Web/Tech

151 posts categorized

August 28, 2015

Election Campaigners Are Using SMS to Consolidate Support

 

It comes as no surprise that presidential candidates are looking at mobile technology to sound the political battle cry. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the pervasive nature of smartphones with the essence of the democratic process—a vote from every registered voter with a cell phone would equal the greatest voter turnout in history! However unlikely that outcome is, the principles driving the candidates to communicate with voters via mobile are redefining the campaign trail, from dusty road to digital highway.  

 

In particular, campaigners are relying on SMS or text messaging to ignite passionate volunteers to action, as well as for updating supporters on rally meetings, local campaign groups, and other related information. Texting is an immediate form of communication that hits about as close to home as one can get—without actually going door-to-door. 

 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, hasn’t spent a dime on advertising political rallies. Instead, his staff has focused on adding data specialists to the team, refining methods of gathering data on rally attendees, and working to convert those people into campaign volunteers/supporters. 

 

In July, Sanders hosted a simulcast from a Washington, D.C., apartment to 3,500 event locations across the country. Instead of soliciting for email addresses, Sanders called upon more than 100,000 viewers to text “work” to the organizing number. 

 

According to the New York Times, nearly 50,000 people became volunteers for the grassroots-style movement that evening.

 

Sanders isn’t the only candidate connecting with voters via text. Senator Ted Cruz, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Rand Paul have all incorporated aspects of SMS messaging into their campaign initiatives. What’s more, this isn’t the first time texting has been used in the political process. In 2008 President Obama managed to curate a list of more than 1 million people, although according to his staff, the campaign was unable to do much with it at the time. 

 

The 78-year-old Sanders, however, is taking the technology and running with it.

According to Billy Howard, a Sanders supporter from Reno, Nevada, the effects of the mobile rallying efforts have increased volunteer leadership in the area—surpassing what Howard saw in Reno during Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. 

“That means Sen. Sanders isn’t going to have to spend as much money as Obama did,” Howard said.

 

August 26, 2015

Leak Reveals Snapchat Revenues of Just $3.1M in 2014

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Snapchat is a photo messaging service prized by more than 100 million daily active users that provides a sense of inconspicuousness on the web. Snapchat doesn’t save images but instead provides quick “snaps” of content for seconds before they’re zapped from existence permanently. It was a profoundly unique idea when it hit the scene, particularly among young users who now characterize the app and its advertising market. 

In the beginning, evaluations were set high, and the chances of acquisition became both possible and likely. In 2013, Snapchat walked away from Facebook’s $3 billion offer. The startup’s current evaluation floats around $20 billion. 

So, maybe Facebook was a little off the mark? At least, it would have seemed that way prior to the financial records leaked by Gawker earlier this month. The balance sheets revealed Snapchat’s financial records from 2014.

According to the leaked documents, Snapchat lost $128 million last year. Revenue was just over $3 million, which isn’t something to scoff at; however, it’s a far cry from what Facebook had offered the year before.  

To be fair, the report doesn’t take into account the advertising schemes put into place last October or the ad revenue from the “Discover” feature, which made a huge impression due to notoriously high usage rates. While not accounted for on the balance sheets, these revenue sources would still not close the gap on Snapchat’s unusually high expenses.  

“Outside Services” for example, was one of the largest expenses, approaching $14 million in 2014. What that means exactly remains unknown, although it’s likely paying for a mix of contractors, accountants, and similar advisory positions.  

Surprisingly, Snapchat spends very little ($600,000) on advertising—something unusual for an app with more than 100 million users. 

If you’re a Snapchat fan don’t worry. The company has 300 million in the bank which, according to Mike Dempsey of venture capital analytics firm CB Insights, will keep the business afloat long enough to make up lost ground.  

“If Snapchat is at a similar point right now in its business lifecycle as 2012-2013 Twitter, the new funding probably gives them a multi-year runway,” he said.

There’s still plenty of time for Snapchat to recover from a seemingly bad financial year as well as this PR debacle. As the company moves forward with aggressive advertising plans, it’s likely the balance sheets won’t look this grim in the future—that is, if they ever get leaked again.

August 24, 2015

Little Red Corvette: You Need Security That's Going to Last

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During the 20th Century, the greatest selection pressure on the automotive industry was the imperative to produce safer cars. Mechanical functions became computerized wherever possible, bringing the wonders of interactive dashboards, sensors, mapping technology and cameras - even to new cars in the most affordable price range.  

Now, if you own a car manufactured in the last ten years, chances are it has some type of computer network running the show. The consensus is that all these technical advancements have improved safety - perhaps cutting traffic fatalities by as much as a third in the last three years. 

The fly in the ointment? All this fancy-dan technology has exposed new vulnerabilities, even as they’ve swept away old ones.  

Researchers from the University of California have developed a method of hacking cars using insurance black boxes - and SMS. Testing their methods on a 2013 Chevrolet Corvette (because you may as well do science in style), the team worked out how to control the windscreen wipers and - eek! - the brakes using text messages. They say the method can be adapted to access other control systems like transmission, locks and steering. This shouldn’t be possible right?

The researchers are expected to deliver their findings at the USENIX security conference in Washington this November. The report - “Fast and Vulnerable: A Story of Telematic Failures” - states that on-board network devices can be ‘discovered, targeted and compromised by a remote attacker,’ essentially allowing nefarious hackers to turn your vehicle into a remote controlled car.

The black-box system which acted as the portal for the team to hack into the controls is usually used to store data for insurance purposes. Because it needs to log data on braking, speed and location, it must be embedded into the vehicle’s CAN (or internal network) - making it vulnerable to hackers. Once the researchers had gained access they were able to wireless control the car using SMS messages. 

This particular hack has now been patched by the manufacturers, but it’s indicative of just how easy it is to expose and exploit systems designed to make automotive travel safer. 

Another car hack was recently performed on the Jeep Cherokee. Demonstrations of how easily the vehicle’s uConnect software could be compromised using an IP address caused widespread concern. Other car manufacturers, including General Motors, have also been shown to have vulnerabilities to hackers. 

The irony is that insurance companies are incentivizing the installation of data loggers, and have been for years. And the kinds of technology used in the hacks aren’t regulated because, like SMS messaging, they are so widely available. It’s safe to assume that the hacks performed so far by researchers represent the tip of the iceberg. With millions of cars using data logging technology, we could see more cases of dangerous security breaches emerging in due course.

August 18, 2015

Here’s What Your Digital Marketing Campaign Should Look Like

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SMBs are constantly looking out for convenient, affordable and effective marketing methods. But in order to make digital marketing work, you need to understand how each  marketing strategy operates. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the main strands of an effective digital marketing campaign:

 

SEO

The digital marketplace is crowded, so visibility is one of the first - and toughest - challenges a business faces. Creating a strong SEO strategy requires detailed research of your industry and target market, and a thorough knowledge not just of your products, but how the majority of people will search for them. Establishing which keywords you will target is the first step. Next, your onsite strategy (that is, for your own website) should incorporate enough keywords that the search-engine bots know what you’re all about, but not so many that it affects the fluency and style of your content. Your offsite strategy pertains to how external web spaces refer to your site. That means accruing inbound links and promoting your brand via guest posts on other industry websites. A diverse SEO strategy is the most effective in terms of boosting your rankings in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

 

Mobile

Mobile marketing is the process of reaching an audience through smartphones and tablets. It could be in the form of native technologies like SMS messaging and voicemail, or amending existing web content to make it more ‘mobile friendly’, or, if you have the budget, via apps and other types of software. There are many ways to reach people using mobile marketing. A solid mobile marketing campaign encourages users to visit your site and social media pages.

 

Social Media

Social Media has been a huge boon for SMBs. Even on a very tight or non-existing marketing budget, entrepreneurs can use social media to good effect. Most of the big social media players - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn - are free and easy to use. 

 

Blogging

Regular blogging is a good way to establish authority in your industry. It constantly increases the size of your website by adding fresh, relevant content, adding value even if you don’t command a huge readership. But a truly compelling, well-written blog containing original expert opinion will give your brand credibility with competitors and customers.

 

Email

It’s not the first port of call for marketers any longer, but email should still form part of a multi-channel marketing strategy. For getting rich content out to large numbers of people, it’s hard to beat. Be sure to use it to full effect, offering something of value with every email. As with SMS marketing, email marketing demands a lightness of touch, so avoid sending emails much more than once a month.

 

August 16, 2015

BYOD Has Taken Off in Our Schools

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If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought it was a good idea to allow students access to personal mobile devices during class time, I would have shuddered at the thought. I belong to one of the last generations that can remember what life was like before iPhones, tablets and Google. My younger sister, born only four years later, can hardly remember a time before AOL.  

For those of us who can make the distinction, I think it’s healthy to fear the unknown ramifications of our tech advancements, particularly on the youth. However, not everyone agrees with this view. 

Despite how many of us might feel about technology in the classroom, nobody wants to be the one stuck harping on the past. Today’s young learners have become so accustomed to mobile, tablets, and desktop computers that it would seem regressive to deny them access to these tools during a formal education—tools that may help students to learn smarter, faster, and more efficiently. 

Instead of resisting what comes naturally to these students, wouldn’t it be better to change the way we teach

According to a report by Sophic Capital, mobile education is the platform of choice for current students and teachers. The popularity and accessibility of mobile devices has made them as common among students as pens and paper. Many school districts are taking advantage of this and adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) polices. 

 

What Is BYOD?

The BYOD policy provides educational institutions with a way to implement technology in the classroom and manage budgets by putting most of the cost on students. Instead of spending money on a uniform platform or device, students can use the device they already have or are most comfortable using. 

The benefits are unique and largely new to the landscape of public education. First, students will take ownership of the learning process by having more control over the ways in which some information is received. Further, they will have more flexibility outside of the classroom to review material during times most suitable to their schedule. 

Teachers will also gain significant insight into their students’ progress, gaining valuable analytical tools. Teachers can also communicate with students more regularly and gather real-time information from students to ensure material is being absorbed properly; if not, the teacher will have more time to adjust the lesson plan.  

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because there are some serious drawbacks that must be addressed. For most of the educational tools to function within the BYOD policy, students will also need access to the Internet. Parents and administrators alike agree that open access to the web is dangerous. From social media, inappropriate content, and predatory concerns, the list of issues and dangers grows with every passing year.  Formal safeguards among school districts have included comprehensive network security, limited access, and monitoring. Time will tell if these safeguards are enough to proliferate BYOD polices across the country. 

August 14, 2015

Textbooks Vs. Tablets

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In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made headlines for spending $30 million on iPads for nearly 640,000 students. Currently, the K-12 publishing market is an $8 billion industry, dominated by just three publishes: McGraw, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The debate as to whether more school districts should make the digital leap is met with fierce opposition from publishers as well as other tech naysayers, who see the value of printed textbooks unrivaled by tablets.  

Why should school districts replace textbooks? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Textbooks aren’t broken, but students today learn and engage differently with technology than previous generations. Tablets allow students to feel empowered by the learning process by playing to their strengths. Moreover, most K-12 teachers believe technology benefits students’ learning goals. 

Some of the more practical reasons tablets are working well in places like Los Angeles involve the hardware itself. For starters, one tablet has the ability to store more books than a student will ever need for the entire duration of his or her public education. Plus, in addition to textbooks, tablets can store homework, quizzes, and tests, eliminating heavy loads from students’ backpacks and desks. 

Additionally, tablets allow teachers to give their students the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Publishers have been criticized for making minor amendments to text volumes and charging schools top dollar for new editions. Once textbooks go digital, the print costs will be eliminated, which will result in textbook savings of as much as 60% for school districts. 

But aren’t iPads expensive? Yes, they are. One of the strongest arguments against a paperless system is that technology doesn’t come cheap. The trouble isn’t so much with the tablet cost as all the software and infrastructure school districts would have to develop to support these devices. To put things into perspective, the average battery life of a tablet is less than the length of a school day. Imagine 640,000 iPads plugged in: that’s a lot of juice.

Additionally, wear and tear on a textbook can go much further than on an iPad. And a forgotten textbook on a picnic table doesn’t have the same appeal as a state-of-the-art tablet. Some paperless opponents believe students will be targeted for theft if tablets become a common student item. 

There are more obvious problems facing the paperless fight. Open access to the Internet is like opening Pandora’s box; students are notoriously distracted by social media, gaming, and texting. 

Whatever stance a school district takes, the omnipresence of mobile in student life will remain. Will we choose to adapt to student preferences, or are the risks too high?

 

July 24, 2015

The Great Fake Traffic Swindle

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$7.5 billion. That’s the size of the black hole into which hundreds of companies have inadvertently thrown their digital advertising budgets in the past few years, according to a Moz.com article. Most of these companies never realized their marketing dollars weren’t being spent wisely.

 

What Happened?

How did companies manage to lose $7.5 billion on Internet marketing traffic that never existed?  Investigators point to three key facts:

 

  • At least half of the paid online display advertisements companies have purchased over the past few years have never been seen by a real human.
     
  • Nevertheless, ad networks and agencies were often driven to sell these ads by the presence of “volume discount” kickbacks, which made them profitable for the sellers in the short term – even if the ads did not operate as promised.

  • Instead of real people viewing the ads, bot traffic was used to artificially inflate the number of “people” who were supposedly viewing the ads.  These bot-traffic numbers both impressed the companies who purchased the ads and, in a cost-per-click agreement, cost them money.

 

The Rise of Non-Human Traffic

Bot traffic is also known as “non-human traffic,” because it results in increased impressions without the intervention of real people.  Instead, traffic comes from bot programs that mimic human behavior online.  Often, these bot programs are installed on hacked devices that are operated by real people.  As potential customers browse the Web, an army of bots works quietly behind the scenes to artificially inflate ad traffic, without the human at the keyboard ever knowing – or seeing any of the ads the bots are pretending to view.

Not all bots are bad.  Google and other search engines use bot programs to find web pages to include in search engine results.  But bot traffic that’s used to drive up search engine results offers zero return on investment for companies.  

 

From Bots to Buyers: How to Place Your Content in Front of Real People 

No company wants to spend money with no hope of ROI.  Fortunately, companies can take steps to place their digital marketing materials in front of real human audiences that are genuinely interested in what they have to offer.  Here’s how:

 

  • Ask questions.  Before signing off on digital marketing, ask how the company defines “human traffic” and whether traffic results will be verified by a third party.  Doing this demonstrates that you’re aware of potential fraud and that you won’t settle for bots.

  • Go mobile.  According to a recent Mobile Marketing Magazine article, the rate of bot traffic fraud is much lower on mobile platforms than on desktop platforms.  In-app ads may also provide an added layer of protection.

  • Leverage the power of SMS.  SMS and MMS advertising send your content directly to customer and client cell phones and tablets, ensuring there’s a real person on the other end of the line to get your message.

July 23, 2015

How to Design a Mobile-Friendly Website

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Creating a mobile-friendly website boils down to simplicity and elegance. You may already have a terrific website that you love, but you’re going to have to overhaul it if it doesn’t play nicely with mobile users. Essentially, a frustrated mobile website visitor is a soon-to-be former customer. Here at EzTexting, we want to help you take the guesswork out of mobile design. With that in mind, we’ve outlined several key design concepts for your new mobile website:

  • Simplicity is Key. Don’t bury your mobile website visitor in banner ads, images, and other content. On a desktop monitor, there is room to spare for descriptions and bios, but on a mobile device, you have to streamline your content. Keep your info in the form of short and easy-to-read blurbs. Additionally, you should make all calls to action more available with finger-sized buttons, and limit the number of fields that a mobile user might have to fill out.
  • Concision Within Context. Keeping your mobile website tight requires a foreknowledge of how your customers intend to use your site. Pay attention to mobile users’ needs, which are often quite different from the needs of desktop users. Take the time to determine why they are visiting: Are they booking reservations? Looking for a phone number to click-to-call? Or are they gathering information about your company? Whatever the case, make the options your customers desire easily available, and eliminate images (or even entire pages) that are extraneous to your mobile website.
  • Responsive Design. Likely a familiar concept, responsive design allows a programmer to adjust style sheets to behave differently when a mobile user accesses your site. This is the perfect solution for businesses that want to tweak their existing design for mobile usage.
  • Design for Screen Size, and Beta Test. To ensure a seamless mobile experience, design your website with the typical mobile screen size in mind. Buttons (and spaces between buttons) must be large enough for the average user to tap effectively. Create copy that is clear for each blurb, and again, don’t overcrowd pages with content or images. Finally, test and test and test again. Beta test your mobile website across all types of devices: Androids, iPhones, and tablets of all sorts. Each kind of phone will have a different filter with which to view your website; be sure to troubleshoot all of those bugs that pop up before unveiling your new site. 
  • Don’t Forget Your Brand! Sometimes mobile website designers are altogether too concise, forgetting to include branding images, slogans, and other elements of your company’s identity. If your page is getting a little overcrowded, don’t fret; with a little creativity, you can incorporate your logos and style concepts into your design without negatively affecting the mobile user’s experience.

The above suggestions should help you get the ball rolling on improving your mobile user experience. When you are ready to take your business a step further into the mobile universe, give us a call at EzTexting. We’re at the ready to enhance your mobile capabilities, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

July 20, 2015

Android Leads the U.S. Market but Trails in Europe

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According to a recent report by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Android OS increased its market share by 2.8% at the end of a three month period; leading the US with an overall market share of 64.9%. The first full month of sales for Samsung’s latest Galaxy device propelled the company forward year-over-year in the US. However, the same did not hold true for the EU market, where sales have slowed throughout the big five: Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy. 

According to the report, iOS users in the US began to drop off as the shares declined period-over-period and year-over-year. Meanwhile, in Europe, the demand for the iPhone 6 has been steadfast, with the latest model reaching unprecedented success in Great Britain, Germany and France. 

Android-based smartphones received assisted growth from LG, which nearly doubled its US shares year-over-year. This was not the case in Europe. Android vendors in Europe had to count on winning new users away from apple—which has seen little success. Ending in May, only 5% of new Android users switched from apple; down from 11% percent during the same period the year before. 

The Galaxy S6 has been reported as the third best-selling device in the US, just behind the iPhone 6 and its Samsung predecessor the Galaxy S5. Samsung’s year-over-year success is up as well, down only .5% compared to 1.6% in three months ending in April.

Other foreign markets are shifting as the smartphone wars wage on. Urban China, for example, has introduced a third contender to a once two-pronged industry. Currently apple leads in China, followed by Huawei and third competitor Xiaomi. The three are all within half a percentage point share of each other, though considerable differences in niche markets may explain the spread. 

In China, Apple’s sales continually come from high-income users and throughout the most prominent cities: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Close to 7% of apple’s total sales in China are from these affluent areas, while Xiaomi only captures 2% of this same market.  

In urban China, Huawei became the best-selling Android device brand. Thirty-nine percent of Huawei’s sales come from users with a monthly income of less than 2,000 RMBs.  

With several markets developing new infrastructure, the likeliness of new users is on the horizon in several underdeveloped countries. With Apple prices comparatively high, it’s left considerable room for competitors to come in and offer less expensive alternatives. 

World Cup Hat Trick Heroine Gets 124 Text Messages Per Goal

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On Sunday, July 5th 2015, the world witnessed the fastest hat trick ever performed on a soccer field in the World Cup Finals. The player, Carli Lloyd, managed the amazing maneuver within the first sixteen minutes of the final match versus Japan, earning a total of four goals that veritably sealed the win for the US women’s soccer team. A hat trick has only been performed a handful of times in any professional soccer game, let alone the World Cup Finals. (The last time a hat trick was successfully executed in the World Cup Finals was in 1966, by England’s Geoff Hurst.)

Ponder for a moment the shockwave that this hat trick unleashed in the world of international football. Not only was the event shocking for players and fans in general, but it also comes years after another World Cup Final in which the US was defeated by the same country – Japan. It should come as no surprise that this past week’s finals were one of the most watched events in televised sports history.

Soccer Meets Social Media

The blogosphere and Twitterscape also reflected the ubiquitous nature of the historic hat trick. In a single week, the World Cup Final has been written about by several sports websites of note, particularly ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, and Grantland. Further, Carli Lloyd herself has added over fifty thousand new followers on Twitter as a result of her extraordinary plays.

While Lloyd’s accomplishment is surely impressive, the most legendary statistic about the hat trick might not have anything to do with soccer, but rather the amount of messages she received on her smartphone during the match. Carly Lloyd claims that she received over 372 text messages over the course of the hat track. Essentially, this means that she received an average of 124 text messages for each goal that she made during her hat trick.

 To put that into perspective, imagine the amount of time you spend reading and responding to text messages. Perhaps one minute for each? Hence, Lloyd would have to spend a minimum of six hours to respond to all of the messages she received during the game! 

Contact EzTexting for Bulk Texting Help

For someone to receive such a myriad of texts in such a short time is astounding. Fortunately, modern technology makes it simple to prepare a response as a bulk SMS text message to be sent out to all of those adoring fans. With EzTexting, you can easily develop several different types of responses, depending on how you wish to address your recipients. And thanks to our competitive pricing, you can bet that our services will defeat the competition. So if you, like Carly Lloyd, are being inundated by massive texts from your customers, try out EzTexting to get on the ball for your business.