Nothing New Under the Sun

Staying on top of changing practices in marketing and technology is a given for business owners today. As a small business marketer, I spend lots of time monitoring blogs and websites, reading posts and articles,  then sharing and reposting information on various social media channels.

Meanwhile, I’ve written about the challenges of staying focused on your core competencies, trying not to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of change confronting us each day. Sometimes, it feels like every minute brings something new down the pike.

Nothing New Under the Sun

I tell my clients - and myself - to stay engaged enough to learn what’s new so you don’t get left behind. It’s a time-consuming job with no opt-out options.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to read “How Luther Went Viral”,  (Dec.17, 2011) in the Economist , which makes a compelling,  historical case for linking the current macro-burst in social media activity to a centuries old phenomenon:  human nature kicks in when an important message wants to be told; people find the easiest way to share a message by looking to new forms of media to share it.

In 1517, almost 500 years before the Internet Revolution, Martin Luther used the relatively'new' media of printed pamphlets to spread a message of discontent with practices of the Catholic Church around the globe of Christendom. These pamphlets, quickly translated from Latin to German to various dialects and languages,  led to the Reformation, a bona fide historic time-period marking a change in the course of history.

Sounding eerily similar to recent events in the Middle East leading up to the Arab Spring, the thread of continuity in Luther’s story is that “participants took care of distribution, deciding collectively which messages to amplify through sharing and recommendations.” Can you say Facebook? Twitter? Social media, anyone?  And we thought social media was something new and cool, just birthed in the 21st century.

Each new generation tends to think of itself and its inventions as unique; in many ways, superior to the past. In the current paradigm, this generation translates that tendency to technology = value. Luther’s story, as recounted in How Luther Went Viral, is a convincing reminder that social media is, at its core, an innately human form of communicating that takes advantage of the technology most available at the time a message meets its most felt need.

Hitting pain points is what gets people sharing outside of mainstream media.  People usemethods most available to spread the word of most interest. The take-away for business owners is to work on the message part.  Find the felt need of your customers and then tell your story. Tell it well. Tell it often. Create a reason for people to want to share your message.

In the meantime, keep reading blogs and industry sites to stay abreast of changing practices for your business.  Read this blog for marketing news from time to time.

Relax if you can,  knowing there really is nothing new under the sun.  People will always find new ways to stay connected while continuing to be influenced by the past.  It’s just the methods for distribution that change.