The History of Social Media

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World Social Media Day was celebrated this month, and what better time to reflect on the history and evolution of social media! This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Facebook, a trailblazing platform that revolutionized the way we connect with each other. Join us, as we reflect on the last 20 years that shaped and defined the diverse social media landscape we know today.

2004-2008: The Beginning

Although social media has been around since the 1990s, the revolution really began in 2004, with the launch of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates. Initially a college networking site, Facebook quickly became a global phenomenon. Around the same time, MySpace focused on personal expression, while LinkedIn targeted professional networking. In 2006, Twitter became the major platform for live updates, and the go-to space for news and social conversation. The first ever YouTube video, entitled ‘Me at the Zoo’, was uploaded to YouTube on April 23, 2005. Since then, the platform has accumulated 122 million daily users.

2008-2012: The Need for a Niche

As Facebook dominated, other platforms found their space on the market. Instagram, launched in 2010, focused on photo sharing and visual storytelling, and attracted a large user base. Pinterest also launched in 2010, allowing users to share visual content via pinboards. Google made attempts to enter the competition with Google+, however it never took off.

2012-2016: The Smartphone Surge

Smartphones transformed social media, as it was now instantly  accessible and integrated into daily life. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, which boosted its growth. Snapchat, launched in 2011, became popular with disappearing messages and Stories, a feature later adopted by Instagram and Facebook. Snapchat also paved the way for augmented reality, when they launched several interactive face filters in 2016, including their ever popular dog filter. This inspired other brands to use AR in their marketing campaigns.

2016-2020: The Influencer Era

Evaluate the success of your user-generated content campaigns via engagement rates, reach, and sentiment analysis. Doing so will show you the scope of your audience, whether they’ve responded positively or negatively to your brand, and it will help you to refine your strategy for future campaigns. Social media management tools such as Agorapulse, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite allow you to manage your metrics all in one place, so you can monitor user-generated content in an effective and efficient manner.

2020-2024: The Social Media Metaverse

The pandemic accelerated social media usage as people wanted to connect and be entertained during lockdown. Platforms like Zoom emerged for virtual communication. Facebook announced its parent company Meta which now owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. This indicated a shift towards the ‘Metaverse’, a virtual reality space for immersive interaction. As of 2024, the landscape continues to evolve with a focus on short-form video, live streaming, and immersive experiences, which has been driven by user preferences and feedback, as well as technological advancements.

The world of social media has transformed over the past 20 years. Although Facebook is still used today, it is surrounded by several other diverse platforms, and together they have changed how we connect and communicate. The rise of new platforms, the impact of smartphones, the influencer boom, and the move towards the Metaverse have all shaped social media as we know it today.

Find more social media and digital marketing insights here.

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