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Published September 24th 2014

History Lessons: Using the Past to Unlock the Secret to Success

A history lesson encompasses all that is behind us. Unchangeable moments that are cemented in personal memory, books, or online. The past can ...

History encompasses all that is behind us. Unchangeable moments that are cemented in personal memory, books, or online. The past can also be a powerful key to planning better for the future, learning from previous mistakes, and shaping who we are.

Intelligence gained from the past, repurposed for future endeavors, is a strategy that applies to brands just as much as it does to individuals.

When it comes to business decisions and marketing campaigns, you can definitely repeat, and even exceed, past successes. If that’s what you want to do. All you need are the right tools and a clear view of what has happened.

Past insights – the good, the bad, and everything in between – pave the way for implementing powerful, tried and tested future strategies.

Yesterday I spoke about the future of social intelligence at Social Media Week London. So, let’s talk about the past and how to make the most of it. Now.

Hindsight is 20/20

Hindsight, or past vision and insights, is often compared to eyesight. Looking at the past from the present lets us analyze with an objective eye.


Mistakes made in the past can be clearly identified later on, but if something isn’t working now we don’t necessarily have enough distance or perspective to recognize it.

When it comes to social activities, whether it’s for customer service outreach, marketing campaign measurement, or identifying real-time business opportunities, knowing what happened in the last year can provide realistic guidance for how to move forward.

At Brandwatch, we’ve just launched Twitter Hindsight to join our existing historical data within the platform. This latest product offering is a way to provide customers with access to public Tweets all the way back to Twitter’s inception in 2006.

Understanding just how powerful the past can be, we are continuously developing new ways to empower customers to uncover new angles for campaign planning by looking at year-on-year campaigns, share insights about the impact of past activities, and produce sophisticated, insightful analysis and reporting.

He said, she said: what they say matters

Looking back at the past 20 years, the world has changed a staggering amount in all areas – politics, business, globalization, technology, and education.

Think about it. Innovative endeavors like Wikipedia, smartphones, social networks, and even the Khan Academy, in the last decade have made information sharing and peer education not just prevalent, but completely indispensable.

On an individual level, when searching for a new restaurant, scouring for the latest flight deals, and uncovering the truth about hotels, we instantly hit the search button. This is our due diligence. We trust the masses and their star-ratings, detailed reviews, RTs and favorites of major trending issues and stories.

Given the tendency to share opinions online, “Yelp” everything, and give and receive LinkedIn endorsements, soon what people say about us will be more important than what we do.

It’s official: strangers are now influencing some of our biggest life decisions.

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Brands take note: the past is here to stay

This affects brands in a huge way. One individual can create a firestorm of great, or in contrast terrible, visibility for a brand based on one experience or opinion. How do social hindsight and data insights help brands make the most of these occurrences?

Short answer: in tons of ways.

Long answer: there are a number of great use cases for using historical data (and specifically Twitter historical data) and the power of hindsight to better prepare for the future.

In addition to some of the use cases for historical data in the previous section, other ways to leverage insights from the past include identifying spikes of both good and bad mentions across online platforms.

This is a great first step to not only identify influencers in a brand’s specific industry (for potential engagement), but also pinpoint the catalyst for the angered/happy tweet or online mention, among other things.

111Our brand new social media week dataviz

Knowing your competitions’ past failures, and successes, is another way to put historical data to work for you. Tap into the right conversations and find out where others are maybe doing it better than you. Learn from your own mistakes and the errors of others in your industry.

Back to the future: turning past insights into future strategies

Don’t ever fear the past. Don’t even fear failure. Past mistakes are a great way to turn something negative into something positive.

By harnessing insights from your brand’s past mistakes (or the mistakes of others), learning lessons from them and then turning them into future wins, you can bring the past to the present and make way for a bright future.

Knowledge is power. And hindsight is beautiful.

Now you know.

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