Old Social Media and Compuserve

First social media marketing campaigns were in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m looking for some, so if you find any, let me know? Here’s the sort of thing – stuff from 1999 and 2000 pointing out how useful social networks (virtual communities back then) are to marketers and advertisers. AOL UK unveils first CompuServe TV…

First social media marketing campaigns were in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m looking for some, so if you find any, let me know?

Here’s the sort of thing – stuff from 1999 and 2000 pointing out how useful social networks (virtual communities back then) are to marketers and advertisers.


AOL UK unveils first CompuServe TV advertising campaign
May 26, 2000

AOL UK is boosting advertising activity on the CompuServe brand with the launch of its first ever National TV campaign in the UK. The commercial, which has been developed by Mortimer Whittaker O’Sullivan, is based around CompuServe’s central proposition of ‘helping you achieve by saving you time’. It targets time-poor ‘new professionals’ by showing how specific features of the CompuServe service will help them organise their lives more effectively.
Someone should tell them that Compuserve will evolve into services like Facebook and become a waste of ‘professional time’. Or not. Heh.
The CompuServe service is an integral part of AOL UK’s successful multiple-brand strategy. Aimed at the independent-thinking ‘new professional’, CompuServe offers up-to-the-minute and easily accessed information, premier research tools, focused forums and powerful communication anywhere in the world.

Heavens! easily accessed info, some forums, market research intelligence, powerful communications. Who would’ve thunk it! All that from an online community.
AOL is the service for the whole family, providing its members with interactive education, entertainment, financial and information content.

It then goes into Netscape Online sales pitch. Better left unsaid. Though could MySpace/Facebook become the next Compuserve/Netscape Online. Well they did sorta. Didn’t Netscape buy one of the big blogging platforms a couple of years ago? Changed their name etc?

See? Compuserve has been around since 1969, public since the mid-70’s. Several million members (around the same as Twitter today). Don’t listen to marketers who tell you “oh this stuff is too new” and don’t listen to Gen Y who think they’ve invented everything. Every generation rediscovers ancient truths as innovation. Heh.

But that was only 8 years ago, let’s go back further. How about 15 years? From Inc Magazine

From JUNE 1994

How companies are using the CompuServe on-line service to find business information, including trademark searches.

Compuserve, the oldest on-line service, isn’t as friendly as America Online or Prodigy, but it offers more business information than either and is easier to navigate than the Internet.

CompuServe’s vast collections of articles and demographic information appeal to a variety of business owners.

Article goes on to give examples of business people using Compuserve’s business databases.

Not that I was a huge fan of Compuserve. More than once, they didn’t disconnect my modem when I went offline. I’m still paying off that account, I think >:(

As with some other on-line services, CompuServe can get expensive as the connect charges and extra fees add up. Lots of good research is available free from the Internet — if you know how to find it. But CompuServe’s real value is in making a variety of information easily accessible.

“I’m paying a premium for the information because CompuServe is the most comprehensive,” Chase explains. “The next step up is Nexis, which is way too expensive for me.”

— Phaedra Hise

Well that was 1994 dealt with – just as mobile phones were taking off in Australia, and Microsoft were setting up MSN as a competitor to the Internet.  Remember the original Microsoft networks anyone? I applied for a job as a moderator of some business forums. Didn’t get it 😛 But I was a Beta tester, when we would dial into a model that had 28,8 across to the States. Bliss.

Twitter’s recent phishing attack seems like a new crime for a new technology. Well no not really:

We hear a lot about “phishing” today, and experience it as we receive idiotic spam telling us that our password or financial information has been compromised, and therefore we must click on a link and enter our ID and password

To many this is a recent phenomenon, but it was almost as big a problem in 1980 as it is today, although the term “phishing” wasn’t coined until 2003. Compuserve users routinely cruised CB chats claiming to be Compuserve employees (often creating a handle that looked official) and requesting passwords. Once they got the passwords, they usually ran wild, burning up time on Compuserve until the victim got his bill – at which point he complained and was issued a new password.

Most of the victims were new users who didn’t know how to get the real ID behind the criminal’s CB handle, so the phisher usually got away with it.

Oh, so that’s how I ran up those huge bills?:P

CB groups were also called SIGs – Special Interest Groups. For brands like IBM and for interests like Journalism and oh, knitting. Think Facebook Fan pages and Discussion groups.

I could go on and on. But whenever you pick a campaign I bet I can match it with an old virtual community one. Whether it was the first virtual world for a brand in 1984 or online engagement in Compuserve for Saab in the late 1980’s, it’s all there.

It’s just gotten popular.

Who else has got an example of a social media, sorry virtual community marketing campaign? I’ve put a question in the comments so you can prove you are old enough to answer. Heh. J/K.

CAVEAT: no, there were no RSS feeds or widgets, we manually passed the information around with instant chat (early 80’s) and private messaging.

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  1. Hi Laurel

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Here is an old (and long [8mins]) 1960’s UNIVAC computer promotional clip – you’ll laugh but it’s funny how much everything stays the same.

    You’ll see that there is a consistent message through all of this – from a technology marketing perspective nothing much has changed over the last fifty years
    – computers are always getting faster, smaller, cheaper;
    – the zealots get fixated on features and technology;
    – BUT at the end of the day the central driver is about communications and the impact on people and society


    The only real difference is that today we want the whole message, knowledge and experience delivered and consumed in 15 secs!

    Scott Maxworthy’s last blog post..The Future is Digital

  2. EEK! I am old enough to remember the MSN; I too applied for a moderator role for SMEs in the UK (I was there reading for my psych degree at the time). Didn’t get it either. But did like the MSN interface — it was nice and clean and lots of white space.

    Darling, are we really THAT old????

    Lee Hopkins’s last blog post..Sort-of ‘Keynote’ for Windows

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