It’s not to give to the poor (although that would be nice) nor to forsake trousers for green hose, I’m not thinking about Hood’s actions but the history of the legend itself and how it evolved.

I’ve long been obsessed with the origins of the Robin Hood legend, as well as the continuing theories on who was “the real Robin Hood” and the evolution of the story from the original ballads. I particularly love how it’s permeated through the culture, to the extent that there are pubs and roads named for him throughout the country (there’s a Robin Hood Island near me, a good 100 or so miles from Nottingham).

So, what does this have to do with social media

Of course the stories were altered, changed and augmented though conversation, that’s what we learn from any folk tale. Creating characters likeable enough that they attract other people to continue the story is another one, if people do that it’s free advertising. You have to not to be precious, allow your story to evolve.

But did you know it might have been an advert for the medieval version of C&A?

The original “Gest of Robyn Hode” ballad contains far far more references to clothing and cloth types than any comparable literature (almost all literature, except for the minutiae obsessed American Psycho). As well as Robin being named for his hood there are “coats, breeches, shirts and six different colours of cloth” [The QI Book would you believe]. Robin also poses as a draper, selling the King 123 feet of cloth.

This leads to the suspicion that it was a form of viral marketing for clothmakers guilds (members of the Guilds also wore hoods — an attempt to make them heroes by association?).

It seems a good lesson to learn, that if the story you create is interesting enough — and it can be, there are things to tell about almost any process — you can slip the most unusual stuff through. But that’s only half the point, the original Robin Hood ballad would have been told in person, adapting to their surroundings and taking on clues from those listening. Engagement and using the right methods for the right place (groups or Fan Pages on Facebook rather than profiles, listening and responding personably on twitter, trying to be funny or wow on youtube) are part of the solution.

I’m off to get some green tights.