Revolutionary Measures

The historical view of social media

Studying history 20 odd years ago taught me several things. Firstly, you don’t have 9am lectures (or if you do you can safely skip them). But secondly, no matter how much we ‘advance’ there are always parallels with history that we can compare and learn from.

Marketing is a perfect example. Going back to medieval times, people attracted customers through personal interaction. As a carpenter you did a good job for the Lord of the Manor and he recommended you to his friends. Equally, if your handiwork collapsed as soon as someone sat on it you’d struggle to win repeat business – and might even end up in the stocks. It was very much one-to-one and based on peer recommendation. In fact, choosing someone to paint your house/build a cupboard still very much works like that (without the stocks bit unfortunately).

Things started to change when we moved into the era of industrialisation. Higher levels of literacy and the advent of widespread communication (posters, newspapers) combined with the ability to mass produce goods led to modern consumer society. And this model pretty much continued into the 20th century, gathering pace and becoming global rather than just across a single country or region.

But social media changes all of this. By providing a direct relationship between the consumer and the producer it goes back to the medieval model. You don’t like something? Complain and all your friends/colleagues see it – and, because they (hopefully) value your judgement, perceptions are potentially changed.  Equally, praise has an equally strong effect.

So, time for companies (whether B2B or B2C) to start acting more like medieval craftspeople if they want to understand and benefit from social media rather than end up in the stocks.

July 20, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Still think it’s a shame about those stocks though!

    Comment by Uday Radia | July 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] very first blog post, four and a half years ago, talked about how social media had parallels with how people worked in medieval times. Essentially as a worker you attracted business through personal recommendation – do a good job […]

    Pingback by Moving back to a medieval economy? « Revolutionary Measures | January 14, 2015 | Reply

  3. […] someone who studied history I have a tendency to take a long view of events, comparing and contrasting different eras. And, given this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is worth […]

    Pingback by Luther and Leave – the communication comparisons « Revolutionary Measures | December 6, 2017 | Reply

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