The insight gained from a single tweet might not be worth much, but what about from a million?
IBM thinks businesses will pay US$2,000 to analyze a million tweets and correlate them with data sources including weather forecasts and sales figures.
"The first access to Twitter data is free, then it's pay as you go," Alistair Rennie, general manager for business analytics at IBM, said at Cebit on Tuesday.
The commercial launch of the Twitter analytics tool on IBM's Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service is one of the first fruits of a collaboration IBM and Twitter announced last October.
Then, the companies promised to bring a number of services to market, including one that allows third-party developers to integrate the Twitter analytics feed into their own projects via Bluemix.
In the intervening months, IBM has recruited 100 companies to test the service. On Tuesday it provided heavily disguised details of how three of them are using it. Some of the early customers are wary of being named because they don't want to encourage their competitors to access the same market intelligence, said IBM spokeswoman Kristi Eells.
Channelling the wisdom of crowds through Bluemix is cheap if you have a small crowd or don't want too much wisdom: The first five million tweets analyzed through the service are free. After that, said Eells, an additional 1 million tweets will cost $2,000 per month.
While plenty of other vendors offer Twitter analytics services, the key to IBM's offering is its ability to correlate findings with other information sources, whether public ones such as weather or fashion trends, or company-specific ones such as sales figures or personnel records.
IBM said one of the customers testing the service, a telecommunications operator, discovered a correlation between the weather and complaints about service outages. IBM uncovered this by analyzing weather reports and information about the location of tweets. Another company used it to quantify the extent to which staff turnover affected customer satisfaction.
While IBM's focus for now is on Twitter as a source of sentiment data, in other markets there are other collections of such data, said Robert Picciano, senior vice president for IBM Analytics. Twitter is the dominant source in Europe and the U.S., but in Asia it could be Line or QQ. Indeed, IBM has already worked with QQ owner Tencent on mining such data on its portal for the soccer World Cup last year, Picciano said.
Peter Sayer covers general technology breaking news for IDG News Service, with a special interest in open source software and related European intellectual property legislation. Send comments and news tips to Peter at email@example.com.