When working with new or potential clients to help “demystify” social media, one of the notions I like to instill is that there really is no such thing as social media. It’s all just media.
Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are all just the communications tools of our generation — just as email, the television, the typewriter, and even the printing press were in previous generations. In each case, the key to success wasn’t the tool, it was strategy put into using the tool, and the content produced by the people owning the tools.
So, today, as we celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States, I wanted to take this opportunity to recall how our brave forefathers (and mothers) utilized the communications tools of their time to win our independence.
In the years leading up to 1776, the dawn of new content tools allowed ordinary citizens to communicate, protest their government and disseminate unique, compelling content that competed with the government-run press.
In fact, up until just prior to the American Revolution, there was only one newspaper in all of Virginia. That paper was heavily subsidized by the royals and, as such, was a de facto government mouthpiece.
As this research paper points out, the dawn of the Stamp Act changed all that. This new law not only hurt the taxpayers economically, it also served to silence opposition voices by making it tougher and more expensive to produce printed materials.
So — a number of enterprising Virginians decided to bring in their own newspaper to compete with the government mouthpiece. The research paper mentioned above points out:
“Great changes came to the printing business in Virginia in 1765. About the time that Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a second printer was encouraged to open another shop in Williamsburg, marking the beginnings of competition in that field. This was an important watershed for the culture and government of the colony, for it signified a shift in the power structure. Control of public messages began to relocate from the royal government to the consumer marketplace. This was a transformation that had a major impact on civic discourse in the colony.
And Thomas Jefferson himself wrote:
“Until the beginning of our revolutionary dispute, we had but one press, and that having the whole business of the government, and no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper.”
While we recall the muskets and cannons that painted the Revolutionary battlefields, we should also remember the content that helped fuel the Revolution.
Back in the 1770’s, they may not have had television, or Twitter, or Facebook, but they had ideas and they had printing presses. In this case, those were at least as mighty as the sword.
Today, as we see conferences, blogs and podcasts declaring that content strategy is the future of America, just remember that, if not for the winning content strategy of our forefathers, America may never have been founded.
I hope you have a Happy (and safe) Independence Day. Happy Birthday, America!