25 Ways the Web Has Changed The World

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This month our omnipresent friend fathered by Sir Tim Berners-Lee turned 25. The World Wide Web has been with us for a quarter of a century now and has irrefutably changed our lives.

It has turned us into information-holics, changing our working lives and how we spend our social time.

Here’s our list of the top 25 ways the Web has shaped the world we live in:

  1. Email: It’s changed communication forever and made the world a much smaller place. Business now relies on instantaneous contact and response, wherever you are in the world.
  2. Breaking news: Gone are the days when you relied on the broadsheets for the latest news. Online updates and social networks mean information moves so fast nowadays that Mark Twain was nearly right: if you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed; if you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed. Take the New York plane crash for example; onlooker Jim Hanrahan broke the news on Twitter in 2009, a whole 15 minutes before mainstream news outlets.
  3. Smartphones: The smartphone, made possible by the Internet, has made remote working possible. No longer are you confined to a desk, you can work on the move, allowing efficiency and productivity to soar. Some 72% of people have smartphones in the UK, which means 46 million phones performing a variety of tasks and connections that no one would have thought possible 10 years ago.
  4. Search engines: Platforms like Google and Yahoo! have provided us with access to a vast bank of information. Not only does this give people the ability to become experts in every field imaginable, it has also granted businesses a new way to promote themselves. Meanwhile, consumers have wrested some control back from business with the Web extending choice.
  5. Twitter: It’s made everyone’s voice count – frequently breaking news and opinions on subjects ranging from conflicts to entertainment and sport. It’s also a great way for companies to engage with their most valuable asset: customers.
  6. Online shopping: Commerce has greatly changed over the last 25 years thanks to the Internet. As a country we’re spending half a billion pounds a week with online retailers who can deliver straight to our homes, resulting in a huge shift in the importance of the high street. Retailers have had to alter their business models or risk going the same way as HMV and Blockbuster.
  7. On-demand TV: The average adult will spend 3 hours 41 minutes a day consuming digital media through computers, tablets and mobile phones in 2014, an increase of 34 minutes from the previous year, according to new estimates from eMarketer. This has revolutionised the advertising and marketing industries, helping advertisers target the right demographics. Netflix has revolutionised broadcast, allowing content such as House of Cards to be produced purely for online audiences.
  8. Big data: Without doubt the hottest tech trend at the moment. Data companies now know more about you than you probably do yourself, resulting in tailored content and advertising based on your preferences, hailing an end to spam and irrelevant advertising.
  9. LinkedIn: LinkedIn has changed business networking irrevocably. The first impression of someone is no longer made at your first meeting, as search engines and social networks allow you to research the person beforehand. Another initiative making the most of Web-based connections is recently launched ‘GetLunched’, a website aimed at connecting people in business during their lunch hour.
  10. Skype: Like email, video chat software such as Skype and FaceTime has opened up the world of business and lets you keep in touch with connections across the world – helping you to be in two places at once.
  11. Cloud-based services:  Don’t fancy the rush-hour commute today, or staying in for the plumber? No problem. Just log in remotely and work via a host of cloud-based services.
  12. Facebook: It completely revolutionised how people and businesses interact online, as well as still being the most popular social media network. Despite its bad press recently, we mustn’t forget the impact Facebook has had over the last decade in revolutionising the way we connect.
  13. Local businesses: Your local travel agent, car dealership or estate agent will soon be on permanent vacation. According to eMarketer, in 2012 seven out of 10 travellers booked their own rooms and flights online. The automated nature of companies is becoming commonplace during the purchasing process because of the Internet, and although it’s unlikely to ever become completely agent free, the Web has made holiday bookings, second-hand car buying and viewing properties much more accessible.
  14. Recruitment: The way the business world recruits its staff has been revolutionised by the Internet. Job sites have enabled recruiters to target the right people with the right jobs, making the process of finding the right person easier. The CV has also been changed beyond recognition, with creative types displaying their work online and the use of infographics and videos to display previous experience all helping the job hunter stand out from the crowd.
  15. Pinterest: In 1911, Arthur Brisbane, editor of the New York Times, said: “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” His thought has never been more relevant than today. With the popularity of picture-sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram, alongside YouTube, Vimeo and Vine, the Web has revolutionised the way we consume content, and made it a lot easier for a picture to be worth a thousand words.
  16. Getting lost and knowing where to be: There’s no excuse for being late any more, as the Web allows you to find that company or restaurant wherever you are. There’s now a plethora of Apps and GPS-based services available to us through our smartphones. Cloud-based calendars and connected diaries have revolutionised the disorganised employee and helped many of us meet business and social commitments.
  17. Wikipedia: With the birth of Wikipedia came the death of the encyclopaedia. Wikipedia is a great source for non-partisan content listing some 30 million articles in 287 languages, allowing everyone to research whatever they choose, making the world a much more informed place.
  18. Blogging: Forget Speakers’ Corner, platforms like WordPress and Tumblr have given the general public the ability to share their views on any number of subjects with whoever wants to read it.
  19. Tech start-ups: London is built on constantly evolving communities and Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout is the latest addition. It has provided entrepreneurs with the space and infrastructure to put new ideas to the test and helped the UK become one of the world leaders in an increasingly lucrative and expanding industry worldwide.
  20. Online magazines: While the Internet has been at least partly responsible for a number of magazine closures in the last decade especially, it has seen the birth of the online magazine, making quality content available for free, or at a smaller cost than print, wherever you are in the world.
  21. Online market places: Sites like Gumtree and Etsy have made everyone an entrepreneur.
  22. Vouchers: Groupon, Wowcher and Secret Escapes have put the consumer in control, allowing them to never have to pay full price, as well as providing brands with an innovative route to new customers.
  23. eBay: More so than any other platform, eBay makes even the smallest of businesses accessible to the general public, worldwide. Figures last year showed that eight million Britons run online businesses from home with the top 5% of sellers on eBay recording annual turnovers of more than £18,000 each.
  24. Crowdfunding: Finding new ideas, raising money, or improving awareness has become easier with Crowdfunding. In Kickstarter’s first year of business, more than £22.5m was pledged to projects in this country, with £17.1m going to successful self-starters.
  25. Digital health:The advent of the Internet has brought a new wave to the healthcare sector. From self-diagnosis on NHS Direct, to fitness applications such as Nike Fuel Band and monitoring systems linked directly to your GP, the Web has provided the industry with new ways to provide services to patients and relieve the pressure on an overstretched system.

25 years ago it would have been hard to believe that just a few clicks of a mouse would open up vast streams of content, not to mention untapped revenue stream opportunities across the world. While the world isn’t getting any smaller, our ability to scale it down into sizeable sections has become much greater and the Web has been an integral part of this.

 

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The Jurassic Park question of social media

Brace yourself. What I’m about to type might be a bit controversial – not every brand or company should be on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

There. I’ve said it. I’ve dared to suggest not using social media. But before I get thrown out of the Marketing Club for daring to speak ill of social media – let me just clarify…

Yes social media is an exciting new channel and a great way of communicating with many different audiences but just because a social media channel exists, it doesn’t mean you should be using it. If you’re sitting there trying to work out how to use [insert latest social media tool here] then maybe the answer is more simple than you think. You shouldn’t. Not every social media channel is right for your company, organisation or brand.

Yet it still puzzles me why some marketers rush to embrace ‘the next big thing’, not because it’s right for the brand, the company or the objective at hand but because ‘everyone else is doing it’. And when they do utilise that next big thing, they don’t tend to do a great job of it. Why? Because the focus is on ‘doing something’ rather than ‘doing the right thing’.

For those of us who can remember that far back, we saw this with the birth of websites where a plethora of badly laid out, badly designed sites appeared that did nothing for the brand and were simply an online version of an organisation’s printed brochure. But the rush to get online was insatiable. More recently we’ve seen QR codes appearing in the most bizarre of places – from revolving posters to the side of buses. Now, as tempted as I am to access a website via a QR code, I’m not running down Oxford Street, smartphone outstretched, in pursuit of the number 55 or loitering at a poster site waiting for said poster to appear again. There seems to be a rush to use these things without really thinking them through and social media is no different.

This is where I suggest we take inspiration, and dare I say direction, from a somewhat unusual source in marketing intelligence – the 1993 film, Jurassic Park.

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There is a key point in the film, the part where everything goes a little bit wrong – security fences fail, dinosaurs escape, people get eaten – when Jeff Goldblum’s character, in response to the accusation of being anti-progress, states that they “were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”.

For me this is the killer question when it comes to any company approaching its social media strategy but one that rarely gets asked.

When I’ve spoken to companies about their social media activity it strikes me that many are ‘doing’ social media but not really sure why. They have a Twitter account – but aren’t really sure if they are using it right. They have a LinkedIn page – but aren’t sure what they are supposed to do with it. They have a Facebook page – it’s blank and they’re not really sure why they’ve got one. One may ask why so many people are rushing ahead with execution without any clear strategy, guidelines or purpose? It seems madness. But as this is their social media presence these questions of strategy and purpose are just glossed over because… well… because we have to have a Facebook page don’t we? Well actually no, you don’t.

So, before rushing off to set up your page on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or any number of social sites, first ask yourself the Jurassic Park question: yes you can set up the page, but should you? What exactly are you trying to achieve and is it right for your audience, your business and your brand?

What Makes Wanderfly Wonderful?

From one social media site we weren’t too hot on to one we instantly fell in love with. Here at Limelight we have recently discovered Wanderfly and if like me, you love to travel it will be an instant hit. A cross between Pinterest and Trip Advisor, it is quickly becoming the best place to search and share personalised travel recommendations. Featuring amazing snap shots of destinations to cater to all tastes, it’s a visual delight for any travel enthusiast.

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Launched in 2010, Wanderfly has gone from strength to strength. Most impressively it’s flipping tradition travel searching on its head with over 5 million trip recommendations covering thousands of cities and destinations as well as partnerships with a number a brands including  Mint.com, History channel, Havaianas and Jeep.

Wanderfly aims to streamline the “Where should I go?” process of searching and booking holidays and trips. Unlike traditional holiday search sites Wanderfly offer users visual recommendations on places they would like to go based on their interests, be it culture, food, or adventure and then matches destinations to users budget and length of trip.

It works like a social media mash up between Pinterest and Facebook.  Users create boards for cities or destinations they have been to or are interested in visiting. They can then make recommendations for restaurants, hotels and attractions.  

In addition to user-specific city boards, there are also category city boards that collect recommendations for a given city from all users. Their content is based on factors such as what you like (via tags), who you’re following and what’s most popular.

Finally to keep you up to date on activities, new content from your followers can be seen down a feed on the right hand side.

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The only down side is that it is still US orientated with trips and destinations recommended from a US perspective not a UK or European. Hopefully the site will soon have a UK platform?

The internet has revolutionised global travel, with destinations, as well as reviews and recommendations only a click away. While over the past few years we have seen an explosion of user generated travel sites from WAYN to Trip Advisor to Expedia to Trippy to this really is the age of DIY travel.

To check out our best recommendations and see some of our best travel stories follow us on Wanderfly here, Limelight, as well as some of the Limelight Travel lovies, you can follow both myself and Ethna.

You’ll also find us on Twitter, and on Pinterest

Keith Millar

The Un-menshn-ables!

Louise Mensch – Tory MP, chick lit author and wife of Peter Mensch, the manager of Metallica, Jimmy Page and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – has joined forces with former Labour technology expert Luke Bozier to set up a new social networking site to rival Twitter. 

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The site called Menshn.com was launched last week in the US to capitalise on the presidential election and is designed to curate the conversation around set topics. Upon its US launch, Menshn offered three discussions, one for the Obama campaign, one for the Romney campaign, and a third generic one covering the US Election in general, but has now been expanded to cover a wider range of topics. At present the site looks rather bland compared to its rival Twitter, with some interesting topics of conversation on what is essentially three glorified chat rooms, including which presidential candidate has watched the most pornography!

By having only set discussion topics Mensch and Bozier hope this will limit the mundane and random updates people post on Twitter (that’s what happens when you have over 60,000 followers) and generate actual debate and conversation. Essentially menshn.com is a more topic-based Twitter comprised of chat rooms, designed to enable people to have conversations rather then simply broadcasting their thoughts. The other difference is users are gives 180 characters to play with rather than just 140 and instantly gain 100 followers upon joining. Similarly to Twitter the site revolves around following people but it does not include retweets or, ironically, mentions.

It has since been launched in the UK sooner than expected, responding to UK interest and to capitalise on England’s EURO2012 match against Italy over the weekend. The UK launch was originally planned just before the Olympics.

So far the reaction on Twitter, blogging sites and even menshn.com itself has been negative, describing it as a vanity project, criticising lax security and questioning what exactly it can offer that Twitter already doesn’t, considering Twitter can be tailored through sites and applications such as Tweetdeck to follow certain conversations or topics. Other commentators have responded favouring how subjects on Twitter can morph, allowing people to engage in what-ever-you-want chitchat.

Not to be outdone Mensch and Bozier aren’t the only politicos in the process of setting up their own social networking site. The Kremlin has also announced it is creating its own Facebook-style social networking site, following failed attempts to limit online Opposition activism after the recent street demonstrations. The popularity of the internet in Russia, which has recently overtaken Germany as the European country with the most internet users, means any Chinese-style attempt to assert control from above would be doomed. Whether a government-created social networking site will succeed remains to be seen, but while other platforms free of government censorship and control remain free to use this looks unlikely.

I remain sceptical when it comes to new social media sites and having looked at Menshn it still has a fair few creases which need ironing out. In an already saturated market, any new social media launch needs to offer something different, alternative and most importantly easy and worth using. The most recent successful example is Pinterest, now one of the fastest-growing social media sites, but one based purely on image sharing. Users of established sites such as Facebook and Twitter are reluctant to leave, or switch to new sites. Google has been trying to break into the market since 2003 and has only had limited success to date so any new sites are likely to struggle to gain traction, but I wish these new sites the best of luck and look forward to following their progress. 

 

Keith Millar

Consumer Control

Thanks to technology, consumers are now much more in control, over how they interact with brands, meaning brands and agencies are having to adapt to the end of push marketing and the new dominance of pull marketing.

Social media has enabled consumers to take control over the adverts they are exposed to, and the network of brands they want to engage with. Advertisers need to adapt in order to appeal to the “internet” generation. The message isn’t new, but the medium is. For the internet generation radio, television and newspapers are considered to be old and dying formats whilst Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the way forward.

Advertising and marketing is about building connections with people, encouraging them to discover more. It is no longer okay to create an advert and simply wait for people to demand the brand. A successful adverting and marketing strategy need to utilise targeted social media to connect with different consumer group on different levels. Marketers need to focus their message were it will be heard and were it wants to be heard. This can only be achieved by listening to consumers and providing them with something of value they will be happy to take time out of their day to engage with.

In these times of austerity, economic uncertainty, speeding freezes and budget cuts there remains a gulf between the public and many brands who, despite the current climate,  are encouraging consumers to spend their wages on supposed ‘must have’ products. UK consumers no longer believe owning branded products reflects status, only 20% of UK consumers agree owning the latest brand products or ’nice things’ tells the world they have made it, while in BRIC counties like Brazil, Russia and China the figure is a much higher 50%.   

A larger proportion of consumers feel dissatisfied with how they are represented in the media and marketing. 16-30 year olds feel disenfranchised, believing those in authority do not understand them or can relate to their needs or wants. Yet with today’s new rules of marketing it is this generation group that is the most media and brand savvy and are far more intelligent to marketing then previous generations.

The advertising and marketing industry is viewed with suspicion, it’s the year 2012 and people have a more cynical view of what advertising is there to achieve. We understand advertising influences consumers to purchase things we would otherwise not need and its ways and means to go about it. An inquiry called for by the Prime Minister recently condemned advertising for a lack of social responsibility and placed the blame for the 2012 riots partly at the feet of advertisers for encouraging excessive consumerism, leading young people to believe they must have the latest products. With more than two-thirds of people believing materialism among young people is a problem within their local area.

Brands need to treat customers as unique rather than taking a blanket communication approach. Marketing strategy need to be developed in a connected environment with elements of peer-to-peer sharing. Brands must prove their worth within a culture of sharing and focus on earned media rather than paid.Image

Slacktivism – Never Mistake Motion for Action

Three weeks in and the dust has settled on Kony”, unless you live under a rock with dodgy wi-fi and a faulty modem you can’t have missed all the hoo-hah. The ‘Make Kony Famous’ video quickly racked up 70 million views in a matter of hours, a task which took Susan Boyle a whole six days, and has now reached in excess of 100 million views; not to mention an innumerable amount of Kony-related tweets and Facebook posts.

Whilst this is all well and good (and I’m sure will make a fascinating infographic), it will make little difference on the ground in Africa, and fails to get to grips with the real, and more complicated than a 29-minute documentary can explain, situation within Uganda, Sudan, CAR and the Congo, where the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is also active.

The Make Kony (not to mention Jason Russell) Famous documentary was essentially one massive awareness campaign, not a call to action. The majority of us had never heard of this guy Kony beforehand, but now we know him – success for the main objective. Yet awareness and social media will do very little to end atrocities in Africa. But Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber have shared the link so we  must follow.

The film has received significant criticism across the web for various reasons:

  • questions over the finances and transparency of Invisible Children;
  • links to evangelical Christianity;
  • Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda or now dead;
  • support for a military dictatorship, which has committed crimes just as bad as the LRA;
  • glitzy shots of the planet, Hollywood-style production values and a high-impact soundtrack are perfect for attracting an audience but self-defeating in getting them to give money;
  • it does not focus on the issue of civil war and development, instead it is focused on one man;
  • it is another example of the white man’s burden of having to share a video to save the black man in Africa;
  • it makes a hero of a heinous criminal while making money for its creators.

But perhaps most strikingly, the film and similar campaigns promote ‘slacktivism’. Once you’ve seen one Kony 2012 video you’ve seen them all.

A previous blog posted by a colleague of mine states “the social media revolution can offer us the chance to help create, contribute and form news agendas much faster than traditional media ever can”. But how engaged are we with this social media revolution, if we really are experiencing a social media revolution at all?

In 2009, Twitter was predicted to help topple the communist government in Moldova; as for Iran – what happened with its 2010 Twitter revolution? There was no true Twitter revolution in either country, just a bunch of Westerners tweeting in English. The same is true of the Arab Spring; there was no social media revolution tweeted in Arabic, and there certainly won’t be one in Uganda.

What all these “social media revolutions” have in common, is once the Twitter noise has died down, it is still unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality of conflict resolution.

Using social media to clients advantage is part and parcel of PR, but effective PR is more than just awareness rising.  An effective campaign needs to have action backed up by social media, not social media back up by social media. The effectiveness and longevity of the global ‘Occupy’ movements was due to the fact it was based in action supported by social media.

The problem with slacktivism is it allows us to believe we are making a difference and that social or political change can occur through the click of a button. This kind of social action is based in the moment and rarely leads to prolonged engagement. These campaigns let us absolve ourselves of responsibility. We think we have done something about *insert tragedy here*, by telling others about it.

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Campaigning organisations and PR’s should stop launching cheesy stunts and peddling propaganda that decision makers simply ignore, and instead encourage supporters to find and engage with a cause they believe in and actively lobby for change.

While campaigns like this are effective in that they are quick and easy, taking only seconds to tweet or share, they do not create long-lasting change. Slacktivism doesn’t build momentum for the next stage of the campaign.

Unless as PR’s we can present an issue in a way that compels slacktivists to act, their cause will ultimately fall foul of the old adage: “After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.”