The evolution of social media

“Hey, have you heard from Sharon in a while?”

“Oh no, haven’t talked to her in ages. Apparently she got married recently though.”

In today’s world, keeping tabs on friends doesn’t require a lunch date or phone conversation. Now, you can keep up with your friends just by scrolling through social media.

When social networks hit the scene in the early 2000s, they forever changed how humans communicate and share content. They also provided brands with unprecedented direct access to coveted target audiences.

Of course, the platforms responsible for this revolution have come and gone, with the social media age opening a gateway for individuals and brands to stake a claim in this new digital frontier. We’re tracing the rise and fall of various social media platforms and how user expectations have shifted over time.

The late 1990s - 2000s were the early days of social media, with early networks like MySpace and  digital messaging platforms like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) dominating desktops. Instead of tying up a phone line talking to a single person, now users could speak with multiple friends at once via instant message! Users were adding people on Friendster and sharing photos on Flickr. During this time, social media functioned in its purest form: simple channels for sharing connections and content with other individuals.

As the use of social media continued to grow and the digital age evolved, video streaming platforms like YouTube revolutionized how users consumed and shared content while blogging hit its stride with sites like WordPress. Users no longer simply shared cat videos or recipes into the internet void. Instead, communities emerged around niche content, where anyone could interact with others sharing a common interest.

Enter the 2010s and social platforms enter the age of monetization. Advanced algorithms and cookies are the internet tracking tools driving hyper-targeted social marketing. Size is also a critical piece to the puzzle, with Facebook now the reigning social king with over 2.41 billion active users each month. Combined with the deep user-specific data social giants possess, they can match advertisers with best-fit target audiences proven to interact with certain content, and walk users further down the sales funnel.

Thanks to mobile devices, people can access social feeds and check updates around the clock. What characterizes this content available at users’ fingertips? Size. Social media supports bite-sized posts that are easy to scroll through, like Instagram images and Tweets. Short, succinct is easier to digest and supports immediate engagement through “like” and “retweet” buttons. Human attention spans may be shrinking, but our ability to interpret and interact with an influx of content has grown exponentially.

Which social media platform will be next to rise? How will it affect how users consume content and communicate, and how businesses react? Only time will tell.

For a detailed view of the most popular social platforms of all time, check out this video link.