Larry BraunerThroughout history social networking has been practiced at religious institutions, business associations, conventions, membership clubs and yes, pubs.

The ancient Babylonian Talmud describes the Great Synagogue of Alexandria which was destroyed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan roughly 1900 years ago. This synagogue was one of the most magnificent edifices ever built.

When a poor person entered, he would recognize masters of his trade, and he would turn to them. That is how he would support himself and his family.

The Babylonian Talmud itself appears to be an early example of social media. It was compiled with source material, interpretations and arguments from notable scholars living in different places and in different periods of time.

I wouldn’t be surprised to discover plenty of additional examples from other religions and cultures.

Coming back to the present, all of us are familiar with social networking at parties, the work place or business mixers. Aren’t we?

How about public bulletin boards? They’re a common form of social media. People tack up or tape notices on them.

Letters to the editor turn pages of newspapers and magazines into social media.

What is new is Web 2.0, social networking sites and other social media sites. The advent of online social networking and online social media has revolutionized social networking, social marketing and publishing.

Online social networking and social media are global. They’re instantaneous. The “paper” and “postage” are essentially free. The “playing field” is level.

Now that’s real freedom of speech.

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18 Responses to “Who Invented Social Networking?”

  1. Mary H Ruth on April 19th, 2009 6:54 pm

    So true, so true. But there’s also a difference with the online advantage, which is that the emphasis in marketing appears to be shifting away from broadcast towards relationship building. Social networking has indeed always been with us, but it may be superceding broadcast as the most powerful medium.

  2. margo buccini on April 19th, 2009 7:26 pm

    This is totally fascinating.

    The next leap of communication will probably be thought transference. Human evolution is so random in its need to grow and explore.

    Thank you for posting this.

  3. Larry Brauner on April 19th, 2009 9:05 pm


    I agree with you that there is a shift away from broadcast or what Seth Godin calls interruption marketing.

    Part of the shift is to interactive or what Seth calls permission marketing, part to search marketing and part to social marketing.

    I think that for now interruption, permission, search and social marketing will all continue to coexist.

  4. FriskyMiranda on April 19th, 2009 11:32 pm

    Wow! I am really glad I just read this…Who would have thought that social networking dates that far back, even to Roman times. I completely agree with you about the way things have evolved.

    With social marketing on the biz side, I’m trying to learn so much, as it would better my business as well as myself…Having the business I do requires in person (which my brother takes care of) and web which is where I’m involved.

    There is so much for me to learn about online marketing, so I can attract visitors and customers to our business site (Q Health and Beauty)…Having a web based biz is sometimes hard when you don’t really know much about online marketing strategies and so on, but I’m really enjoying learning how to make it all work, day by day. :)

  5. Larry Brauner on April 19th, 2009 11:47 pm

    Marketing has always been and will probably always be a challenge. Continuously learning and innovating is key.

  6. Debbie Morgan on April 20th, 2009 12:18 pm

    Hi Larry!

    Thanks for this little history lesson. I really didn’t take my thinking on this subject back as far as you did but I did realize that social media is the next progression from things like cocktail parties, Rotary and Chamber of Commerce meetings, which still happen and have their place in networking.


  7. Bob Zenhausern on April 20th, 2009 12:19 pm

    Social networking has evolved from the agora to Web 2.0, but we do not have to go back that far to see the real roots of social networking. Online computing has been around since the 1970’s when one line call in bulletin board systems served much the same purpose as today’s websites.

    The Listserv mailing lists used email for social networking and one of the first email lists was the handicap digest which summarized online information related to disabilities starting in about 1981. Persons with disabilities were the pioneers of social networking because the computer networks leveled the playing field.

    That is why it is so ironic that the blind are excluded from Facebook, because they cannot sign on because they cannot see the captcha words.

  8. Joshua Parker on April 20th, 2009 6:20 pm

    Wow, I never really thought about who invented social networking or even thought of social networking outside of the scope of Facebook, Twitter, and the likes. Great thought provoking post.

  9. Steve on April 22nd, 2009 6:14 pm

    I liked what you said in one of your comments: continuous learning and innovating are key. I am interested in hearing about your sources for continuous ongoing education in social networking and marketing.

  10. Larry Brauner on April 22nd, 2009 10:31 pm


    I could write a lengthy post to answer you question, but I’ll be brief.

    I use a combination of book, articles in blogs and on social networking sites, masterminding with friends and people I meet online, and experimentation.

    Today or example I spoke at length with Ivo Jackson and Chris Patterson, two people I highly respect.

    I use my intuition or what you might call “gut” to synthesize and consolidate what I know.

    Hope that makes enough sense and satisfies your curiosity for now.

  11. Online Marketing Strategy on May 31st, 2009 9:49 pm

    I think that social networking is an evolution of using the web and historical traditional practices. I think it is a very different from the traditional networking because:

    - it brings “like-minded” people together to discuss specific topics, issues etc. This is not always the case in traditional networking.
    - it is a focal point for discussion and widens the scope of participants beyond local to global.
    - you don’t have to wait for a function or meeting as it is almost instantaneous.
    - it enables people who may not have the financial resources to participate in more formal face to face networking.
    - you can create recognition of your brand, products, services to people who may have an interest.
    - you can learn a great deal about the topic that you may not have thought of and make adjustments to your marketing strategies.
    - it is an essential relationship building tool. This is important online just as it has been offline forever. Good sales people nurture their prospects over time with many interactions. Not everyone buys the first time, some may take a long time to get comfortable and trust you. Social networking helps you to build that trust and recognition in a subtle, but powerful way.

    If you have a balanced online marketing strategy, social networking should be a key part. However, you still need to have a website with relevant, educational content.

  12. Myspace Layouts on November 24th, 2009 3:39 pm

    Nice article. BlackPlanet was the first social networking site that I knew.

  13. Larry Brauner on November 24th, 2009 5:58 pm


    The first social networking site that I knew was Ryze. I still go on Ryze about once a month.

    Since then I’ve joined a long list of social networking sites, many which I no longer visit.

    These days I tend to stick with the most popular social networking sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Ning.

  14. composter reviews on April 14th, 2011 5:58 am

    Whoever made social networking more viable to a wider audience that cuts across borders, thanks to you! Social networking sites are the tools of the future.

  15. Jon D. on May 2nd, 2011 12:55 pm

    You’re bang on. Social networking has been in effect since the beginning. I’ll add to your examples - basic word-of-mouth referrals is social networking. Anyone in business knows that word-of-mouth referrals is hugely powerful and probably the best form of getting clients and customers. My business relies on both offline and online social networking and I wouldn’t be growing my business if it weren’t for word-of-mouth, a.k.a. social networking.

    I like that you used the bulletin board as an example of offline social networking. It’s a very good example.

  16. Ducane Grills on May 12th, 2011 8:11 am

    Thanks Larry for the info about the popular social networking sites, and I agree with your statement, “Continuously learning and innovating is key.”

  17. Ken Rickerman on September 1st, 2011 12:54 pm

    Interesting to view it through historical eyes.. but did the Egyptians have Farm Town?!!

    Ken Rickerman
    Running Coach

  18. JOSHUA on September 17th, 2011 9:23 pm

    “The Babylonian Talmud itself appears to be an early example of social media. It was compiled with source material, interpretations and arguments from notable scholars living in different places and in different periods of time.”

    I just find it fascinating that history time and time again has answers that we thought were not possible - who said social media was a new thing?

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