The Origins of Social Media Marketing

In an age where social media advertising dominates a large proportion of promotional strategies, rarely do we consider how far social media has come since the early days of inflexible and non-interactive communication.

Search Engine Optimisation

In the early stages of the World Wide Web, which is otherwise known as Web 1.0, internet marketers were restricted by static webpages and the inability to create an interactive environment with stakeholders. While organisations had their own websites to promote their products and services, stakeholders were unable to respond due to the static nature of the webpage. Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) calls this as the ‘read-only web’, as its capabilities are limited to searching for and reading information.

The platforms used by businesses to deliver their marketing message varied among a number of channels. In each case, internet marketers aimed to use search engine optimisation strategies to increase their exposure. Businesses were sure to include popular buzz words that differentiated the product from the competition in their posts to increase their presence when searched for in any search engine.

Of course, company webpages, blogs, and other static online platforms weren’t the only tool used by marketers throughout the stone age of internet marketing. With the introduction of personal email accounts for the general public, Web 1.0 became the birthplace of email direct marketing.

Email Marketing

Email marketing was a highly popular marketing tactic during the early days of Web 1.0, and has evolved to maintain its relevance over time. When email first became open to the public in 1991, marketers adapted to this new cost-effective technology and revolutionised direct marketing. Marketers benefited from increased reach, ensuring more customers were exposed to their promotions.

Garry Lee of the Web Analytics Association argues that Web 1.0 presented the opportunity for marketers to discover alternative mass communication strategies, relying less on more expensive mediums such as by mail or telephone.

However, email marketing started to become outdated after laws were established to protect consumers from spam, sparking the change towards a permission based marketing approach.

Spam was an unforseen consequence of the boom of email marketing. Source:

Comparative Figures

Although Web 1.0 seems relatively unimpressive in comparison to today’s World Wide Web capabilities, the technology boomed with internet marketers spending over $300 million between the years 1994 and 1995. While in comparison to today where we spend $26.9 billion within Australia alone, this number was still impressive considering the much smaller number of internet users at the time.

While many marketing tactics used in the past have been forced to evolve to account for the evolution of the World Wide Web and changing consumer habits, it begs the question of whether Web 1.0 truly has become obsolete. Are static internet promotions outdated, or do they still have some use to marketers? What do you think?



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