End of a decade: The rise to power of the social network

It’s probably hard for many of us to remember a time without social media. Nowadays there’s a social media platform for every occasion, but at the start of the decade things were very different.
Users numbers updated for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Groups
Mark Zuckerberg speaking at the F8 Developers Conference in 2015. Photo: Maurizio Pesce via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to social media platforms, there’s none larger and more influential than Facebook.

While Facebook was created way back in 2004, the 2010s were its coming of age decade.

At the start of the decade, Facebook was already well established. It had more than 350 million monthly active users at the end of 2009, and the world was well aware that Mark Zuckerberg had created something important.

Mark Zuckerberg won Time’s Person of the Year award in 2010, but most of Facebook’s real success, and the success of social media in general, was yet to come.

The idea of social media was established through platforms like MySpace, Bebo and, of course, Facebook. In late 2010 Instagram was released, which would become part of the next generation of social media platforms.

Social media was already popular among young adults and teens at the start of the decade, but the barrier of monetization had not yet been cracked.

Turning social media into an earner

The basic concept behind Facebook is still largely the same as it was in its early years. Interactions between friends through posts, likes and photos are the bread and butter of the platform.

According to Statista, Facebook’s revenue in the year 2009 was a mere $777 million. This may sound like a lot but, in comparison to the $55.8 billion revenue Facebook recorded in 2018, it’s nothing.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a tour of Facebook's new headquarters
Facebook is now one of the most influential companies in the world. Photo: GPA Photo Archive via Flickr

While Facebook’s functionality has changed, the massive increase in revenue is all down to its successful monetization of social media.

Using data from its users, Facebook was able to offer advertisers a platform which could serve highly-personalised ads to a massive audience around the world.

Shortly after Facebook had demonstrated it could monetize with its first advertisements in January 2012, it went public with an opening share price of $38 in May.

Acquisition of Instagram

Just before its IPO, Facebook acquired rival social media platform Instagram for $1 billion.

At the time of acquisition, the BBC reported that Instagram had just 13 employees, equating to $77 million dollars per employee.

Many people doubted the Facebook’s decision to spend such a large amount of money on a platform which had been launched less than two years before.

Instagram and other Social Media Apps
Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012. Photo: Jason Howie via Flickr

But the Instagram acquisition has since proven well worth the money. The platform now has more than 1 billion monthly active users and was valued by Bloomberg at more than $100 billion back in mid-2018.

As opposed to Facebook, Instagram is primarily a visually-oriented social media platform. Many of the newer social media platforms which emerged throughout the 2010s, such as Snapchat and TikTok, are much more similar to Instagram in this way. They are mainly platforms for sharing and consuming visual content.

New formats, such as ‘stories’ and livestreams are now common across most social media platforms, and generally the content we interact with is a lot more dynamic.

Nobody really knows what social media will look like at the end of the 2020s, but it will certainly be very different to what we know today.

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