My uncle Dov, a veteran of the War of Independence, is an avid reader of this column.

He recently confided to me that “Issamar, you have tons of readers my age who have no idea some weeks what on earth you are referring to in your column. You throw around terms like LinkedIn, social media, search engine optimization, PPC... can you take a column to go back to basics so we can get a handle on the newfangled terminology?”

Uncle! This one’s for you!

Let me explain: The world is very much the same as when you grew up, but in one way it is very different. And that major change is the speed of everything.

Like the Panama Canal, which meant ships could cross between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in hours instead of having to go around the entire continent of South America, the Concorde, fax machine, overnight delivery and microwave ovens are all examples of the speed at which today’s consumer demands life happen.

That bit of introduction should help you understand the definitions below:

LinkedIn: A live, self-updating rolodex of everyone you’ve ever known. It has the additional twist of empowering the employee to own their list of business contacts. No longer does the business owner “own” the client list the way it used to be!

Facebook: An online gathering place where folks share too much information with everyone they know, sharing news, thoughts on politics and pictures of cats. It has a powerful search feature, as well as a messaging service that lets you get in touch with people without having their contact information or even their names! (Like: “People who went to Yale who live in Halifax” will give you a list of people sorted by who you know in common.)

But how is all this paid for? How can these offerings be free?

That’s because of another twist to an old idea.

Remember mailers, those coupon packets that used to come to your door? Remember hearing about how “it costs the New York Times more to print the paper itself than what you pay, and the ads are paying that additional cost?”

Well, these changes in technology and the sheer amount of data these companies collect means they can get tremendously targeted advertisements in your way at just the right time. They can get a hit-the-nail-on-the-head response, hitting the perfect demographic and the right strike time, and therefore can spend much more on acquisition per new client.

PPC, or pay-per-click advertising on websites, means that really, the advertisers looking for you are subsidizing the searches you do. And when understood and properly optimized, can bring a very targeted clientele to your (virtual or real-life) door at a profitable margin.

SEO is search engine optimization – trying to do the same and generate business but by positioning your site as most relevant without having to pay for each visit or view.

If you understand what I’ve written above, you have a good picture of what the Internet is like “under the hood.”

It’s all the same as a decade ago as Bill Gates said in his book Business at the Speed of Thought. It’s all the same just a bit faster, with businesses using your own psychological habits to target you and ensure you keep coming back for more.

issamar@issamar.com

Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi.

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