I briefly touched on Brandwatch’s latest feature, Hindsight, in my previous post. Just to recap – Brandwatch now offers full historical Twitter data since Twitter’s inception in 2006, thanks to a new feature called Hindsight. Combined with the already thorough archive of other online sources stretching back to 2010, Brandwatch have further solidified their social listening and monitoring solution as the main tool of choice to access the most comprehensive archive of social data.

As exciting as Hindsight sounds, it’s not just a nice-to-have feature: based on what you’re trying to accomplish, it can play a vital role in your overall strategy.

Frankly, with all this unbridled stream of Twitter data, there’s no limit to what you can do. Here are 10 practical examples.

1.     Campaign tracking: if you’ve ever wanted to review a past campaign, you can now do so. Look at your own campaigns, see what worked, what didn’t, and what you could’ve done better; look at the campaigns of your competitors or of brands you look up to, to dig out any tactics you can learn from. Either way, tracking past campaigns is always a great starting point for future campaign planning, to make sure your planning is data-driven.

2.     Eyes on the competition: historical data relating to your competitors will help you uncover any strengths and weaknesses they might have, hence showing you opportunities that you can learn from and make best use of. While you do so, don’t forget to monitor your own historical data and see how your performance ranks against the competition and how this benchmark has moved over time against industry standards.

3.     Share of Voice: closely related to the previous point, one thing that’s worth keeping an eye on is your share of voice – not just going forward, but historically too. With Hindsight you can track how your competitors took to Twitter from the very beginning, and how the share of voice moved as more of your competitors joined Twitter. What caused the shifts in share of voice? What caused any spikes or dips in your share of voice? Did you have any impact on your competitors’ share of voice? You now have the freedom to track and delve into all this data to your (digital) heart’s delight.

4.     Research: with all this data, you can easily run an analysis of recurring or specific events. For instance, how did the volume of mentions change from the 2006 World Cup to the 2010 World Cup? How does that compare to the most recent Cup? What were the recurring themes? What was the sentiment, and how did that shift throughout the event? This is the kind of in-depth analysis you can make with all this data being available to you.

5.     Bring your data over: I recommend regularly reviewing the social listening tool you’re using. Instead of waiting for your 36-month contract to lapse before reviewing the social listening tool they’re using, I recommend having a yearly review to make sure that the tool you’re paying for is still the one for you, and to make sure that you’re using it to the fullest potential. If, in the process of this review, you identify that your tool isn’t fit for (your) purpose anymore and you want move to another tool, you won’t be able to migrate all of your data (dashboards, queries etc.) over, as most tools save their data on their own servers. While you can replicate the dashboards or queries in hope to get most of the mentions you had in your previous tool, this isn’t ideal as you won’t be able to retrieve all your mentions from the beginning. Hindsight gets rid of this problem, providing you with all the Tweets you had in your previous tool. (As a bonus, you’ll also get any Tweets your previous tool may have overlooked if they didn’t have full access to the Twitter Firehose).

6.     Influencer identification: influencers can be a brand’s best asset, but they’re not permanent. Some of your best influencers may move on to your competitor’s side, and while this is sometimes inevitable, you can always analyse the reasons why to prevent that from happening. Having access to historical data, you can identify your past key influencers, or find how long your current influencers have been your brand ambassadors, and reward them for their continued loyalty. You can also see how influence towards your brand shifts over time, and how this leads to your content going viral. Influencer identification is only the first step in influencer marketing, and with full access to Twitter data you can make sure that no stone goes unturned and no influencer goes unnoticed in the process.

7.     Sentiment tracking: I’m particularly fascinated by social sentiment analysis, not only because it’s a bit of an untapped area which I’m currently studying, but also because it helps uncover a lot of useful data and trends. With full access to the Twitter Firehose, you can now see what drove negative and positive reactions towards your brand as well as other brands in your industry vertical. By doing so, you can make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again and trigger a similar reaction, if not worse.

8.     Brand reputation and brand strategy review: every brand has its highs and lows – while it’s nice to have a look back at your accomplishments, you also need to look at your “low points”. See how you dealt with them, see the impact of your actions, and ask yourself – would you act the same way if the same issue were to happen again today? Reviewing this data is a great starting point for when you need to review your brand strategy.

9.     Trend projection: trends change over time, and while you may feel that your customers want more and more, it’s worth keeping an eye on their collective behavior over time to project trends. Of course you can’t project trends without your “past data points”, and here’s where unlimited historical data comes into play. Whether it’s to forecast growth (or a decline) in demand, or perhaps just a shift in market, it’s important that you have the right amount of data to track where your industry is going, and where you’re moving accordingly.

10. Brand medical history: do you have a record of your past campaigns and how they performed? Do you have a record of mentions from influential people and any PR/marketing opportunities you picked (or passed on)? How has the volume of your brand mentions moved over time? These (and more) are factors to bear in mind when you do your regular check-ups, and Hindsight enables you to have a full history of your “brand health”, a bit like a medical history. Why is this important? Often brands run the risk of running regular reports that are then shelved and never looked at again. When you keep a history of your brand’s metrics and contributing Tweets at hand, you have a repository of data you can use to back up your strategies, reports, campaigns, budget requests… – you name it.

11. [BONUS] Peace of mind: simply that – peace of mind, knowing that if you ever need to go back to uncover any data, you can do so. You don’t have to think about digging out old reports or old data exports – you can simply run a query to get your data back and, just like that, your data is back. Oh, you want to build data visualisations looking at past events, or based on the shift in market, or looking at pivotal moments in your brand history (e.g. above-the-line campaigns, changes in managements, new products, brand restructure)? Hindsight has you covered.

Do I Even Need Access to the Firehose?

The answer to this question depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

Perhaps you want to track customer services or you want to identify Tweets related to your brand or a largely talked-about topic on Twitter; perhaps you want to build an accurate benchmark for share of voice or some other NPS-like report to track your “brand health” over time. For these and similar scenarios missing tweets is not an option, so you definitely need access to the Twitter Firehose (or a tool that can provide you with that).

Granted, sometimes a sample from the Twitter API is enough, if you’re looking to build reports or analyses that scratch the surface. However, if you’re looking to integrate social listening in your brand strategy, from customer services to PR, from marketing to analytics and beyond, then the Firehose is your best option for accuracy.

So, ultimately, whether you need full access to the Firehose or not depends mainly on what questions you want answered, and what actions you want to take based on those answers.