The recent upheaval developing in Egypt highlights what companies can do when out of the box thinking is required and using good old voice “apps”.

Only a few weeks ago, Google acquired SayNow, a service which allows users to create a voice message which can then be forwarded to become social via Twitter, Facebook, mobile phones etc. (Audioboos are similar).  However, the problems with internet connectivity in Egypt meant that, at the height of the crisis, Google engineers set to and hacked together a solution so that anyone could bypass the restrictions to internet usage and get voice messages from landlines and mobile phones straight onto Twitter with the #egypt tag.

This service means that many voices that would otherwise not be heard can be shared around the world easily. Now, many companies do not have Google’s resources nor enthusiastic acquisitions approach to have the right tools at the right time to help out in such a crisis. However, you too can make the most of opportunities simply by using your existing product set, company ethos, or in-house resources.

For Google, the hack has brought positive publicity, immediate promotion for a new Google service, and visitors. However, the need to put SayNow straight into use, without Google’s standard lengthy beta test, appears to have caused an issue as on the SayNow website: only existing users can log in and the website would seem to require updating to take into account the latest developments, e.g. the numbers to call for Egyptian messages.

Regardless, the fact is that many thousands of people will once again be aware of the power of voice services. We seem to have been on a swing throughout the ages – voice to text to voice to text. Before writing was invented, humans communicated with the voice. Then books were deemed to be the fount of all knowledge. Then the phone was invented, followed by mobiles. Then the Internet and SMS – back to text. Then Skype brought voice back, and Twitter is text-based. It’s enough to make you dizzy!

Now, we are seeing a convergence of technologies which allows voice messages to be sent as text, or for text-based websites to allow voice calls to be made directly to a company or business. However you use either technology, or mash both together, it is worth remembering that it is communicating which is essential.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology