Eight years ago yesterday the world of social media marketing as it was known was changed forever. Although back in February 2004, no-one could have foreseen how the launch of one internal website would alter the way businesses around the world carry out their marketing campaigns.
That’s right, it was eight years ago yesterday that “thefacebook” first hit Harvard University, after a psychology student at the university – Mark Zuckerberg – launched the site.
Within twenty-four hours just over a thousand of Harvard’s students had signed up to the network, and within a month over half of the undergraduates at Harvard had a profile.
Like wildfire, the network spread amongst universities throughout America, increasing in popularity; before August 2005 when Zuckerberg dropped the “the” from the name and purchased its current domain for $200,000. In September of the same year high schools throughout America could sign up and by the end of 2005, Facebook had crossed the Atlantic and was making waves here in the UK.
Fast forward a year and the site was extended beyond educational institutions and made public to anyone with a valid email address, which has seen its popularity continue to rise month-on-month, year-on-year.
The power of Facebook is clear for all to see, with surveys and reports from various industry experts suggesting that there are millions upon millions of active users online around the world, helped by the site being available in over seventy languages.
However, whilst the power of Facebook for social interaction is clear to see, it’s also worth noting that following the launch and early success of Facebook, the world of marketing changed forever – as social media marketing began to be something businesses started to pay attention too.
Whilst there is no doubting that social media marketing was in use before the launch of Facebook, there is an argument to be had that Facebook not only pushed social media marketing into the mainstream, but also helped significantly shape it into what we’ve come to recognise and rely upon today.
Before Facebook, the primary source of marketing for many businesses was the traditional forms such as printed, moving and radio adverts – which still play an important part in marketing today – and other PR activity.
With the traditional forms of marketing, how successful you could be and how wide an audience you could reach as a business depended primarily on the disposable income you had to spend on marketing and advertising; which often meant that smaller businesses couldn’t always compete with their multi-national rivals.
Online marketing at the time was primarily linked to online forums and social media platforms which have since fallen by the wayside or were setup more for individual rather than business use (i.e. Myspace).
Since the birth and subsequent rise of Facebook there has been a significant shift in how marketing is done and also the gap between the smaller, local firms and the larger worldwide corporations.
As Facebook, began to rise in popularity firstly for individuals to use to network with friends and family; then for businesses to use as a platform for advertising, marketing and promotion, other platforms launched. Some platforms have since fallen by the wayside, whilst others have stayed around and continued to push themselves (and subsequently Facebook) to provide a better platform for all users.
Over the years, as those platforms which have launched on the back of Facebook, and Facebook themselves, continue to push the limits of the internet for the better, the power of social media marketing has became evident for all businesses to see – from the local plumber through to the multi-national, multi-million companies.
One way which it has helped the smaller, local firms is that they’re now able to market their business on an almost even keel with the larger corporations; giving customers more choice.
Business profits and revenue no longer have to limit what a business can and cannot do in terms of marketing as Facebook and various platforms and networks which launched on the back of their success are free to sign up – with the only cost being the time invested in making the marketing campaign work.
This means that businesses are now able to promote and market their brand, products and services via text, images and video content – something which previously wasn’t possible before the boom of social media marketing, led by Facebook.
Additionally, it’s helped all businesses interact with and target their audience in real-time, around the clock. There is no longer any need for consumers to wait for opening hours to ask a question regarding a service or product on offer, as they’re able to tweet a message or post on the wall of the companies social media profile and know they’ll get a response.
Furthermore, via use of various social media platforms from Facebook and other social networks which have launched on the back of their success; through to traditional forms of online marketing including blogs and forums, its possible for businesses to reach out to a wider group of their target audience and to market certain products to various demographics.
Whilst some users will be unhappy with the changes being made by Facebook and also other online marketing platforms, one thing is for sure. As each platform builds on the success and openings gained from the launch of Facebook in February 2004, one thing is for sure, the world of social media marketing is set to continue to increase and play an important role in how businesses and consumers interact and engage.