A Short History of The Social Network

One of the biggest changes to the marketing landscape – both online and offline – is the emergence (or reemergence) of social networking.  You can’t pick up a newspaper or read a blog which doesn’t have at least some reference to one of the social networks that exist online today; Facebook; Twitter; MySpace; LinkedIn; Reddit; Bebo.  In fact, there are now so many that the prophecy of the long tail has once again proven itself true in the diversity of available channels including film, music, sex, nationality and many more.  From what can really be related technologically back to newsgroups and chat-rooms from the early sprouting shoots of the internet – where people ‘lurked’ in these places rather than outwardly selling their soul to tell everyone about their presence – these networks now boast many millions of members globally.

What many forget is that this really is old hat; obviously, the platform and the technological gimmickry that support them in the form of applications, ajax popups and games are all new, but the underlying concept of social networks – people who are grouped by shared values or beliefs – can really be dated back as far as the turn of the 19th century, when sociologists (I cannot believe I’ve found a use for A-Level sociology) such as Émile Durkheim identified the existence of social networks when studying the interactions between individuals.

So how have things changed apart from the technology?  Well, there is one huge change which I mentioned earlier, which is that some of these networks are now colossal.  Never before have so many individuals been able to congregate and exchange thoughts.

To try and engage a sense of how large some of these networks are, I dug out a few statistics – for example – Facebook currently boasts a community in excess of 300 million – so that’s 300,000,000.  Still not impressed?  Well according to UK National Statistics, in 2008 there were about 60 million (60,000,000) inhabitants in the UK, which means that the population of Facebook, if it were a country, would be 5 times the size of the UK.  How pathetic does our government look now?  Mark Zuckerberg must be rubbing his hands in glee at the thought of that kind of power.

So this obviously brings me round to the point of all this discussion (I know I’m a little long-winded but there is always a point); marketing is always about communicating a message to as many (relevant) people as possible and naturally, marketers will always love social networks.

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I use this blog of mine as a general brain-dump and to share my witterings about marketing, business, search engine optimisation and web development.