Friday, March 18, 2011

A Glimpse Into The History Of Social Media

I'm currently enrolled in Full Sail University's Internet Marketing Masters program. This is a paper I wrote for one of my classes. I thought this would be a good blog post.

A commonly occurring debate among marketers is the original social medium. Some marketers say it was email, others say it was social bookmarking, and a few say it was Facebook. As this debate continues amongst the experts and gurus, there is no doubt that social media marketing is here to stay. To understand why the social media industry is popular, one must understand where it first began to know where it is going.

Industry expert Jeremiah Owyang (2009) points out that first and largest social network created was email. The reasons it is a social network are that it allows users to identify other users through a profile such as a signature, and it allows users to make connections by responding to each other’s emails. Also, peer ratings sent via email are just as trusted as they would be in a blog or wall post. Owyang also made a prediction that as social networks began to grow they would match email platforms or become the same as an email platform. With the release of Facebook’s new messaging platform in 2010, this prediction is proving to be true.

A first, and still widely used form of social networking is instant messenger. Free instant messaging platforms, such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, and Microsoft Messenger allow connected users the ability to share information with one another instantly. Just like twitter, users of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) could reply to one another using @ symbols and # tags to mark certain activities. Now Twitter uses the same language to allow users to communicate with one another and tag events (Borders, 2009).

The first “real social network” created in 1997 was, allowing members to create profiles, invite friends, create groups, and view one another’s profiles. The site required an invite from a friend in order to grow one’s network. As SixDegrees began to push members more and more to invite friends, their social network began to fail (Nickson, 2009). At this point in time only one in three households in the United States owned a personal computer. In conclusion, a poor marketing strategy, plus the lack of in-home computer adoption may have resulted in the shortage of this social network’s adoption (Newburger, 1999).

In 1999 computers became a staple in the home and a new term was coined: “Web 2.0.” The creator of this term, DiNucci (1999) describes Web 2.0 as:

The Web we know now, which loads into a browser window in essentially static screenfulls, is only an embryo of the Web to come. The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear, and we are just starting to see how that embryo might develop. The Web will be understood not as screenfulls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens. (p. 32)

With the coining of this phrase, new forms of Web 2.0 began to emerge, such as social bookmarking. Founded in 2003,, a social bookmarking site, allows users to bookmark sites, create catalogs of those bookmarks, and share them amongst friends. The founder of, Joshua Schachter, describes it as a grassroots hit that didn’t need marketing or advertising for it to take off. All it needed was one person to start using it. Also, Schachter didn’t apply any rules to the network’s tagging system, which allowed members to form rules and methods on their own (Surowiecki, 2006).

Other social bookmarking sites with different themes became popular shortly after the launch of These sites are Slashdot, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Shadows, Ma.gnolia, Furl, diigo, Blogmars, Blinklist, and Digg. Over the past five years, the popularity of these sites has ebbed and flowed depending on redesigns, posting method modifications, and new rules imposed upon users. Today companies are using social bookmarking to help with their search engine optimization strategies. Baker (2007), describes how effective social bookmarking can be for a company’s website: “social bookmarking can introduce a site to the search engines” (¶ 3).

As social bookmarking became popular, social networking began to revamp itself and take off. Two popular social networking sites that have had a major effect on today’s world are Myspace and Facebook. Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, who were working at an Internet marketing company, created Myspace in 2003. Before its creation, their initial fear was that revenue generated from the site through billboards and advertisements wouldn’t be sufficient because of the recent online advertising recession in 2001. Putting their fears aside, they launched Myspace, which became a huge success and hit its stride in 2006. Users could customize their profile pages, upload photos, connect with friends, and share music. The ability to share music allowed Myspace to be the go to place for bands just starting out in the music industry to get noticed (Krantz, 2006).

While Myspace was taking the world by storm, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2003. It was originally launched on the Harvard University campus for students to network with one another online, and it soon began to spread to different colleges within the United States (Carlson, 2010). Users could not customize the aesthetics of their profile page but they could post videos, photos, and status updates.

In 2010, Facebook hit 500 million worldwide users. Unfortunately, at this point in time the popularity and use of Myspace was beginning to dwindle. As a result, 47 percent of Myspace employees were laid off on January 11, 2011 (Nakashima, 2011). A week before the Myspace layoffs, Facebook secured a new round of funding which raised their worth to $50 Billion.

As Facebook grew, a new social medium emerged, Twitter. Nations describes Twitter as “a cross between blogging and instant messaging, though even that doesn't do it justice” (¶ 5). Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has been broadly embraced amongst news reporters, writers, police departments, politicians, bloggers, and even companies. According to Van Grove (2010), over 100 million users signed on to become new members by the end of 2010. On September 10, 2010, TechCrunch reported 90 million tweets were sent daily (Rao, 2010).

In the past ten years businesses, consumers, and government have seen the world adopt social media in all its different forms. As Facebook and Twitter gain in popularity and user rankings, other issues do arise regarding privacy and content piracy. In the past, as other media such as television, radio, and newspapers grew, major regulations were needed to keep consumers safe and data from being pirated. Whether or not new regulations will help, the next popular media that emerges is going to take the world by storm and shift how information is consumed and produced.


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1 comment:

vickykarin said...

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