When people hear the term “Web 2.0” it conjures an image of ingenious developers creating new programming languages…like the progressions of HTML, XHTML, CSS, Java, and PHP – most of which are acronyms that very few know the true meaning of, aside from the certainty that they all have “something to do with computers…”. While all of those things are components of the evolution of Web 2.0, that’s not the true meaning of Web 2.0 as a whole – at least not as I’m about to explain my perspective of it here. In my opinion, Web 2.0 isn’t about hardware or software – it is about the way in which people are learning to USE them.
Think about how you use your computer today vs. how you used your computer 15 years ago. I’d venture to say 15 years ago the vast majority of people who had computers used them for writing letters and business-related presentations, checking e-mail and briefly surfing the Internet for information…and that’s about it. And that seemed like a big deal. Ah…remember when a 14.4 modem was “state of the art”? HAHA! Now, think about the technological world we live in today.
I can take a picture of something and send it to someone on the other side of the globe literally in a matter of seconds WITH MY PHONE. Remember address books and those little binders designed to hold business cards? There’s no doubt those things still exist, but it won’t be long before they’re a distant memory (like 8-track tapes) and something we bore our grandchildren with when we start telling “when I was your age…” stories. I actually said “8-track tape” once to my niece…she looked at me as if I were speaking a foreign language. :)
These days we do EVERYTHING online. People don’t just USE the Internet anymore – they RELY on the Internet…not just to exchange information with people they know, but for day-to-day tasks like paying bills and scheduling doctor’s appointments. Just the other day my friend was instant messaging his DOCTOR with questions about the medication he had prescribed. Hello…that is AWESOME! 10 years ago getting those few questions answered would have involved a phone call (perhaps more than one phone call), leaving a message with the receptionist and then waiting hours (or perhaps days) for a call back. Instead, my buddy got his questions answered and the information he needed instantly. In this constantly evolving technological world, there is almost nothing that can’t be accomplished online. THAT is the evolution of Web 2.0 as it applies to the real world.
Does anyone remember the days of calling “Time & Temperature” or “The Weather Line”? I do. How many do you suppose still do that? I’d say it’s a vastly small percentage of people, if the services even still exist at all. There are plenty of sources for weather information online and with the advent of WiFi, Blackberry, iPhone and the like, you’re never more than a keystrokes (or screen touches) away from whatever it is you might want to know. I can pay my cell phone bill FROM MY PHONE. Who would have imagined that 20 years ago? And keep in mind, 20 years ago I was the same age my niece is now. She will never know a world without such technology…and I’ve not yet decided whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
The evolution of the Web 2.0 world has also given people an unprecedented opportunity to take control over their own reputations, whether personal or professional. For a business, it’s no longer enough to just HAVE a website. You must have a website, without question. Once people have found your website, many likely go on to search for the company by name and peruse the results. Do you know what comes up when someone types your company’s name into the search query? Have you ever even thought to look? You might be surprised…
Online reputation management is no less important for an individual. Have you ever typed your name into a search query? If you’re actively managing your reputation, as you should be, you should see a variety of results that include your LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, profiles you have created with well-known sites in your given area of expertise, etc. Do you know what comes up in the search results when someone searches for you by name? You have more control over that than you think.
LinkedIn is a perfect example of this theory in action. LinkedIn profiles are a great source of information regarding a person’s professional experience. Moreover, LinkedIn recommendations give anyone viewing the profile the opportunity to learn about a person based on others’ experiences with them. It is much the same premise as website testimonials, but on an individual basis.
This is useful for both the self-employed seeking freelance or contract work, but also for any potential job hunter! Instead of having to do the whole, “Hey, I put your name down as a reference on when I applied for [this job], so you might be getting a call…”. People can now leave standing recommendations for you on the LinkedIn profile that will save both you and a potential employer time and resources.
I have been contacted by several recruiters as a result of the resumes they’ve found on CareerBuilder and Monster.com. Rather than using the standard “References Available Upon Request” statement found at the bottom of the vast majority of resumes, mine states, “References Available at http://www.linkedin.com/in/alyssonfergison”. Many recruiters have openly stated that the information within my LinkedIn profile set me apart from others who had actually already applied for the position and were actively interviewing.
Let’s say a hiring manager for a company has two seemingly equally qualified applicants. Both made it through the interview process with flying colors, they have comparable education & experience and each appears more than able to carry out the day-to-day tasks required of the position. In the past, hiring managers often had no choice but to just flip a coin and take a chance on one or the other. The evolution of the Web 2.0 world has eliminated the need for such guesswork.
Today, that hiring manager has the opportunity to find information about each candidate online simply by searching for them by name. Among the top five results for one candidate is her LinkedIn profile, which the hiring manager promptly reviews. On her profile is a detailed work history, education information, groups and associations she is a member of, recommendations from prior colleagues and clients, etc. The other candidate, on the other hand, has no such results for her name and, as such, has likely just been beaten out for the position by her competitor – due to nothing more than poor online reputation management.
The world is becoming ever more reliant upon technology. I can’t tell you the last time I wrote a check for a bill and actually sent it through the mail. That’s just not the world we live in anymore. As I look at my 12-year-old niece I realize she may never write a check…she may never pay a bill that she doesn’t pay online…she may never know what it is like to have to actually GO IN to the bank to deposit or withdraw money. These days you don’t even have to go in to a bank to open an account…or even refinance a house! Those who learn to ride the Web 2.0 wave will continue to succeed…those who don’t will be crushed by it and bludgeoned by the rocky bottom of the technological ocean. It is natural selection – simply on a virtual and technological scale.