The year was 2010. The era of chunky necklaces, flower crowns and technicolor skinny jeans. Tumblr was the birthplace of trends and culture. Millennials ruled the headlines. And it was the year Pete Cashmore, former Mashable CEO, first coined “Social Media Day.” Incidentally, it was also the year Sprout Social was founded.

Fourteen years ago, the role social media played in our lives was drastically different. It was primarily seen as a way to connect with friends and family. Text updates, relationship statuses and hyper-filtered photos were the extent of our feeds. Few could imagine the way social would inundate our daily lives in the next decade.

But that was beginning to change. Some brands were getting on board with social and scaling their presence. Emerging businesses were leveraging platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and the new Instagram app to get off the ground. The year marked a turning point: It was the first time companies realized social might actually be the future of marketing.

Today, social has become the place for discovering new trends, following influencers and creators, researching brands and shopping. Naturally, that puts it at the center of many brands’ overall marketing strategies, positioning social teams at the helm of a critical, cross-functional operation.

This Social Media Day, let’s celebrate all that the people behind brand accounts have achieved. Here are ways other social marketers are marking the occasion, and ideas your brand can use to follow suit.

What is Social Media Day?

Every June 30th, Social Media Day recognizes social media’s impact on global communication and culture at large.

Cashmore originally introduced the hashtag holiday to celebrate how social media has altered communication channels and media.

As Cashmore said in our Social Media Day-focused episode of Enter the Chat, “It’s hard to remember that [before the 2010s] it was TV that shaped culture…On the Social Media Day, we took social media into ‘real life.’ That was the origin of Social Media Day: Letting people around the world connect around their love of social media.

In that period, there was a lot of optimism about social media empowering people to have a voice. Today, we’ve forgotten we didn’t use to be so empowered to tell our own side of the story. There were so many gates to media. If you wanted to be interviewed, you had to go on a mainstream talkshow. Now, you can put your own narrative out into the world.”

While the holiday’s original purpose is just as relevant today, its importance continues to grow.

Social Media Day also highlights the contributions social creators and marketers make to the cultural zeitgeist and how social will continue to change our world.

A LinkedIn post from Sprout Social on Social Media Day 2023. The post celebrates the contribution of social and social marketers on culture.

For social teams, it serves as an opportunity to educate leaders about the way social positively impacts your brand, and to pull back the curtain for your customers on all that goes into your social presence.

What does Social Media Day mean to marketers?

To kick off Social Media Day celebrations this year, we turned to Sprout’s community, The Arboretum (affectionately known as the Arb), to find out what trends social marketers miss and how much social has changed. We rounded up a few of our favorite responses, and took note of the overall sentiment.

A LinkedIn post from Pete Cashmore where he shares his favorite viral social media moments of the past decade

Nostalgia for the past

It’s obvious that many marketers are nostalgic for the social media functionalities and trends of the past. Even if they might cringe at some of their posts today. Here’s what they said when remembering what social looked like a decade ago:

  • “#ThrowbackThursday was a great trend. It provided an opportunity to use social media to capture the magic of a moment from the past. Some of my favorites were when people would use a physical photo from the ‘80s or ‘90s—maybe even a super old Polaroid.”
  • “I’m nostalgic for Facebook pokes. I remember having up to 20 poking wars with my friends from high school at any given moment. It was just an easy way to let someone know you were thinking of them—without needing to actually say anything.”
  • “I miss the early days of Facebook—posting status updates about daily life and the excitement of connecting with old friends. And the era of early Instagram, with its straightforward photo-sharing and quirky filters.”
  • “I’ve had a Facebook account since 2004 (remember when you had to use your university email to sign in?). I miss the days when you used your digital point-and-shoot camera to upload all those photos with friends from the college party. No filters required.”
  • “Myspace and the Top 8 always created drama among friends. A guy broke up with me by moving me down on his Top 8 from second position to seventh.”
  • “I miss long Tumblr posts that felt like journal entries. There’s a certain charm to long-form content—a sense of artistry in crafting a story. I miss the effort and depth that went into it.”

A TikTok video from a creator explaining how Facebook used to rule the cultural zeitgeist in the 2010s

Celebrating how far we’ve come

Many Arb members have worked in social since the first Social Media Day 14 years ago. They’ve seen social transform from “a job for the intern” into a legitimate career path. They remember the scrappy days, and are thankful stakeholders are finally seeing the value of social and investing in it.

And all our respondents noted that community building and engagement now trump follower growth—a sign of how social is transforming and how brands are changing their strategies with it.

  • “Measuring the impact of social has evolved from having a certain number of followers to being all about engagement and creating meaningful conversations.”
  • “Initially, brands used social media to broadcast messages—like a digital billboard. Today, brands foster conversations, engage audiences‌ and create interactive experiences. This transformation allows brands to build stronger relationships with their audiences, respond to feedback and create a sense of community, ultimately leading to more meaningful and lasting connections.”
  • “A lot of businesses don’t even have websites anymore because they know folks are going straight to social media to find them.”
  • “It’s remarkable to see how companies now regard social media as a critical marketing tool to drive sales and increase conversions. If someone had told me this would happen in 2010, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
  • “Social media has changed so drastically since 2010. Two things that stand out the most are the rise in artificial intelligence (AI)—for better or worse—and brands creating communities and relationships with customers (versus constant promotion and talking at their audiences). Social media, even for brands, has become an arena for authenticity and sharing opinions, including micro-influencing. I’m here for it.”

A creator's TikTok video with the text overlay: I worked in social media in 2010 when no one took it social media is a billion dollar business

Reflecting on what’s stayed the same

As much as social has changed, much has stayed the same. Like how it’s still the driving force behind so many cultural moments. Unfortunately, this means some of the challenges still exist (or have been magnified).

  • “It’s interesting how social media started organically and authentically—with people sharing anything and everything in the early days. Looking at you, Facebook photo albums with 100+ photos from the previous night where each friend was meticulously tagged. But then took a turn in the 2010s to being extremely curated and perfectly color-graded with themed Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards. Now the pendulum is swinging back to authenticity with platforms like TikTok.”
  • “What I’ve seen time and again over the past 14 years is social media’s power to bring people together—to educate and inspire.”
  • “There are pros and cons of social media. There’s never been a greater democratization of news and information, more connectivity between wide-ranging groups of people or such a powerful platform for marginalized people to share their experiences. On the downside, misinformation dissemination, cyberbullying and mental health challenges tied to the overuse and misuse of social media are persistent concerns.”
  • “Many leaders still believe organic social media is free and that going viral is the ultimate goal.”
  • “Social media has given (and continues to give us) some of the most fun cultural moments. Remember these?”

A 2014 video from Viner Diamonique Shuler of a woman singing the phrase "Do it for the Vine" to a young girl who responds "I ain't gonna do it" while dancing adorably

A viral 2014 video featuring the quote "I'm in Me Mum's Car, Broom Broom"

A 2022 episode of Chicken Shop Date featuring Louis Theroux that made the trending sound "My money don't jiggle jiggle, it folds" go viral.

4 ways to celebrate Social Media Day

When it comes to planning how you’ll celebrate Social Media Day this year, consider using one of the ideas below.

No matter how you observe it, we hope this holiday helps reinforce the importance of the work you do everyday and the major contributions you make to your brand’s success and our collective culture.

Champion the work of social professionals

Regardless of title, level or area of expertise, people who work in social are essential to connecting businesses with their customers and elevating brand recognition.

On Social Media Day, take a moment to honor your diligence and commitment. Share your and your peers’ narratives, spotlight their achievements and express your gratitude for their invaluable contributions.

LinkedIn post from Nathan Jun Poekert praising the social team behind JACQUEMUS's Instagram account

Apply it: To make this tip brand-account-friendly, shout-out your brand partners, customers or prospects excelling on social.

Share behind-the-scenes content

According to a Sprout Q4 2023 Pulse Survey, almost half (42%) of consumers want to see a brand’s social media team represented in their content. Creating a meet the team series or sharing behind-the-scenes post for Social Media Day is an excellent opportunity to showcase the people behind your accounts.

By offering a peek into the world of day-to-day social media marketing, you’ll humanize your brand, illustrate all that goes into content production and boost your engagement.

A LinkedIn post from Bari Tippet behind the scenes of a shoot with the Sweetgreen team.

Apply it: Have an upcoming photo or video shoot coming up? Capture it. Have you taken your followers on an office tour lately? Now is the time. Have a social team member who your audience doesn’t know yet? Let them take over the brand account for the day.

There are many ways to capture the magic of your team. Find the one that works best for you.

Celebrate your social wins

Craft a post celebrating your team’s successes on social this year. Reflect on your social media performance and achievements, and consider which have been most impactful. Which campaigns were the most successful? What milestones did you reach?

Share them with your followers and celebrate your team’s hard work.

A LinkedIn post from Maya Shumpert, a social media marketer at Pattern Beauty, explaining the process behind the success of the brand's most successful post

Apply it: It might not feel natural to talk about your accomplishments as a social team. But showing your audience how you make brand magic—and business impact—cementing the notion that social is the key to driving exponential growth. Especially on Social Media Day. After all, a win for one brand’s social team is a win for all.

Connect with fellow social marketers

Does anyone understand the significance of this day better than your social media peers?

Social Media Day is the perfect time to nurture and expand your professional circle. Attend industry gatherings, forge new connections on LinkedIn and join virtual communities. Networking is a powerful tool for learning, staying current with trends and finding fresh inspiration for your social media strategies.

A LinkedIn post from the Arboretum by Sprout Social that showcases the community's mentorship network

Apply it: If you’re not yet a part of an online community or mentorship program, consider joining for camaraderie, support and genuine connection.

We salute those behind the brand account

Reflecting on the first Social Media Day back in 2010, it’s remarkable to see how far we’ve come. Though social started as a channel for casual updates, it’s evolved into a powerhouse for brands, influencers and cultural movements.

This Social Media Day, let’s celebrate the tireless efforts of social media practitioners who bravely navigate this ever-changing landscape, wear countless hats, continuously educate their colleagues and leaders about social’s potential, and drive brand success. Celebrate yourselves, your team and your network of peers for your dedication, impact and the mark you make on the industry.

Looking for a member-driven virtual community built by social media and marketing professionals? Join the Arb today.