a world of possibility for communicators and marketers, and a world of danger.

Sentiment expressed in tweets about any product or service, clicked links, geographical locations—all of it can be mined for a price and used to gauge sentiment about brands, just for starters.

The business end of social media has always been about data collection, and this newest stage in Twitter's deal with the two companies—Gnip Inc. and DataSift Inc.—signifies a sort of coming of age for social media. So far, the biggest winners have been the social networks themselves, whose valuations rise while every other company out there tries to figure out how to get a return on their increasing time and manpower investments. Users of Twitter and Facebook have been willingly sharing with them the intimate details about their preferences, habits and lifestyles. Now some of that data will be turned over to other companies, enabling them to learn what consumers really think about them.

That's the plus side for brands. The negative side: Their tweets from the last two years are for sale as well. This is the deal we all make with private, social networking companies like Twitter and Facebook—what we type into their Web sites is owned by them.

Tweets that have been deleted cannot be mined, so if you're the paranoid type, you might want to start sifting through your old tweets—before someone else does.

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