Social Media Posts

December 14, 2010

SoftLayer Social Media Adventure

If you've been watching @SoftLayer and following our posts on Facebook, you know that we've been spreading the holiday spirit by giving away "swag bags" to our social networks. At this point, we've shipped packages full of SoftLayer goodies to exotic locations like Germany, New York City, India, Southern California, Ireland, Brazil and Flower Mound, TX.

For our first few giveaways, we asked our followers to post a phrase like "I love @SoftLayer! They're Bigger, Better, Badder. For hosting that rocks: http://softlayer.com/." We got a great response, but that task was a little too easy. To make the next set of giveaways a little more challenging, we started asking SoftLayer Trivia questions and rewarding the first correct responder. The content of the questions spanned the spectrum from SoftLayer-specific facts to off-the-wall esoteric trivia.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • At Parallels Summit in Feb, four SoftLayer employees caught something. What was it and how has it been used?
  • A SoftLayer executive shares his name with a Houston-based rapper. Who is he?
  • What is SoftLayer's ASN? What is the server capacity of our Dallas facilities? IPv6 addresses are how many bits?
  • The SoftLayer "3 Bars" logo is based on a seven-layer model. What is it? What are the seven layers? What is the most common protocol you hear of from it?
  • In the holiday song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," what did "my true love" give to me on Day 11?

What kind of swag are we talking about here? I thought you'd never ask:

As you can see, we're not just sending out pens and paperweights.

Don't be sad if you're just now learning about these giveaways ... As it turns out, this blog post is your opportunity to get in on the action. Last week, we teased the idea of a "Social Media" adventure, and here it is.

The first ten participants to complete all of the tasks below win their very own swag bag.

  • Leave a comment on this blog post telling us which one of our data center locations you'd choose for your next server and why.
  • Visit our Facebook page and leave a post on our wall with your favorite feature of SoftLayer's offerings
  • Post a Tweet that includes "@SoftLayer is awesome" and #socialmediaadventure
  • Click through to the YouTube page for the video above and leave a comment on it like "SoftLayer's hosting rocks!"
  • Send an email to khazard@softlayer.com with your blog comment author name, Facebook name, Twitter handle and YouTube username so we verify you've completed the adventure.

If you've had a tough time finding that perfect present for the person who has everything, the SoftLayer swag bag might be exactly what you're looking for. Instead of circling the mall for half an hour looking for a parking spot, you'll complete our challenge in about five minutes, and your SoftLayer gear will be on its way to you.

On your mark. Get set. GO!

-@khazard

December 13, 2010

Kevin Smith Gets It

I am a Kevin Smith fan. I admire him on a number of levels – his movies entertain, his podcasts with Scott Mosier (Smodcasts) are a funny, albeit twisted, trip into the unknown and his on stage performances / monologues / Q&A sessions never fail to please. Kevin is also a prodigious Twitterer (11,994 tweets and 1,716,849 followers).

My appreciation for Kevin and Scott Mosier has clambered up a notch following this article on Techdirt. Read the article and watch the embedded video and I think you will soon see what I mean. Smith and Mosier, for lack of a better phrase, ‘get it’ or perhaps they backed into things and ‘got it’ once it had happened. They understand the notion of building an audience; they understand the idea that it is tough to build something and monetize it immediately. In a world driven (supposedly) by instant gratification, they have introduced the word patience.

While it seems antithetical, there is a certain truth to this – there are very few businesses that went viral and surged to terrific profitability as soon as they started to Tweet or became active on Facebook. For 99.99% of businesses, audience takes time to build, which means that success takes time to come. And oftentimes, it does not come at all despite best efforts.

Twitter, Facebook, and podcasts are all part of a toolbox that, if used properly, can build something much more valuable than the stand-alone channel. As Techdirt author, Mike Masnick, points out; Smith has been able to build something that he can monetize by giving away some goods free. He has taken the time to build his audience and now he is reaping the rewards by monetizing other, ancillary efforts.

I am not implying that all business is equal – there are few comparisons to Kevin Smith that make sense for most business beyond the fact that everyone is producing something and trying to sell it. But I think the lessons are the same across most businesses – audience is not instant. In fact, I am not sure that it ever was (that said, I suppose beer was probably close to an instant success when the Egyptians invented it and stated to hieroglyph about it. It was probably the rage of Alexandria in short order). Simply beginning to Tweet and expecting instant success is a fool’s game. However, starting the game with the notion that Twitter, Facebook and whatever is next are useful tools to build toward success, forces a deal more patience and an almost deliberate approach. Here we can find success. Not overnight success for most, but success nonetheless.

As the saying goes recognizing the problem / challenge is half the battle. All we need to do now is figure out what to do next. I am working on it.

-@quigleymar

November 18, 2010

Tweet Tweet ... Tweet?

If I've timed this submission right, I'll be the first person with a byline on the SoftLayer blog from the new SoftLayer office in downtown Houston. I'm part of an esteemed group of new employees who had The Planet business cards until last week, and I'm excited about the opportunity to subject a new group of readers to my abundant arsenal of esoteric references and feeble attempts at humor. I've joined SoftLayer's marketing team, and I'll be focused on our social media outreach.

Don't worry, this post isn't going to feature any of those "I like long walks on the beach, red wine and dinner by candlelight" introductory tidbits you usually get when you meet a new person on a blog. We're diving right into the good stuff. Today's topic: SoftLayer on Twitter.

If you've been around for a while, you already know a lot about SoftLayer's official Twitter accounts, but because a new crowd of customers might be checking out the InnerLayer for the first time, let's step back and look at each account. By sharing our purpose for each of our accounts, you know what to expect when you click the "follow" button.

@SoftLayer: http://twitter.com/softlayer
This is the big kahuna. The @SoftLayer account is your primary company contact on Twitter. If you have a question, send it to @SoftLayer. If you want information about a ticket, send it to @SoftLayer. If you want a haircut ... you should probably go to a barber. Because @SoftLayer account has the widest reach, you'll learn more about the company and our offerings here, and when you need a response from SoftLayer, this is one of the first places you should look.

@SoftLayer_News: http://twitter.com/softlayer_news
Now that the merger is complete, we have more than 76,000 deployed servers in 10 data centers with more than 1,500 Gbps of network connectivity. Wherever we go, we'll be making waves, and the @SoftLayer_News account will try to keep up with all of our coverage. When we post a press release or announce a product, followers of @SoftLayer_News will hear it first.

@SoftLayer_Sales: http://twitter.com/softlayer_sales
@SoftLayer_Sales is where we teach the art of bonsai tree trimming. Actually, that's a lie ... Unless you can think of a server sales-related question involving bonsai tree trimming, you won't read anything on that topic. It's actually your one-stop shop for SoftLayer server specials and your Twitter contact for anything and everything sales-related.

@SLChat: http://twitter.com/slchat
A new addition to the SoftLayer Twitter team, the @SLChat account is designed to help us communicate directly with users. With more than 24,000 customers, we might have several simultaneous conversations going at a given time. Previously, if you reached out to us on Twitter, we'd reply to messages from one of the accounts above, but as our user base grows and our Twitter follower count increases, we don't want to spam those primary channels with updates that may only be relevant to one customer. By adding @SLChat, we're improving the signal-to-noise ratio on all of our other accounts.

SoftLayer is built around a social media culture. If you know where to look, you'll see our executive management team checking in at the office and retweeting great press coverage we've gotten. Those updates can be fun and interesting in their own right, but they point to an even more important truth: As a company, we want to be engaged with our community so we can learn from it. If you've got something to say, we want to hear it. Post a comment, send a DM, tweet an @ reply, leave a wall post, send a carrier pigeon ... We're listening.

-@khazard

November 2, 2010

Don Draper Had it Easy

I was speaking with Softlayer’s PR guy the other day. The topic of conversation was the television show ‘Mad Men’. When I returned to my desk, I couldn’t help thinking that Don Draper had it easy. The advertising and communications game has changed radically since his fictionalized time.

When Don Draper was thinking about making his clients happy in 1964, print, radio, television and billboards comprised the palate that he had to play with. The Internet has changed this in ways Don would struggle to comprehend were he to time travel to 2010. This new palate is virtually endless, essentially combining everything that Don was familiar with, putting it in one place (sort of), and then putting it on steroids.

While Don would have a hard time understanding the internet, he would appreciate the power that it brings, and not only in terms of how he can get his message across. The ability to track who goes where and what they do when they get there has enabled market segmentation far beyond what Don would have ever considered. And because the internet has a little something for everyone, companies are able to market with a greater degree of accuracy.

In theory, we ought to be able to spend less money to reach OUR audience, versus spending more money to hit a broader audience only some of whom are interested in what we do. Theory also dictates that companies ought to be able to measure a real return on this investment. Don would be amazed as this was mostly unheard of in his world - the desire was there, but no one really knew which parts of the budget were delivering results. As the old saying goes “I know that half of what I spend is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”

The advent of ‘social networking’ sites like Facebook or Twitter has made matters more challenging as they change the relationship a company has with its target audience.

First, a company first needs to be attractive enough to merit being followed or ‘friended’. This theoretically means that a captive, receptive audience has self-selected for you. The challenge is in understanding why people show up in the first place.

A Facebook page provides the audience with a profile – this gives the audience context and a reason for adding you as a friend. Twitter is not like this in that in depth profiles do not exist in the same way. On Twitter, the ‘who you are’ element plays itself out over a series of 140 character Tweets. The odd part is that people often ‘follow’ based on a single Tweet, which may or may not be related to what you do. The audience is there, but the intention is often less clear.

While I understand why I follow the people I follow, I confess that there are Tweets that I get from people that I follow for reasons I have long since forgotten. It gets tough to filter things when you are following only 186 people like me, never mind the thousands that some people do. For example, journalist Leo Laporte follows 1,427 people, while English actor / author Stephen Fry follows an astonishing 53,230 people. When you are following that many people, there is not going to be a lot of consistency regarding a decision made to follow. Indeed, the inflow of Tweets is so prodigious that filtering the noise must be next to impossible.

Does that mean that Twitter does not have value as a marketing tool? Don would probably think so, but I don’t. I think that Twitter becomes a valuable tool, but not as a standalone means to reach your customer. If you start to think about Twitter (in combination with a bunch of other stuff) as a means to build community, then I think you are on the right track… I will get to that line of thought later.

-@quigleymar

September 23, 2010

Movies are Becoming Like Books

One thing that I’ve noticed about our customer behavior at SoftLayer is that as these Internet-centric businesses grow and they add more servers, their bandwidth usage per server also grows. A lot. Why? Their customers are using more bandwidth. I’ll wager that this trend is not unique to SoftLayer customers, but it’s something that’s happening across the board.

Here’s how I’ve been contributing to this end user bandwidth demand. Back in June, I ordered an iPad. Since I was already a Netflix customer, I downloaded their free iPad app. I found that the instant movie streaming is awesome. Every few days now, I look at what’s been newly released for instant streaming, put it in list view and sort by star rating high to low. It’s not only new movies but also old movies just newly set up for instant streaming. Then I pick something I’ve never seen and start watching.

What I really like is that I don’t have to budget the time to watch the whole movie. With my iPad, I can catch 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, and watch the movie at my leisure over two or three days. Netflix restarts the movie where I left off when I open the app again.

This makes watching a movie much like reading a book. You can mark the spot you left off and pick it up again when you get a chance. You can stop the movie and back up to a particular time stamp to review a plot twist that you didn’t fully understand, or see that action sequence once again, just like my DVR at home. I’m currently working through “Eight Men Out” in this way.

So if I run to the car wash (which provides free wifi) and I know I’ll be waiting 15-20 minutes, I can grab my iPad and I have a choice of reading a book, watching a movie, playing games, or even getting some work done. If I go the movie route, I’m helping to increase the demand for bandwidth.

I’d actually like Netflix to let watching a movie become even more like reading a book. Like allowing “highlighting” to mark a beginning and ending timestamp to a clip you can save for future use. Or the ability to save notes at a particular timestamp. Or even better – allow you to do vocal commentary on a separate audio track. There are a couple of clips in “Eight Men Out” that I’d like to save for future use.

So, get to work on all that Netflix. :-)

June 17, 2010

Mixi is next!

I am sure anyone reading this has heard of Facebook, but do you know about Mixi?

Mixi is the number one social networking site in Japan and technically predates the “full internet” version of Facebook. It shares many features with Facebook, but its social model is a little different. Mixi is by invitation only, and its users almost never use their real name. Instead, users adopt nicknames and use icons or photos of almost anything to represent themselves. Also, Mixi is also only available in Japanese for the moment.

One thing that was noticeably missing from Mixi until recently has been third party social apps. With third party apps, Mixi users can now enjoy social games similar to the ones found on Facebook, which have been around since 2007.

And when it comes to game hosting, SoftLayer is a leader. We have recently won the FindMyHost.com Editors’ Choice Award for Game Servers for May 2010.

SoftLayer is dedicated to supporting the game industry’s IT needs. We regularly attend game related conferences. We were recently at f8 2010 and GDC Canada. You can also find us at GDC Europe and then GDC Online in Austin later this year. You can see our conference schedule on our events page.

As a gamer myself, I feel proud to work for a company with such a presence in the video game industry and community. And as Mixi gains more and more attention, I will be glad when I can say, “You heard about it here first!”.

June 3, 2010

Skinman's Guide to Social Media

1. Can your company benefit from Social Media?
Yes! I think all companies can. From a point of branding or brand awareness the social media outlets can really give you some value. It can be additional website traffic, company transparency, or actual specials and sales but let’s face it the more people that see your name on the internet the better.

2. What is considered Social Media Spam?
To Spam you could use these tactics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking_spam but don’t. You should be personable in sending your messages and don’t overdo it. Sure you can send a special or an interesting fact a few times especially if you have customers worldwide. You can always use the time zone excuse because most social media posts aren’t sticky and will be easily overlooked. The key is not using scripts to do your work for you.

3. What are some good tools to help?
I live on Hootsuite. www.hootsuite.com . This allows you to queue up tweets, Facebook status posts, and linked in conversations and I am sure there are more options on the way. Am I contradicting myself? No, because you still have to type in your updates and then schedule them according to your time zone needs. There are other great tools within Hootsuite for link clickthrough metrics and savable searches so you can keep track of what people are saying about you and also what your competitors are up to and what people think of them as well. It has a built in URL shrinking and photo uploading option also. You can have multiple users and granular security for those users. All in all, Hootsuite is a very valuable free tool for corporate social media.

4. If you get some bad feedback what should you do?
Take a deep breath, put on your big kid pants, layer on some thick skin and then think about your response and what you might say. Then take another deep breath, re-read your response 3 or 4 times and then try to make contact privately if possible. See if there is something you could have done better as sometimes constructive criticism can really help your company. If your attempts to make contact privately fail then you have to decide if a public response is necessary. Sometimes this can be a good idea and sometimes it is better to just let it fade. You have to use a little common sense on this one. If there are multiple posters on the same issue then a public response can be a great thing. If it is a single angry poster and the private requests fail then it is probably just better to let it go away on its own.

5. To support or not support?
I firmly believe that social media and social support/customer service are two very different things. The twitter account for SoftLayer is www.twitter.com/softlayer and I try to have a little fun, show a little transparency to our fans and customers, offer a special occasionally, but mainly try to get some traffic to our corporate website. I try to stay far away from customer support and only do light customer service. We have many other traditional ways to get support and service that our customers need to continue to use. In my book, if a customer has to resort to social media to get some attention from our sales or customer service teams, then we have already failed.

6. Have a little fun, have a personality
Now that you have the tools and know what to do and what not to do, have a little fun. Have a scavenger hunt, send out some swag, make a few friends get some followers and get to tweeting. Personality can go a long way in getting people interested in what you and your company are up to. Once you get it going it just becomes more and more fun. Look at the bright side there are much worse jobs you could have in the world.

-Skinman

May 27, 2010

Here I sit

So here I sit broken hearted, oh wait wrong story. Here I sit at the booth at GDC in Vancouver Canada in a traffic lull. There must be a good speaker talking at the moment. It gives me a moment to tell you about the refreshing “youth” of this industry. At this show people get it, they understand the model. This isn’t the largest show we will go to and might not sell a million servers but we are still getting the word out that outsourcing the hard stuff and letting people focus on what they do best is a great thing. Game developers don’t want to waste a day or two setting up a server they would rather be making their game. It’s also interesting listening to the students of game development at this show; I am learning what is going into the next big game. Here it is in a nutshell. You start with Zombies, and then have zombie riots where zombies kill some people and then you have the zombies take over the world and then you have a new breed of zombies that kill and eat the existing zombies. There you have it, the next big game! I want royalties. So for all you game lovers out there this is the place where it all begins and SoftLayer is doing everything we can to make sure these developers have the free time to make the next killer app. You can thank us anytime! And who knows maybe one of these guys will buy a million servers!

April 28, 2010

A Review of the Opera Mini for the iPhone

Opera Mini for the iPhone

Opera’s new mobile browser for the iPhone has finally been approved by Apple to be included on the App Store. Read the official announcement.

I’ve played around with the browser for the past 30 minutes. My impressions are as follows:

Pros

  • It’s a wicked fast mobile browser. No doubts about that. A definite improvement over the other browser options on the iPhone.
  • The Dashboard is a very welcome addition.
  • Zooming in and out of the web page to read different portions of the web page was something I didn’t like at first. After browser a few pages, it grew on me. You can turn on “mobile view” in the settings to force the content to narrow to the view screen.
  • Opera’s version of tabbed browsing is remarkable!
  • Opera has great offline support through “Saved Pages”.

Cons

  • Bookmarks were a little difficult to find at first. It’s located under “Settings” which seems to be the wrong place in my opinion. Trivial, I know.
  • You can NOT set the Opera mini as the “default” browser. Though this is directed more towards a failing of the iPhone OS than the Opera browser itself.
  • Text heavy pages tend to have some text overlapping issues.
  • Unlike its PC brother, the Opera Mini does not pass the ACID 2 or ACID 3 tests.
    • On this note, Safari on the iPhone does pass both the ACID 2 and ACID 3 tests.
  • My overall impression of the new Opera Mini for the iPhone is good. For me, ease of use is a major clincher for mobile internet browsing and the Opera Mini hits the target.

April 22, 2010

32K

I know this is old news, but this GoGo inflight wireless is pretty cool. I am 32,000 feet up right now and connected to all my fun, social media toys. I have been tweeting, facebooking, and now I decided to hammer out a blog about it. The really cool thing to me is that I am RDP’d to my desktop at the office and am able to do my email in my native client and have access to all of my different instant messaging networks. I am even going to message our web guys and see if we can have this blog published before I land. I have my power adapter, my seat has a power port and they are serving me a diet coke right now. Man, if I could get this kind of service at the office I might stop traveling because this is the life. No walk up chatting to interrupt my hard working ways, no blenders to tempt me to waste time and blend something, and also no temptation to leave for lunch and go to Rafain’s to eat 6000 calories of fantastic, spicy beef. The snacks on the plane are a bit expensive, so I might even lose a few pounds.

I am in flight back from Cloud Expo in New York and it was amazing how many more people understand the cloud this year than last year. All in all it was a good show. We met a few more of our customers, and once again, we had many compliments. We really like to hear them, so if we end up at a show close to you, please come see us. We will even let you complain if you need to, but we are confident you won’t have to. You can always walk away with a little piece of SoftLayer swag, ranging from a shirt or a cup, to a Frisbee or maybe even a little free computing power.

The next show on my agenda is GDC in Vancouver and then Citrix Synergy in San Francisco. Come by and see me in person! I don’t bite, but I do growl a little. Look out for the upcoming tweets with booth numbers and show times, and as always we might have something special to hand you.

While you are at it - come check us out on Facebook, flickr, twitter and the rest!

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