• Social media is revolutionizing celebrity-dom, news consumption and the way we spread information - as seen by the overnight popularity of Rebecca Black, Charlie Sheen-mania, real-time coverage of Japan and global protests for democracy. Cyber anthropology is rapidly becoming an important focus for media researchers, uncovering deep insights into the transformation of consumer behavior in today's society.

    To celebrate  75 years of the Advertising Research Foundation, PeopleBrowsr is publishing a series of artwork illustrating the History of Social Networking. PeopleBrowsr commissioned an artist to visually communicate our research on the progression of social media - first unveiled at the opening of our San Francisco Social Media Command Center.

    Highlighting a few recent events in our timeline, here are two interpretations of the latest and greatest social media sensations...

    Both Charlie Sheen and Rebecca Black are testaments to the power of viral acceleration. Social media is having an enormous effect on the rapid dissemination of information and the phenomena of the internet fame game.

    Looking into the not-so-distant past of Marshall McLuhan’s era, we see that the medium is the message.

    We want to celebrate the milestones of this amazing industry, by recognizing the events that led to our current social media (Re)Evolution and presenting a chronology of social streams. Through assembling the collective intelligence, we observe numerous things happening in the Twitterverse - and we are passionately curious about the events made popular by social networking, emerging trends and spikes in mentions.

    The History of Social Media

    Our story begins in the 1930’s with The Notificator, which allowed Londoners to leave messages for friends on “robot” message boards for a small fee. Many social media observers have categorized the Notificator as the first predecessor of Twitter.

    The social aspect of new technologies has evolved with innovation, especially ‘on the line’. From the telephone box to wireless mobile networking, it’s almost as if we’ve come full circle. In the 1950s, technophiles used telephone networks as rogue ways to mass communicate and the first podcasts took place on hijacked corporate phone lines. As of 2010, mobile wireless networking penetrated 98% of the US population.

    When CompuServe became the first commercial online service in 1969, it took a mere decade before Bulletin Board Systems became the first ‘forums’, or social communities connected on the line. 1989-1991 revolutionized the development of media technology, as Tim Berners-Lee began developing the World Wide Web and the first web site was built at CERN.

    Throughout the 1990s, emerging tech companies and globalization forever changed the way we communicate - with the mass adoption of forums, web search, email and text messaging. Before the decade had ended, Google had indexed over 60 million pages and AOL Instant Messaging had come to homes across America.

    Between 2000 and 2001, residential high-speed Internet access subscriptions doubled, making it easier for consumer to access information on the web. Soon after, users were beginning to see the appeal of social networking and blogging sites like LiveJournal, Friendster.com, LinkedIn.com and Myspace.com.

    By Twitter’s launch in 2006, social media networking had reached widespread popularity and mass global adoption, following Facebook’s introduction in 2004 and YouTube hitting the market by storm in 2005. The rise of user-generated contentsites like Digg and Reddit (with IcanHasCheezburger and 4chan), combined with the popularity of easy-to-use blogging services, includingWordPress and Blogger (also created by Evan Williams of Twitter), aided in the rapid development of personal websites, shared content and online media.

    Businesses quickly began to recognize the power of Web 2.0, adopting social media strategies and hiring community managers. Virgin America experienced great success engaging customers on Twitter, and the public relations industry started seeing the benefits of listening in real-time for consumer response. Not too long ago, we saw the rise in freemium social media platforms and customized services. When ReSearch.ly launched in 2010, the social media landscape had evolved into communities connected by the interest graph.

    Every year we’re seeing the rise of popular new services that allow us to share our lives and spread news, such as Posterous and Tumblr, FourSquare, SlideShare, Flickr and Instgram. Mobile technology, like the iPhone and Andriod, has made it even easier to access web content; data is moving to the cloud and applications are being built in browsers. It’s an exciting time to be online, as we’re in an era that’s transforming the collective memory - millions of conversations and posts - into the collective intelligence, filtered by keywords, sentiment, geo-location, and bio information.

    As data mining and marketing researchers, we’re continuously documenting and communicating the history of this great industry we’re helping to build.

    Access to the full timeline is presented here:

    The History of Social Media Artwork presentation is in celebration of the Advertising Research Foundation’s 75th anniversary and the launch of PeopleBrowsr’s San Francisco Command Center.

    PeopleBrowsr partnered with the ARF for the 75th Anniversary Convention’s Social Media Listening/Learning Insights Zone.

    Gallery Settings

    Sitting above each windowsill, outlining our San Francisco Social Media Command Center, lay 24 boards with 24 historical events describing the evolution of social media. We’re continuously adding to the collection as major stories unfold, to capture the impact and continued transformation of Web 3.0.

    The timeline was first unveiled at our official launch event, which featured a panel of experts - including Tim O’Reilly, Jodee Rich, Susan Etlinger, and Brian Solis - discussing “The Evolution of Listening – From Monitoring to the Collective Intelligence”.

    About the Artist

    We commissioned the artist, Adam Long, to transform the research we compiled into incredible illustrations that are delightful and easy to understand.

    Having the life many artists dream of, Adam spends his time drawing cartoons, commercial illustrations and storyboards for TV commercials, while living a short five minutes from the sea in Bondi. When not working on upcoming deadlines, the smiling Aussie describes sunny Bondi as the perfect place to relax, “where a freelance artist can nip down for a swim on a hot day.”

  • Jen Charlton

    About Jen Charlton