How many times a day do you check your social media profiles? I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain compulsion that drives me to Facebook about once an hour. I glance at Twitter every half hour or so. I’m checking LinkedIn throughout the week, and I’m pinning new content to Pinterest as it applies (which is quite regularly).
Social media addiction? Overload? Well, maybe. But if that’s the case, I’m certainly not alone. Actually, many would say this is pretty standard for 20-somethings (okay, okay, I’m almost a 30-something, but even that age group is pretty active on these sites).
It seems unreal to me to think back ten years ago before any of this existed.
That’s right. Flash back with me for a minute to April 2002.
It was my freshman year of college and the biggest online interaction tool was AIM. (Does anyone even use AIM anymore?)
In April 2002, MySpace, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest didn’t exist. Even LinkedIn, the oldest of the current major social networks, wouldn’t be founded for eight more months. (And it wouldn’t launch until May 2003.)
Social media has become such an integral part of our lives (and our business conversions) that it’s hard to imagine life before Mark Zuckerberg, Larry the Twitter Bird, and even Tom’s MySpace picture (which, by the way, he still uses… on Google+).
In the grand scheme of things, these social media giants are still babies. Check this out.
• LinkedIn is founded
• LinkedIn is launched
• MySpace is founded
• 10/23: Mark Zuckerberg creates Facemash, Facebook’s predecessor, in his dorm room as a sophomore at Harvard
• MySpace launches
• Facebook launches
• MySpace reaches one million users
• Twitter is founded
• Twitter is launched
• MySpace becomes the most-visited website
• Facebook launches open registration, meaning that it’s not just for colleges anymore
• Twitter gains momentum with its appearance at South by Southwest
• As Facebook closes the traffic gap, MySpace reaches its peak
• Ben Silbermann founds Pinterest
• Pinterest launches as a closed beta. Numbers rise very slowly, which founder Ben Silbermann has attributed to the fact that it’s different from what people were used to seeing, which is text-based updates in real-time
• Beginning in January, Twitter would play a pivotal role in the Arab Spring, helping to organize groups of people for rallies and protests
• MySpace lays off half of its employees
• MySpace goes up for sale
• 6/28: Google launches the beta version of its social network, Google+, to great hype and anticipation
• 6/29: MySpace is sold to Specific Media and Justin Timberlake for around $35 million
• 9/20: Google+ becomes available to everyone with no invitation necessary
• People start to notice Pinterest. Since September, the site’s unique visitors have increased by an unthinkable 429%
• A Nielsen Media Research study reports that Facebook is the second most-visited website in the US.
• 1/19: Google+ surpasses 90 million users. Impressive, given Todd Wasserman’s Mashable report that G+ users spend just 3.3 minutes per month on the site compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook
• 2/1: Facebook files for IPO and speculation begins as to whether it will go with NYSE or NASDAQ, as well as when the IPO will be available
• Since November, Pinterest’s monthly uniques have doubled, and they continue to grow
• Pinterest now drives more traffic than MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.
As you see, it really wasn’t until the middle of the last decade that social media started to come into its own and shape Web 2.0 as we know it.
If there’s anything we can learn here, it’s that social media undulates.
MySpace and Facebook launched just one month apart, but Facebook has grown to approximately 850 million users while MySpace continues to fade into oblivion. Do you know anyone who still uses MySpace? Probably not.
Toward the end of 2011, Facebook’s growth stalled. While most of this is probably attributed to normal patterns, some of it could be attributed to Facebook’s constant changes. Many users have recently expressed dissatisfaction with the site and opted to deactivate their accounts. Some even moved over to Facebook’s competitor, Google+, instead.
Though Facebook continues to be the most popular social networking site, while its growth stalled, Pinterest flourished. Why? It’s something just different enough to become the hottest social network of 2012.
Not only are creative types loving Pinterest, but businesses are fast learning how to to use it as a conversion tactic.
Twitter has maintained its success, largely because of its versatility. Though users are limited to 140 characters, uses for the service range from quick updates to family and friends (truly microblogging) to participating in realtime conversations and hashtag-fueled Twitter chats with people around the world. It’s truly a place to connect with others.
And don’t discount LinkedIn, either. Though it may not be social in the sense that Facebook is, professionals continue to use the site regularly for networking.
This is the stuff our digital lives are made of, and we forget how new it all really is.
So tell me: what’s your favorite social network?
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