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Published April 17th 2013

How We Approach New Ideas and Embrace the Freedom to Fail

In my job as Product Manager here at Brandwatch, it’s important to talk to clients. Probably a given, right?

What is most useful to me, though, is talking to you all about new things we are working on. That instant feedback to an idea I’ve just had is invaluable.

Sometimes, those ideas develop much further, we build something and share it, taking on feedback and improving the feature; it’s an iterative process.

I believe it’s important to get the idea out of someone’s head and into your hands as quickly as possible. So we release early and release often, just like Eric S. Raymond said.

The great thing about this system is that we can learn very quickly; we can learn what you love, what gets you excited, what will make the biggest difference to you.

Sometimes, though, those lessons involve learning where you went wrong, and that’s what I want to talk about here.


Identifying problems

There are two features in Brandwatch – Rules and Categories – that are among the most powerful and important tools we have within the app. They are incredibly flexible and powerful, letting you do all manner of amazing things with your data.



In fact if you’re a user and haven’t yet set some up, or rarely use them, get on the phone to us right now or drop us an email and we’ll show you how they can make your life so much easier.

Have you set some up yet? Please, stop reading this, do it and come back.

Ok, done? You’re starting to see the potential? Great! Let’s continue.

The thing is, we know how many people use Rules and Categories. It’s 25% of our users (thanks for increasing that for me just now).

See, that’s great, but with a feature that good and that useful, it should be 100%. We want everyone to be using and benefiting from it.

So we recently started looking at why it wasn’t 100% and what the pain points were the stopped people from using them. A few key points came up:

  • They were hard to find within the app
  • They took time to set up
  • People were a bit daunted and didn’t know where to start


Finding a solution…

We wanted to make this process easier for everyone, so we started work on a feature called ‘Smart Categories’. The idea was that we wanted to create pre-set Categories and Rules for everyone to use.


For example, if you wanted to find out more about your Mercedes Query you could add an “Automobile Industry Smart Category”. It would then break up your data and categorise the conversations about Design, Safety, Style, Features etc.

You could even then tweak these Rules and Categories to make them bespoke to you and your needs.

It was a great idea, a jumping off point to get everyone started without all the leg work.

But … the problem we quickly discovered was that it didn’t scale. We could make a Category work really well for a small group of Queries, but the more we added, the less accurate it would always become.

Not to mention that it dawned us how much time it would take to make so many more industries, by hand, for every one of our supported languages. It would quickly get out of hand, and wasn’t really delivering what we had envisaged.


…but failing, this time

In the end, we had to admit defeat and face the truth glaring out at us: Rules and Categories need to be bespoke and specific; trying to make a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t the answer.


We did learn a lot from this project though, and it’s this process and the freedom to fail that helps us develop so many great features that do get into the app.

We will of course be regrouping and coming up with other ways to make Brandwatch’s best kept secret superpower that much easier to use. If you have any ideas yourself, we always love to hear them.

In the meantime if you do find yourself pushed for time and can’t quite get a grip on Rules and Categories, there’s always our support team on hand to help out. Or consider some additional services from our Operations team; they’re the best in the business at making fantastic bespoke Rules and Categories for you to really supercharge your data.

Ignoring the slight sales pitch at the end there, I hope that this gives you some more insight into how we try out new features for Brandwatch. If you do have any questions, about anything, have a feature idea, or just want to give feedback (I LOVE feedback), drop me an email at glenn[at]brandwatch.com; I will read it and respond, promise!

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Brandwatch acquired Paladin in March 2022. It's now called Influence, which is part of Brandwatch's Social Media Management solution.Want to access your Paladin account?Use the login menu at the top right corner.