Although there has been a lot of “buzz” about social media in the past year, the first sites actually date back to the mid-1990′s. These early sites were often referred to as “online communities.” Such sites as Classmates.com (1995), Geocities (1994), AOL (1993) were among the first on the scene and some of the first to use message boards, which grew into the blogs we have today. Early users of these sites found them a good way to share information and ideas, keep up with friends, and get in touch with peers in their professions.
For the most part, the developers of Facebook and MySpace, which were both launched in 2004, and Twitter (2006) believed that the largest group of users would likely be young people in high school and college. And most of the early users did fall into this age group. However, within the past few years, people in their 40s and older have become the bulk of the users.
Some suggest that the 2008 presidential elections may have had something to do with this shift, as more adults wanted to learn about and write about those running for office. In fact, some people attribute President Obama’s success at using these sites as a major contributor to his election and fundraising success.
Today, in many public relations and journalism classes, Twitter is being taught as a news and crisis management tool. De Paul University in Chicago, IL, for example, now offers a class titled, “Digital News: From Breaking News to Tweets,” discussing techniques and the potential power of this new medium.
Meanwhile, marketing classes are using Facebook to discuss a variety of new marketing tactics not even thought of a couple of years ago. And it is estimated that 80 percent of U.S. companies now use LinkedIn when looking for and hiring new employees.