How long has social media been around?

Social media has been around for the best part of 40 years – Usenet appeared in 1979 and is the first recorded network that enabled users to post news to newsgroups.

Although these Usenets and similar bulletin boards heralded the launch of the first, albeit very rudimentary, social networks, social media never really took off until almost 30 years later, following the roll out of Facebook in 2006.

So, what exactly is the state of social media in 2018?


The state of social media in 2018

When we first published this blog, back in January 2017, the stats showed that, as of July 2015, the total worldwide population was 7.3 billion, around half of which (3.17 billion) are active internet users, while around a quarter (2.3 billion) are social media users.

Things have moved up a notch since then.

The latest figures from Brandwatch show that the global population is now 7.6 billion, and more than half of that number (4.2 billion) are active internet users. And the number of social network users is now 3.3 billion – a staggering increase of one billion active users in just under three years.

Facebook is still far and away the most popular social network, with 2.072 billion users (up from 1.71 billion users in 2015), followed by Wechat, with 1.12 billion users – the same number as was using it back in 2015.  YouTube now has 1.5 billion users, while  WhatsApp has 900 million.

Twitter is, somewhat surprisingly, way down the list with 330 million users (and increase of 10 million users since 2015), behind both LinkedIn, which has 500 million users (up from 450 million in 2015) and Instagram, which has been the real social media success story, doubling the number of users from 400 million to 800 million in just three years.

Even so, Twitter is still arguably the most popular social network among business users, with 83% of all Fortune 500 companies having a presence on Twitter. In contrast, just 4% have a Facebook page.

If your business is to have a presence on Twitter though, you need to make sure it’s manned 24/7, as over a quarter (78%) of customers who complain to a brand on the platform expect a response within the hour. And over a quarter (77%) of Twitter users eel more positive about a brand when their Tweet has been replied to.

Let’s take a closer look at the two most popular social networks for business, Twitter and Facebook…

Twitter statistics

  • 500 million people a month visit Twitter without logging in
  • Although there are 1.3 billion Twitter accounts out there, only 328 million are active. And, of those inactive accounts, 44% were set up without ever sending a Tweet.
  • The average Twitter user has 707 followers (up from 208 in 2015), but there are 391 million accounts that have no followers whatsoever.
  • 500 million Tweets are sent every day – that’s 6,000 Tweets a second.

Facebook statistics

  • Facebook adds 500,000 new users a day – that’s six new profiles a second – and just under a quarter (775) of adults in the US visit their account at least once a month
  • The average (mean) number of Facebook friends is 155
  • There are 60 million active small business pages (up from 40 million in 2015), 5 million of which pay for advertising
  • There are thought to be 270 million fake Facebook profiles (there were only 81 million in 2015)
  • Facebook accounts for 53.1% of social logins made by consumers to sign into the apps and websites of publishers and brands.

Social media for business

Business still seems to have something of a strange relationship with social media – all businesses seem to appreciate the need a presence on social, but are not sure of which platforms are best to generate leads. For instance, while 83% of Fortune 500 companies are on Twitter, only 20 engage with their customers on Facebook. This could be because Twitter is a platform more suited to quick and easy customer interactions and problem solving – 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour.

And while it’s easy to assume social media is aimed a younger generations, those aged 55-64 are more than twice as likely to engage with branded content than those under the age of 28 – so be mindful how you frame those promoted social posts.

Social networks earned an estimated $8.3 billion from advertising in 2015, while $40 billion was spent on social network advertising in 2016.
38% of organizations plan to spend more than 20% of their total advertising budgets on social media channels in 2015, up from 13% a year ago

The history of social media

The infographic below, from social customer service platform, Simplify360, gives an at-a-glance guide to the three ages of social media…

History of social media

How does your business use social media? Let us know…


  1. […] 2. Conference Call. 3rd May October 2018. “How Long Has Social Media Been Around?”. Conference Call. […]

    November 28, 2018
  2. […] 2. Conference Call. 3rd May October 2018. “How Long Has Social Media Been Around?”. Conference Call. […]

    December 31, 2018
  3. Fatos Cunaku said:

    Can i please know who wrote this?
    I need to use this article for a school project, but I name the name of the author to use it as a reference.
    Thank you.

    April 5, 2019
    • Les Roberts said:

      Hi there,
      You can just credit the blog as the source.

      April 8, 2019
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