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Big companies care a lot about what you tweet.

Twitter’s ability to sell ads suggests as much. And today Twitter’s acquisition of social Gnip shows the company expects to make even more money from brands.

Gnip is a reseller of Twitter’s firehose, and it provides sophisticated filtering mechanisms to find just what developers are looking for. Companies pay big money for that access, and now Twitter is pulling out the middleman, which should boost revenue.

As Brad Burke, Networked Insights CTO, said via email, “Twitter was able to focus on growing its consumer-facing applications and avoid having to become a big data infrastructure company. Now it is ready for both.

“This is another signal of the importance of social data for marketing intelligence. If you have a solution that is not providing value beyond mention-counting, your days are numbered.”

Twitter engineers have already proved their savvy when it comes to processing data in real time. The Storm stream-processing system they devised in-house and released under an open-source license in 2011 is now used in IT shops at Alibaba, Groupon, and other companies.

Now, Twitter executives have firmly stepped up to the opportunity to deal with different kinds of data. They appear convinced of the potential to sell the data itself to lots of companies for analysis in their Hadoop clusters, which can keep track of and analyze lots of different kinds of data, including social media messages.

Firehose providers like DataSift and Gnip make it possible for companies to pull in user-generated content from social networks and perform analysis on it. Twitter and other social networks must be thinking hard about the financial potential of buying such companies. We may see other social networks making similar buys, and we might also see Twitter buy up more firehose providers to prevent those other social networks from gaining new revenue streams.

There’s a reason companies like CBS Interactive, Dell, and Yum Brands (Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/KFC) buy access to social data from companies like DataSift. And as more companies kick off big data projects, they will need data. And that means they will need a source. Firehoses have a big role to play in the future, and it makes good sense for Twitter to deliver its own firehose directly.

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