Hacking Facebook – Structuring Your Ads for Profitable Campaigns!

The New History of Advertising: Digital Marketing, 2010-2018

7 mins read

Prepare for the history lesson in Digital Marketing, that may be just the thing you need to stand out, today.

Short answer: Yup.

Longer answer: It’s never too early to start learning from the past. If looking backwards four, five, or six years helps us better understand what’s happening now, it’s worth doing.

It’s pretty clear that technology and communication have been going through some serious changes lately. While most of the technological shifts started in the 1900’s, looking at the evolution of digital marketing from 2010 onwards can help us to understand the impact of those changes. I mean, just look around you: A decent chunk of the workforce grew up with the internet, everyone and their grandma has a smartphone, and advertisers now spend more on digital channels than they do on TV ads.

The history of advertising from 2010-2018 helps us understand how we got here, and can point us to the trends which light the pathway forward.

Digital Marketing: Then and Now

First, let’s look at the progress between 2010 and 2018, shall we?

Basically, this is a time of growth for technology and digital marketing. More internet users, more smartphone owners, more social media activity, more YouTube views and, yes, more money being spent (and made!) online.

Here’s a play-by-play of how it all went down from 2010 onwards.


Biggest Headlines in 2010:

  • Apple releases the iPad, adding mobile tablets to the internet-browsing scene
  • Instagram launches
  • Social media use increases, with 9 out of every 10 U.S. internet users now visiting a social networking site each month
  • 1 in 4 mobile subscribers now use smartphones

What was happening in 2010:

If you worked at an ad agency in 2010, you probably heard the word “viral” every other sentence. Social media use skyrocketed during this year, thanks in part to smartphones and tablets. Back then, Facebook had fewer advertising options, so getting “likes” and having people see your content organically was the name of the game. There was no denying it – we were officially in the digital marketing age.


Biggest Headlines in 2011:

  • Snapchat launches
  • Twitter tests and launches a new homepage and user interface
  • Facebook Messenger launches for mobile users
  • Google updates its algorithm to “Google Panda,” which uses social sharing to identify the best search results
  • Google+ launches
  • Youth now use the web more often than they view TV

What was happening in 2011:

This was a year full of tests and launches for social media companies, with a new generation spending more time online than ever before. Digital search and social media also moved closer together, as Google’s new algorithm began to consider social sharing when picking the most relevant search results. As Instagram picked up in popularity, an app named Snapchat further disrupted the scene, ensuring video and pictures were on content marketers’ radars. Watch out, TV!


Biggest Digital Marketing Headlines in 2012:

  • Facebook acquires Instagram for $1 billion
  • Twitter use is up 40% year over year
  • Facebook introduces boosted posts to its News Feed
  • 20 million photos are shown on Snapchat per day as of November 2012

What was happening in 2012:

Platforms like Twitter and Instagram saw heavy growth in this period, while Facebook itself upped the game for marketers with increased advertising options. Bigger companies with the budget to experiment saw great results from social in 2012. This caused small and medium-sized businesses to become intrigued by the low cost, high reach options social media platforms could provide. Soon, almost every type of business would be using paid social media advertising to drive leads and build brands.


Biggest Headlines in 2013:

  • Twitter acquires and launches “Vine,” platform where users could share six-second video clips
  • Instagram launches video sharing of 15 second clips
  • A surge of online shopping mobile apps are released, allowing people to browse and buy products even more easily from mobile devices (may of these apps link to Amazon as the point of sale).
  • Amazon to dominates the e-commerce scene.
  • “Content Marketing” becomes one of the most talked about marketing topics

What was happening in 2013:

2013 wasn’t a major year for inventions or launches. Instead, it was a year where marketers and tech companies grappled with what to do with this new scene – making a business case for content, experimenting with video, and learning more about online shoppers. Short videos were popularized by Vine and Instagram, giving online entertainers even more platforms to gain followers. These “influencers” started to catch the attention of brands, who realized that content marketing wasn’t just about making the right things, but about partnerships and sharing what customers liked on multiple platforms.

2014 and 2015

By 2014, the major social media players we are familiar with today had hit the streets and appeared to be in constant growth mode. But how would they evolve? How could advertisers use them? Here’s how it went down in 2014-15.

Biggest Headlines in 2014:

  • Facebook introduces “Trending Topics”
  • Facebook acquires WhatsApp, a mobile app where users can call and message others from anywhere in the world
  • Instagram introduces personalized recommendations in the “Explore” tab

Biggest Headlines in 2015:

  • A Facebook survey finds that users want to see fewer promotional posts. It changes its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends.
  • Snapchat launches its “Discover” feature
  • Pinterest introduces “Buyable Pins” for e-commerce vendors
  • Periscope launches after being acquired by Twitter

What was happening:

By 2014, it was clear that social media marketing was a money-maker for both brands and tech companies. Facebook realized that their #1 job was to keep people coming back, so they introduced “Trending” topics to their main platform. They also added the Explore feature to Instagram. Snapchat followed suit with the “Discover” feature, while Pinterest made use of “Buyable Pins”.

This was an era where everyone was talking about user experience. Both advertisers and social media platforms were deep in the digital game now. They knew the winners would be determined by who made the easiest, most helpful, and most entertaining content and platforms for users.

2016 and 2017

Biggest Headlines in 2016:

  • Mobile exceeds PC internet usage
  • Facebook launches” Facebook Live”
  • Twitter announces the discontinuation of Vine as Instagram dominates short video sharing

Biggest Digital Marketing Headlines in 2017:

  • Facebook starts demoting the reach of “Engagement Bait”
  • Facebook adds “Stories” to its News Feed, following the trend popularized by Snapchat and Instagram
  • Digital advertising exceeds TV spending

What was happening in 2016-17:

By 2016-17, companies considered online advertising as a way of reaching all potential customers. What was once seen as a hip new way to reach “the kids” had become extraordinarily widespread. Google Local began replacing the Yellow Pages, YouTube channels were getting more views than TV stations, and social media use was growing for every demographic. This was even true for older target audiences, with 68% of people over 65 using the internet multiple times a month. This would open up possibilities for exciting new content, online businesses, and innovative advertising. It would also all but force companies to move some of their marketing budgets from traditional media to digital platforms.

Digital Marketing by 2018

Since it’s early 2018, we can’t say for certain what the year will hold. However, here are a few things we know for sure:

  • Web videos, live broadcasts and webinars are killin’ the content game
  • Promotional posts on Facebook are getting less organic reach, but users are still super active on the platform.
  • Facebook ads could be a good idea for brands looking to be seen by more people.
  • Analytics is getting more intense – I am particularly jazzed about new leaps in attribution measurement
  • Experiential advertising, including VR experiences, are gaining traction
  • Mobile browsing is growing, growing, growing – if you’ve been putting off that new website, now is definitely the time

And of course, the most important thing we know for sure…

Nothing stays the same in the world of digital marketing for too long. I mean, just look at all the changes since 2011!

(Psst…if there’s anything you want us to cover in our history of advertising blogs don’t hesitate to let us know!)


Loving the History of Advertising series? To take a look at our previous ventures into the history of advertising, check these out!

The History of Advertising series:



Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest industry news, guides and tips to get the most out of your advertising budget.

Try needls. for free

Social Media Advertising is hard. We make it easy by doing it for you!
Leveraging Data Science and Automation needls supercharges your advertising campaign.