I will be starting a series on how small businesses can use social media marketing to gain leverage with their big bucks counterparts; the corporations. However before we fish in unknown waters, it is first prudent to educate ourselves on the history of social media so we have a clear understanding of its evolution, the thought leadership behind it and what to expect in the coming years.
There are many claims to the term social media, just as there are controversies as to who the God-father of hip-life in Ghana actually is. According to Wikipedia, the term was coined in September 10, 1999 by a gentleman named Brad L. Graham, as a joke. It was re-coined in 2002 by William Quick, and was quickly adopted and propagated by the warblog community. According to Forbes Magazine however, most of the bragging has been done by a lady named Tina Sharkey, CEO of Babycenter.com backing her claim by the fact that she owns the website http://www.socialmedia.com . However she didn’t register the term before 1999 and there is no public evidence of her using the term before then. According to Forbes, the earliest citation in Nexis or Factiva for a use of “social media” in anything like the way it’s used now is from 1997, when serial entrepreneur Ted Leonsis, then an executive at AOL, was quoted talking about the need to offer users “social media, places where they can be entertained, communicate, and participate in a social environment.”
Prior to the evolution of social media, there was what we called web 1.0 websites which were essentially static websites that provided content and information that users could just only read without the ability to contribute and interact with the website. E.g are company or government websites that provide a list of product or services without giving the user the opportunity to post a comment, a review or a suggestion. Web 1.0 was so static people easily got bored with content. For e.g customers don’t trust businesses and the authenticity of information posted about a product or service was doubted because no other user could review and give an objective recommendation. Also people increasingly saw the need to be able to interact with friends and family, collaborate on projects, discuss a common issue or simply just have fun. That was where the concept of web 2.0 evolved. Web 2.0 was coined in 1999 and is closely associated with Tim O’Reilly because of the O’Reilly Media Conference which was held in late 2004. Web 2.0 however does not refer to any technological changes to software requirements, but generally in the way developers and end-users alike use the web. Web 2.0 is therefore synonymous to Social Media. It is claimed that the first real social media site was sixdegrees.com, eventhough online bulleting boards had existed earlier but sixdegree is probably the best example of what we know today as social media because it allowed the creation of profiles, friendlists and memos. There were others like AsianAvenue, MiGente, BlackPlanet These sites cropped up in the years following SixDegrees’ launch, between 1997 and 2001.They allowed users to create profiles and add friends (generally without needing approval to add people). Users could create professional, personal and dating profiles on these sites. While they were some of the earliest social networks, there were few innovations among them. LiveJournal started in 1999 and took a different approach to social networking.