Remember Web 2.0? While it’s hardly a new concept by today’s standards — if anything, it’s just “the web” now — there was a time when it was a big deal. In an era when the internet was young, and static content was de rigueur, moving to a web filled with dynamic, user-generated words, art, and video was a bona fide cultural shift.
Not to say that things didn’t progress on the commercial side, too. While words like “revolutionize” get tossed around quite a bit in the tech industry, that’s exactly what Web 2.0 did for businesses as it built several brand-new ways to interact and transact with customers. Here is a look at the business-customer relationship before and after Web 2.0:
It Gave Businesses a Voice…
If you’re old enough to remember the days before widespread ‘net connectivity, you’ll remember how businesses were at the mercy of the news media when it came to non-advertising communication. That was true even in the Web 1.0 days, when physical-medium news was plainly slipping but still a leading form of information consumption. Whether an organization was refuting a claim, attempting to offer a public apology, or trying to say anything else that didn’t involve a new product or sale, it had to send out a press release, cross its fingers, and hope for the best.
Yes, that’s an oversimplification, but it highlights the vast differences between those days and today, when the web ensures businesses have a way to get the word out. Whatever you’re trying to say, to whomever you’re trying to say it, and to however large a crowd, social media and easy, web-based content management tools remove gates between content and the eyes it’s crafted for. Compared to the old days, that’s a huge difference.
…and a Face
By the same token, check out this tweet from AMC Theatres:
The funny customer exchanges, surprisingly cool content (the Hamburger Helper® mixtape is an all-time, Mount Rushmore-level classic in this area), and normal promotional stuff that make a business’s overall brand image are all possible largely thanks to the new web, with companies climbing over each other to provide content that will be shared across social media networks.
The move also makes basic marketing efforts more viable than ever for smaller organizations. With location technology becoming a standard part of every web search, simply having an active social media account or company blog can put a local company’s name right alongside a national competitor’s when a customer searches for their industry.
It Permanently Opened Lines of Communication and Collaboration
Another major business benefit of Web 2.0’s philosophy is that the things that make customers happy also tend to help organizations. If the internet ushered in a golden age of customer service, new web technology took the idea to the extreme, putting a direct portal to every business imaginable right in their pockets. For businesses, this means a chance to do right by people (in public!) and generate goodwill and revenue with their master-level customer service skills.
That said, customer service is just part of the equation. The sheer number of companies running successful crowdfunding campaigns shows how much customers want to be part of the product creation process. Opening that door to them — with or without asking for a financial contribution — can result in a constant line of dialogue with the people buying your stuff.
Some companies make customer dialogue a core part of their creation process. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox®, already known for its mastery of social media customer interaction, made major changes to its then-yet-to-be-released Xbox One thanks to customer feedback, according to GeekWire. The company has also made feedback a major aspect of its efforts to refine the system’s software. The latter reflects a growing trend among new-web software developers wherein feedback from customers is solicited and implemented throughout a software’s lifecycle.
However, whether a company is soliciting feedback or the customer shares an experience of his or her own volition, the business world’s transition to Web 2.0 has made ripples that touch on every interaction. While the email and form boxes of Web 1.0 were a huge advancement on their own, the continual, multisource stream of talk seen today is all a product of the new web. And from game consoles to video service naming to social-voting platforms for coffee chains such as Starbucks, customers are proving just how “always right” they can be when given a big enough platform.
A Real Revolution
Unlike that “revolutionary” nose-hair trimmer you once saw in an in-flight catalog, the new web was, and continues to be, a true revolution for a revolutionary technology. If anything, the internet only reached its full potential for Web 1.0 when 2.0 finally took hold. Communication bridged the gap from “much easier” to “truly constant,” giving businesses an endless stream of new ways to both hear and be heard.
And, even without all the revolutionary things it did for businesses, you can’t say anything that resulted in the Hamburger Helper mixtape is a bad thing.
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