Its Official – Time Travel Not Yet Possible

Notes and Musings on Consumer Research

Creativity is usually a good thing. Creativity also helps identify intelligent people with far too little meaningful work to occupy their days.  Sometimes though, even silly explorations and theories highlight some hidden value – even to those of us in the marketing and internet world.

Time Travelers
Bill and Ted Explore the Past and Future


Searching for Time Travelers
Earlier this fall, a study was released by Robert J. Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson of Michigan Tech University, that concluded that there were no time travelers among us. The root of the conclusion is that there were no or very few instances of internet activity that mentioned Comet ISON prior to its discovery on September 21, 2012, and few instances of internet activity that noted “Pope Francis,” prior to March 16, 2013 – the day Jorge Mario Bergolio ascended to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and took the name Francis.

Digging through mountains of Google data, Twitter history, hashtag research and social media research, revealed that there were no mentions of these two events prior to their occurrence.  This indicates the likely possibility that time travel is either not yet possible or that time travelers were savvy enough not to reveal themselves through social media or internet activity lest they be labeled prophets or heretics.

Activity Analysis
The value in this exercise is not discovery of whether it is possible to actually travel through time to set things right with an ex-girlfriend or determine whether to bet on the Seahawks in this year’s Super Bowl. Rather, huge data stores do exist that with a little reality-based creativity, can be harnessed to understand emerging consumer trends.

Understanding Consumer Language
Research tools exist to dig up more information that would be reasonably possible to sift through. Chances are you use many of these now. The key to understanding future trends is to identify the ways in which current consumers refer to needs or events. This is where trend-setters or “influencers” can help.

Activists in certain topics or discussions are usually fine-tuned to understanding consumer language and terms in their particular niche.  Ascertaining the future of southwestern cooking requires following the best chefs and food blogs in that field. If food and drink are not your specialization or you don’t have time to dive head first into this niche, it might be necessary to find someone to help that is more familiar with it. Getting deeper into the topic may reveal whether southwestern US cuisine is a growing or declining trend. Understanding the growth rate might influence an investment decision. One just might need a bit of expert help to understand it.

Asking the Right Questions
Pondering the future of a given product line requires expertise in the niche to understand current activity and ascertain what the future might hold. Trends can emerge overnight, but needs are usually present well prior to a topic getting a great deal of online attention.

Searching for time travelers on line might not be the smartest use of one’s time. However, using the available search tools to hunt for this information highlights creative ways to dig up information. Looking for the right hashtag to show activity on a particular topic will take some trial and its partner – error.

Few organizations make use of existing internet search tools and social applications to research trends prior to making important decisions. Still, with a little creativity and effort, the tools and data exists to draw meaningful conclusions and get that glimpse into the future that provides an organization with good information upon which to base important decisions.


Matthew Stone is active in the Internet Marketing field and works in Public Relations Denver.

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