From MySpace to Snapchat

This is an article by Arianne Williams.
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Social media explainedOver the years we’ve seen many social media platforms come and go.

Who can forget sharing the love on Bebo and the fights over who was your ‘other half’? Or taking hundreds of snaps to make sure you had the classic MySpace display picture?

But where did they go? And why have the likes of Twitter and Snapchat taken over?

I’ve been looking at what makes a social media platform the next big thing.

A brief social media history:

  • Six Degrees is said to be the first social media platform. Nope, I haven’t heard of it either. It very simply allowed users to create a profile and connect with other users.
  • LinkedIn came next in 2002, designed as a networking site for professionals. MySpace also popped up about this time, in 2003, a little different with its music sharing capabilities, and was the original ‘social media profile’ website.
  • Then of course came Facebook, originally created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 just for Harvard students, now the number one social media platform worldwide.
  • Inspired by instant messaging and SMS, Twitter was created shortly after in 2006 with its unique 140 character limit.
  • Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram came in the following years, along with some of the less popular niche sites, making the social media landscape what it is today. (You can read all this in a lot more detail here).

But why does the popularity of these platforms change?

The internet is everywhere

Arianne Williams (@ariannewills)

Arianne Williams (@ariannewills)

When the first few social media sites were launched, you could only access the internet on your giant desktop computer, meaning there was less time spent online than there is today.

Now with internet so easily accessible we need to be stimulated constantly, so we need new platforms to suit this.

People want something new

Not matter how much users enjoy a social media platform, they will still always be looking for something new. Once all your friends are on there, you know it won’t be long before you sign up too.

Ease of use

We can get everything instantly these days and I think this has decreased our attention span dramatically. Which is why sites like Twitter – communicating in just 140 characters – mean we can find out what we need to know in less than a sentence. You don’t end up wasting precious time reading things that don’t interest you or searching through thousands of websites.

What can I post?

With almost everyone having a smartphone with a camera in their pocket, it seems inevitable that something like Instagram was bound to take off with its new take on photo sharing.

Similarly with Snapchat, it is clear that instantaneous photo sharing is a medium that current audiences will get on board with. Having an increasingly fast-paced lifestyle, users can communicate instantly and without often even having to open the keyboard.

Here’s a very simple way to work out which is the best platform for your content:


Looking from a business point of view, which platforms you use will depend on where your audience is. Vertical Response suggests these questions for deciding which platforms are best for your business:

  • “What is the unique purpose of this platform?
  • Do its attributes relate to my business’s needs?
  • Which target audience does this platform serve?
  • How much time on this network is necessary to have the best impact?”

Obviously, the answers to these are going to vary from business to business, therefore different platforms will suit different needs.

What does this mean for PR?

It’s widely known that social media has become an integral part of public relations. So PR practitioners need to keep up with the platforms that are most popular, make sure that their clients’ content is being post on the most relevant site and it’s being shared to its maximum potential.

Several tools have been developed to help with PR workflow and managing several social media accounts, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Social Mention.  These programs also make it easy to analyse engagement and provide concrete figures to your clients, making PR evaluation easier.

Where do you think the future of social media lies? And what will be the next big thing?

Keep reading for the rest of this week for more of the University of Sunderland’s series of posts on social media topics.


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