There’s no doubt that social media is one of the most prevalent and dominant forces in the online world today. Whether it’s the monolith that is Facebook or the up-and-coming challenger TikTok (or, indeed, any number of other hugely popular platforms), social media dictates many aspects of our lives. Plenty of people get their news about current events and the world around them from social media, despite the dangers that poses, and relationships are made and broken on social media every day.
Of course, with such a long and storied history, the world of social media is ripe with facts and trivia that you might not know. For example, did you know that TikTok started life as two different lip-syncing apps, Douyin and Musical.ly? How about the fact that Instagram began as an app very similar to Foursquare, before its creators realised their creation was too derivative and changed it to the behemoth we know today? Join us as we take a look at 5 social media facts you might not know!
1. The first ever social network was school-based
There’s some debate regarding exactly what the first social network online was. Back in 1973, two techies from the University of Illinois created something called Talkomatic, which was a chatroom that proved to be a huge success. It wasn’t really a social network as we know them today, though; the honour for the first of those arguably goes to Randy Conrads’ Classmates.com, which is still operational today (but which doesn’t have much of a market share anymore).
Classmates.com’s whole raison d’etre was to help you find your classmates from school, university, or other organisations like the military. It’s gone through a few rebrands throughout the years, but it returned to the classmates.com branding in 2011. Another competitor for the first ever social network is the Swedish platform Lunar, which closed its doors in 2010.
2. Almost 60% of the world uses social media
As of July 2022, there were 7.98 billion people in the world. Of those people, 5.34 billion are unique smartphone users, and 5.03 billion are using the internet. 4.70 billion people around the world are using social media, too, which makes up around 58% of the overall global population. That’s a pretty staggering statistic; well over half of the world’s population is engaged with social media of some kind.
The growth rate was relatively steady until 2020, when the number of users on social media suddenly accelerated thanks to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the acceleration has slowed, but that’s inevitable; the number of people using social media has pretty much reached saturation point, so it’s almost impossible for it to grow significantly beyond this current figure.
3. Facebook is still dominant
You might have heard rumours or whispers that Facebook is winding down its era of dominance, but those whispers simply couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that in the second quarter of 2022 alone, Facebook enjoyed 2.93 billion monthly active users around the world. That’s an increase on the same period last year, too, and although it’s a decrease from the previous quarter, some fluctuation is to be expected.
Let’s put that into perspective for a moment. As we said before, 4.7 billion people are using social media. Naturally, we can’t assume that all of the 2.93 billion monthly active users are unique, but even if we cut that figure in half, that still means around 31% of social media users are active on Facebook every month. Let it never be said that Facebook’s time is up; it might be challenged by younger platforms, but it’s still the biggest fish in the pond.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo is the de facto king of social media
If you add up the total number of followers that famous figures and influencers have across all social media platforms – taking into account Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms like TikTok – then football legend Cristiano Ronaldo is the most-followed person in the world. At last count, he enjoyed 711 million followers across all platforms, making him the influencer of choice for major brands to target.
Want to take a guess as to who brings up second place? That’s right – it’s everyone’s favourite singer Justin Bieber, who had 552 million followers at last count. Selena Gomez is in third place with 541 million, with Kylie Jenner and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson bringing up fourth and fifth place respectively thanks to their 513 million and 460 million follower counts. Next time you’re thinking about who the most popular social media figures in the world are, you’ll know what it takes to get to that point!
5. The first ever influencer collaboration was in the 18th century
We’re going obscure for this one, but bear with us. When you think about influencers collaborating with brands, what do you think? Slick Instagram campaigns involving impossibly beautiful people selling products? Paid ads across social media platforms? How about royal tea sets in late 18th-century England? It’s true – Wedgwood is often credited as one of the first people to exploit branding for marketing purposes, and here’s how he did it!
Wedgwood was commissioned to make a tea set for the Queen at the time, and when he did so, he branded himself as a potter for royalty. That marketing technique made sure he was never short of business, so in essence, he collaborated with a major influencer – Queen Charlotte – in order to shore up his marketing presence and build his brand on “social media” (which, at the time, was simply the word-of-mouth that circulated among the people!).