In high school English, I was taught  there are only three stories in this world: Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man and Man vs. Self. That’s it. Three plot lines that explain every tale in the world, fictitious and real. Everything from the Bible to Frankenstein to Fifty Shades of Grey falls into at least one of these categories. So in essence, every story in the world has already been written and rewritten ad infinitum, ever since the first cavemen told stories around their fires. They only vary in their form and their details.

It’s true in literature, and, as authors Muhammad Yasin and Ryan Brock argue in their ebook Nothing New: An Irreverent History of Social Media, it’s true in marketing. Sure, social media is a new tool–its form is new. But the content is as old as the hills, using marketing principles that stretch back to the time of Caesar Augustus, one of the canniest  propagandists who ever lived.

The crux of the argument in the first chapter of the book is that in social media marketing, the message is far more important than the channel. With social media, we all get caught up in the idea of composing the perfect tweet, writing the blog post according to the secret formula to success we’ve all read about, conforming to norms and conventions. But what so many marketers forget is that all that’s window dressing. You have to understand it, sure. You have to know how each channel works and have a firm grounding in people’s expectations for the medium. But when you strip all that away, what you need is a good story. A good message. Something that’s going to make people remember you, like you, call, click and buy. Everything else? That’s just noise.

Nothing New might prove a bit abstract for some–the book candidly reveals  it isn’t a how-to book, instead preferring to delve into Greek and Roman history, with later chapters promising to examine the Battle of Trafalgar and a New England newspaper. This isn’t a book that’s going to teach you how to do social media marketing, it’s a book that will teach you to think about social media marketing, which I appreciate. Teach a man to fish, et cetera. Tactics are different for every business, but the underlying principles never change. It’s always just us against the world, trying to win hearts and minds and make a sale.

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