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14 Reasons Why Social Media Happened

I recently was thinking.. which can be a dangerous thing and I found myself asking the question “how did  social media happen?” and how did it evolve from the primordial web soup?Social Media How Did it happen

So I looked up some Wikipedia references on social media and social networking and also about it’s early history to obtain some insights into the what, why and how. The “Free” online encyclapedia Wikipedia said (remember you used to have to pay $2,000- 3,000 for the Encyclapedia Britannica to put on your shelves)

“A social network service focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services”

In other words a social network service or channel enables 2 way communication and sharing between like minded people. Wikipedia mentioned the following services as being some of the earliest forerunners to social networking Usenet, ARPANET, LISTSERV, bulletin board services (BBS) and EIESBulletin board services (BBS)”

These services were very clunky ways of sharing information within like minded communities and involved forum like platforms and email that were slow and hard to use. The issue also was that the Internet community was very small and lacked critical mass due to primitive technology and slow takeup by users. These social network platforms were in use as far back as the 1980’s.

In 1995 social media networks evolved to the next stage of evolution with channels such as classmates.com (which as of December 2009, Classmates.com is ranked by Alexa as one of the top 1,000 most popular sites. The site receives about 2 million monthly unique visitors), which could be said to be the precursor to Facebook.

Other sites emerged and failed over time until the technology and the critical mass of the internet combined and made the social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace successful and mainstream.

Here is a YouTube video that shows some of recent growth of social media

In essence it was all to hard for average Joe to use these services in the past unless you were a “Geek” and also the other things to keep in mind was that the technolgy was not mature and was expensive.

So why has Social Media emerged as one of the dominating evolutions of the Web in the last 2-3 years and why have sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube become giants among the thousands of social media channels and platforms that have continued to evolve and proliferate?

Here are some of the  factors that I believe have facilitated the emergence of social media and social networks in 2010 as a dominant internet web force.

  1. Fast Computer Processors(CPU’s)..computers were slow and couldn’t handle the fun stuff like images and videos that social networking demands until faster processors became available
  2. Cheaper CPU’s ( Expensive processors made computers expensive so only passionate computer users had computers)
  3. Cost effective broadband (Broadband used to be expensive so not many people had it at home so downloading images and video was slow)
  4. Fast Broadband (faster broadband opened  new opportunities to spread multimedia content quickly and easily.. low friction)
  5. Wireless Broadband ( you can now send anything anytime and anywhere, including sending video and surfing from coffee shops while sipping your latte)
  6. Cheaper Hard disks (multimedia information that is now shared constantly on social media such as images and high definition video requires large disks for storage, so this is now cost effective for almost anyone)
  7. New hardware platforms that are intuitive and easy to use like iPhone and iPad
  8. Smaller Hard Disks with lots of storage provides mobile platforms like notebooks, netbooks and smartphones with the storage to share
  9. Cloud computing allowing software to be downloaded  and updated online, anytime and anywhere inluding mobile social media apps (you used to have order CD’s toget your software)
  10. Easy to use Blog Platforms like WordPress and Typepad that have made blogging easy like falling off a log
  11. Open source software that has allowed passionate users to develop applications for free, download and use it straight away
  12. Entrepreneurs willing to invest in technology that enables social media and be willing to possibly fail and fail fast
  13. Google that has provided the website  to find information that guides us to the tools and means to make it happen intuitively and easily
  14. Finally, we as social human beings just wanted it, because it was fun and struck a chord.. we like to socialize (online and offline)

What are other factors you think have enabled the growth of social media in the last few years?

20 Things You Should Share On Social Media

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Avoiding the “sledgehammer” effect of intrusive advertising ranks up there for me. As a source of information, traditional advertising continues to decline. The “pull effect” of social media a welcome change.

  • I have to agree. I have been actively involved in social media since about 97. Back then it was just an IM but then I saw it move to message boards and everything else. I have embraced technology and have had some success with media relations which I never thought would happen. I am a sports connoisseur and to be able to converse to the people who bring the news is great from a media relations stand point.

  • You have identified the enablers well, Jeff. As I read this, I thought of a speech I wrote in the mid-1990s about broadband technology. We included a reference to faxing to add some perspective on adoption rates of new technologies.

    When we queried the audience regarding when the first patent was issued for fax technology, most pegged it sometime in the 1970s, and the more daring people went back as far as the 1940s.

    The first such patent was issued in London in 1843 to Alexander Bain for “improvements in producing and regulating electric currents and improvements in timepieces and in electric printing and signal telegraphs.” That was 30 years before we had phones.

    The enablers for the fax, particularly ubiquitous phone service and high bandwidth, required more than a century to evolve. I’m glad things move faster now.

    Jim Bowman

  • Nice list Jeff. I also think the global financial crisis accelerated the spread and adoption of social media. Combined with your factors above, I’d guess that there were a few business trends that led to the perfect social media storm:

    1. Unemployment: so many knowledge workers (strategists, planners, researchers) were let go in 2007-9, and they naturally turned to social media to fulfill an intellectual curiosity, or find new jobs, or network with like-minded people
    2. Budget cuts: Companies needed to (and still need to) spend far less than ever before on marketing and PR; the marketers who were left after the purges gravitated toward social media.

    I experienced both of these (still experiencing #1) – and I think there’s still a ways to go before we see the perfect storm end.


  • Sam Makhoul

    Its also because we do not live in a local village anymore. So this is the next best way to connect.

  • Hey Jeff,
    Great article; really enjoyed it! Social Media has certainly evolved and is here to stay. It has become essential to all businesses’ marketing plans.

    J. Gregory

  • Great overview, I think it’s so important to add context to the warp-speed of technology and apps today, sometimes we can view the future a bit more clearly by taking a look at our recent past.

    I worked with The Palace software of avatar chat back in ’97 on chat rooms which we thought was pretty revolutionary back then, I just clicked around to see that they’re still round, and interestingly Robert Duffy’s vision for the new http://www.marcjacobs.com website isn’t too far off from those original avatars. Talking with Diana Hong from CreateTheGroup at a panel on Social Media I just moderated at NY’s Soho House, she explained that while some didn’t “get it” others embraced the execution of this familiar-looking technology (their avatars are based upon actual sales people at his stores). Some things change, some things remain the same.

    I think its worth noting the brands that brought us here too, the introduction of the iMac in ’98, the “i” stood for internet, and while adoption for Mac vs. PC is a separate conversation–what it did do was in 2 steps, allow users to log on to the internet (no modem?!) easily and intuitively. You couldn’t go to your mailbox at one point without getting a CD Rom from AOL inviting you to join their service, remember when AOL and “You’ve Got Mail” was cool?!

    Those marquis brands spent millions to make us all aware of the technology your chronology so succinctly outlines, and helped us all join the bandwagon, quickening the pace of adoption and demand (iPhone 5 anyone?)

    Glenn Johnson

  • sawa barka

    People generally want to keep abrest with technology ans as a result, follow as it evolves. Its a changing world and not following means being left behind. If other users are getting ahead in their businesses by by being on the social media why would u want to stay off the social media?

  • Nice, Jeff – as usual. Social media had no choice but to happen. With a gargantuan, worldwide network of humans all connected, what else could have happened but the explosive growth and increased creativity of communication on that network.

  • Birdie Newborn

    The factor I see is the switch from the funnel approach of publishers and media outlets, who filter out what they consider to be “noise” and deliver only the “best” as they see it. The arbiters, however, are locked into the framework of what was news or what sold well last year or last month. They are behind the crest of the waves.

  • If Internet opened us a wider door to the world, then the social media links all of us in this world.

  • Great article.

  • The trend to smaller businesses and owner-managed businesses (also facilitated by developments in technology and the internet) have lead to more people looking to empower themselves wih information and opportunities to market their businesses.

  • Excellent article. But I wish the video weren’t “Private” and would let us watch it, too. Great point here, regardless, Jeff!

    • I will see if I can sort that out. Thanks for pointing it out