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Joe Rice, Data and Enterprise Solutions, Twitter

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?


Twitter’s purpose is to keep the world informed by serving the public conversation. This means surfacing real-time, relevant content and making it easy for anyone, anywhere to participate and share their voice. Key to this is ensuring a healthy conversation free from abuse and generally toxic content. 


To do this, we must analyse hundreds of millions of tweets each day and act when required. We also apply numerous AI and ML models to understand what content to serve and to whom. We know there is still work to be done in these areas and are committed to making Twitter the best place for people to go to understand what’s happening in the world.


2020 was a year like no other – how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?


2020 was truly transformative in that it accelerated dynamics that were already well underway with respect to the interest in and utilisation of data analysis. And, as a result, three to four years of market adoption and evolution were probably condensed into three to four months, as organisations tried to expediate digital transformation activities of various shapes and sizes. 


As brands have now made the investment and become accustomed to these new approaches to gathering insight, it’s easy to imagine that data sophistication is only going to improve across most enterprises.


From a Twitter perspective, we saw a huge interest in using our data for qualitative insights by organisations trying to make sense of the lockdowns and their long-term implications. With a lot of market research activities either cancelled or moved online, brands needed new ways to understand emerging trends and behaviours. 


While we couldn’t speak at conferences or meet face-to-face, we could continue to educate via virtual events, which included our social data and drinks meet-ups for social intelligence practitioners as well as our #TwitterTalk series of webinars. And all from the comfort of my guest bedroom.


Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?


Last year, we announced the most significant rebuild of our suite of public APIs since 2012. It’s built on completely new foundations and designed to deliver new features, faster, and to better serve the diverse set of developers who build on Twitter. It’s also built to incorporate many of our experiences and lessons learned over the past 14 years of operating public APIs. 


In 2021, we will continue to work diligently to introduce updates to existing endpoints, access levels, and features that will complete the new Twitter API, making it easier than ever for developers and researchers to get value from our data for all sorts of use cases. 


Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?


Absolutely, in fact we spent a good part of 2020 establishing the foundations of a new programme for the academic research community which will provide them enhanced access to Twitter’s full data archive. Whether it’s analysing the spread of coronavirus using our Covid-19 data stream, examining hate speech or understanding how people are adapting to climate change, we want to make it easier for researchers to access the data they need to enhance their research objectives. 


In 2021, we plan to release new APIs and enhanced features, providing researchers more precise and complete data for analysing the public conversation and advancing human understanding.


What has been your path to power?


I’ve always enjoyed taking the “road less travelled” and the challenge of building something from scratch, whether a start-up within a mature business or in an entirely new market. The dots have been easier to connect looking backwards than forwards, but the common thread throughout my career has been the question, “where do we grow from here?” 


The first part of my career was me trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Upon graduation I did some consulting work and a couple years of international development, all of which led me back to university for my Masters. (A business degree seemed to be the logical thing at the time.) 


I then joined Cisco just as they were reorganising to take advantage of the rapid growth of the Internet in emerging markets. After six years in big tech, I was ready to try my luck with a start-up (what was I thinking?) and left to join a ten-person team trying to merge social media with live events. It was loads of fun, but failed to gain traction and I was therefore off to my next start-up, a slightly larger 30-person company, delivering a social customer service solution to help brands manage their interactions with customers. 


While there I developed relationships with the team at Twitter and so when the opportunity to join them appeared just a few years later, I jumped at it. For the past five and half years, I’ve been part of Twitter’s developer and enterprise solutions team, helping organisations across EMEA gain actionable insight from Twitter data to launch new products and improve their customer experience, to name just a few use cases.


What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?


Definitely my two years spent working in international development trying to make the world a slightly better place. I advised the Mayor, City Council and Chamber of Commerce of Constanta, Romania, on ways to attract investment, promote economic development and strengthen local businesses. I also supported several local NGOs with fundraising activities and project management. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and I learned a lot about myself at a formative stage of my life. Ultimately, I didn’t want to look back on my career one day and realise it was only about shareholder value.


Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?


Twitter is the largest, publicly-available, searchable archive of human-generated thought that has ever existed. We like to think of it as the world’s largest focus group, and our mission is to help people harness this giant corpus of human thought to understand and improve our world for the better. And, in addition to supporting the academic research community, we also want to better support market researchers who are increasingly using social data to complement and enhance existing research techniques. 


We think Twitter data has an important role to play here as it provides real-time, behavioral insights into our moods and mindsets, as well as our views on anything and everything from the trendy to the mundane. 


What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?


First know that it’s a journey and takes time, but with some senior sponsorship and a few wins, you can begin to open minds and show what’s possible. 


My experience suggests that in most organisations there are real pockets of data excellence, unfortunately, they are often under-resourced and sitting in a silo. Therefore, building a data culture requires a senior leader with a mandate for change. Someone who can bring together disparate data resources across the organization and create a proper center of excellence. This doesn’t mean a highly centralised team, but rather one that commits to best practice sharing, a high degree of collaboration, and internal marketing and comms to highlight success and the value created.

Joe Rice
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2021 (EMEA)