Social Media’s 10-Year Snapshot: High School Connections, Commerce and…Cat Videos

So what were you doing in 2004?

While we were collectively recovering from Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl half-time show and dealing with severe withdrawal because our favorite TV show “Friends” ended, Facebook was busy launching what many consider to be the lynchpin behind the social media revolution.

Sure, other social media networks existed prior to 2004, such as Friendster, MySpace and even LinkedIn. However, social media didn’t really gain traction until Facebook started to gain popularity with millions of users around the world.

It’s hard to think back to a time when social media wasn’t part of our daily lives. Like so many, I cut my social-media teeth on Facebook, using it initially to reconnect with high-school buddies (just in time for the all-important reunion) then expanding my network to include sharing and engaging with other like-minded “friends.”

From there, social media has produced a 10-year blur of posts, tweets, likes and shares. What once was considered a fad, social media is now entrenched in every corner of the web and used by an across-the-board demographic. According to results from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the number of online U.S. adults who use social media sites has risen from 8 percent (in 2005) to 72 percent in 2013. You don’t have to be a math major to realize this type of growth rate involves a very big number. And, quicker than you can send out your next tweet, these numbers will continue to rise.  

Social Media

Beyond LinkedIn and Facebook―from YouTube, to Twitter, through Pinterest and Instagram, to Google+―social media is no longer considered the new kid on the block in terms of marketing. It has proven itself as an effective and efficient communications tool that has done more to foster a more relevant, two-way dialogue with customers and prospects in the last decade.

Businesses and brands take note: Social media is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have marketing strategy in order for your company to stay competitive―now and into the foreseeable future. All those 20-somethings who’ve helped fuel social media’s meteoric rise in the past will soon be our new corporate decision makers and buyers.

The power of social media’s influence on commerce couldn’t be more evident than the impact Beyoncé made when she released her newest album on Instagram, foregoing the traditional mass-media channels. It sold 828,773 copies worldwide in just three days. Compare that to Green Day’s release of “American Idiot” back in 2004, which sold 267,000 copies in its first week, using a combination of traditional radio, TV and print marketing campaigns. 

We continue to see our clients incorporate social media into their overall marketing initiatives at an impressive rate, with many reporting improved brand interactions, increased sales, and more exposure to customers, partners and prospects.

Businesses actively engaged in building their social media followings are also creating their own successful platforms for storytelling, publishing and content distribution. Social media, in particular, has had a key role during the last decade when it comes to brands telling their story.

Of course, during the last two years, the unprecedented rise in mobile device use has taken social networking to a whole new level and altered the way businesses communicate with their target audiences entirely. It has become incumbent on companies to keep their audiences engaged by providing them with the right content at the right time. Fortunately, social media provides a cost- and time-efficient channel to accomplish that.

Social media is about engaging, empowering, understanding, interacting and informing. It provides businesses and brands access to speak with their audiences, not at them, and to carry on a productive two-way conversation that’s beneficial to both sides. Whether it’s the serious, the serene or the silly (Hey, there’s a reason why CNN regularly features cat videos on the homepage), social media involves people sharing their experiences. Those experiences, in turn, influence the decisions we make, both at home and work, every day. 

What are you doing in 2014 in terms of integrating social media into your marketing strategy?

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