People, especially marketing professionals, can debate this question all night until the wee hours of the morning, but we will take a very literal approach in this video blog. Social media communities are made up of a number of online tools. These tools are usually created to facilitate communication, build connections, and help members share what matters most to them including beliefs, ideas, feelings, projects, and more. The vast majority of social media sites have key features in common and it is these features that precisely define what social media is:

  • You can create a profile for yourself or your company or organization.
  • You can create status updates and/or your account activity is posted.
  • You have a network of people, businesses, or organizations connected to you.
  • You are delivered content via an algorithm that provides you with a stream of information the system believes you will find valuable.
  • You have simple ways to communicate and participate in the community.

The History of Social Media

If we use the above to define social media and review the history of these online tools we find a rich tapestry of online communities that have existed since the ’80s. Many of these are the predecessors of what we now know as modern social media. Over the years there have been social communities dedicated to a wide variety of niche audiences and each site boasted about its own innovative special features. As time went on social networks went from serving smaller groups and markets to managing millions of members. The networks also went from hosting mostly text-based content to allowing photos, graphics, and videos. These leaders in early social media, some of which are still around today, opened the doors for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other incredibly popular social communities.

The Evolution of Social Media

1979 – Usenet is started

1980s – Bulletin Board Systems, or BBSs, become popular online meeting places and Compuserve expands into the public domain

1984 – LISTSERVs become popular

1988 – The first internet relay chats, or IRCs, are built

1991 – AOL begins to create online communities

1994 – Geocities becomes available allows people to find their former classmates

1997 – AOL launches AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) / allows people to create profiles, invite friends, organize groups, and surf the profiles of others / is founded

1999 – launches / is started is created

2002 – comes online is established / LinkedIn launches / Hi5 is created / is founded officially launches / begins / Digg goes live

Social Media is more than just Facebook

As you can see from the list above social media is more than just Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social networking sites exist for almost every industry, interest, cause, and niche market on the planet. Many popular social communities are websites you may have used before but you don’t think of them as “social media.” Sites like,, and even qualify as social media, but don’t just take my word for it.

According to Kissmetrics, traffic that is tagged as “social media traffic” in Google Analytics must be coming from a referring URL that Google has identified as a match to a social media domain. Kissmetrics outlines that “Google Analytics uses a list of about a 100 domains to assign traffic to social networks. But they haven’t published this list yet.” We can see in Google Analytics that traffic coming from online communities like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Reddit, Blogger,,, and more are considered social traffic.

Join the Social Communities that Matter to Your Audiences

The key to achieving success on social media isn’t posting as much content as you can, spending more advertising dollars than your competitors, or joining every single social community. It is about making sure your company, organization, or brand is present in the social networks your audiences care about the most. Find out where your audiences hang out online and join them there. This is how you make connections, build relationships, and, over time, increase conversions.