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How Social Networks are Changing the Face of Advertising

Updated on October 3, 2009

How Social Marketing is Changing the Face of Advertising

Advertising: The activity of attracting public attention to a product or business, as by paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media. Ever since there was the need to convey information about a given product, concept or ideal, there has been advertising. Whether it’s conveyed through verbal communication (word of mouth) or via public notice such as a billboard, advertising is the most effective tool to inform others of what you have to offer. Advertising is history. Written communication is, in itself, advertising. Even the Bible is a form of advertising that promotes the concept of Christianity. Advertising has helped shape our world, and with the current trend towards social networking, advertising is entering an exciting and highly effective new territory that can produce results never before seen throughout history. Social networking has led to social marketing, and social marketing has led to the study of socionomics. Socionomics: The study of social mood and its effects of social behavior. Socionomic theory suggests that trends in social actions such as the economy, financial markets and political preferences are influenced by trends in social moods.

One example of how advertising has changed the world dates back to the fourteenth century, and has resulted in a popular Chinese tradition still practiced by virtually anyone who’s ever ordered Chinese take-out. The “fortune cookie” was originally used as a means to advertise the impending revolt against the Mongols, and was organized by Chu Yuan Chang who would later go on to become China’s first “Chinese” emperor. Beautifully orchestrated through its simplicity, Chang and his supporters used mooncakes (an early Chinese dumpling) to hide papyrus messages letting the peasants know when the revolt would take place. The Mongols were known not to care for the mooncakes because of the egg yolk used in their cooking, so Chang saw the dumpling as a perfect way to let the Chinese citizens know about the revolt without also alerting the Mongols. His marketing strategy worked, and the rest is… well, history. Talk about effective advertising!

Across the world and about a hundred years before that, Native American tribes were using a system of blankets and fires to create “smoke signals” that would alert neighboring tribes as to where the buffalo were. Sharing food among other tribes was common at this time, so it was beneficial to be able to communicate to one another from a distance. Theoretically, this could be considered the first example of “social marketing.” Skip back across the ocean a few hundred years earlier, and you can see that the Egyptians were distributing papyrus “flyers” about religious ceremonies, the Hebrews were verbally spreading their religion to other cultures, the Romans were using “billboards” to advertise upcoming events and the traders of the middle east were busy sending out “scouts” to let other countries know what they had available for purchase. So you see, advertising’s been around, in one form or another, since the beginning of civilization. For the most part, advertising techniques had not changed much for centuries; flyers, billboards, recorded texts and verbal advertising were doing a great job of letting people know.

In the late 18th century, the steam engine and the creation of the production line saw the rise of the Industrial Revolution, and with it, a surge in affordable new products for purchase. With this rise in production, there came an even greater need to let the market know about all those wonderful new “must haves!” Everything from Coca Cola to farm equipment was now starting to stockpile on the shelves, and the only way to get them sold was to invest in some good old fashioned advertising. Suddenly, almanacs and newspapers started selling space in their publications to these companies, and the creation of the modern day advertising agency was born. Since many companies didn’t have the time or resources available to place the media themselves, they hired advertising specialists and paid them on commission. Because they were paid by how well the product would sell, the advertising agencies started doing product research and studying demographics. Through these studies, they could successfully focus on the group of persons who were most likely to buy a given product, thus assuring success for the company, as well as for themselves. The advertising agency had now become the advertising and marketing agency, and as the manufacturing factories saw success, advertising agencies became an integral part of the production process.

During the last century, technology saw the invention of electronic media platforms including radio and television, and advertising adapted incredibly well. Entire families would gather in front of the radio or television during their favorite shows, and advertisers now had a larger captive audience than ever before. Later in the century, the internet would become the next effective advertising tool.

The world’s population is growing exponentially and with it, the need to inform the consumer of new product. However, it has become easier than ever to reach millions of potential customers due largely to the fact that the internet has made information on a given product available anytime. More people are getting their news online than ever, and print media is in a rapid decline. Television is still a popular medium for advertising, but many people are tuning into their computer to watch their favorite shows and movies. Virtually every network has their own website and offers an option to stream their programming directly into your home computer. Sites such as make it easy to watch previously viewed television shows for free. Most advertisers have seen just how successful online advertising can be and have embraced its potential, but a whole new area of online advertising has developed over the last few years that redefines the concept of visual advertising. Social networking sites rank among the most popular internet destinations with staggering numbers of registered users, and have become the most popular form of internet advertising. Facebook alone has more than 300,000,000 registered users with Myspace coming in a close second at 263,000,000. That means that with the decline of print media, the trend towards viewing news and television online and the overall popularity of the social network sites, the most effective advertising available is being done through the social network sites. People not only visit these social network sites to “connect” with friends, but to view new products, designs and concepts as well. Social marketing is also a wonderful way for the advertiser to inform their customers of upcoming promotions and sales, and for that fact, many brand name products have created highly effective “fan pages” that can easily be viewed more times in one day than previous traditional advertising strategies would in a month. This type of advertising is a far cry from the “Viagra” and “Penis Enlargement” spam that flooded everyone’s inboxes not even a decade ago, and unlike those guerilla marketing techniques, social marketing has the results to show that it works. Social marketing is the future of advertising, and the future is now.


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    • Delaney Boling profile image

      Delaney Boling 8 years ago

      Thanks breakfastpop. I'll try to keep up the steam!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 8 years ago

      Welcome to hub pages. Very interesting hub.

    • profile image

      Jan 8 years ago

      Great article on the history of advertising. Very excited about the social media marketing that is happening NOW!

    • Heuchera profile image

      Heuchera 8 years ago

      Interesting historical notes!