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25 Years of Marketing Technology Trends: 2004 – 2008

We're going back to the early days of social media and smartphones to see how they impacted the marketing we do today.

This is the second article in our series highlighting the technological breakthroughs that shaped healthcare, marketing, and our work at Geonetric over our first 25 years in business. Read the first article, which covers 1999 – 2003, here. 

The year 2004 marked Geonetric’s fifth anniversary as an agency, and the third year in its shift to working primarily with healthcare organizations.  

The groundwork for the technology Geonetric would come to rely on to provide digital marketing services to its clients — search engine optimization, search engine advertising and blog content management systems — was set and evolving quickly.  

Social media was in its infancy, with sites like MySpace, Friendster, and LiveJournal hitting the web and allowing more people than ever before to connect via the internet.  

Internet technology was also becoming more accessible to everyday computer users, allowing them to shape the content they wanted to see and share their thoughts online.  


Facebook — the social media platform with perhaps the most significant impact on healthcare marketing — launched in 2004. Healthcare organizations didn’t take to it right away, as it was limited to college students at first and strictly individuals after.  

However, as the site gained steam and healthcare marketers saw its potential, they found workarounds to connect with their patients on the fledgling network. 

“The idea of an organization having a Facebook page was a real challenge for a long time. They wanted these [pages] to be people, so you had to have a ‘brand ambassador,'” explained Geonetric CEO Ben Dillon.  

This year also saw the popularization of the term “Web 2.0,” which described a shift in websites to allow more user-generated content, ease of use, and interoperability for end users.  

“This idea that it was OK for normal people to have opinions and they would be out there on the internet… [we thought] are we even going to have corporate sites anymore, or is it all going to be user-generated content?” Dillon said. “This was sort of new and scary. A lot of brands were working hard to encourage their consumers to share information. It was a radically new way of thinking.” 


In 2005, Google began offering personalized search results to a limited number of users. These searches delivered results not just based on web page relevance, but also on websites the user visited through previous search sessions.  

While personalized search wouldn’t be applied to all users until 2009, this development paved the way for more targeted personalization and search engine rankings, making a significant impact on the way healthcare marketers gauged how their sites were faring in search results. 

“Before the personalized results, you could just search on the term, and you could find where you were,” Dillon explained. Once that shifted, getting to a place where we had tools that could tell us how we were doing and could track it over time — that was pretty challenging.” 


Google Analytics first launched in November 2005, but demand for the new tool was so overwhelming that signups were suspended after just one week until the official widescale release in 2006. Prior to the launch of Google Analytics — which was and remains free to use — analytics tracking systems cost money, meaning many healthcare organizations “flew blind” rather than invest in understanding their analytics, Dillon explained. 

“Google Analytics was a game changer, a lot of the tools you either had to run on your own server somewhere or they were very, very expensive,” Dillon said. “Having it as a free offering for the majority of people was beautiful, it absolutely changed the game.” 


The year 2007 brought two tech releases that would come to have a major impact on healthcare marketers — the iPhone and Google Reviews. 

Apple’s iPhone was the first mobile phone to use multi-touch technology, which allows users to navigate across the screen at more than one point of contact (using a pinching motion to zoom in, etc.), and ushered in a new era of apps and constant connectivity. It also helped further the popularity of the smartphone, driving the need for marketers to consider mobile responsiveness while designing websites. 

Google Reviews gave consumers a voice and the ability for user-generated reviews to appear whenever someone searched for a particular business or organization. While this development provided consumers with a new avenue for sharing their thoughts — good and bad — about a particular healthcare organization, it also caused new headaches for marketers. 

“They felt like they had control of their brand, and they didn’t want this place where other people could post about them,” Dillon recalled. “When one of our clients saw a review they didn’t like, they’d reach out and say ‘Can you take this down? We don’t want this on the internet anymore.’ And that’s not how it works.” 

The rise of online reviews also spurred organizations to take a more proactive approach to online reviews, encouraging people who have had a great experience at their facility to share that online. 

“The number of reviews for healthcare organizations tends to be pretty low, and those reviews tend to skew negative,” Dillon said. “It’s still a point of discussion with health systems. Do you have a program where you’re cultivating reviews? Do you have a kiosk on their way out the door where they can submit a review before they leave the building? The best way to battle against a low score is to get a representative sample of lots of people engaged with the organization.” 


The first commercially released Android smartphone, the HTC Dream, was launched in September 2008 and served as the first open competitor to other smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry. This release helped solidify smartphones’ staying power and the trend toward mobile-friendly web experiences. 

What’s next? 

Our 25th anniversary tech blog series continues in two weeks with a look at 2009 through 2013, and some major changes to how users and marketers interact with Google’s search engine. 

Need a boost in how your organization is using today’s marketing tech trends? Let Geonetric lend a hand! Our 25 years of experience means we’re well equipped to get you up to speed on the latest marketing technology — and prepare you for what’s coming next. Contact our team today to get started! 

25 Years of Marketing Technology Trends: 2004 – 2008