Most Influential Moments in Social


2018 marks 10 years since We Are Social broke onto the social scene. What started as a two-man team and a dream, quickly evolved into a specialist business with offices on every continent. This year, each of the 11 offices around the globe helped celebrate We Are Social’s 10th anniversary by nominating moments where social media influenced culture. We had a nostalgic look back at the history of our industry and how it’s shaped society and behaviour, influenced movements and forever changed the way we communicate.

Highlighted by ten ‘hero’ moments, we commissioned ten artists to bring the story to life offline by creating original pieces of art using different media, from print to projection. These are currently on display in each of our offices – and on this website.

Some will make you laugh, some will make you cringe, and some may even make you cry. Ok, probably not, but a few of the moments are pretty moving. Below you’ll find a few of our favourites but check out the site for the whole story.

2008: The First Social President

The US Presidential election of 2008 is a landmark moment for the impact of social media on the political process. The Obama Campaign realised that the internet and social could do more than just raise money. The campaign’s use of Twitter allowed for a degree of transparency never seen before. It allowed millions to openly express their political views. It circumvented traditional media bias and had an impact on youth voter turnout: 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

Being able to spot and capitalise on how people consume new kinds of media has always been a secret weapon for gaining political power. Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, F.D.R. used radio to change the way he governed, J.F.K. was the first president to understand the impact of television. In the same tradition, Obama became the USA’s first social president.

Some other notable moments from 2008 include @NASA taking to Twitter to report evidence of water on Mars and Facebook overtaking MySpace as the top social networking site.

2011: The Rise of Dark Social

In 2011 social communication developed even further and gave us a bunch of tools unlike anything that had come before. The kids of 2011 didn’t want to use social in the same manner of public over-sharing; 2011 gave us WhatsApp and WeChat, more nuanced social channels where we could talk privately within smaller groups, mirror the ephemeral nature of conversation and ultimately reduce our public social footprint.

China’s WeChat may have started as a humble messaging app, but has evolved and grown in scale and complexity: It’s now more than just a social platform; it’s become an integral part of modern Chinese culture and a significant economic power, set to add $3.7 trillion and 95 million jobs to the global economy.

2011 also gave us Snapchat, and the rise of an ephemeral brand of messaging for a new generation of social media users. The launch of Stories pushed this even further, giving people the possibility to tie together those moments and build their own narratives as they documented their lives and shared their experiences. Social had never felt more visual and in-the-moment. Snapchat’s ideas stuck. Facebook and Instagram released copy-cat formats and in 2018 Facebook announced that Stories would be the most popular way people share content.

Some other 2011 moments include the launches of Twitch and Spotify and the explosion of arguably the worst song in history, ironically written about the best day of the week – Rebecca Black’s pop hit Friday.

2013: Tom Daley

Tom Daley’s video has now been viewed more than 12 million times. He became a role model for gay youth and campaigner for gay rights. In 2018, after winning his fourth Commonwealth gold, he called on 37 Commonwealth countries to decriminalise homosexuality. His honesty also challenged the culture of the sports industry: he is still one of only a few athletes to come out during an active career. This use of an alternative media gave Daley absolute control over his message and his own image, and paved the way for other celebrities to do the same.

And who could forget the Oreo “Dunk in the Dark” Super Bowl moment that nearly broke the internet. 2013 was also the beginning of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as the first year Instagram allowed video uploads.