Social media’s evolution has been driven by both the human desire to communicate and digital technology. It’s a story about building and maintaining personal connections on a large scale.
Merriam-Webster defines social media as “forms electronic communication (such websites for social networking or microblogging) through the use of which users create online communities to exchange information, ideas and other content (such videos),” according to a 2019 Pew
Research Center study. This number was only 5% in 2005, the year that Facebook launched.
This article examines the history of social media and its rapid growth as a commercial and sociological force. It also discusses the changes it has brought about in the marketing industry.
A Brief History of Social Media
Social media has transformed from a direct electronic information exchange to a virtual gathering place to a retail platform to essentially a 21st century marketing tool in merely ten years.
How did it all begin? How has social media impacted the lives of billions? How has the digital consumer lifestyle influenced how businesses adapt? What are the marketing professionals’ strategies for using social media? This is all part of the ongoing evolution of social media.
Social media was in a sense born on May 24, 1844 with a series of electronic dots and dashes that were tapped by hand on a telephone machine.
Samuel Morse’s first electronic message, sent from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., showed that he understood the historical implications of his scientific accomplishment. He wrote, “What has God done?”
The Washington Post recently published an article entitled “Before Twitter, Facebook, There Was Morse Code” that details the history of Morse code. It includes early versions of “OMG”, and “LOL” today.
Although digital communication has deep roots, modern accounts of the modern origins and evolution of social media and the internet point to the 1969 emergence of the Advanced
Research Projects Agency Network — known as the ARPANET.
The United States Department of Defense created this early digital network that allowed scientists from four interconnected universities to exchange software, hardware and other data.
The NSFNET, a stronger, more widespread digital network, was launched by the National Science Foundation in 1987. In 1997, the first social media platform was created.
The Launch of Social Sites
According to the history of social networking on the technology news site Digital Trends “The History of Social Networking”, the internet’s growth allowed the introduction of online communication platforms such as CompuServe and America Online in the 1980s and 1990s.
They allowed users to use digital communication via email, bulletin boards messaging and real-time online chat.
This was the beginning of social media networks. The Six Degrees profile uploading system in 1997 was the first to go live.
Friendster followed this service in 2001. These basic platforms were used by millions of people and allowed for email address registration as well as basic online networking.
With the launch of LiveJournal’s 1999 publishing site, weblogs (or blogs) became a popular form of early digital social communication. This was also the time that Pyra Labs launched the Blogger publishing platform, which was later acquired by Google in 2003.
LinkedIn was established in 2002 as a network site for professionals who are career-minded. It had more than 675,000,000 users by 2020. It is still the most popular social media platform for job seekers and human resource managers looking for qualified candidates.
After a brief burst in initial success, two other major ventures into social media failed. Myspace was launched in 2003. It was the most popular website on the internet by 2006. This was due to the ability of users to upload new music directly from their profiles.
It was overtaken by Facebook in 2008. Justin Timberlake bought Myspace for $35 million in 2011. Since then, it has become an afterthought social media platform.
Google+ was launched in 2012 as a way for Google to get into the social media space. After a data security breach that compromised the private information of almost 500,000 Google+ users, a rough existence ended in 2018.
Modern Social Media Outlets
There are many services available today in the social media world. They compete for users’ attention with more than 5 billion worldwide mobile device users. Here’s a list of the top social media networks for 2020.
It was founded in 2004 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg. According to Pew Research, 69% of U.S. adults use it.
Reddit was founded in 2005 by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, both 20-year-olds from Massachusetts. It started out as a news-sharing site. Since then, it has grown to be a combination news aggregation/social comment site. Reddit’s popularity lies in its ability to “up-vote”, and “down-vote,” user posts.
According to Pew Research, Twitter was founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams. Biz Stone and other microblogging sites were used by 22% of Americans by 2020.
Instagram was founded in 2010 by Kevin Systrom, a Stanford graduate. It is now used by more than 1,000,000 people worldwide.
Ben Silbermann, an iPhone app developer, founded Pinterest in 2010. It was originally created as a visual “pinboard” and became a publicly traded company. In 2019, Pinterest has over 335 million users.
This video-sharing site was founded in 2011 by three Stanford students, Evan Spiegel, Reggie Brown and Bobby Murphy. It introduced the concept “stories,” which are serialized short videos. “Filters” allow for digital effects that are informative and often based on location.
This short-form video-sharing website was founded in 2016 by Chinese tech company ByteDance. In 2018, it was merged with Musical.ly, a U.S-based mobile app. It quickly became popular among American teens and young adults. It had over 800 million users around the world as of early 2020.
Social media: End users and businesses
As cellular service expanded, the capabilities of mobile phones increased, making them “smartphones”. High-speed wireless internet became easier to access in homes, offices, and public places.
End users can now take their social media communities wherever they go with them thanks to the availability of apps for smartphones that allow them to use social media.
This new consumer mobility allowed businesses to offer their customers simpler ways to interact and allow them to buy goods and services in new ways.
The End-User Experience
Social media was created to allow end users to connect digitally with their friends, family, colleagues and other like-minded people they may not have met face-to-face. Access to online bulletin boards such as CompuServe or Prodigy from your desktop made it possible to create free online communities without leaving the comfort of your home.
Smartphones have liberated social media from desktop and laptop computers. Steve Jobs’ 2007 launch of the first iPhone made it possible to shift the focus from desktop and laptop computers to online community building. In the mobile app world, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram thrived.
Technological advances, specifically the powerful in-phone camera, have shifted mobile apps’ focus to images and video. End users can now broadcast live, in addition to writing messages.
Particularly, Instagram became the preferred app for those who are interested in entertainment, fashion and other visually-oriented topics.
The Business Experience
The business applications of Facebook and Twitter began to emerge as social media companies expanded their user base into the hundreds of million range. Social media companies had some of the most valuable and trackable user data ever created.
IAS Insider’s “The Evolution of Social Media Advertising” article summarizes the situation: “Users don’t log in and browse. They tell platforms their name, where they live, what interests them, and who they know. This gives marketers the best picture of specific consumers they can get.”
Facebook allowed ads to be placed on its platform from 2006, before it was even created. In 2010, Twitter allowed ads to be placed on its platform. LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat all attempted to monetize services using sponsored advertising.
Companies discovered the value of having a social media presence. While social media advertising is a paid service, creating and sharing informational or entertaining content on
Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are a way for brands to reach their audience organically.
According to HubSpot’s “Social Media Marketing The Ultimate Guide”, companies use organic social media marketing in order to:
- Brand awareness can be increased
- Increase conversions and generate leads
- Establish and maintain relationships with customers
- Learn from your competitors
Social media marketing is a digital marketing specialty that combines advertising or paid social media marketing with organic social media outreach.
How Marketing Pros Utilize Social Media
Marketing professionals quickly learned to adapt to the increased reach of social media. The evolution of social media provided measurement tools that allowed marketing professionals unprecedented access and actionable data about consumers’ buying habits, demographics, and other important information.
Marketers are no longer restricted to traditional media such as TV, radio, print and mail. The social media marketing industry was created.
Take Advantage of Social Media’s Popularity
Leveraging existing audiences is the best way to capitalize on social media’s popularity. Digital marketers use social media “influencers”, who share messages and product offers to their followers.
According to Sprout Social’s article, “What Is Influencer Marketing? How to Develop Your Strategy,” “influencer marketing” is defined as “a form of social media marketing that uses endorsements or product mentions by influencers — people who have a dedicated following and are considered experts in their field.”
These social media influencers invest time in building trust with their followers. There are more than 3.2 billion users of social media worldwide. Finding influencers that appeal to the company’s target audience helps cut through the noise and help you target specific buyers.
Influencers can provide companies with a layer of consumer trust. However, social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn offer in-depth analytics that enable digital marketers to target specific demographics with ads. This is a great way to build brand awareness and generate leads for specific products and services.
Engagement and Integration: The Importance
The various responses to a post on social media are called social media engagement. These can include comments and follows, shares (retweets) on Twitter, and clicks on shared links. Thanks to the analytics provided by social media platforms (Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn Page Analytics etc.), all of these actions can be measurable. .
Marketers have the opportunity to influence customers or groups of customers through each of these engagements. A company that monitors its Twitter account in real-time, either via an automated service or in person, is better positioned to respond to customers’ comments or
Data that tracks users’ behavior over time can also be used to integrate into a long-term strategy for social media. Facebook Insights, for example, shows users who are the most active on the site. This information can be used for determining the best time to publish new content. It will give it a greater chance of being seen.
Marketers can also use social media to track cultural trends and, where appropriate, to
incorporate brand-specific concepts to encourage customers to engage with company content.
Personifying the Company
Another article by Sprout Social, “5 Actionable Strategy for Social Media Branding,” offers guidelines on how social media can help a company develop its public voice. The digitally savvy consumer today expects brands to have a strong and authentic personality. Sprout Social offers the following tactical advice:
- Use consistent visual branding across social media platforms
- Make sure your tone reflects the brand’s public image
- Market personas that are based on social media metrics can be adapted to suit your needs.
Companies that fail to establish a consistent and engaging social media presence in today’s competitive market aren’t taking full advantage of all the marketing tools available.
The Future of Social Media
The changing business model and advances in storytelling technology will influence what happens in social media. How will giant platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and others make money in the future? How will users adapt? How can businesses use social media to spread their message and build an audience? These questions will help determine the evolution of social
Premium Social Media Services
What is the future of social media? Entrepreneur recently published “11 Ways Social Media will Evolve in Future” and stated that consumers will gravitate to services that offer them this ability.
- Personalize content to a fine level
- Reducing the amount of conflict and vitriol that is common on social media platforms for public consumption
- Protecting privacy should be given more attention
- Mobile devices are more useful than ever.
- Focus on building community
Entrepreneur suggests that this could lead to a shift towards paid subscriptions on social media. Marketing professionals will have to adapt to the changing demands of social media users, while still maintaining a brand voice.
Social Media Video
According to Entrepreneur, video content will also be a growing focus for social media. According to Social Media Today, video marketing is already a significant part of the U.S. market. It will be a
$135 Billion industry by 2020.
According to HubSpot’s 2020 “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics”, video was the No. 1
medium. HubSpot’s “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2020” revealed that video was the No.1 media form used in content marketing in 2019, surpassing blogs, e-books and other forms. Based on Wyzowl’s latest data, “The State of Video Marketing 2020 [New Data]”, video’s popularity as a marketing tool will continue to grow.
The survey revealed that 88% of marketers saw positive returns on their investment in video. Most importantly, 59% said that they intended to use video in 2020 and beyond.
What’s next for social media?
Only the imagination of its stakeholders can determine the future of social media. A brief history of the industry shows that rapid changes — technological advances, greater financial
requirements, shifting cultural dynamics — will transform current social media landscape.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be the next Google+ or MySpace. Will Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook build on the successes of their predecessors as entrepreneurs? Is social media still relevant as technology advances?
Social creatures are human beings. Commerce is driven by human interaction. These two facts will continue shaping the evolution of social media in the next decade.