FRIENDSTER, MYSPACE, FACEBOOK, TWITTER – what more can we have in the coming years? These social networking sites have been setting the whole online world ablaze for several years now. Today, new words have been lexiconized like tweet, digg, wall posts, aggregator, atom feeds, blog and the like. Many of these have become household names to some extent.
The comfy lifestyle and convenience that these social networking sites have brought to internet savvy users have become much priceless that tens of millions of people have been signing up, updating and maintaining their social media pages daily or to some extent, even 24/7. Several years back, on the early conception period of these online social media sites, the situation was much different than it is today.
To say that social networking sites have improved is an understatement. In all fairness, the social networking market has grown and heightened by light years in a span of a decade or so. To measure the extent of improvement that social networking have achieved and surpassed, it is necessary to open the book of its times of yore– how was social networking in the past decade and how far has social networking trekked in that span of years?
A brief history of Social Networking sites would be a good place to start off before we get into how Social Media has evolved.
Social Networking in the Pre-90s Era
Many people would think that the first online social networks appeared in the 90s decade, being the moment when internet service providers were on the loose. The truth is, the use of online social networks has actually been used since the 70s through the innovativeness of Ward Christensen, a former IBM employee and Randy Suess.
Initially, they envisioned a place where they can immediately contact their co-employees for announcements, i.e. meetings, reports, and other affairs, rather than making multiple phone calls, distributing memos, and the like. They were looking into creating a computerized bulletin board, which is why they named the program CBBS (Computerized Bulletin Board System).
Soon enough, more and more employees came chipping in with their ideas and comments in the said online community. That event was a momentous episode in the history of computer and internet. It was the birth of online social networking.
Luckily, the CBBS platform was made known to other companies and luckily, has been used for specific purposes. It’s breaking into the mainstream was inevitable and sooner than they thought, the Bulletin Board System was expanding largely.
The Rise of the Dot-Coms
It was during the rise of the Internet Service Providers during the early 1990s when social networking sites began to flourish. Along with the availability of internet service to people, many people rummaged to have themselves acquainted with this new technology.
With the fast response of people to the budding internet community, the bulletin boards which were usually used by companies have started to expand their roles by offering their service to more people around the globe.
More and more people joined the bandwagon with the innate goal of creating an identity in the online space and at the same time exploring the vast place that is the internet. Because of this many internet savvy companies gave what people wanted- getting to know more people and sharing common interests and points of view; that is through websites where they can socialize, websites which we now call SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES.
The Birth of the Forerunners
BEVERLY HILLS INTERNET, which was eventually named GEOCITIES, was probably one of the earliest most popular social networking sites. It was initially created to allow users to create free homepages in specified cities/areas which the users would choose from. It was bought by Yahoo for several billions only to lose it in the third quarter of this year.
During the reign of Geocities, many other similar sites mushroomed. Sites like TRIPOD and ANGELFIRE came into existence and soon, these sites came competing face off. Practically all of these sites provided users with the same features and user-experience, being able to create their own identity on the web, connecting with people of similar interest and getting to know more people online.
CLASSMATES.COM was a very wise move because it targeted not only those youths who are enthusiastic about the internet, it made possible the participation of adults by giving them the chance to reunite with their old classmates and buddies, see how their ex-crushes were doing and the like. This flavor which Classmates.com has added was an ingredient never present in the previous social networking sites, thus making classmates.com as one of the earliest most successful online communities.
The same way other sites have gone through, classmates.com suffered from hard blows left and right, rooted from their monthly subscriptions, spams, and other ambiguities on the site.
The Internet Bubble Era
This era is referred as such because of the increasing demand for internet services in different sectors of business. The role of the internet during this era is growing by exponents it was followed by the internet boom- an era of steady internet growth in the market, and eventually the Bubble Burst which hurt both established and fledgling internet companies.
During this era, one of the best things that happened in the history of the internet is the discovery of Instant Messaging. It greatly shaped the mode of communication and up to these days, IM is still and probably will forever be widely used.
REUNION.COM, started to redo what classmates.com had done while expanding the latter’s function and features. However, everything remained very liquid before and the life of a social networking site is highly contested by mushrooming sites with similar purposes and functions.
SIXDEGREES.COM, on the other hand, was also conceived at this era. The said social networking site is considered a forerunner in the field of social networking as it has many similarities with the social networking sites popular nowadays. Basically, sixdegrees.com created circles of friends via online registration and matching-up of likes, dislikes, interests, or what have you.
The Golden Period of Social Networking
Social network reached the almost-pinnacle of success with the launch of the then very popular FRIENDSTER.COM. Creator of Friendster Jonathan Abrams concocted a perfect mix of popular features from earlier social networking predecessors. Friendster became an instant celebrity and gathered about three million members who signed up in its early months of launch.
As years passed, Friendster reached an overwhelming hundred million users from all over the globe. With much demand from its users, Friendster unfortunately got out of hand and suffered from too many glitches in the server. Today, Friendster has been announced as a newly owned entity of a Malaysian Company, and outshone by present social networking sites but still remains to be patronized most especially in Asia.
The conception of MYSPACE.COM opened the internet users to vast opportunities of self-expression which includes wide control over a user’s profile content. Practically different people from all walks of life have dedicated pages in MySpace- may he be an artist, a budding rock star, a preacher, a politician, whatever background he has. In MySpace, users experienced the best of creating unique identities to show to the online world.
MySpace remained as the uncontested favorite among all the social networking sites until 2005 when it met its future competitor in the market. Soon enough, MySpace created additional features like application, mobile features and the like in order to keep up with the latest trends in the online community; and at the same time be at par with the growing popularity of contemporary social networking sites, more specifically the next thing in line.
Face-Off with Facebook
Facebook started as a local social network made for the students of Harvard. Being Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild, Facebook was actually made by hacking Harvard’s database containing ID images of students. The initial idea was actually to compare students’ faces with images of animals, for entertainment purposes. However, due to the potentially damaging contents of the site, the creators decided to put it down before it catches the attention of school authorities.
Although shut down, the idea of creating an online community of students came to existence. The platform was then improved and sooner than they expected, Facebook was released in campuses other than Harvard. Thereafter, high schools were already starting to get attracted with the idea of having online communities, thus opening the site to the younger population.
It was in 2006 when FACEBOOK.COM ultimately offered the opportunity to the rest of the world. As 2007 approached, the registrants reached an overwhelming digit- roughly a million dozen. Facebook has grown to become the biggest and most popular social networking site today with a population of about 350 million active users, surpassing the entire American population of 307 million. With 70% of the Facebook population outside the US, Facebook has indeed set the online world on fire.
Growing Social Networking Trends
Other social networking sites continued to appear in the scene. Blogging sites like BEBO, MULTIPLY and many others came into view. MICROBLOGGING partnered with social networking became popular with the launch of TWITTER. In Twitter, online users can post their Tweets, basically a 140 character phrase or line about what they have in mind.
With the help of API (Application Programming Interface), microblogging sites like Twitter and Tumblr and other dedicated sites like Flickr, Photobucket and many others were able to connect with popular social networking sites, making an unending link of information in the World Wide Web.
Waiting For the Next Rocket to Come
Social networking sites have changed the way people live and interact for more than a decade’s existence. People from one corner of the planet can reach out with others in real time, artists can be created and re-created even without the director’s lights-camera-action spiel, old friends meet again, and new acquaintances occur every second of the day. Lifestyle has been radically altered by social networking sites, all to the benefit of the majority.
What these social networking sites hold for us in the years to come? We still haven’t got any idea but one thing’s for sure; social networking sites will continue to improve the lifestyle of online people in the years to come.
Evolution of Social Media and Social Media Marketing
Today people around the world are transforming how news is broadcasted throughout the world. Social Networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, etc, etc, are providing live broadcasting of real life events as they take place. This is really putting a lot of financial pressure on traditional media market.
People using their platform created on one of these social networking sites are able to broadcast to thousands of people within minutes of an event taking place. Those that are receiving the information can then disseminate that information further to their own viewers/followers. The news tends to spread like a wildfire and before you know it millions of people across the world is talking about it. This is the new information super highway. User generated content played a larger role in spreading the news in 2009; however it is expected to play even a larger role in 2010 and beyond. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of Social Media.
As consumers are spending more and more time defining their own content and distributing their own contents, the marketers are taking advantage of the situation to market their products using social networking sites. This concept is called Social Media Marketing – using sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and other sites to market, sell and to provide services such as customer care.
Social Media experts are able to take advantage of the people power and create a buzz around a product or a service they are marketing. Using this buzz, they are able to get the word out to thousands, if not millions, of people in a matter of hours. This sort of marketing is cost effective and tends to reach many more consumers than traditional marketing.
Today, according to a survey done by CMO Survey, about 3.5% of the marketing budgets is spent on Social Media Marketing. This figure is expected to grow to 13.7% within the next five years. Therefore, you can expect more and more players entering the social media market and as a consumer you should expect to take part in it. You should be able to make money with Social Media. In order to do that, you should build a community around you. You should have your own fans and people that follow you. If you don’t have a community around you, I suggest you start one today either at Twitter, Facebook or even setup your own blog. It will definitely help you down the road.