A 17th Century History Lesson For You to Get Your Social Media Strategy Right!

Posted on October 3, 2012 
Filed Under General, Internet Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Networking, Social Networks

The social media revolution has come upon us so fast and with such ferocity, many companies are having a hard time figuring out just what it is and how they can use it to their benefit. With the enormous amount of information and advice out there to sift through, it’s no wonder why. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a second to really put things into perspective; to analyze just what the heck is going on here and figure out how we got to this point in social media history.


By doing this, we can take a look back on patterns from the past and try to see how they mimic the current trends. As we all know, history repeats itself so if we can identify patterns here, there’s a good chance we can all have a better understanding of the social media phenomenon and formulate a winning social media strategy when moving forward with it.

So, let’s begin by trying to understand just how social media has changed the relationship between clients and suppliers by looking at another time period where this shift in dynamics took place: right before and into the Industrial Revolution.

Taking a Look Back On The Original Social Media

Before towns and cities were well established by the Industrial Revolution, most consumers knew exactly who they were buying from: Jim the fisherman sold them fish, Jebadiah the farmer sold them apples, Molly the weaver sold them blankets and so on and so forth.  With that in mind, let’s look at what it took to stay in business back then (and see if you can find the correlations to now):

  • Merchants had to keep active in the community otherwise they would lose business.
  • Products and services had to be above-par because the second people started talking,bad word of mouth would kill their business.
  • Pricing had to be competitive if there were other merchants in the village
  • It was all about customer service, once again thanks to word-of-mouth.

Because word-of-mouth in a community was so important, merchants were held to a higher standard. You had to deliver the best quality with no hassle otherwise word would get around; merchants were held accountable.

What Happened Next?

Then, as the world industrialized, larger cities and towns started to arise, based around soulless companies that mass-produced items.  Everything grew less personalized and farther apart. Merchants became segregated as communities became integrated. It wasn’t that you’d buy fish from Jimmy because he was a good fisherman, but rather that he was from the same town or country as you. You didn’t go across races and nationalities after the Industrial Revolution.

What this meant was that you didn’t have to have the best product all around, just that you had to know the right people to stay in business.  Territorial gangs grew up in towns, contracts began to be drawn up and all of a sudden, you could put out junk and people would still snatch it up because they had to.

And as for mass-production, all of a sudden advertising came into power and word-of-mouth went out the door. A one-way system of getting messages across to people was the standard: here’s what we’re selling, we tell you that you want it, you go and get it…and you did. Televisions, print media, radio, etc., etc., all leading up to the Internet.  Everything was changed; peer influence held no more sway…that is, until the Internet really started to take shape.

How Social Media Brought Back Word-of-Mouth

When social media experts really started to figure out the power that the Internet held and how it could not only put consumers back in touch with marketers, but also consumers back in touch with consumers, things began to look a little different. Now, word-of-mouth has been brought back as a power in the community that helps regulate merchants, keeping them honest.

If you receive a poor service or a cruddy product and can’t get the proper customer service, what do you do? You write bad reviews, don’t like their Facebook page, don’t follow them on Twitter and talk bad about them across the boards. And millions upon millions of consumers see this and react. That’s why companies can’t afford bad business practices anymore, not when the Internet has brought a whole globe close enough to share things just like they did in pre-Industrial age villages.

Now, businesses have to keep an ear to the ground and watch what the consumers are saying, paying attention to image, customer service, direct marketing and social media. It’s a whole new world out there, but it’s really just one from the days gone by. Social media has brought the village back together.

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