If there had been Twitter when Paul Revere took his midnight ride…

Social media has fundamentally changed the manner and speed of communication, and nowhere is this more apparent than the view of world events through the voices of its citizenry: the uprising in Egypt; the Iranian post-election death of Neda; the Syrian protests; and, most recently, the United States and our #governmentshutdown (which spawned a host of memes and spinoff hashtags, including this blogger’s favorite #governmentshutdownpickuplines).

By listening to what people are saying en masse, organizations can spot social, consumer, competitor and industry trends and find the insights to make more informed decisions.  Big data tools that access trillions of online documents a day (like our own social marketing suite) pretty much tell us what the world is talking about at any given moment, and in the years leading up to the American Revolution, one could argue that the British government might have done well to pay heed to the voices of an American colony growing increasingly hostile to a growing number of financial constraints.

Or, at the very least, we’d have this:

If you’re looking to learn more about social listening strategy, check out this free guide.

Now, I could go on to write an in-depth essay here about what historical events might have been circumvented or fundamentally changed by social listening and engagement (read: any event wherein a delay or prevention of mass communication led to an extreme tactical advantage), but fantasy tweets are a pretty succinct way to sum them up.  You can let your imagination do the rest.

Incidentally, we wrote a book on social listening. You should read it because (1) it is free, and (2) there is a polar bear wearing headphones.