Benjamin Franklin: Social Media Mogul

Posted By on May 19, 2010 | 4 comments

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


  1. Brian Nice post,
    “How will you use it?”
    Well I´ll tell my experience working in Social Media to big companies in South America.
    Here big companies are like a rich people from the 80¨ who always showing off in magazine and television but has difficult to establish relations with others, so somebody say he should they goes to psychologist.
    He goes but he is never sure if he should been doing this.
    And he talks, if the psychologist, he listening, of course they´re buzz listening, but not really care very much.
    In the end off the day he still in love the old life in magazine and television.
    He´s not really interesting in connect to people.
    And once in a while someone in a social community will say he is face.
    He´ll be terrify, cause he thinks the problem is outside, and will looking for others psychologist.
    So I would like to ask you (if you understand this history with my horrible English) Social media is to everybody use?

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  2. Gracias!

    I think I understood your post and question. To answer briefly, no. I do not believe social media is for everyone, especially at the corporate/business level. But, just saying "no" doesn't explain the "why not." Thank you for the comment! If you'd like to continue the discussion, feel free to email me (see bio above).

    Un fuerte abrazo,

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  3. Fantastic post! Great analogy. “The speed of distribution and consumption of information via social media has revolutionized how we communicate and trampled geographical and social borders.” It still amazes me how many people and business just “don’t get it.” I find myself frustrated when I reach out to a company who has a presence, and that presence is not one of engagement or response. I feel like I am talking to a wall! Thank you for this post.

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