Social Media: History and Growth

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 5
Words: 1544
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College


Social media is one of the most significant phenomena that has disrupted marketing. The phenomenal growth of social media has provided organizations with platforms to significantly and efficiently expand their business. Today, social media is the center of modern life; however, it has a long history. Social media is popular because of the primal need of humans to rely on social interactions to live healthily. In addition, social media gives users a method to make new friends locally and internationally. Social media began with the introduction of telegraph machines that used electronic dashes and dots. Among the earliest social networks is Six Degrees and Friendster., it is critical to review social media elements, including its definition, examples, history, industry, growth rates, benefits, and obstacles to understand digital marketing better.

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Definition And Examples of Social Media

There are different definitions of social media as multiple researchers have various explanations on the subject. According to Appel et al. (2020), social media is defined as a channel of digital marketing that businesses utilize to communicate with customers through advertising. Many people have successfully understood the landscape of social media, which allows them to benefit from such applications (Appel et al., 2020). Leyrer-Jackson and Wilson (2018) define social media as technological applications and websites that enable users to take part in social networking and share content (Leyrer-Jackson & Wilson, 2018). On the other hand, Kapoor et al. (2018) offer a broad and comprehensive definition of social media. Kapoor et al. (2018) describe social media as a collection of user-driven platforms that allow diffusion of communication, dialogue creation, and compelling content (Kapoor et al., 2018). Social media is generally a digital space made for people to interact in a conducive online environment.

As the number of users online increases, various social media platforms have been created. Example of social media includes Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, and it has more than a billion users. Reddit is a social media site that allows news sharing and has millions of users. On the other hand, Twitter was founded in 2006 as a site for microblogging (Alavi & Ahuja, 2019). Instagram is another example of a social media created in 2010 to share photos and has more than a billion views.


Social media began with the creation of telegraphic machines that used electronic dashes and dots. The origins of digital communication are manifested by the creation of a significant social media network. In 1997, Six Degrees was created as a site for users to share their profiles. The service was followed by Asian Avenue, LiveJournal, and Black Planet, which launched in 1999. In 2000, Lunar Storm was relaunched with added features. Friendster was created in 2001, and it served as a complement to other social networks such as Ryze. Blogs became a popular type of social communication as LiveJournal was launched. In addition, the Blogger platform was created by Pyra Labs, later acquired by Google. LinkedIn became a famous application created in 2002 to cater for career and job search. Myspace was launched in the following year and had massive success until the emergence of Facebook (Alavi & Ahuja, 2019). Most of the successful social media platforms were established between 2000 and 2016.

The emergence of social media starts in the late 1990s, with the creation of Six Degrees. From 1990 to 2000, several social media platforms were launched, including Six Degrees, LiveJournal, BlackPlanet, AsiaAvenue, and LunarStorm. The following decade saw the creation of influential social media sites that are still popular today. From 2000 to 2010, Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! 360, Linked In, and Weibo were launched. From 2010 to 2020, there were several major social media networks developed. Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok were created and have since become powerful online platforms. TikTok was started in 2016 by Byte Dance and currently has more than 800 million users in the world (Alavi & Ahuja, 2019). Such platforms continue to grow because smartphones have become easy to own.

Growth Rates and Industry

Social media has a reasonable growth rate as more people crave to try online interactions. The growth of social media can be attributed to the establishment of broadband infrastructure. Advances in technology indicate that most people can download and upload content on social media faster and easier. As a result, the social media industry expands each year. It is undeniable that the growth of the social media industry depends on the penetration and access to internet services. According to Internet World Stats (2019), the United States had an internet usage of 297, 322, 868, which indicates a penetration rate of 89.8 percent. Therefore, approximately 89.8 percent of the United States population can access the internet and social media networks (Internet World Stats, 2019). In the United States, approximately 72 percent of the population uses social media, and it continues to grow steadily (Auxier & Anderson, 2021). The data showing internet penetration can be used to portray the potential that social media has.

Internationally, the growth of internet users has skyrocketed as developing countries continue to improve access to technology. The growth rate of internet users between 2000 and 2021 has reached an astonishing 1331.9 percent. The considerable growth in the use of social media has made the online environment an avenue to market products and services. Internationally, Asia has an internet growth rate of 2,315 percent and the penetration rate of internet services stands at 63.8 percent. Furthermore, 68.5 percent of China’s population uses internet and the number increases steadily each year (Internet World Stats, 2019). Social media users in China increased by more than ten percent in 2021 when compared to 2020. Additionally, the number of active social media users is expected to reach 3.29 billion in 2022, representing a considerable part of the world’s population (Auxier & Anderson, 2021). Most business sectors use social media to engage their audiences and reach broader and diverse cultures.

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Real estate and the retail industries are examples of business sectors that frequently use social media. The real estate industry depends on the charisma and visibility provided by the available social media platforms. Social media is crucial to real estate companies as online profiles of such companies often show their houses and land listings (Alavi & Ahuja, 2019). For instance, when browsing through Instagram, people may see adverts for houses and land on sale. Real estate companies make such advertisements to show potential clients their house and land listings.

Another business sector that uses social media frequently is the retail industry. Multiple retail brands that sell products to customers have recognized the massive potential of social media. As a result, such brands advertise their products on social media through influential brand ambassadors who naturally increase the number of people attracted to a particular brand due to their popularity. Brand value is essential to building long-term relationships with customers. Therefore, it is vital to promote a company’s products to a broader audience (Martínez-Navalón et al., 2020). For example, Chanel will hire a celebrity to promote its products on Instagram and Facebook. Such a promotion is expected to reach millions of users who will potentially buy Chanel’s products.

Benefits and Obstacles

The growing popularity of social media means that businesses in the United States have started to leverage social media presence for their benefit. However, using social media can have advantages and drawbacks for businesses. Firstly, social media presence guarantees faster and easier communication with customers. Customers can get help from customer service agents quickly after relaying their grievances. Without social media presence, the line of communication offered by social media platforms is not available. As a result, customer satisfaction is enhanced by the timely response to consumer problems. Secondly, social media provides a cost-effective method to market a firm’s products. Social media marketing can be less expensive than traditional promotional and advertising activities. Businesses can spend the amount their budget allows if they engage in paid advertising (Belniak & Radziszewska-Zielina, 2019). Thirdly, social media increases brand loyalty and awareness as compelling content grabs the attention of probable clients or customers.

Businesses that use social media can also suffer due to the complexities of the online environment. Firstly, businesses need to use resources to manage their presence on social media by responding to complaints and feedback. In addition, social media presence may require training and hiring staff, resulting in additional costs. Secondly, social media is expected to influence brand reputation and awareness; however, such elements are less tangible advantages, and it is hard to quantify them in terms of money. Thirdly, ineffective use of social media can lead to a damaged reputation (Martínez-Navalón et al., 2020). For example, a lack of punctual responses to customer requests may result in negative feedback.


In conclusion, it is critical to explore the definitions, history, growth rate, industry, advantages, and disadvantages of social media to succeed in digital marketing. Social media can be defined as an online space that allows sharing of content and ideas among users. The history of social media can be traced back to the invention of Six Degrees. As social media continues to grow, businesses have experienced benefits and downsides. Social media can be a powerful tool for businesses when used effectively.


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Appel, G., Grewal, L., Hadi, R., & Stephen, A. T. (2020). The future of social media in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 48(1), 79-95. Web.

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Auxier, B., & Anderson, M. (2021). Social media use in 2021. Pew Research Center. Web.

Belniak, M., & Radziszewska-Zielina, E. (2019). Effectiveness of applying marketing tools in real estate trading. Materials Science and Engineering 471(11), 112074. Web.

Internet World Stats. (2019). World internet users and 2021 population stats. Web.

Kapoor, K. K., Tamilmani, K., Rana, N. P., Patil, P., Dwivedi, Y. K., & Nerur, S. (2018). Advances in social media research: Past, present and future. Information Systems Frontiers, 20(3), 531-558. Web.

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Martínez-Navalón, J. G., Gelashvili, V., & Saura, J. R. (2020). The impact of environmental, social media publications on user satisfaction with and trust in tourism businesses. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(15), 5417. Web.