The internet is the great equalizer. Especially so for customers. Never before have we had such buying power, with so many alternatives and choices to choose from. Comparing price, quality and convenience from all over the world and forcing brands to compete for that all-important click on the ‘Buy Now’ button. But to get such power– and access to such perks, it has to come at a price.
What is that price you might ask? Data.
Web 2.0: the world’s greatest collaboration.
The web has come a long way since it’s inception in the 1990’s. From ARPANET to Tim Berners-Lee; no one could have predicted the impact it would have on the world some thirty years later. But Web 2.0 has marked a fundamental change in how we use and consume the internet. Previously, to access information otherwise hard to find, and now, to add our own information to the ever-expanding online database shared by all. The use of social media, which incorporates the multitude of platforms that make sharing, collaborating and voicing our views so easy, has taken a rise on an unprecedented level. For context; there’s approximately 7 billion inhabitants on Earth, 4.2 billion of which have some form of online presence.
It’s always been known that to be heard at all, one must go to where the masses can hear you. It seems, that in today’s climate, that to be heard you need to be online, engaging and interacting. But it’s more than just followers, friends and connections that are listening to the information you make freely available on the web; the brands vying for your hip pocket are listening even closer.
“Web 2.0 has made the greatest change of all: you can now buy your customers; not wait for them to come to you”
When we think of traditional media, we think of billboards, news adverts and commercials. But what we should really see traditional advertising as, is a luck of the draw. When companies invest in this form of marketing, they buy a chance of being seen by their target customers, they pay for a certain level of exposure.
How the times have changed. Now, regardless of where your customer is, you can have your advert front and centre, guaranteeing their attention when they are in the right mindset. No longer do companies have to hope that some of their target audience gets stuck in traffic on a freeway or happens to still be in the room when an ad comes on. Now, thanks to Web 2.0 and social media, their advertisement can be active while their intended viewer is already consuming information. In a news feed, in the middle of a video or in the columns of a webspace.
This new approach to advertising is still seen as a bit of a grey area, with ethical considerations always in debate. Where do you draw the line on privacy? Tower Data, a data mining company tend to turn a….blind eye to the ways they take advantage of Web 2.0 to access customer data. Their defence? Technically, everything’s public anyway, they just make money out of pulling it all together in the one place to form a profile of a person.
Their method is simple, and used by millions of companies worldwide. They scrape data off social media sites, forums, blogs and review sites to form a picture of a customer, collating their data, preferences and likes all in the one place. According to them, they’ve done so for 389 million social users across the Globe, which is vital information that big business pays plenty of money to get their hands on. After all, the more tailored you can get your marketing material, the better. This is the real trade off for our use of the internet and the benefits it brings us.