Facebook, Google+, Twitter and virtually every other social network have become more than pastimes for the millions that use them daily. Today, these sites are the product offerings of multi-national corporations and have not only changed many aspects of Internet marketing, but impacted popular culture around the world.
From Humble Beginnings…
The world's largest social network now boasts over 900 million members. That figure accounts for nearly 1/7 of the world's entire population. Not bad for a company that began in 2004 as a small project of then-Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg. While the story of Facebook's origins and rise to prominence is well-documented (and has even won Oscars), the reason for the site's success is not as obvious. Like many social networks before it, Facebook was merely intended to be recreational. It was designed as a platform for people to interact and engage online, while possibly (and hopefully) generating some ad revenue to keep the business afloat. Fast forward to 2012; Facebook is a publicly traded corporation with global reach and more importantly, international influence.
…To a Global Phenomenon
The rapid expansion of Facebook goes beyond Wall Street. The advertising and marketing industries have noticed the impact of social media in the wake of Facebook's growth. Even news journalism has changed on the post-Facebook Web. In one form or another, social media is now incorporated into the business model of virtually every company with an online presence.
Jumping on the Bandwagon
Success breeds competition and Facebook is no exception. Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn have arrived on the social scene in the years following Facebook's emergence as the number one network and more are likely to come in the months and years ahead. While none of the aforementioned sites are even close to Facebook's membership, they are showing exponential growth. In fact, Pinterest even became the world's third most frequented social network while still in its beta phase.
However, like many industries, social media is not without flaws and is bound to change and evolve according to the demands of its user base. Facebook's IPO and the subsequent backlash that it has suffered have demonstrated that social networks need to assert their influence in the online marketplace and prove their value as viable advertising outlets. Additionally, social media sites must strive to remain in the Internet limelight in order to retain their ability to attract potentially lucrative online marketing campaigns. There is certainly a place for social networking on the Internet of tomorrow, but innovation will undoubtedly be the key to future success in the social space.