Social media is omnipresent in our world. That’s got us thinking — when was the last time you actually sat down with an issue of People Magazine for your pop culture news? And when was the last time you scrolled through TikTok? Exactly. Well, just like your favorite tabloid (we know you still read them at the doctor’s office) we’re going to take a look at our favorite (and not-so-favorite) platforms and compare them then and now. It’s a bit of a long and winding road, so take a break from scrolling Instagram to sit back, relax, and read about the evolution of social media and impact of these platforms, their unique features, and their role in our lives and marketing.
A Short Trip to the Metaverse
Then: MySpace, Now: Facebook
Let’s throw it back to 2005 when MySpace was the King of the Hill. MySpace was a free social networking site used to keep in touch with friends, “meet” and become friends with new people, and potentially alienate your friends if they weren’t in your Top 8. Sound familiar?
When Facebook (founded in 2004) gained popularity, MySpace sharply declined. To this day, Facebook remains a popular platform for connecting with friends, family, and those you might not like, sharing personal updates, and following news and events. Today, Facebook remains one of the most influential platforms globally and has spun into the Metaverse.
Then: Snapchat, Now: Instagram
Snapchat was released in September 2011. Popular among millennials and Gen Z, the original concept for Snapchat was groundbreaking. ‘Snaps’ allows users to send temporary pictures or videos via direct message. Snapchat’s innovation made it a top social media channel. It remains popular with younger users.
Instagram started as an independent photo-sharing platform before it was purchased by Facebook (now Meta). Ideal for sharing photos of your cat, reels of your vacation, or short stories promoting any content that you might want to disappear after 24 hours, Instagram has become a hub for influencers, creatives, and businesses looking to showcase their products and services. Instagram’s disappearing Stories feature and messaging platform have helped the platform surpass Snapchat’s users, though Instagram has a slightly older audience. If we must take a side, we think Instagram with its 1.4 billion monthly active users is here to stay.
If Mark Zuckerberg has anything to say about it, we will all be headed into the Metaverse. We couldn’t exactly tell you what that means, so stay tuned and check this article in a year for an update.
Hey, Did You See That Video?
Then: Vine, Now: TikTok, Always: YouTube
Whatever happened to Vine, anyway?
Back in 2013, we wrote an article called “VINE: The Latest In Short Form Communication.” It was both short and short-lived. A precursor to TikTok, Vine really was a moment, or should we say 6 seconds, in time. Vine shut down on January 17, 2017 and the app was discontinued a few months later. RIP Vine.
TikTok is a social media platform where trends spread like wildfire and user-generated content is bountiful. Launched in September 2016, TikTok has a massive user base that spans generations. As of the writing of this article, TikTok is available in 160 countries and has over 1.1 billion users. The app allows users to create, share, and discover short-form videos, typically ranging from 15 seconds to one minute in length. TikTok supports advertising and has a 10-minute video feature as well.
TikTok’s algorithm, which provides users with a personalized “For You” feed, keeps users addicted, err, engaged with content tailored to their interests. TikTok also allows users to add music to their videos, which has led to the creation of viral music trends. Many songs have gained popularity thanks to their use in TikTok videos, and artists may often receive a significant boost.
One factor that holds TikTok back and even threatens the service’s future is the possibility that TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, are based in China and could share user data, including location information, with the Chinese government. China does have laws that allow the Chinese government to demand data from Chinese companies. TikTok denies allegations about it, but some countries’ governments have banned the app from official devices; India banned the platform entirely in 2020. It’s a rapidly changing situation, one worth watching.
Social media? Search engine? Both. YouTube is the go-to platform for video content, from educational tutorials to entertainment and vlogging. Most impressive is its staying power. YouTube was launched on February 14, 2005. It is now owned by Google and is the second most visited website in the world, after Google Search. It has recently expanded its reach from user-generated content to movies and television, taking on traditional media and all the other streaming services.
Then: Twitter & Tumblr, Now: X, Someday: Threads? Bluesky? Other?
Twitter dates back to 2006, and the original concept was a real-time platform for short and impactful messages, similar to texting — but for anyone to see. It is widely used for news updates, opinions, and trending topics. Twitter popularized the concept of microblogging, enabling users to share thoughts and updates in first 140 characters, then 280 characters or less.
In 2022, Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk. In 2023, Twitter’s name changed to X. What does that mean? Ask us in a few years.
Over the years, we’ve learned regular check-ins are an important touchpoint for client communications. What do we mean by “regular”? Well, it depends. For some clients, we may recommend a weekly call, and for others a monthly check-in. But, maintaining a regular meeting is a best practice for planning and getting ahead of rush requests. Plus, we love talking to clients!
There was a time when, if you wanted to publish more than 140 characters, you wrote on Tumblr. Tumblr was a precursor, in many ways, to Twitter as a microblogging platform. Over time, it gained a reputation of being the weird sister of the social media world, thanks to its unique features for commenting and reposting that have encouraged a culture of meming and resharing, encouraging a raft of inside jokes for those in the know. It’s been experiencing a bit of a resurgence since late 2022 (not coincidentally around when Elon Musk began to really change Twitter into … whatever it is now), but it may always be an under-the-radar platform.
We’ve been keeping a close eye on Threads since it launched in July 2023 as an alternative to X. Threads is Instagram’s attempt to enter the text-based update scene. At the time of this article, its user base is 137 million users. After an initial explosion in user base (aided by its ties to Instagram) it hasn’t quite gained the relevance or pop culture impact of Twitter/X, but we aren’t counting it out just yet.
Bluesky is a decentralized social app — like Twitter if Twitter didn’t have a central set of servers and instead had its content spread across computers owned by individuals around the globe. It was started by Jack Dorsey, the former Twitter CEO, back in 2019 when Dorsey was still part of Twitter. The plan was for it to build a decentralized standard for social media, so the power wouldn’t be concentrated into the hands of a few companies. You need to be invited to get access and users only get a few invitations at a time to share, so its growth has been slow – on purpose. If you’re hankering for olden days Twitter, this is the platform for you right now (though there’s no fail whale in sight).
Evolution of Social Media: Social Networking
A quick sidebar. When exploring the evolution of social media, we can’t help but comment on the rise of social networking within the apps we use on a daily basis. For example, My Fitness Pal allows you to connect with your friends and family to track each other’s progress and even have friendly competition. Part of social media’s evolution is that digital interactions and networking are built into so much else that we do and not just within the social platforms.
Social Media and Your Marketing Efforts
We’ve skipped down the long and winding road of the now and then of social media. But what does all of this mean for your business? All of today’s social media platforms have marketing and advertising opportunities. From influencer campaigns to organic content to paid advertising, there are many ways to include social media in your marketing efforts.
Your audience is on social media, and you should be too. Set clear goals, create a content strategy, distribute content in the platforms where your audience is, and your efforts will be rewarded.
How to Evaluate If a Platform Is Right for Your Business
It’s not necessary to be present on every social media platform. We repeat — being on every social media platform is unnecessary. Be on platforms where your target audience is active and where you can effectively communicate your brand’s message. How do you do this?
- Know and define your target audience. Gather data and insights by understanding your existing customers and their buying behaviors.
- Analyze your competitors — what platforms do they use, what types of content are they distributing, and what are they missing?
- Test and monitor (If you are unsure about a platform, consider testing it with a limited effort).
- Stay informed about industry trends and changes. Social Media Today, Hubspot, and Marketing Drive are a few to follow for the latest in social media.
- And, of course, seek expert advice (more on that below)!
Keep an Eye on Content Trends
We’ve all succumbed to unfortunate trends. Low-rise jeans, anyone? When it comes to social media, think about the type of content you’ll be sharing. For example, platforms like Instagram may be more suitable if you rely heavily on visuals. LinkedIn could be a better fit if your content is more professional or B2B-focused. Algorithms are constantly evolving on various platforms. There was a time when Instagram pushed photo content, and now, in an effort to compete with platforms like TikTok, they prefer Reels (short video content). Some things are timeless (like the People Magazine in the doctor’s office), and some are short-lived. It is important to know where to invest your time and resources. So, where to begin?
- Follow industry blogs and resources and influencers and thought-leaders.
- Regularly review your platform insights and evaluate content performance.
- Track engagement and growth within the channels you’ve invested in.
- Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing on social media. Don’t copy them directly, but by watching them, you can gain insights into what’s working for them and adapt those strategies to your brand.
Use Trend Analysis Tools like TrendSpottr. These tools are specifically designed to track social media trends. They can help you identify emerging trends and topics in real time.
We would love to meet you IRL or otherwise and chat about Facebook, Elon Musk, or the latest viral trend on TikTok! Contact us to discuss how we can help you with your social media campaigns, strategy, or content.