The rise of social media and its impact on global communications

 In Blog

Launched in 2010 by Mashable, #SMDay celebrates social media and its influence on global communication. So, what better day to look back at how social media platforms have evolved over the past two decades, and how it’s impacted marketing strategies?

Originating in early 1997 by SixDegrees.com, it’s fair to say, social media has developed a lot! My first experiences of social media were Myspace and Bebo (some people reading this will have no idea what I’m talking about but I did love Bebo!).

Next I joined Facebook. Facebook launched in 2004 and I created my profile in 2007, which was the year that I was leaving high school and starting university, and we used this as a platform to stay in touch and chat – after all WhatsApp didn’t exist!

I, and many others, believe Facebook was the single platform that changed the social media scene for good, and furthermore marketing communications as a whole. It’s shifted how we as humans interact – sometimes in a positive way, and sometimes not. What’s impressive is that still to this day it’s the number one social network site worldwide, with over 2.6 billion monthly active users (that means around 92% of all social media users have a Facebook account!).

Today, consumers have a plethora of social media channels to engage with. Some platforms are more popular than others, but each platform has a loyal audience, no matter what size. Here’s just a snapshot of the current market:

  • Twitter – a fast-paced network allowing users to share information instantly (but in limited characters)
  • Snapchat – a ‘temporary’ social media that only allows users to share content for up to 24 hours
  • Pinterest – a visual-first aspirational platform
  • LinkedIn – a site for professional careers
  • Instagram – a visual platform all about grabbing people’s attention through an image or short video
  • TikTok – video content and endless hours of entertainment

Social media marketing

From a marketing perspective, the likes of Facebook and other social platforms has altered how companies market themselves, but for the consumer, it means we are bombarded with more marketing messages than ever before.

It is estimated that the average person is now likely to encounter between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every single day! That’s almost double that of 2007. The internet, new technologies and social media are all contributing factors here. And so it reminds us marketers that we have to work incredibly hard to cut through that noise. Today our communications need to be short, sharp and snappy – they also need to be visual and striking – because our attention span is shorter than ever. We’re limited to how many characters we can use, how long a video can be, and people can essentially switch off with one touch of a button!

On the positive side, the biggest advantage to digital marketing is how targeted we can be by setting advertising parameters. Social media also allows a brand to build a community, engaging with their consumers and ultimately humanising their brand more than ever before.

The future

Today there are 2.8 billion social media users worldwide. With technology now ubiquitously available for the younger generations, this number will continue to rise.

For many big brands, it’s about understanding how to capitalise on the platforms available, and continually expanding their marketing efforts to ensure they get the most exposure on each platform. But not all platforms will be relevant – it’s about understanding what will work for your brand.

That said, social media marketing forms one part of a marketing puzzle, and brands still need to consider other channels to reach their audience, be it direct comms, email marketing or search engine.

One thing is for sure, I’m very intrigued to see what the ‘next big’ social platform will be, and if Facebook will ever be knocked off the top spot…

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