Social media training – vital lessons from history part 1

Those looking to ensure staff are equipped to represent their brand across social media platforms could do worse than learn from some of history’s most famous and infamous historical figures. So what can your social media training learn from the past?

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Don’t take others at face value – Fake news stories spread like wildfire, especially on Twitter, from the reported death of Charlie Sheen to Rebecca Black’s pregnancy. Even seasoned journalists and media publications have been caught out by news that originated online without any facts behind to back it up. Even today, news that Madeline McCann has been found is a trending topic on Twitter, yet no news outlet has officially confirmed these reports at the time of writing this blog. Neville Chamberlain was easily swayed by a mixture of gullibility and persuasive argument from Hitler in Munich in September 1938. In short corroborate your news from a viable site prior to a blog, retweet or wall post. It pays to be vigilant and accurate rather than timely in many cases. It’s great to break some news early to fans and followers, but not at the cost of your brand integrity.

Wit and personality goes a long way – Brands looking to develop a voice and persona of their own, especially in a busy marketplace, should look to Oscar Wilde.  His belief that; ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ should not be taken lightly, there are many brands on Facebook and Twitter who are happy to go along with the crowd and not distinguish themselves from the competition for fear of controversy. However, people are far more likely to retweet or share something that they find amusing or useful; this could range from the bizarre Skittles profile to the erudite and compelling Dr Samuel Johnson. However, Oscar’s theory that ‘It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information’ may now be somewhat redundant.

Controlled controversy – Kenneth Tynan made a name for himself as an outspoken theatre critic and writer, oh and the first man to say ‘fuck’ on television. Link baiting or controversy has a role to play in certain aspects of social media activity in order to excite debate and encourage shareability of branded content and messaging. On 13 November 1965, Tynan participated in a live TV debate and was asked whether he would allow a play to be staged in which sexual intercourse was represented on the stage, and replied: “Well, I think so, certainly. I doubt if there are any rational people to whom the word ‘fuck’ would be particularly diabolical, revolting or totally forbidden. I think that anything which can be printed or said can also be seen.” Critics later stated that Tynan’s use of the word was a “masterpiece of calculated self-publicity,” adding “for a time it made him the most notorious man in the country.” Notoriety is not always desired by brands, but publicity and the guts to say something out of the ordinary and that your competitors are afraid to, cannot be underestimated in terms of creating widespread brand awareness. Tynan was always one for breaking down linguistic inhibitions on the stage and in print and I’m positive that if he was still alive he would be confounding expectations on Twitter.

In the next part of the ‘Lessons from History’ series I’ll be delving into the training tips that can be gleaned from the lives of some recommended historical characters. Thanks to @photogirluk @Elle_Emmm @Carrot79 @nickhide @lesanto @Shinybiscuit for their input! Also please feel free to recommend your own historical characters who we could learn a few social media tips from.

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