The Evolution of Social Media – A Look Back and Ahead

As you know, I’ve just rebranded and relocated from Blogger to WP. While organizing my old posts dating back to 2007, it was fun to see how brand engagement has completely transformed over the years.

So, whadaya say we hop in the ol’ DeLorean, kick it to 88mph and take a look at the evolution of social media.


In 2007 and 2008, much of the conversation was heated with bloggers and reporters going at each other.

The general consensus was that bloggers were lonely losers living in their mom’s basements … but all of that was about to change as blogger and social media content began to impact media coverage.

As brands adjusted to the idea of citizen journalism, some wanted absolutely nothing to do with bloggers, much to their detriment. Remember in 2008 when Target told a blogger to buzz off? Or, when Mark Cuban kicked a blogger out of the Maverick’s locker room? Oh, how far we’ve come!

Of course, while we debated whether Bloggers were or were not “real” journalists in 2008, we were also creating laws to protect them and their sources.

As we finally accepted that bloggers were here to stay toward the end of ’08, we started debating whether or not they would replace traditional media; a discussion, by the way, that continued as we began to see a decline in investigative journalism and a rise in social media players and bloggers breaking big stories. (Remember the first photo of Captain Sully’s heroic splash down came not from an intrepid reporter on the scene, but from a random guy on Twitter.)

Soon, brands starting getting in on the action and leveraging their own blogs in interesting ways. And, even Congress got in the game on YouTube.


With acceptance of social media came the campaigns in ’08 and soon “viral” was the word du jour with everyone scrambling to get that precious link passed around.

The results varied from incredibly successful and absolutely beautiful to truly incomprehensible and downright inconceivable.

In fact, we became so obsessed with and entertained by viral videos that some smart marketers from Mini made our obsession their campaign.


As social media campaigns became more important throughout 2008, clients began demanding the skill-set from agencies and marketing budgets began to shift to digital.

Of course, in the rush to deliver, some agencies and brands had very public blunders. Who could forget Motrin’s moronic mistake of insulting the very women they were trying to reach, which gave rise to the power of mommy bloggers everywhere.

And, the mistakes continued into 2009 as brands tried to make their products hip and “web 2.0” – remember Kraft’s iSnack? They sure hope you don’t.

Even into 2010, as two-way engagement in social media channels became all the rage, some brands just couldn’t get it right. Remember how Nestle’s Facebook rep argued with and insulted consumers online? I still can’t believe how that one went down.


Of course, some brands really did get it right. Dove’s viral film, for example.

And, BofA stopped a potential thief from brandjacking – and stealing your money – through Twitter.

And, of course, social media got it’s biggest push to the mainstream with the digitally-driven election of our first “social media President.”

At this point, social media adoption reached unfathomable levels as social networking became more popular than porn in terms of online activities.


Similarly, by 2009, privacy became the next word du jour as we saw more and more people losing their jobs over what they said in social media.

Some even lost the job before they really started. Who remembers the Cisco Fatty debacle? I’ve often wondered what happened to that girl. If you know, give me a shout.

This became such an issue that by 2001, the government began passing legislation protecting free speech on social media sites and guaranteeing that your employer would have to find another reason to fire you after you dissed him online.


These past five years also saw some tragic losses and most of us learned about them through social media; from one of the original creators of public relations to the man who created the soundtrack of my youth and whose death nearly killed the Internet along with him.

And, of course, more recently, the man who delivered social media to our fingertips through his incredible creations and whose demise caused Twitter to fail three times in less than an hour.


By 2010, the new flavor was apps. No matter what you wanted to do, there was an app for that. The healthcare industry, prodded by the FCC, led the way. And, soon after, even our cars were getting in on the craze.

Online gaming apps also transformed brand engagement as did non-gaming apps.

And, next came Social TV.

After some failed attempts – remember back in 07 when CNN created a virtual newsroom in Second Life – we started seeing some interesting innovations from MTV and Facebook.

And, I genuinely believe we are just at the tipping point today of this next (r)evolution to our digital consumption and engagement. So, I say, let’s get back to the future and dive in with our minds open and our hearts free to let the fun begin … again!

One comment

  1. Very well said! The evolution of Social has dynamically changed the game. Long gone are the days when the consumer was a mere spectator. In today’s day and age, the voice of the consumer has power and with the various online media channels, that same voice can be amplified to the masses.

    Social has also connected us in more ways than before. Whether its the instant sharing of events with friends and family or watching TV together in living rooms across the country, Social has given us the ability to connect and stay connected.

    Its exciting to see the evolution that has already transpired but even more so, is what the future beholds.

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