Benjamin Franklin and Twitter may not appear to have much – if anything – in common, but history tells a different story.

In fact, the impact that social media sites like Twitter have had on how we communicate is a near reflection of the massive shift in colonial communications that occurred under then Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin, a renowned inventor, brilliant thinker and respected statesman, instituted changes to the postal system that created a revolutionary shift in communications. Franklin instituted night travel for postal riders – Night Riders – cutting delivery time in half. More importantly, however, this new delivery method pulled the distant regions of the colonies together. He created a communications network that was one of the best in the world – one that the British didn’t know existed.

The Boston Massacre was a pivotal point leading up to the Revolutionary war. The British thought that they would be able to contain the story, but before word reached England, most of America had already heard the news.

Clip from the History Channel series America: The Story of Us

Flash forward to today.

Let’s change the context a little. Imagine for a moment that England is a corporation, that the Night Riders are Twitter or Facebook, that the Boston Massacre is a poor customer experience.

It’s not much of a stretch because many companies – even though they are aware social media exist – don’t understand the power of the social media. So, when a customer has a problem or bad experience, news of that event is instantly broadcast to the masses. The story cannot be contained, it can only be responded to. And, if it is ignored or not handled well (sorry, Nestle), that company may well find itself in the middle of a revolution. And, we all know who came out on top the first time around.

The speed of distribution and consumption of information via social media has revolutionized how we communicate and trampled geographical and social borders – much like Benjamin Franklin’s Night Riders did in the 1700s. Having a voice is no longer in question. The question becomes, “How will you use it?”

Today’s guest post is written by Brian Shelton. Brian currently manages global ecommerce operations for Gilchrist & Soames, a leading purveyor of luxury amenities for some of the most prestigious hotels, resorts and bed & breakfasts in the world. He has over a decade of experience, which includes an extensive background in marketing, public relations, e-commerce management, product development, technology, and web development. He is a social media advocate, visionary and eternal optimist. Brian holds a Master of Science degree in New Media supported by a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, both from Indiana University. He lives on the west side of Indianapolis with his wife, Rachel, and two daugthers. Contact Brian directly