I follow Twitter because, despite the large number of inane, uninteresting tweets I get, every once in a while I hear about something that is interesting and important and worth following up. But I never thought Twitter could ever be anything more than an information channel – until a recent research study that showed how Twitter could be a viable real-time mechanism for predicting disease outbreaks.
The study reviewed the tweets that mentioned Ebola in English during the early stage of the Ebola outbreak last year, and found nearly 1,500 tweets mentioning Ebola even before the Nigerian Ministry of Health declared the outbreak on June 24, 2014. The number of tweets warning about Ebola were read by millions of Twitter users before the outbreak was officially acknowledged, which researchers says could make the online network a viable early warning system and help public health agencies to more efficiently prepare and react. For instance, they could have predicted where to send vital medicines.
Analyzing the unique dataset from Twitter provided the researchers with insight into the intersection of social media and public health outbreak surveillance, demonstrating the usefulness of mining Twitter data (read more on this here).
Can Twitter predict investments?
So why does this matter for investors? Imagine the type of insights we could obtain from mining Twitter data on any field we want to invest in? The sky is pretty much the limit. What if we could look at social media data to get real-time tips on what’s hot, which stocks or valuations are about to rise or fall? Perhaps we would discover the next breakout startups?
Or entrepreneurs could look at trending ideas, trending issues, pretty much anything that occupies the Twitter-space and come up with an idea that would be perfect for the trend. Granted, developing a vaccine for Ebola is a difficult and lengthy process, but did anyone notice how all of a sudden the hot investments being discussed in pharma were tiny biotechnology or biochemical firms that were on the cusp of developing a vaccine? I’m pretty sure we’ll hear similar stories coming out with the latest MERS outbreak, so you might just want to keep your ears and eyes open on Twitter.
The next step could be a firm that specializes in mining Twitter data, which is out there for the world to read, which could then be sold to investors, platforms, and VCs. It certainly makes you wonder.
So here’s a challenge for you – start following Twitter trends and see if you can predict the next big investment. And let us know if you hit pay dirt!