Abraham Lincoln and Social Media

When Abraham Lincoln was faced with keeping the United States together during the civil war he was fortunate to have a new technology– the Telegraph. For history buffs this historical record gives us amazing insight into the war as a whole and the mind of President Lincoln himself. Lincoln never kept a diary but the telegraph record gives us a peek at his thoughts and shows us that he was comfortable with new technology.

I recently watched a great program on C-Span (Mr. Lincolns T-Mails) from Tom Wheeler where he speaks about his book, “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.”

No national leader had ever had this technology. Never before was it possible to get a full view of the battlefield all possible with telegram dispatches from every theater of engagement, thoughts of generals, and reports from spy’s. Add to this the speed of communication now available to a commander in chief you could argue it tipped the balance of power for the President and his cause to re-unify the nation.

What About Social Media?

The telegraph was a new technology. This technology was being used in the finance and banking industry but was a little known tool to the national leadership. As an early adopter President Lincoln had to learn how to use it and he had to build a leadership model around it– all while in the middle of the civil war.

The Telegraph (image by

So what is the telegraph? Like social media the telegraph is an electronic form of communication. The telegraph increased the speed at which information and communication could happen, it changed the world, it changed war, and it changed daily life.

Enter social media in today’s modern era– another electronic means of communication. It has increased the speed at which communication happens, it has changed the world, and it has changed daily life.

The Aha Moment

Like all technology advances sometimes it takes a while for people to truly get it. For Lincoln and the Telegraph it took him asking one of his general’s aids if there was anything new on the front. The aid responded “that there was nothing new in the file Sir.”

While this was technically true what Lincoln discovered when he walked into the generals office was a copy of a telegraph with news of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. This discovery made it apparent that the President was not getting a true look at the war as it was happening. This quickly changed as President Lincoln and congress created a new department that was virtually housed next to the president himself. Now came a real time look at the war before him.

Your Aha Moment

I hope for each business owner or person in business today you have had this aha moment with social media. Never before has it been possible to see the thoughts, emotions, and conversations of so many people. Never before has it been possible to learn what your target market likes, dislikes, and talks about. This power is now in your hand and within your reach.

Something As Simple As Hiking

If your target market liked Hiking, what could you learn? (photo by Rick McCharles)

Let’s say your target market has an affinity for hiking. Good thing to know right? Well let’s go deeper with social media and see how this allows you to learn about your target market.

Here is the amount of people I could find on Twitter who list hiking in their bio: 3,965. Now try reading the bio’s from Twitter on people who list hiking. Would this allow you to learn more about your target market? How about learning more about what interests them and what is important to them?

Use social media to get information from Comments, updates and photos on Or use to get strength, sentiment, passion, reach, plus top keywords and users.

Listen and join conversations on Facebook on the Hiking pages here, here, and here. Better yet do a public search on Posts by Everyone on Hiking. Visit some off the profiles… can you learn a little more about your hypothetical hiking target market?

Lincoln Was an Early Adopter and So Are You

Just as President Lincoln used a new technology called the telegraph to get a full picture of a nation at war you can use social media to get a full picture of your market place. No filter, no clerk telling you that there is “nothing new in the file,” just raw actionable intelligence that will help you connect and engage with your target market.

Now think about your target market. How can you use these tools to find more information about them? Can you find more buying trigger points? Are there more ways to emotionally connect your product or service? Can listening in on people’s conversations in real time give you insight you wouldn’t ordinarily have? This new technology– this new form of communication is open for you to explore.

Leave a comment below… tell me what do you think, is there power here?