Twitter IPO: UK firms lining up to make money from stock market listing

Britain is at the forefront of the new 'social sector', and the number of companies profiting from it is ever growing

It's not just the Americans who will benefit from Twitter's stock market listing today in New York. Britain has already minted its first Twitter millionaire, Iain Dodsworth, who sold his start-up Tweetdeck to the microblogging platform two years ago, and the number of companies dedicated to making money from the microblogging site this side of the pond is ever growing.

In a leafy Reading business park a company founded by the man who invented the "retweet" button on Twitter, is quietly looking to make sense of the mass of information hidden within tweets. DataSift specialises in "data mining" the information contained within a tweet, such as where it was sent from, what type of device it came from and what operating system was used.

"We are making the data manageable and adding context," says founder Nick Halstead. The company, begun in 2010, has archived every tweet ever published on Twitter and already counts banks, the BBC and Dell among its clients.

"Our job is to take all the world's social data, which is many billions of items, and make that manageable," explains Mr Halstead. "We have most of the major global banks work with us. In finance, news is everything. More and more, everything is being announced on Twitter first. Our job is to – in real time –spot those trends.

The UK is Twitter's biggest market behind the US, and after the £2m sale of Tweetdeck two years ago, many firms cottoned on to the opportunities offered by the platform.

"There's a whole industry that's growing up [around Twitter], in much the same way as in the 1950s and 1960s you started seeing the advertising agencies emerge," says Ian Maude, an online media analyst at Enders Analysis.

The north-London marketing firm TBG Digital is one of just five Twitter advertising partners globally. The so-called "API" deal gives the 120-strong agency access to Twitter's advertising back-end, letting it build custom campaigns on the site without having to go through Twitter itself for clients such as Vodafone, Heineken and Hugo Boss.

Founded in 2003, TBG was also the first UK company to sign a similar advertising partnership with Facebook in 2009. Its creative director, Ian Cassidy, says Twitter represents a much-smaller percentage of spend, but expects the company, like Facebook, will invest more in product development following its listing, giving it more products to test with clients.

Product development is already under way. In August Twitter signed up the UK-based research firm Kantar Media to build tools that will let advertisers and broadcasters see what people are saying about TV programmes on the site in real time.

"Twitter can provide colour in terms of how people are engaging with TV programmes as opposed to absolute numbers," says Kantar's chief executive, Andy Brown.

"We will look at the impact of hashtags – if broadcasters are putting a hashtag in a promotion for a programme, does that boost the actual audience numbers?

"There's some evidence from the US that this works, with the final episode of Breaking Bad for example."

Kantar's parent company, the British advertising giant WPP, is one of the largest media buyers on the site and the Kantar deal is part of a larger partnership between Twitter and WPP.

Revenue from Twitter UK is growing fast – $43m (£27m) so far this year and accounting for 10 per cent of worldwide turnover in the last quarter.

The London-based start-up Grabyo is also hoping to cash in on Twitter as a multi-media platform. Founded this year by Will Neale, the company lets broadcasters edit and share TV clips on social media in real time.

As transfer deadline day arrived for the Premier League, Grabyo launched the service in partnership with Sky Sports, broadcasting clips directly on Twitter.

The businesses mentioned offer just a snapshot of the UK's Twitter economy, with countless companies using Twitter in some way for their business.

"It's wider than just Twitter," Enders' Mr Maude adds. "We're seeing a shift from the older, content-driven media industry to much more of an audience-driven market."

The UK is at the forefront of this new "social" sector, as the country's budding Twitter economy shows.

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