Social Media History…How Did We Get Here

Social networking is a necessity for people as they want to share their thoughts with others. Back in the day, social gatherings and events enabled people to meet and communicate with each other. But the advent of the internet in the late 20th century offered modern ways for communication.

The earliest method of delivering messages to people living at a distance was through letters. They trained pigeons to carry letters to the desired destination and return home with a response from the recipient. It often took days for the bird to fly to and fro and deliver a message.

Then came the telegraph technology in the 1830s, based on the Morse technology invented by Samuel Morse. It’s a lesser-known fact that Morse code technology was the foundation stone of modern social media. It was a telecommunication method in which the sender transmitted their messages through a telegraph machine in the form of dots and dashes.

Morse code has been used throughout the history for transmission of radio signals. During the First and Second World Wars, the US forces relied on this technology for secure communication. Since then, it has been frequently used by the commercial aviation industry as well as for military purposes.

Radio technology and telephone made it easier to remotely communicate with people. But things took a rapid turn after the invention of the internet. An early version of the internet was announced as early as 1970, but it took around two more decades before a commercial version could be developed. The modern-day World Wide Web came into being in 1990 which paved the way for convenient and efficient communication through innovative social platforms.

Early Social Media Sites

Blogging platforms played a major role in the development and massive success of social media networking. The first known blog was called and was developed by a young college student. He referred to this site as Justin’s personal homepage.

John Barger is recognized as the inventor of the term “weblog” that was later shortened to “blog” by Peter Merholz. He is one of the founders of blogging technique and wrote informative blogs about artificial intelligence, internet culture, technology trends, and other progressive areas.

Some interactive blogging platforms originated in that era include OpenDiary, Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, and TypePad.

While social media gained popularity during the first decade of the 21st century, the first known social website was actually launched in 1997. SixDegrees was owned by MacroView and survived only until 2001. It was a unique platform that facilitated users to set up personal profiles, create contact lists, invite friends, and interact with them through short messages. The Bulletin board was another attractive feature for its users. SixDegrees was relaunched a few years later as a private and invite-only platform.

The model was adopted by many other technology companies and several other social websites came out in the early 2000s. Some of these were revamped as dating sites, job searching platforms, and gaming forums. Some examples of such sites include BlackPlanet, Friendster, Xing, Asian Avenue, and Myspace.

Myspace was formed in 2005 and was the first social website to reach 100 million active users per month. They remained the most popular website around the globe between 2005 and 2008. However, their popularity was short-lived and Facebook soon captured their market share. The website is still active, but couldn’t regain its former success.

Social Media in the 21st Century

The beginning of the 21st century was the time when multiple social platforms were launched. Almost every year, a new website is launched and older ones gradually lose their popularity.

Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known social websites that are used for personal as well as business purposes.


With over 2.7 billion monthly active users, Facebook is currently the largest social networking website. It’s an intuitive platform where you can add friends, chat via Facebook Messenger, share your thoughts, and communicate with others via a variety of content such as funny memes, live videos, polls, and 360° photos.

Founded in 2004 by a group of Harvard students, Facebook has captured the interest of marketers. Businesses can build communities around the brand through a business page or group. Aside from posting engaging content, businesses can also attract customers through ads with specific targeting options.

This site is popular mostly among Baby boomers and losing the attention of Generation-Z. Also, statistics suggest that most users access their accounts via smartphones.


Twitter is a microblogging network where users can write posts of up to 20 characters with a limit of maximum 2,400 posts per day. While it’s available across the world, Twitter has the highest number of users in the US and Canada.

Businesses ought to be present here as a majority of people prefer interacting with brands and asking questions through this platform. Furthermore, Twitter users engage with brands more than any other platform and ads offer higher ROI than many other social websites. The key to mastering the Twitter game is by making the most of the right hashtags.

It is popular among affluent people and most users are millennial. As of 2020, 152 million users visit the website on a regular basis.


Launched in 2016, TikTok video sharing app soon became one of the leading social apps around the globe. It was merged with in 2018 and has been downloaded over 1.5 billion times by users. Initially, it was popular among the younger generation, but businesses turned to this platform when they recognized its importance.

Whether you run a business or work as a marketer, you can’t ignore this useful website especially if your target audience actively uses this app. You can benefit from influencer marketing or create challenge hashtags for promoting a product.


YouTube isn’t only the second most popular social website, but it is also ranked amongst the leading search engines.

Marketers make the most of this platform for advertising campaigns. It’s because YouTube ads bring higher ROI than most other social platforms. However, it’s important to remember that the YouTube smartphone app is highly popular and around 70% of YouTube users watch content on their phones.

From how-to videos to product guides, vlogs, online events, testimonials, and employee interviews, you can create different sorts of engaging videos to increase views.

Instagram and Snapchat

Image and video content tend to interest a majority of social media users these days. It’s because visual content is easier to consume and doesn’t take a lot of time. For this purpose, Instagram and Snapchat are your go-to digital marketing platforms.

With over a billion registered users, Instagram offers you the opportunity to expand the reach of your brand. However, the best way to choose the right platform is by determining where your audience is present. Marketers can reach out to their customers through impactful videos, images, infographics, and stories.

For instance, Instagram has more millennial users while Snapchat is Generation-Z’s favorite. Similarly, Insta users earn more than Snapchat users on average.


Launched in May 2003, LinkedIn is one of the oldest social platforms. It was developed to bring businesses on a single platform where they can network with other professionals.

The platform attracts people with a wide range of professions. Businesses can set up profiles and post vacancies for recruitment purposes. Similarly, working professionals can share experiences with their network and look for job offers.

LinkedIn introduced a targeted ad service for businesses in 2005. The latest features include live video sharing, skill development courses, and opinion polls.

There are many other social and messaging platforms that were developed during the first and second decades of this century. Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, WhatsApp, and Qzone are some examples. With the right social marketing strategy, you can effectively build business presence on these websites and expand your customer base.

Blogging Platforms

The rise of blogging platforms in the 21st century paved the way for businesses to increase visibility, interact with the audience, and learn about their thoughts and experiences.

The initial blogging platforms were quite complex, but with technology developments, anyone can create a blog without breaking the bank. When it comes to blogging, there are many options such as Wix, Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, etc. With these content management systems, it’s no longer a challenge to publish informative content for the right audience.

Whether you wish to start a personal blog or need one for business needs, you can easily host it on these websites for a reasonable price. As of December 2020, over 31.7 million people publish blogs in the US alone.

Medium is another reputable online publishing website where registered users can post content for followers and read posts from other authors. It’s a great way to produce and promote content and engage with people with similar mindsets. The platform offers different membership plans to users.



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Intro to Social Media by Cheryl Lawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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