SocialFlow gets $7 million and the Firehose

Ronny Kerr · April 8, 2011 · Short URL:

Yet another startup gets access to the full Twitter Firehose, to help marketers and publishers

SocialFlow, a social media optimization platform, announced Friday that it has raised $7 million in Series A funding led by Softbank, with participation from Softbank NY, RRE, Betaworks, Highline Venture Partners, AOL Venture Partners, SV Angel and several angel investors.

Along with the new funding, SocialFlow also says it has finalized its partnership with Twitter, which grants the startup access to the full Twitter Firehose. That’s over 140 million tweets every day.

What SocialFlow does with that data is helps clients push out their content at the times and days that makes the most sense for each client’s particular audience. The company promises more engaged fans and followers clicking, retweeting and sharing your content more often by boiling the art of social media down to a science. The focus this week is on Twitter, because the company now has the entire firehose at its disposable, but SocialFlow also helps publishers and marketers improve social media performance on Facebook and Google Buzz.

Metrics, insights, analytics--naturally, it all comes standard with SocialFlow.

Both news publication The Economist (@theeconomist) and the New York Public Library (@nypl) offered up glowing testimonials for the press release because each has seen such impressive and tangible growth as a result of using SocialFlow.

The NYPL, for example, says blog pageviews have increased by 30 percent in the first quarter of 2011, versus the same period last year. And The Economist, after eleven months, saw clicks per tweet grow by 150 percent and clicks per follower grow by 50 percent. Its number of followers tripled and referrals from tweets quadrupled.

“SocialFlow is an instrumental part of our efforts to grow an audience on Twitter and drive engagement with our content,” said Dave Humber, manager of audience development, The Economist. “The logic and science behind SocialFlow’s approach was very appealing from a performance perspective, but also as a way that enables us to scale our operations with a relatively small team.”

Based in New York City, SocialFlow is a Betaworks company. Betaworks makes seed-stage investments in new media companies, like SocialFlow,, Chartbeat and Tweetdeck.

We now have at least three companies on the books with full access to the Twitter Firehose--Gnip, DataSift and SocialFlow--but each appears to be putting it to use in different ways. This is looking more like the third-party ecosystem that Twitter has envisioned for its data.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.