Social Media Marketing: A Look Back, and A Look Ahead

It may sound a little strange, but social media is reaching a mature stage in its development.

Its importance as a communication tool is no longer in question, and its legitimacy as a marketing platform is clear: 77% of the Fortune Global 100 use Twitter, and 70% of Fortune 500 companies are on Facebook (including 9 of the top 10).

The social networks are vastly different places now than they were even just a few years ago — and the best ways to use them have evolved as well.


Let’s take a look back at some of the changes  and how to take advantage of the social landscape of today and tomorrow.

This must-see infographic tracks the history of the hashtag a term that meant absolutely nothing as recently as five years ago.

Now, they’re everywhere: beyond Twitter, to Facebook, song titles, even everyday speech (unfortunately). No other advance has been as important to social media as the hashtag, which aids in everything from filtering through the mass of microcontent available, to standing out in marketing, to finding and expanding digital communities.

Make sure that your social strategy focuses strongly on hashtags using them, tracking them, and getting involved in the conversation around them.

Get a quick history of some of the biggest changes to Facebook over the years in this slideshow.

Did you know that the “Timeline” is only two years old? That the News Feed wasn’t always around? That the site started as “” Love it or hate it, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon 1 out of 5 page views across the entire internet comes from Facebook.

Two of the most significant continuing trends? The changing algorithm for displaying posts on users’ News Feeds, and the rise of sponsored posts. Be sure to build and engage your Facebook network to show up on as many News Feeds as possible and consider sponsored posts to grow your audience.

At its outset, LinkedIn was sort of a curiosity: even folks who had embraced Facebook wholeheartedly were still wary of a social media platform built around employers and coworkers – exactly who most people hoped to avoid online.

Eventually, LinkedIn found its niche a 238 million-user niche. Now, it’s in the mix as a legitimate lead generator: 60% of users have clicked on an ad on the site, and 43% of US marketers have gotten business from the network. B2B businesses can’t afford to sit back and let your “presence” do the work.

Join one of the 150 million groups, start or contribute to a discussion, and get your name and voice out there.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about Google+ is that it exists at all. After failures like Wave, Google’s attempts at a social network were beginning to seem almost charming in their futility. Then, along came Plus. 500 million total users, sure but initial reports painted the network as a “ghost town,” with lots of signups and little engagement. 

That’s just a quick look at where these platforms have been, and where they’re going. Remember: these are, and always have been, communities. Engage with your online network, provide it with interesting, useful content, and don’t treat it as an afterthought in your marketing and business growth plan. Stick to that, and you’ll always be ahead of the game.

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