Updated: Jan 13

Recent figures show that in 2017 the total number of users on social media platforms was 39 million, with estimates going up to 42 million users. This equates to over 58% of UK residents. But where did it all begin? Social media is far from a new concept and has in-fact been developing since around 1978. 

So, we have decided to delve into the history of social media and learn about how it became the global phenomenon we know and love today.  

The history of social media may only be relatively short in comparison to many other topics; but this makes it even more interesting to dissect. 

In the early 80’s the first baby of social media was born. Bulletin Board System (BBS) was a system that allowed for sharing files and games in addition to messaging between members. It was hosted on personal computers and was the first website of its kind to allow its users to log on and communicate with each other. Remaining famous until the end of the 1990’s; it was popular with those in the working environment, rather than being a household name like many social media platforms today. 

Heading into its exciting childhood, social media grew into a new stage in the late 80’s/early 90’s with AOL and YAHOO. Allowing users to create communities and searchable personal profile from which they could communicate with each other, it became a great hit. Internet Relay Chat was introduced in 1988 and was used for link and file sharing as-well as communication. It preceded the modern instant messaging used today.  

The adolescence of social media developed through the late 80’s and 90’s. Users made basic profiles and shared photos on sites such as Flickr and Photobucket. You may have heard of a site called Sixdegrees which was one of the first social media platforms to be launched in 1997, but sadly only lasting until 2001 when it was shut down. In 2003 MySpace was launched, and 2005 saw teens enthusiastically communicate after school on Blog Early Blog Often, more commonly known as BEBO. Facebook is undoubtedly the biggest name in social media and after being launched in 2004, it quickly spread to become a household name. It continued to grow rapidly and over the years it has added shiny new features to keep the platform interesting for users. 2010 saw the introduction of Instagram which only  uses visual communication between accounts around the world. Using filters to make photos more interesting and a private messaging feature, Instagram also grew quickly in popularity.  

​So where are we now? Well, with looking at how quickly social media platforms can go from zero to hero we can only imagine that we are merely on the precipice of the revolution.  

The young adult that social media has so beautifully grown into in-front of our very eyes, has the world at its feet.   

So, what can we expect moving forwards? Well, if there is one thing that social platforms are promoting more than ever, it is to be human. Real. Exposed. Honest and Brutal. Social platforms want real life socialising. And that is exactly why the Zuckerberg’s of the world are constantly creating exciting ways for us to connect with each other. Using a personal profile to go live has become increasingly popular with many people being drawn in by the ‘here and now’ that live offers. Audio is also set to be the new wave of marketing technique with sound being introduced as a crucial part of marketing where it hasn’t previously (and that’s a whole other topic for a whole other blog!) 

Already offering so many benefits to businesses, social media will continue to develop even further to assist all industries, all over the world. Those whom have been using social media for their business since it was merely a twinkle in a programmer’s eye, now look to embrace the multi-faceted opportunities that social media can offer a mature business. And for new and emerging businesses, social media can be the key factor that not only helps it grow, but can also provide fundamental tools to keep a stream of business coming in.  

So, as social media has successfully grown and indeed flourished over the last three decades, we have all found something that social media can offer us. Whether It’s keeping in touch with distant relatives, searching for old school friends, selling homemade craft items or promoting a national company; there is something for everyone on online.  

Furthermore, having witnessed how quickly social media has changed since its modest beginnings, it is exciting to consider what it has to offer us over the next thirty years!  

One thing is for sure, whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay.  

Social media, we salute you!  

Social Media Stats

  • As of January 2019, the world's population is 7.7 billion.

  • The internet has 4.2 million daily users.

  • There are 3.397 billion active social media daily users.

  • On average, people have 5.54 social media accounts. 

  • The average daily time spent on social media is 116 mins. 

  • 91% of retail brands use 2 or more social channels. 

  • 81% of small and medium businesses use social media. 

  • Social media users grew by 320 million between Sept 2017 and Oct 2018. 

  • That equates to 1 new social media user ever 10 seconds. 

  • Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp handle 60 million messages every day.