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Epictetus – The father of social media?

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
10 September 2010

Epictetus-1If you’re the sort of person that has to do or see lots of presentations, you’ll know how people love to sprinkle relevant quotes in to their powerpoints and keynote decks, to keep you interested. I’m just as guilty as the next man – and one of my favourite people to quote is the late (very late) great philosopher, Epictetus. Reading through some of his greatest quotes the other day, it occurred to me that he could well be the very first person in history to hit the nail on the head when it comes to social media. And I bet he never called himself a ‘Guru’ either…! ; )

Here’s a few examples:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

This one should be every social media evangelist’s favourite – you’ve got to listen to what your customers/fans/detractors are saying before you even THINK about talking to them online!

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

My social media take on this is all about knowing what language to speak in when you’re getting social with your consumers. Know the rules of the game before you play – know what a #followfriday is, or a retweet? If not, don’t bother getting on Twitter until you do – for example.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

Ditto on the above – you’ve got to understand that your consumers are all different, so a broadcast approach isn’t going to work – everyone is an individual.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. “

Don’t compare your social media strategy to that of Nike or Coca Cola (unless you are Adidas or Pepsi, of course!) Make the most of what you have at your disposal and try to innovate.

“It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”

It’s not just about flashy gimmicks or ‘viral’ widgets – you need a strategy, a plan and a framework.

“The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”

Don’t worry too much if things get bumpy, or not everyone likes your ideas. The great thing about social media as a marketing channel is you can change or fix things at the drop of a hat. It’s not like sending men round the country to pull down an incorrect billboard advert!

So there we have it – Epictetus clearly knew what’s what when it comes to social media. Thank goodness he isn’t around today though – I’d hate to have seen the sort of powerpoint presentations he’d have put together…!

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