Charles Dickens and the Social Media Revolution

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Who would have thought that a famous line from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (written in 1859) would perfectly encapsulate my feelings and initial thoughts on social media?  Looking back on my childhood in the 90s and early 2000s, I can draw numerous comparisons between this Dickens’s quote and how most of the world felt about the social media revolution.  Social media was going to connect the world and provide ordinary people with a public voice that didn’t exist before.  Despite the clear benefits of social media, there were concerns with the security and misuse of the channel.  While social media has made good on its promise to create a network of connections worldwide, it’s not without its faults.  Social media has made it much easier to communicate and share, but has also led to cyber bullying and easy access to personal information.  Some studies have even shown that social media may be to blame for the rise in narcissism, which is especially prevalent among the millennial generation.  Despite its burdens, the rise of social media made a believer out of me long ago and has shaped and continues to shape all aspects of society, from business, to media, to social interaction.

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I wouldn’t consider myself to be a heavy personal user of social media compared to today’s standards.  Although I have an Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and now Twitter account, I don’t post often and mainly use them to keep tabs on friends who now live in parts all across the country.  While I see the value of social media as a personal means to consume data and interact with others in a quick and convenient manner, I value social media more for the profound impact it has had on business and commerce.

As someone who has a career in marketing, social media plays a very substantial role in my business life.  In the history of marketing in business there have been four eras; production (up to 1930s), sales (1930s – 1950s), marketing (1950s – 1980s), and relationship (1980s – present).  While relationship marketing started in the 1980s, the rise of social media in the 2000s made it much easier for firms to communicate, interact, and build relationships with customers on a one-on-one basis.  In my opinion, social media has single-handedly made relationship marketing easier for businesses, and customer service / experience more satisfying for customers.  Through social media tactics, businesses are now capable of more effectively handling individual customer complaints, establishing a brand personality, and distributing the right content to the right customers at the right time in their customer journey.  In the future, as the strategic emphasis in marketing continues to shift from traditional lead generation to building customer loyalty, the role social media plays will only continue to grow and evolve.

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In digital business, social media’s impact on customer experience is overshadowed by the rise of ecommerce and the internet of things.  The growing trend in digital business is centered on the internet of things and how it will be used by different industries to further automate and measure operational tasks.  From cities adopting IoT to create a “smart city” to hospitals using IoT to better measure patient care, every industry has bought into the future of the internet of things.  The internet of things is the concept that in the near future all technology will be connected via wireless networks and be able to communicate with each other.  In the business world, this means that everything from lighting, to air-conditioning / heat, to manufacturing equipment will be automated and able to talk to each other.  The automation / connection of technology will enable businesses to drastically cut cost, thus improving profitability.  Imagine hospitals where patient’s vital signs are monitored by IoT connected machines which can then administer medicine when the vitals signal the need, or imagine farms that use sensors to measure the amount of sun, water, and nutrients and then recommend ideal harvesting times based on the data.

While social media and digital business have come a long way in the past 10 – 15 years, I believe that the best is yet to come.  With the ongoing advancements in digital technology and strategy, I hope this class will provide me with the knowledge to better understand how to use social media and other digital tools to my advantage.


  1. I definitely agree with the sentiment of your last paragraph. I’m not sure the “best” is yet to come, but I do think the biggest changes have yet to be realized.

  2. JoshLArtman · ·

    Hi Ben, I totally agree with your point about social media being a huge role in building consumer loyalty and brand personality. Speaking from personal experience, many fast food chains such as Taco Bell and Arby’s are especially great at this, and it’s also really interesting to see how certain companies have used social media to join in on the jokes surrounding their brand – the Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account often pokes fun at their often-lampooned cast of video game characters. Great post!

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