old school computer - history of social media

40 Year History of Social Media

Social media includes all the websites and platforms that allow businesses and individuals to share content and to participate in digital networking. With the rise of technology and Internet usage in the early 2000s, social media platforms and social networks have become game-changers for connecting and engaging with others. Yet, most people are not aware that the history of social media dates back in the late 1960s!

Social Media Has Been with Us for Four Decades

The history of social media is credited mostly to the last decade with social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. While these social sites most definitely propelled it to new heights, the truth is, they don’t represent the original social networking platforms.

Would you believe me if I told you that social media networks started in 1969?

The reality is that email and bulletin board services (BBS) should be credited with the foundation of the social media revolution of the 2000s. Prior to that, we didn’t have the digital culture, aka mindset, of communicating and engaging through online services.

The Path to Social Networking Success

As with any other modern tool, most business professionals initially didn’t see its importance and influence on their future marketing strategies. Organizations were adamant to adapt to the digital age that was coming because most were too focused on “what’s working now”. They were reluctant to invest time and money to deploy marketing strategies toward the use of such networking sites.

Social Media Marketing is a Mindset

When my book Marketing 2.0 launched in 2009, I wrote that the biggest obstacle to successful social media marketing by any business is the mindset shift needed to adopt the social culture.

Three years later we still face the same issue. We’ve made progress, but I argue not that much. It doesn’t matter that we have more social media communication and engagement channels today than we did in 2005 or 2009. Social networking platforms like Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Foursquare weren’t here or popular in 2009. But, so what? The social media sites your business uses don’t drive success.

If your business doesn’t have the mindset to use social media marketing to connect, engage, share and build trust with your current and prospective future customers, you’re totally missing the point of social platforms. And, it doesn’t matter if you’re a B2C or B2B.

Social Media Becomes Social Business

In 2011, social media becomes social business. Some may consider this a play on words. But, those enterprises who have truly embraced the social media mindset understand what it means to be a social business.

A social business understands that it is B2H (business to human). Others prefer the phrase H2H (human to human). Whichever phrase works for you, consider the first word in the phrase social business – “social.” Businesses that only use social media sites as broadcasting and advertising platforms are not social. Rather, these businesses are ignoring the “social” aspect and instead just using the “media” part to re-purpose yesterday’s marketing tactics across social media channels.

A true social business understands at the executive level the importance of employee’s participation in engaging with customers, other employees, suppliers, partners, their local community and even competitors through digital channels. A true social business understands the importance of authentic engagement with the community. A true social business understands how to deliver a relevant and pleasant experience that may have no sales call-to-action through digital channels. And, a true social business understands that employees have the potential to build a personal brand that can have a halo effect on the business.

The naysayers argue that only the marketing communications department is responsible for social engagement with customers. But, you can visit the Social Business Index to see how many businesses are being measured on these relatively new criteria.

Social Marketing is a Path to Social Business

I would like to believe that 2012 is the year of the social business. But, I am a realist. It will take a few more years for organizations to get the DNA of social business.

So, I propose that businesses consider a bridge to social business through social marketing. Candidly, it’s somewhat semantics, but for many businesses, it’s a viable bridge. Many businesses are simply not ready to become a social business. By embracing social networks as communication and engagement channels, these businesses can begin to transition toward becoming a social business.

One critical element of social marketing as a bridge to social business is to encourage employee participation through social networking and employee advocacy programs. Every business has the opportunity to leverage the social participation of its employees on relevant and popular social networking sites.

It starts with an invitation. By inviting employees to share relevant content that is engaging to your target community, the business begins to build the mindset of a social business.

Embrace Social Networking

As we learned from above, the progression of social media is going in an upward trend when used to increase brand visibility, credibility, and networking with prospects and clients. Jumping into this trend will do great things for the future success of your business.

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11 thoughts on “40 Year History of Social Media”

  1. You do make some excellent points in your post, Social Media Has Been With Us 40 Years. I especially like the H2H or human to human concept. As with any new technology, it takes time for people to overcome the barrier that the technology creates. After a while, it does integrate into the culture. Guidelines and instructions for how best to use 'social marketing' are helpful. But for me, I 'get' a social media tool when I 'understand it provides a specific, valuable means of communication for me'. For example, I used to hate twitter and I loved facebook. I still love facebook. Suddenly, I have just 'gotten' twitter. So folks are likely to see me @mktngbytesmaven @AlisonsArt and @AlisonDGilbert. I always have something to share and this allows me to do it quicker and easier than by any other means. I get it. It no longer has a technological barrier to me. It is a friendly tool for H2H communication.

  2. lifespanrecycling

    Actually, "social" – or as you aptly describe it H2H – communication has been around for centuries. A recent article, I think in the Economist, suggested that the first social media was the printing press. And an early example of the power of social communication based on what people read/saw/shared is the Reformation. Martin Luther (and later his supporters) was able to quickly and inexpensively create hundreds of copies of his "post." People handed these off to other people in their network, posted them on their own church doors, etc. The result – a major movement that created the Protestant church. Sharing with friends and colleagues, posting, and shouting out are human social behaviors. The only new thing is the tools, and the ease and speed with which we can now communicate. If we approach the use of these tools with H2H, not just technology, in mind we can probably be more successful.

    1. While I agree that the social H2H communication has been around for centuries, my article is focused on the use of digital technologies. The social networks as we know them (Facebook, etc.) were launched around 2004 but the other digital tools I mention date back to about 1970. These social tools empowered people to communicate with each other using digital technologies. The example you share is most definitely a social movement that predates the availability of digital technologies. I think we're making the same point but about two different media formats. Make sense?

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Great article. I agree with lifespanrecycling. The thing with social media got its hype as Bernie said in 2004, but the H2H communication and interaction has existed since we know it. The Industrial revolution, Colonization etc brought a revolution in technology, network was developed etc. I skip the press (also a techological artifact) Later we got radio, Cinema, TV, all technology adopted by users first in order to get the concept of marketing in it. where there is no adoption of a technology, there is no usage, thus no marketing. Digital Technologies have always existed. If for many Digital technologies start with Facebook, for others Digital Technologies started with Yahoo, Google, Amazon while for many The dictionary was a Thesaurus (hence a technology) and for some Altavista started it with translation, Information filtering and Documentary research (Boolean) Online. So the detabe about the thing of digital vs technology does not do justice to the concept of social. Technology remains technology whatever it is called: Press, TV, Email, Facebook, Geocity, Talkcity, ICQ. It's about the usage the users made of it that defines it > This defines success and failure of the technology.

    1. John,
      I agree that the social aspect has been with us since the beginning of time. It's been said that social media as we know it, is wildly popular because it scratches an itch we have to be social. So, as you point out, regardless of the technology, it's all social.

      Fun discussion…Thanks for your input!

  4. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after looking at many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

  5. Tamera Seferovic

    I like looking through a post that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

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  8. AlexanderConner

    Currently the social networking is at its peak point. The biggest game players are facebook, twitter, Google+ etc. The social media sites your business uses don’t drive success. If your business doesn’t have the mindset to use social media as channels to connect, engage, share and build trust with your current and prospective future customers.

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