Trying to remember what life was like without it is a bit like thinking back to a time before mobile phones, given that for many, it’s written into the code of daily life.

Although Facebook is a website, it is one that boasts 1.23 billion active users – roughly a 7th of the global population – and the myth surrounding its inception spawned ‘The Social Network’, a film that won three of eight nominations at the Oscars in 2011.

Nevertheless, Facebook can’t lay claim to the title of the social network. It’s not alone, and it certainly wasn’t the first. Bebo and Myspace were arguably the founding forefathers of the social networks we have today, although Facebook was the one that kicked social networking into the mainstream in the western hemisphere.

For those working in PR, the hulking influence of Facebook has transformed the way we consume, produce and circulate media. Would the current trend towards short, list-based and easily digestible stories have been so pronounced without having social media that thrived on quickly shareable content? And would more people seek out traditional news if their friends didn’t provide a steady stream of information straight to their news feed?

For some, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on social media are taken as a more reliable indicator of coverage value than traditional circulation figures, guaranteeing a minimum level of reader engagement rather than guessing at how many of a magazine’s subscribers absorbed a given article. In PR, such engagement is valuable in demonstrating ROI, and the more nebulous effects of the public engaging with companies should not be underestimated.

Many would argue that Twitter is the more useful tool for PR, with journalists and clients alike using it to both gather and disseminate information. This may well be true, especially in the B2B world, with Facebook remaining more consumer-orientated. However, that’s not to deny that Facebook isn’t an invaluable weapon in the social media arsenal for companies looking to enhance their brand’s reach and appeal. Either way, none of this may have happened if it wasn’t for Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room ten years ago.

Happy birthday Facebook.

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