The Evolution of Social Media Marketing: A Timeline of Platforms and Strategies

soc media marketing history timeline

Social media marketing history starts in the early 2000s with platforms like Friendster and MySpace. Since then it has undergone a rapid evolution and quickly transformed into one of the biggest markets worldwide. 

The 2010s witnessed an explosion of visual content on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, which reshaped the marketing strategies. Today, the integration of e-commerce features and the rise of video content on platforms like TikTok demonstrate an ongoing evolution. Let’s dive into the history of social media marketing – how it all started and how social media marketing has changed

Social Media Marketing Timeline

Social media was not a marketing platform at first – the primary purpose was to allow users to communicate with each other online. Platforms like Friendster and MySpace introduced the first features of social media marketing. However, it was still too early for marketers to think about marketing strategies and these platforms relied mostly on organic exchange between the users. 

Six Degrees

six degrees soc media marketing history

First created: 1996
Founder: Andrew Weinreich
No. of users: 3.5 million 
Current status: Closed in 2001

In the late 1990s, Six Degrees emerged as the forerunner in social media. Launched in 1997, it became the foundation for digital connectivity. While not primarily a marketing platform, Six Degrees offered basic opportunities for personal and professional networking. 

Users at Six Degrees could create profiles, connect with others, and share content. However, the marketing potential quickly regressed due to limited user numbers. At that time, marketers experimented with building brand presence and connecting with customers on Six Degrees. 


friendster soc media marketing history

First created: 2002
Founder: MOL Global
No. of users: 8.2 million
Current status: Closed in 2015

Friendster appeared in 2002 with the concept of connecting friends online. The platform reached its peak with 8.2 million users in 2008. It was a pioneer of the history of social media marketing allowing businesses to engage with the growing online community. The platform’s simplicity allowed different types of marketers to share content, promotions, and updates directly with their audience. 

In 2011, the website transformed into a gaming and entertainment platform. After the reformation, Friendster quickly attracted half a million users and its portfolio included more than 40 games. However, the growth was short-lived. Friendster’s journey became complicated due to technical challenges and competition leading to a rapid decline in popularity throughout the mid-2000s. 


myspace soc media marketing history

First created: 2003
Founder: Chris DeWolfe, Tom Anderson, Jon Hart
No. of users: 300 million
Current status: Active

MySpace was a cultural and digital phenomenon that first appeared in 2003. It was initially centered around sound music but expanded to include various interests. MySpace was the first marketing and cultural branding playground. Brands on the website could showcase their products, share content, and engage with a wide base of customers. Furthermore, MySpace introduced “MySpace Music” allowing artists and labels to directly connect with fans. 

Sadly, MySpace could not keep up with the evolution of user preferences and faced challenges with cluttered profiles leading to the eventual decline of website users. Yet, the impact it had on social media marketing history is undeniable. MySpace demonstrated the power of user-generated content and the need for marketers to adapt to shifting digital landscapes. 


facebook soc media marketing history

First created: 2004
Founder: Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, Andrew McCollum, Eduardo Saverin
No. of users: 2.94 billion
Current status: Active

Facebook has revolutionized social media marketing. It is a global powerhouse that dictates the market industry trends and provides valuable data for marketers about transforming user preferences. Originating within college campuses, Facebook opened unprecedented marketing possibilities. Facebook was the first platform to offer separate website entities for brands and companies – Facebook Pages. 

The platform was also the first one in the history of social media marketing to introduce targeted advertising to enable marketers to reach specific demographics. Furthermore, Facebook offers comprehensive analytics and performance measurement tools. Despite challenges like algorithm changes, Facebook remains a leading platform in the social media advertising and marketing arena. 


youtube soc media marketing history

First created: 2005
Founder: Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim
No. of users: 933 million
Current status: Active

YouTube is not a mere video-sharing platform – it is one of the greatest marketing hubs in the digital era. Launched in 2005, YouTube quickly became the largest community for user-generated video content. Since its conception, the platform attracted thousands of businesses that were seeking innovative marketing avenues. For marketers, YouTube is a visual storytelling haven. 

YouTube became one of the most dominant social media marketing platforms when it introduced TrueView – skippable ads that charge for engaged views only. The company also launched partnership problems where content creators monetize and open new revenue streams. YouTube’s algorithm bases its recommendations according to user’s past interactions and hence facilitates content discovery – helping marketers reach their target audience


twitter soc media marketing history

First created: 2006
Founder: Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, Evan Williams
No. of users: 550 million
Current status: Active

Established in 2006, Twitter revolutionized communication with its microblogging format. Its real-time nature created a unique space for concise yet impactful messages. For many businesses, it is a dynamic channel for brand visibility and engagement. Engagement rates on Twitter are often higher than on Facebook and the reason is character limit, which requires concise and compelling content. 

Twitter was one of the first platforms to introduce hashtags which emerged as a potent tool in marketing. Hashtags enable content categorization and attract audiences with relevant interests. The website also offers Twitter Ads and Promoted Tweets along with viral opportunities for strategic marketers. Twitter is the most dominant player in the real-time marketing arena. 


pinterest soc media marketing history

First created: 2009
Founder: Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra, Evan Sharp
No. of users: 450 million
Current status: Active

Pinterest is an ideal place for marketers for visual discovery and strategic marketing. In the history of social media marketing, Pinterest stands as one of the most inspiring and creative platforms. Originating in 2010, the company has immense potential as a visual search engine and a source of consumer inspiration. The platform’s focus on visual media made it a perfect place for brands to showcase their products and services. 

The company offers advertising and analytics for marketers. Pinterest Ads enable businesses to reach users with specific interests, while analytics provides comprehensive statistics on page traffic. Marketers can view impressions, engagements, pin clicks, outbound clicks, and saves, as well as collected data on changes within a specific time. 


foursquare soc media marketing history

First created: 2009
Founder: Dennis Crowley, Naveen Selvadurai
No. of users: 50 million
Current status: Active

Foursquare City Guide is a leading location-based social networking platform. Here users check in at physical locations and earn badges and mayorships. First, the company started as a gamified social platform, but it was not long before businesses recognized its marketing potential. Today, Foursquare is an arena for localized marketing that facilitates engagement with users at specific physical locations. 

Marketers can use specials and promotions at FourSquare that encourage check-ins and drive customer loyalty. Businesses can benefit from location-based advertising and tailored promotions based on user check-ins and preferences. 


instagram soc media marketing history

First created: 2010
Founder: Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger
No. of users: 1.4 billion
Current status: Active

Launched in 2010, Instagram has evolved from a photo-sharing app to a visual story-telling haven for marketers. Instagram contributed to a shift toward visual-centric content in the business world and many believe that it has transformed digital communication. Brands on Instagram found numerous ways of brand promotion through compelling visuals and storytelling. 

Instagram offers features like Instagram Stories and IGTV that encourage dynamic content creation. Influencer marketing is one of the most popular marketing fields that many believe Instagram gave birth to. The app’s emphasis on aesthetics creates opportunities for authentic brand collaborations. A few years ago, Instagram also introduced shoppable posts that added immense value for e-commerce businesses


twitch soc media marketing history

First created: 2011
Founder: Justin Kan, Emmett Shear, Michael Seibel, Kyle Vogt, Kevin Lin
No. of users: 15 million
Current status: Active

Twitch is a premier platform for live streaming with a primary focus on gaming content. The company was born in 2011 and its eventual rise signifies the shift toward interactive and real-time engagement. Brands and businesses use unique opportunities to connect with their audience through live broadcasts. Frequently they use the platform for sponsored streams and influencer partnerships. 

One of the benefits that Twitch has compared to its competitors is the live chat feature – enabling businesses to directly communicate with the viewers. Nowadays, Twitch expanded into diverse content categories beyond gaming. Twitch keeps on evolving and a great example of it is a new feature – Twitch Drops – an opportunity for viewers to get rewards for watching the stream. 


tiktok soc media marketing history

First created: 2016
Founder: Zhang Yiming
No. of users: 1.1 billion
Current status: Active

TikTok is a viral sensation of the 21st century. Launched in 2016, TikTok was the quickest platform to rise to global prominence. The short-form video platform is popular among marketers for its user-generated content and music-driven trends. The content marketing on TikTok takes many different forms ranging from creative challenges to trends and dances. 

There are many different ways brands use TikTok’s platform. They collaborate with influencers, create authentic content, and participate in viral challenges. In addition to the mentioned opportunities, the platform has a very sophisticated algorithm that prioritizes discoverability and treats users and brands equally in terms of visibility. TikTok recently launched the ads platform which increased the marketing potential of the app. 

Modern Social Media Marketing

The current social media marketing industry is driven by technological advancements, behavioral changes in users, and the emergence of innovative platforms. In social media marketing history, 2020’s will leave a significant mark in reshaping the industry and business operations. Several key elements define the current ecosystem offering marketers numerous opportunities for brand promotion and engagement. 

  1. Diversification of platforms – in the past, social media was dominated by giant players. It is no longer true. While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn remain market leaders, newer entrants like TikTok have changed the entire scene. Each platform serves diverse demographics and content preferences requiring a detailed approach for effective outreach. 
  2. Video-centric content – video content is now on top of social media marketing. Short-form videos, live streams, and interactive content on platforms like TikTok, Instagram reels, and YouTube shorts are the main drivers of engagement. Marketers are learning to work with visual narrative to communicate with the audiences. 
  3. Influencer marketing – influencer marketing changed the nature of digital marketing. Brands now collaborate with different types of influencers focusing on niche audiences for more authentic connections. They no longer look at follower count and rather take an interest in engagement rates and audience relevance. 
  4. Algorithm changes – all major social media platforms have a very advanced algorithm that prioritizes authentic content. The visibility now depends on meaningful interactions, user engagement, and content relevance. That is why marketers have to prioritize genuine connections and acquire a user-centric approach. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When was social media marketing first used?

The first signs of social media marketing appeared in 1996 with platform Six Degrees. A few brands used Six Degrees to create profiles, increase their brand presence online, and directly communicate with customers. 

How did social media marketing evolve?

In the beginning, a few giants like Facebook and YouTube dominated social media marketing entirely. In the late 2010s various niche platforms appeared that disrupted the monopoly bigger platforms had. Nowadays, marketers can choose from dozens of platforms for their goals ranging from short-form videos to location-based platforms. 

Who is the father of social media marketing?

Philip Kotler is regarded as the father of social media marketing. He was the first digital marketer in the world and wrote more than 70 books about marketing. Philip Kotler established the concept of social media marketing. He spent years analyzing consumer behavior and developed several key principles that are still used by social media marketers. 

We believe in working smart, not hard, and that's been our life motto. We're self-taught learners who are passionate about sharing knowledge. We've created this website as a platform to empower individuals and businesses with marketing insights. Our team at Unlimited Marketing is driven by a desire to educate and provide accessible marketing wisdom. We believe in the transformative power of effective marketing, whether for personal growth or business success. Our mission is to simplify and make marketing knowledge easily accessible to all.