? to Guest Blogger Kira
What has your experience with social media been like?
Guest Blogger: Kira, 27, Account Executive, Pannos Winzeler Marketing
My experience with social media goes back to my last year-and-a-half of college, starting in early 2004 when it was all new and not many people were involved yet. Does anyone else remember Orkut, Friendster, or Hi5? Chances are, you probably don’t remember these places on the web, but these were first experiences with online social networks- for fun. And all of these first experiences were pre-Facebook. So, although Facebook was one of the first to mainstream, many people don’t realize that it has had some worthy predecessors. I feel reminiscent when I think back, because it seems like I am among only a few people in my online/offline social-circles who know this first-hand.
Orkut was my very first online social network- and I was addicted! Orkut was launched by a former Stanford University graduate student and Google employee, whose name was coincidentally, Orkut Büyükkökten. In essence, Orkut Büyükkökten was the first Mark Zuckerberg.
Preceding the introduction of Gmail, users were allowed to join Orkut by invitation only (similar to how Gmail launched by invitation only) and I was unwittingly invited by acquaintances from a semester I spent living abroad, as a college student. I don’t know who invited them, but that’s how I ended up on Orkut .
The invitation only aspect made it feel like you were part of some elite group. And I loved it because, ideally, it was a way for me to stay in touch and keep up-to-date with friends I made while living overseas.
Eventually, Orkut was bought out by Google and it died down quite a bit. Most of the people who use it now are from Brazil and India, from what I understand. I wouldn’t know first-hand because I stopped using it some time ago. And, that’s how I lost touch with all of my study abroad buddies- but I still feel that the idea and intention was worthwhile and really enjoyed the experience of being involved with friends on Orkut. My eyes were opened to the world of communication made possible via online social networks.
I didn’t value the online social network channel as much then, because it had not hit mainstream yet. I was one of the only people I knew, in my everyday life, who was involved with online social networking at that time. I could not have predicted how much it would evolve over the next five years, or so, to target specific audiences and address basic behavioral needs related to interpersonal communication and our current society.
Orkut, along with others like Friendster, and Hi5 were popular online networks that preceded MySpace and Facebook. It’s hard to find anyone who remembers these, I think because the newer networks like Facebook and MySpace were able to appeal more to the younger Gen-Y kids, based upon their creation to solely target the audience of secondary and college-aged students who were most likely to blow-up the online social networking phenomena to a broader audience. Basically, the predecessors, Orkut, Friendster, and Hi5 were not targeted to users who would be able to make them hit the mainstream. I think that was ultimately their downfall.
And, with that being said, Facebook was ideal in that college-aged students and communities are typically where a lot of early-adaptors can be found- trendsetters who can disseminate new habits and behaviors to the rest of us, over time. Now, Facebook has surpassed all other online social networks in users, including MySpace! How exciting to observe the evolution, as the user demographic becomes broader to include us all, no longer limited to the original requirement that Facebook established when it launched in 2004; being an enrolled college-student.
I know Facebook was the first social network for many college freshmen, including colleagues of mine (Meagan)! It’s interesting to see how those who have grown together from the start for the more mainstream networks have become a changed generation, in relation to technology and its use in day-to-day life. It’s such a new perspective to many of us- even though technically I am considered Gen-Y, I did not grow up with online social networks as part of my day-to-day life. In fact, I am on the cusp, between Gen-X and Gen-Y. Sometimes, it almost feels as though there is a dividing line that is drawn, especially in correlation to online use and behavior.
Now that I am a marketing and advertising professional, I am involved with social networking to stay on top of trends and demographic-based behaviors for the audiences that our clients want to reach out to. I feel that I have learned a lot from my colleagues and friends at work regarding the professional value of being on Facebook, LinkedIn and other online networks. When before, it was just about having fun and being casually in touch with friends. Now, it has evolved to personal branding, being aware and in control of my own online presence and using online networks as a tool to leverage communication and openness among those whom I am in touch with regularly, online and offline, too!
The most exciting thing to see is the current class of college students, heading for graduation, and being fully aware of the value to be had through reaching out to professionals via LinkedIn and Facebook! I strongly feel that this current class/generation of new adults gets it- to the point where they don’t even have to think hard about using these online channels to their advantage. It’s ingrained in some of them, which is good. They have the most positive relationship with the Internet than previous generations who grew up with computers, in my opinion.
I have to say that I am thankful for the opportunity to be included among others who also recognize and understand the value. Especially because, sadly, I know there are many who still aren’t sure and don’t get it. I think it’s sad because I worry that those who don’t get it are being left out, somehow.
Eventually, I would love to be connected to all my offline family, friends, and coworkers through various online networks because the busier and further apart we are in our physical lives- spread out across the world, it becomes more and more important to me to keep any and all lines of communication open. Social networks allow me to reinforce my bonds with those people whom I share common interest and values with.