“Social Media” Dates Back Over 15 Years | Social Media History

by Tanner M. on

Many people believe social media is a brand new form of communication media. With everyone running around now proclaiming to be social media experts and gurus, I believe we must understand that the underlying concept of social media marketing has been around for awhile.

Depending on the loosely defined definitions of social media and web 2.0 (who the inventor of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, said is just a “piece of jargon”), social media could go back to the beginning of the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW).

Specifically, I want to point out the use of chat rooms, yes old time AOL Chartrooms, and my experience with them, which dates back to around 18 years now.

Old School Social Media

AOL Chat Rooms Compared to Twitter

Yes, I was one of the people who were enthralled by the power of the internet and computers at a young age. Sitting on my parent’s Packard-Bell PCs, I was exposed to AOL from the beginning and it was the foundation which has spurred my passions of technologies, both emerging and established, as well as social media and even marketing.

As a curious youngster, I delved deeply into the fascination of being able to chat with people across the world on just about any topic you could think of. AOL chat rooms covered just about any niche you could think of, just as today social media sites cater to just about any niche you can think of.

You went into a chat room, much like you go onto Twitter nowadays, and joined a number of people. In this chat room, you talked back and forth in a many to many communication. You typed in a message and it was shown in the chat room to the number of people connected to it. Essentially what social media is, many to many back and forth communications.

Chat rooms also allowed you to send private instant messages, similar to sending a direct message in Twitter.

On AOL you had profiles where you filled out information about you, which could then be searched to find matches of people. On Twitter, you have a short profile.

Basically they have the same foundations.

My First Online Business Using Social Tools

AOL Chat Rooms were the foundational media tool that I used to spawn my first business, BestofSabu.com.

At the time (around age 10, around 1996), I was a huge fan of professional mainstream wrestling (WWF, which is now called WWE, WCW) and professional “underground” wrestling (ECW, AJPW, etc..). So much so, that I frequented a few established wresting chat rooms and formed friendships.

I was a part of a specific niche community revolved around socializing. Much like many people are a part of specific niche communities today.

In these wrestling chat rooms, we socialized back and forth and friendships formed. Essentially, this is the foundation of social media, many too many and also the ability to send one to one communications back and forth.

Back then, wrestling tapes (you know, VHS, though DVDs date back to early 90s, they were not mainstream yet) were pretty popular in the professional wrestling chat rooms. People would collect them, and those with the rarest and largest wrestling tape collection were seen as “the leaders.” Similar to how many people in modern social media see “leaders” on Twitter as those with the most “followers” (though you may not).

The business opportunity I saw in all these communications in the chat rooms were that you could only get specific rare wrestling tapes from a certain distributor. This distributor had a website to sell their tapes, but not every wrestling tape was available on the internet. However, they did have a store in Pennsylvania that I could access that those across the world could not.

One of the most sought after series of tapes was called “Best of Sabu.” Sabu was an “underground” wrestler who was famous for his high flying crazy tactics.

So, one trip to the store, I would load up on rare wrestling tapes such as the “Best of Sabu” series and also t-shirts, return home, learn how to web design, registered a domain name and hosting (I believe, which cost around $100 just for the domain name then, a huge investment for a young person) built BestofSabu.com, and then loaded up some pictures of the products. Thus, my first business was formed.

Old School Social Media Marketing

In order to get traffic to my online business, I knew exactly who to target and where they hung out online.

They hung out exactly where I hung out, in AOL chat rooms catering to niches, specifically the wrestling chat rooms.

I had already formed many relationships in this niche circle and let them know how I could help them. It was an instant success.

Orders came in constantly through my connections I made socializing in the wrestling chat rooms.

Throughout my business, I kept making more connections which increased sales. I was passionate about wrestling at the time and my business thrived through this passion and my personal connections.

Essentially I was using the same tactics many “social media experts” use today to market products and services.

Similar to current social media marketing of making connections, forming valuable relationships, and helping each other out with your services or products that are related specifically to your target market.

What to Take Away From This Post

This post is not meant to inflame my social media ego or talk about lessons in social media marketing and sales… it is meant to show people that social media and social media marketing, at least the foundations, go back a good bit.

Social media tools are important. However what are most important in social media marketing is the valuable interactions and relationships you form with those tools. You can blare out your message as many times as you want on Twitter, but if you have no connections, or “followers,” then your message is dead. It is like talking to a wall and expecting it to talk back.

Social media technologies are just the vehicles behind the age old ways of sales and marketing such as establishing rapport, making connections, and letting people know of your message, which should be tailored to each specific niche and individual, or a valuable piece of message (content) that shows how you have a solution to their problems.

What Happened to BestofSabu.com?

You might want to know what happened to my baby (BestofSabu.com).

Eventually my passions for wrestling dwindled away and so too did my business. This just goes to show the true powers of being passionate about what product or service your business is selling.

That business taught me so much of what I currently know, at such as young age. From the importance of relationships to customer service to marketing and sales to web design. The list goes on and was probably the investment of time and money was probably the most valuable I have and will ever experience again.

Though times have changed and so too the tools, the fundamentals of business are still the same.

It also brought in a hefty income, especially for my young age, which I used a lot of it to put back into the business and also to spur other businesses such as buying and selling stuff on eBay.

I will talk more about the lessons I learned from this business experience during my mental and physical forming stages of life.

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