Tech

85 posts categorized

October 27, 2014

Integrity of Whisper App Questioned

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The firm behind social media app Whisper is tracking the location of its users – despite claiming to be ‘the safest place on the internet’ in terms of anonymity. The company is also sharing information from phones known to be used in military bases with the US Department of Defense, according to a recent Guardian expose.

Whisper users currently publish around two-and-a-half million messages a day. Their principal selling point is anonymity, but the Guardian report alleges the company has developed an in-house mapping tool allowing them to locate users to within 500 meters. The British newspaper also claims Whisper has been handing user locations to the Department of Defense. 

According to the Guardian, Whisper has been storing data since their 2012 launch. At that time, much of their brand image was predicated on a policy of holding data only for ‘a brief period of time’ and allowing those who don’t wish to be tracked to opt out of geo-location.

But the Guardian claims Whisper has been storing data even on users who specifically opted out. The news will be particularly alarming to military personnel who have used the platform to unburden themselves of traumatic events witnessed or experienced in the line of duty. Many soldiers use the app to share suicidal feelings and symptoms of PTSD and to discuss other topics they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about on social media outlets like Facebook. 

The Guardian says Whisper has shared user data with law enforcement agencies, the FBI and MI5, a practice Whisper contends is standard in the tech industry – and only in situations where there is evidence of criminal behavior or imminent suicide.

Whisper has denied the allegations, saying it ‘does not follow or track users’ and dismissing the suggestion they were monitoring people without consent as ‘false’. CEO Michael Heyward issued a ten point riposte to the Guardian and suspended his editor-in-chief when the allegations came to light. He insists Whisper is only sharing information with the DoD when there is an investigation into frequent mentions of self-harm, adding “[We] are proudly working with many organizations to lower suicide rates.”

Heyward has been summoned to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions about the app’s privacy policy.

Whisper has experienced rapid growth over the past two years and is now valued at more than $200m. The app tapped into a growing demand for private, confessional platforms which purport to foster more candid public discussions about sensitive issues like suicide.

Whisper has updated it’s terms and conditions since the story broke. 

October 23, 2014

Smalltown America: The Tech Industry’s New Home?

 

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The internet revolution has worked wonders for entrepreneurs with big ideas and small wallets. And while the tech giants are still keen to project a certain cache by basing themselves in huge economic centers like Tokyo and California, start ups are finding fewer financial impediments to realizing their dreams in less illustrious surroundings.

One of the tech industry’s new suburban outposts lies to the far west of Chicago, in and around the Fox Valley. Towns like Naperville, Aurora and Elgin are fostering the new bright young things of software development, web marketing and business.

These places have a centralized support network designed specifically for tech workers, mimicking the ‘all in it together’ mentality of their Silicon Valley counterparts.

If the spirit of technological collaboration is alive and well in Illinois, it’s positively thriving in Colorado. The state’s tech industry employed 162,600 people in 2012 (according to a TechAmerica Foundation report). That’s 8.7% of the private sector workforce, making Colorado the third biggest contributor to the national tech economy. In 2012, Colorado’s tech payroll amounted to $15.8 billion.

Tech wages are 98% higher than the average private sector wage, and the industry is the 7th-best paid in the United States. This skilled workforce is generating solutions to everything from the energy deficit to space travel. The further out of the big industrial centers tech companies base themselves, the lower the overheads - and the higher the potential wages. No wonder talented tech workers are eschewing the glamor of Silicon Valley in favor of better paid jobs in surroundings that are perhaps less illustrious - but also less cut-throat.

This tech diaspora has been facilitated in part by SEO campaigns that are increasingly targeting niche markets for highly specialized - and regionalized - products and services. Most tech companies are no longer aiming for world domination; they simply want to maximise their ROI by advertising only to those people with a high likelihood of purchasing their product.

Industry analysts are convinced that towns like Naperville have the capacity to become key tech hubs. Tech workers are starting to see the benefits of working in smaller towns, where they can commute quickly to and from work - without sacrificing their resume or salary. And why not? After all, their products and services are opening up a global village in which everybody can be a major player, irrespective of geographical location. To sell this new reality without believing in it is a contradiction too big for the bright young things of tomorrow’s technology industry.

 

October 15, 2014

Mobile Marketing Mushroom in Ireland

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Mobile marketing campaign managers in Ireland are flush with success right now. The country is undergoing a mobile device boom, as consumers increasingly turn their attentions away from desktop and towards smartphones and tablets.

A study compiled by marketing company ZinMobi looked at some of the country’s leading retail, restaurant and fast food brands and found mobile marketing tactics were the most effective way of delivering the biggest ROI. ZinMobi’s boss, Brian Stephenson, said the results were indicative of a growing awareness of mobile marketing tactics, and a concurrent drop off in use of conventional methods. Says Stephenson:

“What excites me about these results is the way that brands have recognised mobile as the instant marketing channel with campaigns quicker to deploy, and delivering instant results.

“We believe that every business knows enough about its customers... to deliver highly-targeted and trackable campaigns,” he added.

The study also found that mobile marketing tactics were regarded as the quickest to set-up, and 61% of respondents said they delivered the fastest results. The research found only 10% of companies did not plan to be using some form of mobile marketing campaign by this time next year; right now, 26% of Irish companies do not use some kind of mobile marketing strategy. These figures clearly show a growing awareness of mobile marketing among firms who are late to the party.

Companies with a well-established mobile marketing strategy are expanding their current campaigns in order to better engage with consumers. Mobile coupons and special offers are proving highly effective methods of retaining and nurturing existing customers.

These trends reflect an overall swing towards mobile in Ireland. Mobile web access is up 59% on last year according to a report from StatCounter. The more consumers move towards mobile devices, the more we’re likely to see marketers follow suit and creating mobile-specific campaigns. Ireland, like the rest of the world, knows which way the wind is blowing.

 

October 14, 2014

4 Effective Geo-Targeting Techniques

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More and more advertisers are implementing geo-targeting in their marketing campaigns, but challenges form when limiting location, specifically in regards to volume. Cookies and private browsing also limit ad number, yet a few creative location-targeting techniques are helping advertisers improve ROI. Geo-targeting focuses on city, state, region, country, zip code, designated market area (DMA), radius around a point or location extension targeting, or some combination of these. Let’s take a look at four effective geo-targeting techniques for advertisers wanting to fine-tune campaigns without losing volume:

 

1) Exclusion is Okay

AdWorks makes it possible for advertisers to exclude certain locations so ads don’t appear there, such as a convenience store chain excluding locations free of their stores. Running reports indicating where locations clicks are coming from, sorting by low-quality clickers and excluding these areas or using bid adjustment all contribute to improved ROI. Bid adjustments refer to increasing or decreasing bids in specific locations for performance optimization.

 

2) Use Keywords Only

Another geo-targeting technique is using keywords rather than locations to limit targeting. For example, a car dealership could create a separate campaign targeting people searching for “car dealerships Philadelphia” as opposed to relying on geo-targeting only. Because car dealerships serve specific areas or regions, people looking for dealerships are more likely to use geo-modifiers when searching. Using keywords therefore functions as a competitive strategy and a way to drive traffic.

 

3) A Mobile Focus

Mobile-only AdWord campaigns are important when looking to geo-target mobile audiences. This is especially essential if targeting on-the-go professionals, such as real estate agents, as well as consumers looking for specific services when “out and about,” such as towing help if stranded.

 

4) Implement Weather-Related Bid Adjustments

Google Scripts makes it possible to make bid adjustments based on weather. For example, marketers can send ads for indoor activities on cold and/or rainy days, and those for outdoor fun on warm and sunny days. A simple spreadsheet is all that’s required to create this bid, and advertisers are excited about the possibilities that weather-related geo-targeting offers. The weather affects purchase and activity decisions, so ads based on how warm it is or not on a certain day is a powerful marketing tool.

A little creativity is all that’s necessary to make geo-targeting work for your business! The potential of precise, location-specific marketing cannot be underestimated, and is set to revolutionize the way people do business. 

October 08, 2014

Mobile Marketing Budgets are Smaller Than They Should Be

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Mobile devices have quickly become powerful marketing tools, yet brands are still not investing in mobile advertising as they probably should. Despite practically “everyone” owning a mobile device, mobile marketing accounts for a mere 5 percent of the average brand’s budget. Why? Usual reasons include difficulty tracking performance and gauging ROI.

According to recent Forrester research, 62 percent of marketers surveyed felt “confident” about measuring mobile ad campaign ROI, yet only 18 percent felt “very confident” in their ability measure ROI. Marketers want to see hard numbers if heavily investing in mobile, which many experts find “counter-intuitive.” 

“Consumers now spend over half of their leisure time on mobile devices,” says Gal Oppenheimer, senior product manager of built.io, a mobile back-end and application development platform. “Mobile advertising is clearly important, but it needs to get easier to track brand awareness and consumer spending.”

Other experts say marketers are too busy comparing mobile and desktop metrics, which is essentially a waste considering how different the mediums are. Marketers are used to cookie-based tracking, but such tracking doesn’t really work in the mobile world. A single cookie isn’t capable of tracking consumer actions as they go back and forth between mobile browsers and apps, nor can they follow consumers who click on mobile app download ads. The latter is a common mobile ad unit that encourages consumers to download a brand’s app. 

Mobile marketing is definitely a work in progress, yet current efforts are encouraging. Groupon, for example, works with at least three different mobile ad networks, and places ads on a wide range of publishers’ mobile sites and apps. The online retailer works with mobile advertising vendor Fiksu Inc. to discover which mobile attribution methods are best for tracking ad effectiveness.

Facebook is also working on a solution to the “mobile puzzle.” The social media giant introduced a mobile ad unit in April of this year, Audience Network, which allows marketers to target and place ads across an assortment of mobile apps utilizing what Facebook knows about its sizable user base. The network is designed to result in more relevant ads on apps, which leads to improved click-through rates, and subsequently a better ROI for the advertiser and more revenue for app developers.

Marketers are still hesitant, but if tracking abilities improve, more money will go into mobile ad efforts. “Forrester found that if marketers could track more reliably, 86 percent would allocate more of their budgets to mobile,” wrote Mike O’Brien in a recent post for ClickZ. “And 93 percent would run more cross-channel campaigns, something only 13 percent said they felt confident measuring.”

 

October 07, 2014

iBeacon Goes Mainstream in Mobile Marketing

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According to CMO.com, iBeacons and geomarketing are quickly becoming mainstream tools for marketers.

The iBeacon is defined by Apple as "a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” It relies on Bluetooth low-energy proximity sensing to” transmit universally-unique identifiers”picked up by compatible apps or operating systems. These identifiers may be looked up via the internet to determine the device's physical location, or result in action, such as a push notification or check-in on social media.

Geomarketing involves geographic information used in the planning and executing of marketing strategies. It allows marketers to target advertising campaigns and subsequently appeal to consumers based on where they live or shop.

A U.S.-based team researching mobile marketing found some 18 percent of mobile marketers are utilizing Apple iBeacons, which is expected to double in 2015. Additionally, 49 percent of marketers noted they would use device positioning to deliver content, while 48.8 percent plan to add such capabilities to their mobile marketing strategy over the next year.

The Adobe Digital Team Index recently found 33 percent of average mobile users look to their mobile devices for help when shopping in-store, and 9 percent have used mobile wallets over the past three months. This percentage rises to 22 among “mobile elite” users. Adobe also discovered bounce rate referrals from social networks are higher on mobile devices than desktops at 61 and 53 percent, respectively.

Adobe’s digital team researched other mobile dynamics and trends as well, including social channels. They discovered Pinterest is the “most mobile” social network, with 64 percent of its referred traffic coming from either smartphones or tablet devices. Twitter is at 62 percent in terms of mobile use, and Facebook at 41 percent. Tumblr has the highest revenue per visit from mobile devices--$2.57--with Facebook coming in second at $1.85.

The company’s Mobile Benchmark Report was based on aggregate data from some 18 billion visits to retail, media, entertainment, financial services, and travel websites in June 2014. Behavioral data from companies using Adobe’s Marketing Cloud solution, Analytics and Mobile Services platforms was also studied. The report researched, in total, 700 million mobile app use sessions, 3,000 mobile users, and over 10,000 U.S. websites and apps.

With so many companies jumping on the iBeacon and geomarketing bandwagons, mobile ad campaigns will only become more and more location specific. 

October 02, 2014

How Smartphones Are Helping the Fight Against Drug Addiction

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Can smartphones help users overcome drug addiction? 

Research says Yes! Back in 2011, an 80-person study by the National Institutes of Health found smartphones highly beneficial to those overcoming drug addiction. The study was based out of East Baltimore, Maryland and featured smartphones programmed to let addicts track when they craved and used drugs. Phones were set up to beep randomly three times each day, and ask questions such as “Where are you?”, “What are you doing?”, and “How are you feeling?”.

"We want to know the events surrounding that," lead researcher Dr. Kenzie Preston said at the time. "We're really interested what's triggering drug use, relapse."

Phones were partially disabled to lower their street value; however, associate scientist David Epstein noted no issues with phones becoming lost or getting stolen.

"We tell them, if you lose or break one of these, we'll replace it and that's fine," he said. "But if you lose or break a second one, we're going to detox you from the methadone and you can't be in the study anymore. And we hardly ever have to do that. People know that they'd rather stay with us."

The study was meant to pinpoint the precise moments addicts decided to use, as Epstein remarked on the difficulty addicts have recalling the specifics of their relapses. This isn’t to say addicts lie about their relapses; rather it’s more about how the brain functions.

"People, whether it's someone who's addicted to drugs or anyone else in the world, make up stories that sort of explain their behavior," he said during the study. "But if you could've been monitoring them in real time, you would see that things didn't happen quite the way they remembered."

Smartphones allowed researchers to obtain data in real time. The study also included addicts carrying pager-sized GPS monitors to track their movements, which made it easy to log where addicts go. For example, an addict could be sober for weeks, then visit a certain block or neighborhood and have a relapse. Knowing where addicts were hanging out helped researchers understand what type of environments encouraged drug use.

Epstein said the study could lead to new smartphone-based treatments.

"A sort of clinician in your pocket," he said. "You can give them on the spot feedback... and that does seem helpful."

 

 

September 19, 2014

Five of the Best: Strategies for SMS Marketing

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As we move through this ever-changing era of new media marketing, many businesses are innovating with the latest and greatest of tech strategies to reach their customer bases. Certainly geo-targeting and push notifications are significant mobile marketing tactics. Smart business owners, however, maintain that SMS marketing is still at the top when it comes to affordability and ubiquity. Here are five of the best techniques for maximizing your returns with mobile text marketing.

1)     Create Timely Content

Reach your customers when they’re open to hearing from you, and hence more likely to respond. Find out what your clients value at any given time, and deliver offers to them that are relevant and time-sensitive. Existing campaigns that work should not be halted, but it’s always important to find new opportunities to grab hold of both potential and loyal customers based on current trends.

2)     Invest in Loyalty

Business owners that provide loyalty programs for long-term customers augment customer relationships while targeting a group that values the company’s products. Not only do companies increase repeat customer sales, they’re also able to analyze repeat customers’ buying habits, making it easier to create targeted product promotions. Create exclusive VIP clubs and promotions to make loyal customers feel special. Loyalty lists don’t have to be that large to be profitable either: many businesses make their bread and butter off of a relatively small group of people. Recent studies show that twenty percent of customers drive eighty percent of sales. Target your repeat and long-time customers to make sure they feel appreciated and valued.

3)     Contests & Sweepstakes

Make it simple for customers to enter into contests and sweepstakes through a text message. These days no one wants to hassle with filling out a form when a simple message will suffice. SMS accessed contests make the process easier on your clientele, while offering potentially valuable opportunities for customers to engage with your brand. Contests and sweepstakes are great incentives for opting in to a marketing list.

4)     SMS in Multi-Channel Campaign

Multi-channel campaigns often overlook the opportunities available through the SMS channel. Mobile marketers know the truth: since SMS is a built-in feature of every mobile device, and everyone has cellphones nowadays, why not take advantage of this channel? User data can be accessed seamlessly, and 95% of text messages are opened by mobile users. Include a call-to-action in the SMS-arm of your campaign, and provide ways for users to sign up for other offers to maximize the value of your advertising. Offer text messaging opt-in opportunities through other platforms, with special incentives for opting-in.

5)     Foster Interaction

If consumers agree to allow texts and calls to their personal phone, they expect something valuable in return. Think of exclusive offers, easy ways to purchase or ask questions, customer surveys to improve overall products and services, and other valuable information relevant to the consumers. The more positive interaction with customers, the more brand loyalty and potential sales your company will foster.

Follow these five strategies in your next text marketing campaign, and discover which work best for your consumer base. And remember, setting up a text message campaign is extremely easy, but reaching customers via text messaging is even easier.

 

September 17, 2014

What to Expect from the iPhone 6

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This week Apple unveiled a triad of new devices: the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus, and the iWatch. The anticipation mounting over the new technology has the blogging world abuzz, but most of the talk is about the oversized iPhone 6 plus (which many iPhone users scoff at), or the iWatch (which nobody seems to take seriously). Unfortunately for the iPhone 6, the blogosphere seems to have failed to represent what she has to offer.

LARGER

The iPhone 6 has undergone a major revision in its latest release. Perhaps the most interesting thing we noticed about the new iPhone – it is a little larger than the last generation, the iPhone 5S, by about a half an inch. It appears that the designers of the latest iPhone have been interpreting the data about the competition: a little more than one-third of mobile users prefer to use a smartphone that has a larger screen. The smartphone is also heavier than its previous incarnation, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces.

SLEEKER DESIGN

The design of the body has been altered as well. The iPhone 6 has veered away from square edges, and now has a more rounded yet significantly slimmer shape (a little bit thicker than a quarter inch). This makes it one of the thinnest devices on the market. The power button has also been moved from the top of the phone to the right edge.

In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Apple claimed that the glass in their screens will be upgraded to handle many more bumps and scrapes before shattering – good news for any mobile user who’s dropped their iPhone before. Also with the new Retina HD screen, the iPhone 6 has received a significant upgrade from its cousin, the iPhone 5S. When compared to other models though (like those of Samsung’s line of phones), many would argue that the screen designers could have gone further in creating a better display.

UPDATED HARDWARE & SOFTWARE

The camera has been upgraded in the new iPhone 6 to one with a wide-angle lens. Called the iSight lens, it incorporates a 2.2 aperture with noise reduction and an autofocus that’s twice as fast. The rear camera also has a slo-mo video mode to enhance slow motion recording. The front facing camera is much better too, now an HD camera with a 2.2 aperture that allows in more than 80% more light.

But there’s one big question about the operating system. Will Apple update its iOS – yet again – for the newer available iPhones? The answer is no. Apple is running the new iPhone 6 on the same platform it unveiled earlier this year, the iOS 8.

All in all, the new iPhone 6 will be exciting to see in action, due to the attention the designers have paid to the model. It may not be exactly what the critics would’ve asked for, but it will certainly prove to be an excellent addition to the Apple line of products. Due to hit the shelves on September 19th, the price will be comparable to previous versions (about $650).

(More Than) Texting From Your Computer

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As many iPhone users know, it can be a breeze to respond to iMessages whether you have your phone or not. Due to the fact that Apple has designed the iMessage platform to run on Mac, tablet, and smartphones alike, users have the benefit of sending and receiving messages from a computer if they want to. But what if you don’t have this luxury? Perhaps you are using another type of smartphone or you prefer PCs. Well, now you have an answer.

A new platform called Pushbullet serves to mirror all of the content on your android device, sending it to the computer of your choice. And yes, this includes text messages.

Many will argue that they don’t need to send or receive texts from their computer, but note all of the powerful benefits. First of all, mobile phones have much smaller interfaces with tiny on-screen keyboards that can be difficult to navigate. When you attempt to type on them, they autocorrect your every word. Were you to type the text message from your computer, you could type the whole text message on your regular keyboard – some without even looking at the screen.

When you work on a computer all day long (as most people do these days), isn’t it easier to send and receive text messages without having to look down at your phone every few seconds. Sending and receiving SMS messages from your computer is easier on the eyes and the neck. Also, you can turn off the loud text alert in the office without worrying about missing texts due to silent mode.

The Pushbullet platform also provides messaging history. If you have more than one mobile device, you can review all of your messages at once, along with any documents currently on the mobile device.

Pushbullet technology allows users to send a variety of items from their computers to their phones, save SMS attachments on a computer’s hard drive, and seamlessly transfer links between computer and phone. Essentially, Pushbullet has a variety of options for Android/PC users that can increase productivity immensely, which is arguably even more significant than sending a text messages from a computer.