Twitter Counter ceases operations – what you need to know

Amsterdam-based Twitter analytics and account promotion service Twitter Counter, which exists since 2008 and claims to be used by millions of individuals and companies (with brands such as YouTube, Netflix and Red Bull) announced it is ceasing operations as per November 5, 2018. What you need to know.

Twitter Counter graduated from its simple — yet groundbreaking — beginnings to provide actionable statistical information that helps businesses and site owners reach ambitious digital marketing goals (Christine Preusler, April 2018)

Many (really many) years ago, when Twitter wasn’t what it has become today, and we were far more active on what once was known as a micro-blogging service (with several large accounts), we wrote a small piece on Twitter Counter in the scope of our articles on Twitter, the vanity metrics in social media marketing and the phenomeon of influencer marketing.

Twitter Counter enabled to analyze your Twitter activity with all sorts of insights and had a feature to “promote your account” by showing it in its platform (whereby you paid a fee per number of impressions). The article was essentially about a test we conducted to see whether Twitter Counter was worth the try.

The end of Twitter Counter

Twitter Counter: the background

Twitter Counter is a brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten whom you probably know, especially when we add that Boris is the founder of The Next Web.

Twitter Counter was founded by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten as part of The Next Web Labs, rapidly becoming profitable and independent.

We interviewed Boris twice: once on another project he launched in those early days (Fleck.com which didn’t work out; the domain name was sold) and one on his launch of The Next Web (in 2006) for a magazine we ran in those days.

Chance is more than high that the Twitter Counter team is building a Twitter influencer marketing platform

Since then the world changed and so did Internet and, most certainly, the ways in which Twitter is used (and the purposes for which many use it). Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten continued to focus on The Next Web and left Twitter Counter as a board member in 2010 (two years later he also stopped at pr.co, a PR/communications platform he was active in and that is still used by many PR professionals and by Twitter Counter for its press releases – we’ve used it for some years as well).

Since end 2014 Twitter Counter (@thecounter on Twitter) was ran by Omer Ginor who also worked on Social.co (an influencer marketing platform by Twitter Counter that stopped in the meantime and promises to relaunch under another name; you can buy the domain with a minimum offer of 50,000 EUR). However, Social.co might be key in the future of the people behind Twitter Counter as explained below.

Social.co domain for sale - screenshot November 2018

Twitter Counter and Twitter influencers

We had lost track of Twitter Counter (only reading about the fact it was hacked, see below) until a few weeks ago. Here’s why.

Unless you’ve been living under a stone in recent years you probably noticed that there is an increasing group of people who tweet about technologies (the topic we cover most), call themselves influencers in their Twitter profiles and/or are described as such by platforms such as Onalytica and so forth. It’s a very diverse group: people working at large companies, bloggers, speakers, real influencers (in the pure sense of influence) and people seeking to become, let’s say, Twitter influencers (which is not a judgement).

Apparently, Twitter Counter was one of the platforms used by quite some of these Twitter influencers. We happened to see a conversation between an aspiring Twitter influencer and some who had tips for him. Probably you know how to grow your Twitter account these days, if not feel free to ask (it is not our own aspiration though or we wouldn’t have deleted several accounts and have far more followers obviously).

In 2017 Twitter Counter was one of several websites and platforms hacked during a diplomatic row between The Netherlands and Turkey

Anyway, one of the tips was from someone who said Twitter Counter had made a major difference and joined it. We were a bit surprised as Twitter Counter wasn’t on our radar anymore, after having been subject to attacks in 2016 and 2017, the latest one for political reasons. However, a quick look at the site of the Twitter Counter platform showed that it still offered the possibilities to be ‘featured’ indeed (Twitter analytics remained a big part of the platform of course and new features were added). A look at the pricing of the account promotion feature blew us away and made us realize how important it seems to be to have many Twitter followers these days.

The reason for the latter is simple: some brands, also in the technology industry which, as said we follow most, spend quite some time and effort in feeding Twitter influencers, using all sorts of Twitter influence platforms and inviting those Twitter influencers at events they organize and are present at.

We need to distinguish between platforms enabling influencer identification and engagement on one hand and the ways in which brands use them on the other

On a side note: we have nothing against influence, we do have problems with the negative effects of the exaggerated focus on Twitter influence, vanity metrics and what in the end often are really promoted tweets though (some countries have recently introduced legislation forcing influencers to disclose when they promote brands on Twitter, Instagram and so on, others already did and some are making plans). It needs to be said that the line is sometimes very thin.

However, that might be the direction in which the team of Twitter Counter evolves (whereby we need to distinguish between platforms enabling influencer identification and engagement on one hand and the ways in which brands use them on the other of course, with legal disclaimers still being another topic). You might have we noticed we wrote an influencer joined them recently.

A favorite Twitter analytics platform that grew fast

Of course, Twitter Counter wasn’t just about gaining followers, that feature in fact got more hidden over the years (you might also remember the Twitter Counter ‘counter’ many bloggers showed in the early days of the platform).

Over the years Twitter Counter had evolved from a simple tool into a nice platform for Twitter analytics and more with a few million users, including professionals in a rather successful way.

These users could manage several accounts, check how many followers they gained and lost (in 2011, after the acquisition of Twitaholic, Twitter tool UseQwitter.com was acquired for this purpose), track mentions, retweets, keywords, optimize tweet timing, dig through tweets (with Qwitter Twitter archive platform TweetSaver.com came on board as well) and so on.

Instead of trying to reach new audiences — or even trying to reach your own audience with your own words on your own channel, a lot of marketers are opting to put their words into the posts of a social stream of influencers (Omer Ginor)

In other words: the things most serious platforms offer today, which might be part of the problem. Twitter Counter, however, had pretty impressive visualization and graphical features, a must-have in these days of big data analytics and visualization. It was also strong in data analytics and standardization, which could be of importance for the future.

As Christine Preusler wrote earlier, “in 2008, just two years after Twitter’s launch, Twitter Counter became the first third-party tool of its kind to enable users to track their follower count and display it on their websites…Twitter Counter has graduated from its simple — yet groundbreaking — beginnings to provide actionable statistical information that helps businesses and site owners reach ambitious digital marketing goals”.

When it was hacked in 2017 (at the time of a serious row between The Netherlands where Twitter Counter was based and Turkey, whereby several Dutch and German websites were hacked on top of Twitter Counter by what is believed to be a state-sponsored effort), the company said it served over 2 million users which isn’t bad at all.

On top of that, Twitter Counter tracked over 200 million Twitter accounts, whereby CEO Omer Ginor described Twitter Tracker, “a feature that enables users to monitor relevant hashtags and keywords, as a hidden gem inside Twitter Counter” in the interview by Christine Preusler. Ginor: “It’s a very powerful tool, and it’s underutilized”.

Working towards an influencer identification and engagement platform

The interview is also worth a read because it says a lot about the potential future of the Twitter Counter team. Although Social.co is for sale as a domain name, do take a look at the website that explains how Social.co 1.0 worked. When there is a version 1.0 there is normally a 2.0 even if it will have another name if it comes.

And the interview with Christine Preusler is clear in that sense. Asked about Social.co, Omer among others said “instead of trying to reach new audiences — or even trying to reach your own audience with your own words on your own channel, a lot of marketers are opting to put their words into the posts of a social stream of influencers”. That’s indeed what they do and why tools such as Onalytica are used.

Twitter Counter was founded in 2008 as an easy, fun way for users to add a follower counter to their websites

In case you still doubt whether our educated guess is wrong: Twitter Counter previously wrote pieces on how to become a Twitter influencer with. One of the tips: sharing images without links. In all honesty this is a practice we despise as small creators, among others since often our images are adapted and contain other logos than ours. So, we pay and work to make them and others adapt them as if they made them. Another reason we despise this is the fact that often our outdated graphics (and thus information that isn’t valid anymore) get shared, we like accuracy and at least that people check the dates on the graphics, we live in rapidly changing times and accuracy matters. Last, but not least, in our view the essence of the Web is still about links.

There is nothing wrong with the advice as such (Twitter can be seen as medium on its own indeed and some arguments are valid). However, it’s the impact that sucks. Moreover, what you really do is reducing Twitter, from a marketing purpose perspective that is, into a pure branding vehicle, you punish smaller creators/bloggers (not everyone is Elon Musk, who is used as an example), by definition remove all context, don’t care about those who want to read and add to the propaganda and pure PR approach we see more and more in Twitter.

The end of Twitter Counter: impact and next steps

Less than a month after seeing the discussion of how to gain more followers, retweets and so forth (which, again, is quite easy if you follow some easy tips that require you to spend quite some time on Twitter which is a platform you don’t own so all your ‘influence’ and followers can be gone in no time) Twitter Counter announced it is ceasing operations on November 5, 2018.

The announcement was made on November 1 and seems to have taken many users by surprise. Users ask if they can export their analytics (the answer is yes) and have questions about their paying accounts.

A message on Twitter Counter (that went down for some time prior to the announcement) from CEO Omer Ginor states that customers who want to extract their data, can contact the support team by November 5th, 2018.

In the meantime, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten retweeted the message regarding the end of Twitter Counter, calling it the end of an era. And it sure is, at least for the founders.

What will happen with those having paying accounts for Twitter Analytics purposes isn’t immediately clear. We’ve reached out to Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Omer Ginor and an insider for reactions.

The last time that Twitter Counter hit the news was when it weighed in on the claim of Donald Trump regarding the loss of Twitter followers.

The truth is, Obama did drop more followers during the purge than POTUS (2.36 million vs. 320,000). He also started out with nearly double the followers (103.6 million vs. 53.4 million). Twitter Counter on “The Great Twitter Purge of 2018”

The website of Twitter Counter wasn’t scared to dig deeper into the Twitter statistics and behavior of some US politicians. Whether that has to with the end of the platform is food for conspiracy theorists, plenty of those on Twitter nowadays.

Expect the domain name Twittercounter.com to be available for purchase soon too. And if the message on Social.co is still correct some new service early 2019. Based on the mentioned conversations and the interview with Christine Preusler it’s safe to say it will be all about influencer marketing indeed. However, of course there are the analytics and data skills of the team that might be leveraged in another way too. So, who will tell? Stay tuned.

Update November 5, 2018 (the day Twitter Counter ceases operations) on our request for more information

CEO Omer Ginor replied to our request to offer more information on the end of Twitter Counter. Below are the question we’ve sent. However, Omer Ginor said that at this point none of them unfortunately could be be answered.

So, for now, users will have to stick with the official announcement that was on the Twittercounter site: “We’re sorry to inform you that Twitter Counter will be ceasing all operations on November 5, 2018. If you’re a customer and want to extract your data, please contact our Support Team by November 5th 2018. It’s been an amazing journey and we feel honoured to have been able to serve you. On behalf of the Twitter Counter team, I wish you a lot of Social Media Marketing success! Omer Ginor, CEO”.

The questions we asked and that couldn’t be answered to:

  • To what extent have changes regarding Twitter’s API (restrictions, monetization,…) played a role. Can you elaborate?
  • Until what date can users download statistics (and how) and what happens with paying customers?
  • Social.co has stopped as well. Yet, there is an announcement on the site a new service will launch in 2019 under a new name. Is it safe to assume it will revolve around influencer marketing and, if yes, around Twitter influence alone?
  • What other factors have contributed to the end of Twitter Counter?
  • It seems quite some people were surprised by the suddenness and communication. What’s the reason and what can people expect?

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