"The Chinese market is particularly interesting to a lot of our customers," said Chris Moody, president and COO of Gnip. Although there are other services whose names include "weibo" (the Chinese term for microblog), Sina Weibo is the largest and owns the weibo.com domain. An estimated 300 million users and 50,000 companies use the service. "This was the number-one ask from our customers," Moody said.
Gnip is one of the select companies with direct access to the full "firehose" of all posts on Twitter. Another is DataSift, which recently added a searchable archive of past tweets. Gnip and DataSift are both in the business of reselling this data, or extracts from it, to social media analytics firms, who layer on more application-specific processing such as sentiment analysis.
Gnip gathers data from dozens of social media sources in addition to Twitter. Many of them operate internationally, but Sina Weibo is the first to be so closely tied to a country outside the U.S., with its content entirely in a foreign language. The video sharing site DailyMotion, another Gnip data source, is based in France, but its content is available in multiple languages, including English.
[ Is it all luck? See: Science Probes Why Tweets Go Viral.]
"Our biggest use case is brands wanting to know everything that's said about them in social," Moody said. As multinational corporations do more business in China, they have the same hunger for Chinese intelligence as they do for data from the U.S. or anywhere else. For example, KFC had to respond on Sina Weibo to rumors started there that it had launched a "handsome delivery boy service" in a bid for more customers. One of the posts about KFC was forwarded 41,000 times and picked up 5,000 comments, according to Gnip.
Because of the nature of its service, Gnip won't be responsible for making sense of the Chinese-language content--the social analytics firms that are its customers will provide the required natural-language processing and machine translation software for that. But Gnip does need to manage the character encoding challenges of the Chinese language, which Moody describes as "a non-trivial task."
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