Posted by Steve Parker, Jr. (@sparkerjr)
A word has the power to change your life. Think about that for a moment because it is literally an Earth-moving statement – to change your life. For more than a decade, technology has brought words into our lives more than ever before. No longer are words just what we hear, write or read – they have become what we create and how we interact with the world around us.
We all grew up believing the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Yet, at a certain point, you realized that was completely untrue and that words could hurt, just as you learned Pluto was a planet but many years later find out it is just a ball of ice no longer classified as a planet. Words, my friends, change everything! Words have a dramatic effect on what we know, how we interact with people and the decisions we ultimately make. Words can influence us, inspire us or just as easily bring us to tears.
Words change our relationships, our demeanor, our entire system of beliefs, and even our businesses. Being a planet or not being a planet makes a major difference, just as the words “I love you” or “I hate you” have majorly different meanings behind them. Words have a powerful and undeniably overwhelming influence on us – for good and, at times, for bad. Think for a moment how words have changed your life:
Marry me! It’s a girl! You have cancer. We lost him. You’re hired! You’re fired. We won! We lost. Guilty. Not guilty.
It may not seem intentional, but it has been. At the core, a large “organization of words” shift has taken place right in front of us. As a result, words have forever changed our lives and will continue to change our lives as never before. For the majority of us, not a single day goes by when we fail to interact and create relationships with words. Take Google, for example. Google is a company with a focus on classifying and organizing words. It is a very simple focus, really: to be better than any other entity at organizing words. Now, they may say they organize information, including documents, videos, photos, maps and more. But at the core, they are all words. A document may have many words, but they are always organized in a theme, and a theme can generally be focused to a sentence or title, and a title to a primary subject or word. The same goes for videos, photos, maps and more.
Imagine you are in a doctor’s office and you are told, “you have cancer.”
A single word “cancer” just changed your life and the lives of everyone close to you. Clearly, you listen to what your doctor says, but then you go to a place you know you can get a lot of answers – a search. You may do this when you get home to your computer or tablet or immediately on your mobile phone. But nonetheless, you begin to create and interact with the words by typing a few into the search box: “what is cancer” “cancer treatments” “cancer cures” “cancer survival.” Cancer comes in many forms, so perhaps your search is more specific: “what is triple negative breast cancer” “triple negative breast cancer treatments.” As you type, the words interact with you, providing answers to your questions. As a result, you learn of clinical trials as a treatment option, so you again leverage the interaction with words: “clinical trials for triple negative breast cancer,” and you find a powerful option that gives you another word – hope. Then and there, words and our relationship to them cross over into something that changes our life once again – twice in the same day, perhaps.
The meaning and value of words have become largely dependent on real-time demand, and therefore, the perceived value is determined solely by the epicenter of time and need. In other words, it’s determined when a moment in time crosses paths with a particular individual’s needs and the two interact. In the new economy, words also have an economic value. Therefore, a search for “cancer” is infinitely important and invaluable for the person that was just diagnosed, while the words “free shipping” may be most important and valuable for someone about to buy a “42inch 3D TV,” and both words have monetary value to some third party (i.e. a research institute or Sony) as well as the provider (i.e. Google or Amazon).
Services like Twitter have also focused on words (very few, in fact, given the 140 character limit), defining trends via hashtags (a word following a # – i.e. #cancer). That said, words transcend both search and Twitter. Words have become the key to everyday life. In our vehicles, many of us use words to get assistance, either via a service such as OnStar (I need help, my car won’t start) or via GPS (and don’t turn left when told to turn right, or the next word to leave your mouth may well be S%*T).
On eCommerce websites, such as Amazon.com, FatCork.com, BestBuy.com or even ColonialCandle.com, words change our experience: Free shipping, We recommend, One Click Checkout, Out of stock, Pre Order, etc. The way we interpret the end result of each of those seemingly simple words changes our present and future behaviors in real time. In fact, free shipping is still considered one of the top triggers to purchase.
In the media industry, search – both paid search and organic (SEO) – is a huge segment of the industry developed around and focused on the use of words. Words have implications in both paid search and SEO. One of the biggest factors includes relevancy: how relevant are the words searched – to the text ad copy – to the words on the landing page – to the words on the website? They are all interconnected. Words have interconnected us with technology.
Consider the new iPhone 4S. A new feature is Siri, a tool that uses words to assist the user (and with amazing accuracy). By speaking out loud to the phone, users can send messages, schedule meetings, find nearby restaurants, make phone calls and more. If you haven’t tried it, you should. You will want to buy the new iPhone 4S just for this feature. In fact, Siri might even save your life, given you no longer have to look at the phone to select a number to dial, thus keeping your eyes on the road.
Words also have great impact in the social media context. If a company truly manages social correctly and mines the data for trends via social intelligence analysis, what they would find are great differences in their customer mindset, purchase strategy, message associations and ultimately needs. This learning can translate into applied strategies in Customer Service, TV, Print, Outdoor, Event and Digital Media channels to further connect with customers in a way – and in words – the customer wants and expects from the business, instead of what the business thinks the customer wants.
Finally, words also have powerful meaning in religion. Great debates and even wars occur over the use and meaning of certain words in religious context. Consider the great differences in thought that occur simply with the mention of the words God, Allah and Buddha. The same can be said for politics. You will get strikingly different responses from everyday ordinary folks with just the simple mention of Republican, Democrat or Tea Party.
Words have forever changed our lives. They change our perspective, buying habits, moods and even how we use technology. Perhaps they help you find a friend, a product, a service, a job, a spouse, get a recommendation or even save your life.
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