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What Benjamin Franklin Knew About Social Media

ben_franklin.jpgBenjamin Franklin was a blogger – without a doubt.

He may not have had a computer to share his thoughts, nor the internet to spread them. But he did have a printing press where he printed regular installments of Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Ben Franklin was known to have a sharp and witty mind and a love of things social. He loved to share his thoughts on any number of subjects. He loved to stir the pot…and he loved debate.

Think of any bloggers like that?

So Ben Franklin was a blogger before there was blogging. But don’t just take my word for it. All the evidence can be found in his own words:

“Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.”

Isn’t that how blogging works? You want to be an open door to all, have conversations with those who engage you in the comment box, and become familiar with people who are interested in building relationships. Further, you’ll find a small group who will become like friends. And for all, let none become your enemy. Sound advice for any blogger.

And while Ben Franklin was a bit of hot-headed and stubborn in his time, he nonetheless offers great advice on dealing with the negativity we social media-types sometimes face:

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain and most fools do.”

“He that blows the coals in quarrels that he has nothing to do with, has no right to complain if the sparks fly in his face.”

“He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows nor judge all he sees.”

He was a staunch proponent of finding what was interesting to himself and others and adding what was valuable to your reader’s lives:

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.”

And he knew so well that people couldn’t be convinced of anything unless they cared.

“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.

What’s more, he knew that people did not want to be lectured too. Rather, they need to be engaged and included in the conversation:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Ben Franklin clearly understood that writing a solid, interesting blog post took research:

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

…and required time and effort:

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

…and that that hard work would eventually pay off:

“Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure.”

He even had advice for probloggers and those who wish to make money from their blogs; offering sound advice for remaining in balance between making money and keeping readers:

“He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”

Overall, what Ben Franklin reminds us is that if we have something to share…some perspective that’s uniquely ours to share with the world – do it! And don’t let your fears get in the way:

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?”

But perhaps the best advice of all is the advice that Mr. Franklin offered us for living our lives:

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

Do any of Ben Franklin’s thoughts touch a chord in you about your blogging? How? And how could his advice change the way you look at social media?

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Comments

  1. Mary Lou Delgado says:

    First time to learn this scared but happy. Hoping to learn how to blog.
    Penny Gould is training me.

    Iam going to bookmark your site and read about it.

  2. SilentJay74 says:

    Seriously, this article was well written and rings true to the point. I love the quotes from Ben Franklin himself. Nicely done, great article! All of this can be applied to Social Media today. I wish more people would read this and learn from this advice.

  3. What a great post, very inspirational. It is amazing how powerful words can echo through eternity.

  4. Once, Benjamin Franklin shared his blogging wisdom with me. He said, “You misspelled ‘that’ in your last post. Love, Dad.”

    Oh. Wait. You meant THAT Ben Franklin.

  5. SilentJay,
    Perhaps they will. Please feel free to spread the word so more people can read it.

    Paul,
    I know. That’s what made me write it. And then I remembered that blogging is merely about conversation. And we’ve been doing that forever. Ben Franklin just happened to be really good at it.

    Mary Lou,
    My friend, just write what’s in your heart with honesty, openness and insight. Focus on one topic. That’s the foundation.

    Jordan,
    Yep, that one!

  6. That is a very eloquent post. I love the comparisons to Ben Franklin and how he was a blogger before blogging was cool.

  7. Steve Pickering says:

    Ben Franklin was undoubtedly one of the greatest of men. He was a philosopher, inventor and statesman among other things. Yes, he was also a blogger and I am glad that you have brought this to my attention.

  8. This thought actually occurred to me as I was reading his autobiography. Interesting viewpoint.

  9. Absolutely wonderful! Great use of Ben Franklin’s own words! Congratulations on a wonderful, well written post!

  10. Ben Franklin is one of my all-time heroes! He personified the term “Rennaissance Man.” He did so many things to shape both American and World history, and now you’ve added another perfect example to the list….world-class blogger. Great post! I’ve got several posts inspired by Franklin on my blog too – check them out and let me know what you think. Take care!

  11. Kristen,
    He was a blogger before there were blogs. Talk about a renaissance man. Did you have a favorite?

    Steve,
    All true. And no man is without his faults. Did you know that Franklin kept two sets of accounting logs when he worked for the government? One he showed them and the other that was ‘real,’

    Li,
    Thanks. Sounds like we’re on the same wavelength.

    Colleen,
    Thanks. Did you have a favorite quote? How would you apply it to blogging?

    Jeremy,
    I love it. I’ve got a soft spot for good words – for quotes that move the heart. Mr. Franklin has plenty.

  12. I have got butterflies in my stomach with the launch day for my blog nears. So, the quote “Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?” gives me some hope! Beautiful post Dawud. Thank you.

  13. This might be a little off topic, but as I was working late last night I caught the end of a show called “The Big Idea”. They were talking about becoming a millionaire and using inspirational quotes to help motivate their viewers. So I thought about this post. It was my first time watching this show and was hooked. So you and your readers should check it out. It was on late on CNBC http://www.cnbc.com/id/15838512/

  14. What an excellent post! Mad props on a creative post.

  15. You’ve just made me a fan of Franklin. So many rich quotes there, especially the one on involving people. It’s hard to do when your audience is small, though. Anyways, Sphunn!

  16. If blogging during the time of Ben Franklin, I’m sure he’s on the top. I really love to read quotes from him, very inspirational!

  17. Mieszkania Poznan says:

    This just proves how brilliant Ben was – even after so many years, his thoughts are fresh. We need a new Ben Franklin!

  18. I really liked this post.

  19. Home Recording,
    You’re going to be great. I had butterflies too. Sometimes still do. Guess it’s just part of the territory. I’ve found that it’s more rewarding to overcome what I fear than be safe in keeping my fear.

    Paul,
    This is sweet. Thanks for sharing it. I use quotes that way myself from time to time. It’s great to be inspired by others – don’t you think?

    Kyle,
    Word!

    SEO,
    You’ve gotta read about his life. But you want to find a biography that tells the whole story. This great man was also quite the anti-establishment figure, switched sides between the British and Americans, loved women and was loose with money.

    Marin,
    Gosh yes.

    vinatta,
    Thank you. What did you like about it?

    Mieszkania,
    We do. We need men to inspire us from time to time. And we certainly need people who can contain their self-interests while doing good for the betterment of man. Often, the America’s Founding Fathers are painted as perfect people. They were far from it. What they shared, and hence what they built, was a common vision that benefitted all. Where are those people today?

  20. Ben Franklin certainly had a way with words. I would love to have just a tiny bit of what he had.

  21. What a unique post there! You have drawn a good analogy there Dawud. I suppose all those with wisdom find a way spread their message and share it with others. When you have something inspiring to say a lot of people are interested in listening.

  22. “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.”

    One of the best quotations I’ve read in a long time.

  23. Barb,
    It certainly was a different time. And, of course, the people of that time had a much richer educational system.

    Living Rooms,
    I think that’s true. Idea spread by people listening and sharing.

    Dining Room,
    Yeah, that was a goodie, huh?

  24. Gee, those little pearls of wisdom really apply to blogging surprisingly well. The mind reels if Ben were alive today, and what sort of blog he’d write :)

  25. Webomatica,
    Oh, he was a bit of rebel himself. I’m sure he’d be pushing the envelope a bit. And perhaps blogging under an assumed name as well.

  26. Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin… When I realized that my political heroes were also publishers, I realized that I needed to start publishing too – online.

    Mr. Franklin may not have had code to optimize, but he did make adjustments and improvements to the presses. The technology changes, but some parts of the business have never budged!

  27. Independent,
    Ooh, Thomas Paine…another of my favorites.

    But how did Ben Franklin get the word out with Google?

  28. yea, very true.. nice article thanks for sharing

  29. Great Blog!!

    I’m new to blogging so i’m finding this site very useful

    Cheers

  30. Ear Plugs,
    What did you like most about it?

    prego3980,
    Please take what you can learn from here…and share it with everyone you know.

  31. I came across your site whilst looking for a social media quote to use for a series of Workshops I am delivering. I have spent ages trying to find quotes from the great and the good of today and this article has made me ask, “Why?”.

    Some of these quotes are better than anything I have come across so far and I think I now have that intro quote.

    Cheers

  32. Nice Article keep up the good work

  33. I’m a little late to this article, but I think including all bloggers as part of social media is like calling all websites that have a comment section social media. Just because a site has some user interaction is slightly stretching. That being said, it’s definitely a beautiful thing how the barriers to entry for publishing your thoughts, opinions and ideas has dropped exponentially since this great man’s time.

  34. Alun,
    Thanks. I’d love to know how your workshop series went.

    Shade,
    Except, our use of language and our ability to express ourselves has definitely declined since the time of Mr. Franklin.

  35. Brings up the idea that there must be so many older people out there today that would be great bloggers.

    They have a lot of free time, a lot of experience, a great need to talk and write about stuff, good ability to express themselves and so on.

    Where are all the senior bloggers?

  36. Social Media,
    I think that’s true. I think, for the most part, it would only take someone to help seniors jump over the technology gap. Great point.

  37. Increase Traffic Dude says:

    Sharing information what a great way to feel needed .

  38. Good stuff Dawud, nice unique idea for a post.

    In the intro:

    Ben Franklin was know to have a sharp and witty mind and a love of things social. He loved to share his thoughts on any number of subjects. He loved to stir the pot…and he loved debate.

    That should be ‘was known’?

    Great stuff once again!

  39. Glen,
    Thanks. making the edit now.

  40. Tom Alongi says:

    What a Great Idea to use Franklyn s quotes.
    .“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.“To me that sounds very much like attraction marketing.WEB 2.0 Social Media
    Here is a 20th century Quote:
    “People don t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”
    Zig Ziglar

  41. Thanks for such a great post!

    I love Benjamin Franklin and often think the U.S. would not have come to be without his wisdom. I have a page of his quotes that I get out and read when I’m feeling out of sorts about what I’m working on. Ben’s wisdom is timeless and usually kicks me in the pants and gets me going again.

    I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about the man and his writings, and about his peers. They were all a fascinating bunch.

  42. Yes great thoughts. Words of wisdom for those that need to change the way we think. Opens your mind!

  43. What a good post. I love your comparisons to Ben Franklin and blogger. I agree that if there were an internet at his time. He will be a great pro blogger.

  44. Great stuff. I love the quotes. Overall the way you wrote the post was amazing. Benny would be a talented blogger. And he’d be getting paid from google ads with bills with his own face on them. You can’t get more boss than have your face on the $100 bill. Hopefully someday a blogger will have that.

  45. I like the part where he says “Hide not your talents”. So much of what counts for talent gets lost in the deluge of useless noise. I wonder what Ben would think of the media today when almost anybody can broadcast. He might say “Blog not for the sake of blogging alone” or “Speak with purpose or not at all.”

  46. I like the part where he says “Hide not your talents”. So much of what counts for talent gets lost in the deluge of useless noise. I wonder what Ben would think of the media today when almost anybody can broadcast. He might say “Blog not for the sake of blogging alone” or “Speak with purpose or not at all.”http://www.s33w.com/vb

  47. This post recently got recirculated via Twitter. Ben Franklin’s words and thoughts truly are innovative in any age. Thank you for reminding us how truth endures through the ages.

    Cheers!

  48. You know, it is not everyday that I see a blog post talking about a historical figure’s involvement with the social media world! I enjoyed it, and basically what I got out of this was that if Franklin were alive today he would be a rich blogger, and my friend on facebook. :) He would probably be a cool Uncle as well!

  49. volume pills says:

    great post..i love the way benjamin franklin was talked about in the social web

  50. Great post. Innovative way of looking at social media.

  51. kalaiadhavan says:

    WHAT A FORCE !!! IN BEJAMIN IS FOUND A PLEASANT MIXTURE OF WISDOM AND PRACTICALITY.

  52. “Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?”

    I love it when people put their talents in the spotlight. It’s a win/win.

  53. Interesting points you find. It is funny to see that along the time, although things changed, Some theories remain the same.
    olivia

  54. you did point out some important factors. Its funny how some of these thoughts have changed.

  55. Cream Leather Bed says:

    Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite and to know that he is a blogger too… That is great…

  56. Len Foster says:

    Great post really like the way you compare what he was doing then to blogging now. The funny thing is I posted on my bloghttp://lenstimemanagement.blogspot.com/ this morning and that post contained content about Benjamin Franklin as well. The Law of Attraction at work?

  57. Thanks for the many quotes. Ben Franklin was a man for all times.

  58. Thanks for the many quotes. Ben Franklin was a man for all times.2

  59. Besides benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite, he put their talents in the spotlight

  60. Ben Franklin is right up there with Samuel Clemens in terms of my all time favorite pithy saying-ist. Thanks for this!

  61. Hans Georg says:

    I haven’t read much of Franklin’s writing, but I think I will search out more after this article. I love interesting and quirky facts about historical figures. I had no idea Franklin wrote about so many diverse topics.

  62. Cheap Louis vuitton bags says:

    you did point out some important factors. Its funny how some of these thoughts have changed.

  63. Benjamin franklin was a blogger before blogging existed, thats a nice way to look at it. Excellent collection of Franklin quotes, i love it. They couldn’t be any truer today.

  64. There is no doubt. He is really the best. I wish that all of us, bloggers or not, would be like him where he just think of us being civil to each other, and thus will prevent conflicts and even war.

  65. How I found your site: I googled “what did ben franklin know? perfect answer. in my opinion, he is the most relevant of our founding fathers.

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