Posts Tagged 'Marketing'

April 29, 2014

The Media Industry is Making the Move to Cloud

Rumor has it that at the entire rendering of James Cameron’s “Avatar” using 3DFusion required more than 1 petabyte of storage space. This is equivalent to 500 hard drives of 2 terabytes each, or a 32 year-long MP3 file! The computing power behind this would consist of about 34 racks, each with 4 chassis containing 32 machines. All of that adds up to roughly 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of RAM.

High-res, long-form media files that can reach hundreds of gigabytes of storage are regular phenomena in the media industry. Whether it’s making the next “Avatar” or creating the next big, viral ad campaign, technology is fundamental to the media industry. But, the investment required to set these up is enough to boggle the mind and dissuade even the high risk-takers. So, why buy when you can rent?

Cloud allows you to rent, own, use, and return the infrastructure with no capex. That gives users access to unlimited compute power, including servers, network, storage, firewalls, and ancillary services, all available on demand, with pay-as-you-go billing offered hourly or monthly.

Cloud services are an increasingly viable avenue for the industry to leverage and support the performance needs of online media storage, as well as collaboration environment. The benefits of a customizable approach to the cloud include: digital archives, production support, broadcast facility resiliency, high-intensity processing, and derivatives manufacturing for transcoding and encrypting. An on-demand, scalable infrastructure is the next step toward reducing production and operations costs, simplifying data access, and delivering content faster to the end user.

This year at ad:tech asean, SoftLayer will present on how the media industry is utilizing cloud infrastructure. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some interesting customer stories about media companies at the top of their games and successfully growing their businesses on the cloud. Here are two of those stories.

The Loft Group, an Australian creative digital agency, specializes in creating e-learning campaigns for global brands. The company won a contract with cosmetics giant L’Oreal but realized that in order to go big with their platform, they needed technology that provided their support team with the necessary analytics. The Loft Group selected SoftLayer as the cloud platform for its digital e-learning campaigns. Moving their services to the cloud helped the company achieve global scale, consistent performance across multiple countries and grow at a pace which slashed a 3- to 5-year transformation timeline down to just months.

According to eMarketer’s forecast, global e-commerce sales will top $1.2 trillion by 2016. That growth is projected to continue by 20 percent every year. Ad personalization is playing a larger part in maximizing e-commerce business. To keep up with the demands of real-time ad personalization, companies like Struq, an ad personalization platform, require an infrastructure that can process high volumes at high speeds.

Struq offers highly targeted ad campaigns across a range of promotional platforms. The company often handles more than 2 terabytes of raw event data every day, processing more than 95 percent of requests in fewer than 30 milliseconds. And when the company’s growing European customer base demanded immediate server allocation, Struq turned to SoftLayer for scalability. We were able to offer on-demand provisioning as well as the low latency their customers required. A detailed story of how Struq achieved the requisite scalability and success with SoftLayer is available here.

More stories to come, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can hear more customer stories during the first leg of ad:tech asean, a prelim roadshow in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

-@namrata_kapur

March 22, 2013

Social Media for Brands: Monitor Twitter Search via Email

If you're responsible for monitoring Twitter for conversations about your brand, you're faced with a challenge: You need to know what people are saying about your brand at all times AND you don't want to live your entire life in front of Twitter Search.

Over the years, a number of social media applications have been released specifically for brand managers and social media teams, but most of those applications (especially the free/inexpensive ones) differentiate themselves only by the quality of their analytics and how real-time their data is reported. If that's what you need, you have plenty of fantastic options. Those differentiators don't really help you if you want to take a more passive role in monitoring Twitter search ... You still have to log into the application to see your fancy dashboards with all of the information. Why can't the data come to you?

About three weeks ago, Hazzy stopped by my desk and asked if I'd help build a tool that uses the Twitter Search API to collect brand keywords mentions and send an email alert with those mentions in digest form every 30 minutes. The social media team had been using Twilert for these types of alerts since February 2012, but over the last few months, messages have been delayed due to issues connecting to Twitter search ... It seems that the service is so popular that it hits Twitter's limits on API calls. An email digest scheduled to be sent every thirty minutes ends up going out ten hours late, and ten hours is an eternity in social media time. We needed something a little more timely and reliable, so I got to work on a simple "Twitter Monitor" script to find all mentions of our keyword(s) on Twitter, email those results in a simple digest format, and repeat the process every 30 minutes when new mentions are found.

With Bear's Python-Twitter library on GitHub, connecting to the Twitter API is a breeze. Why did we use Bear's library in particular? Just look at his profile picture. Yeah ... 'nuff said. So with that Python wrapper to the Twitter API in place, I just had to figure out how to use the tools Twitter provided to get the job done. For the most part, the process was very clear, and Twitter actually made querying the search service much easier than we expected. The Search API finds all mentions of whatever string of characters you designate, so instead of creating an elaborate Boolean search for "SoftLayer OR #SoftLayer OR @SoftLayer ..." or any number of combinations of arbitrary strings, we could simply search for "SoftLayer" and have all of those results included. If you want to see only @ replies or hashtags, you can limit your search to those alone, but because "SoftLayer" isn't a word that gets thrown around much without referencing us, we wanted to see every instance. This is the code we ended up working with for the search functionality:

def status_by_search(search):
    statuses = api.GetSearch(term=search)
    results = filter(lambda x: x.id > get_log_value(), statuses)
    returns = []
    if len(results) > 0:
        for result in results:
            returns.append(format_status(result))
 
        new_tweets(results)
        return returns, len(returns)
    else:
        exit()

If you walk through the script, you'll notice that we want to return only unseen Tweets to our email recipients. Shortly after got the Twitter Monitor up and running, we noticed how easy it would be to get spammed with the same messages every time the script ran, so we had to filter our results accordingly. Twitter's API allows you to request tweets with a Tweet ID greater than one that you specify, however when I tried designating that "oldest" Tweet ID, we had mixed results ... Whether due to my ignorance or a fault in the implementation, we were getting fewer results than we should. Tweet IDs are unique and numerically sequential, so they can be relied upon as much as datetime (and far easier to boot), so I decided to use the highest Tweet ID from each batch of processed messages to filter the next set of results. The script stores that Tweet ID and uses a little bit of logic to determine which Tweets are newer than the last Tweet reported.

def new_tweets(results):
    if get_log_value() < max(result.id for result in results):
        set_log_value(max(result.id for result in results))
        return True
 
 
def get_log_value():
    with open('tweet.id', 'r') as f:
        return int(f.read())
 
 
def set_log_value(messageId):
    with open('tweet.id', 'w+') as f:
        f.write(str(messageId))

Once we culled out our new Tweets, we needed our script to email those results to our social media team. Luckily, we didn't have to reinvent the wheel here, and we added a few lines that enabled us to send an HTML-formatted email over any SMTP server. One of the downsides of the script is that login credentials for your SMTP server are stored in plaintext, so if you can come up with another alternative that adds a layer of security to those credentials (or lets you send with different kinds of credentials) we'd love for you to share it.

From that point, we could run the script manually from the server (or a laptop for that matter), and an email digest would be sent with new Tweets. Because we wanted to automate that process, I added a cron job that would run the script at the desired interval. As a bonus, if the script doesn't find any new Tweets since the last time it was run, it doesn't send an email, so you won't get spammed by "0 Results" messages overnight.

The script has been in action for a couple of weeks now, and it has gotten our social media team's seal of approval. We've added a few features here and there (like adding the number of Tweets in an email to the email's subject line), and I've enlisted the help of Kevin Landreth to clean up the code a little. Now, we're ready to share the SoftLayer Twitter Monitor script with the world via GitHub!

SoftLayer Twitter Monitor on GitHub

The script should work well right out of the box in any Python environment with the required libraries after a few simple configuration changes:

  • Get your Twitter Customer Secret, Access Token and Access Secret from https://dev.twitter.com/
  • Copy/paste that information where noted in the script.
  • Update your search term(s).
  • Enter your mailserver address and port.
  • Enter your email account credentials if you aren't working with an open relay.
  • Set the self.from_ and self.to values to your preference.
  • Ensure all of the Python requirements are met.
  • Configure a cron job to run the script your desired interval. For example, if you want to send emails every 10 minutes: */10 * * * * <path to python> <path to script> 2>&1 /dev/null

As soon as you add your information, you should be in business. You'll have an in-house Twitter Monitor that delivers a simple email digest of your new Twitter mentions at whatever interval you specify!

Like any good open source project, we want the community's feedback on how it can be improved or other features we could incorporate. This script uses the Search API, but we're also starting to play around with the Stream API and SoftLayer Message Queue to make some even cooler tools to automate brand monitoring on Twitter.

If you end up using the script and liking it, send SoftLayer a shout-out via Twitter and share it with your friends!

-@SoftLayerDevs

August 29, 2012

Demystifying Social Media: Get Involved

A few weeks back, Kevin handed me The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk and said we should give it a read. I'm only halfway through it, but I thought I should share some of Vaynerchuk's insights on social media with the SoftLayer blog audience while they are still fresh in my mind.

The best summary of The Thank You Economy comes straight from its pages:

"The Thank You Economy explains how businesses must learn to adapt their marketing strategies to take advantage of platforms that have completely transformed consumer culture and society as a whole."

The book looks at how human nature hasn't changed, but everything else has. The rise of social media is as game-changing as the radio and the television were, and that presents a combination of challenge and opportunity for businesses. In Vaynerchuk's words, "What we call social media is not media, nor is it even a platform. It is a massive cultural shift that has profoundly affected the way society uses the greatest platform ever invented, the Internet."

I've been "in the trenches" with SoftLayer's social media presences for over a year now, and I realized that I take advantage of the fundamental openness of the company. Vaynerchuk urges businesses to dive into social media, and he shares some of most common reasons companies aren't getting involved — I could list all eleven reasons here, but you'd probably recognize them all as excuses you've heard.* The common theme: People (and companies) fear uncertainty, and while that fear is understandable, it shouldn't be paralyzing. The opportunity and necessity of engagement outweigh the excuses.

When you clear all the hurdles preventing your entrance to the world of social media, you need to execute. Vaynerchuk explains how "Cultural Building Blocks" of a company dictate that company's success in social media, and while they aren't exactly an Easy Bake Oven recipe to viral success, they are profound in their simplicity:

  1. Begin with Yourself
  2. Commit Whole Hog
  3. Set the Tone
  4. Invest in Employees
  5. Trust Your People
  6. Be Authentic

The "trust your people" and "be authentic" building blocks resonated the most when I thought of how SoftLayer's social media is managed. The level of trust my boss has in me is both refreshing and challenging, and I find myself working harder to prove I deserve it. A cynic might read that sentence and scoff at its over-the-top positivity, but I'm as honest as I can be ... And that's an example of the challenge of being authentic. SoftLayer employees are passionate about their responsibilities and the company culture, and that kind of enthusiasm is so rare that there's a tendency to assume that it's manufactured.

If I see someone talking to us via social media about a bad experience at SoftLayer, I'm more concerned about changing their experience than I am about what they share with their social network. Often, when I follow up with those customers, when the problem is resolved, it's amazing how surprised people are that someone actually took the time to make things right. I want to hear if someone has a bad experience because I take pride in turning it around. Are we "in control" of what people say about SoftLayer on social media? No. We are in control of how SoftLayer responds to what people are saying about us, though.

Your business needs to be active in social media.

You don't need a "social media team" or a budget or a strategy ... You need to be passionate about your employees, customers and products, and you need to make time to reach out to your community — wherever they are.

What roadblocks have you run into when it comes to your business's social media engagement? If you've been successful, what tips could you share with me (and the rest of the SoftLayer audience)?

-Rachel

*If you're toying with the idea of social media engagement or you're working for a company that hasn't embraced it yet, it's worth it for you to buy The Thank You Economy to read how @garyvee dismantles those excuses.

May 18, 2012

The Weekly Breakdown - Behind the Scenes at SoftLayer

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned scholar in the field of psychology, said, "In large organizations the dilution of information as it passes up and down the hierarchy, and horizontally across departments, can undermine the effort to focus on common goals." That's one of the biggest reasons SoftLayer shares a weekly internal newsletter with SLayers in all departments and in all locations. Keeping coworkers informed of corporate activities (and "common goals") may not be very high on everyone's to-do list, but it's certainly at the top of mine ... literally. As Marketing Coordinator, I'm responsible for sending out a weekly update to ALL SoftLayer staff.

If you have a growing or geographically diverse team, rallying the troops around a shared message is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. If you're not sure where to start with your own internal newsletter, I'd be happy to dissect what goes into our "Weekly Breakdown" as an example you might build from.

SoftLayer Weekly Breakdown

The Weekly Breakdown kicks off with employee birthdays. We want to make sure all 700+ SLayers know when one of their coworkers is getting a year "better," and every month, huge birthday cakes are brought to every office to recognize the SLayers celebrating their birthdays. We haven't written a SoftLayer version of a cheesy-restaurant rendition of the classic "Happy Birthday" song, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK

John Doe 05/17
Jane Smith 05/17
Bill Scurvy 05/18
Kermit the Frog 05/18
Miss Piggy 05/19

In addition to employee birthdays, we'll also call out important days (like SoftLayer's birthday: May 5!) in the birthday section.

The next section in the Breakdown is similar to the "Birthdays" section, but it's a little more relevant to our business: "Anniversaries This Month." When you're hired at SoftLayer, you basically get a SoftLayer birthday, and we want to recognize how long you've been a SLayer:

ANNIVERSARIES THIS MONTH

10 Years!!!!!!!!!!

  • John Doe

8 Years!!!!!!!!

  • Jane Smith
  • Bill Scurvy

5 Years!!!!!

  • Kermit the Frog

1 Year!

  • Miss Piggy

After we recognize the SoftLayer anniversaries, we have a section devoted to keeping employees informed of various activities going on at SoftLayer. That might be a recent press release, an update on holidays or an upcoming company event. This section is the go-to place for employees to know what's new with SoftLayer.

SL SPOTLIGHT

Did you know that SoftLayer employees can get a discount on dedicated servers and CCIs? Talk to any of our sales reps to get started. You will receive a [secret] discount off any dedicated server or a [secret] discount off any CCI!

The next few sections list available SL Job Openings, New Hires from the previous week, and Organizational Changes. Given that SoftLayer is still growing like crazy, we want to make sure all of our employees see the available positions in the organization so they can share with their network of friends or so they can see any opportunities they feel might better suit their talents and passions. It's always nice to know who is helping SoftLayer grow (new employees) and how they are growing with SoftLayer, whether vertically or horizontally (organizational changes).

The next two sections are dedicated to employees "personal" lives: Classifieds and Fundraising Events. These sections let employees list anything they are selling or giving away along with any fundraising activities or events that they, their kids, their neighbor or their dog are involved in. We've had classified items like car wheels, stereos and animal adoptions, and you can bet that employees were voraciously reading the "Fundraising" section when Girl Scout Cookie orders were being taken.

We wrap up the Weekly Breakdown with my favorite section: SoftLayer Praise. There are so many reasons why the section gives me joy. It's amazing how many wonderful comments our customers have about SoftLayer on a weekly basis, and it's a "pat on the back" for teams that may not interact directly with customers on a daily basis. Sharing all of the praise is great for morale, and those little compliments here and there go a long way to making our team continue working hard ... even if just to hear those comments again and again! Here are some of my favorite comments from the past few weeks:

SL Praise

As our business expands we look forward to working with SoftLayer on our projects for many years to come.

My server was down and did not want to come back online without an FSCK. Called support and got a real person on the phone within seconds who was knowledgeable - excellent! He was unable to get the FSCK to run so escalated it. Server Was back online within 10-15 minutes of calling. Thank you. Keep up the great service.

We have been a Customer since 2004 (since the days of servermatrix) and would like to thank you for the wonderful support that we have received over the years. Thank you for an outstanding customer experience!

Great customer services. On numerous occasions was pleasantly surprised.

You people are great!!! I am very Happy with your service. Since 1 year I never face a single server down issue.

Softlayer is the best hosting company I know of, which is why we are hosting with you. You are doing a great job.

I Love SL!

I definitely refer all my colleagues to SoftLayer. Service and quality are amazing!

@SoftLayer always has the coolest stuff at trade shows. I have a shirt from them that is cool enough for me to wear in public!!

SoftLayer it's been wonderful. We been having softlayer rocket battles ... #SENDREINFORCEMENTS

Those kinds of comments can put a smile on any SLayers face! :-)

If you have any wonderful comments to say about SoftLayer or an individual employee, don't be scared to tell us ... Your comment might just be featured in our next "Weekly Breakdown." Comment on this blog, use SoftLayer's "Get Satisfaction" page, tweet @SoftLayer or post to our Facebook page. We love to hearing from you and working hard to remain the "best hosting company [you] know of!"

As you can see, the Weekly Breakdown covers a lot of SoftLayer goodness in a given week. It takes a little work to keep a 700-SLayer organization on the same page, but that work pays off exponentially when the team is able to share accomplishments, praise and goals. I'd highly recommend you trying your own weekly internal newsletter ... Now leave us some SL praise!

-Natalie

February 29, 2012

Fruition: Tech Partner Spotlight

This guest blog features Fruition, a featured member of the SoftLayer Technology Partners Marketplace. Fruition's SEO and SEM reporting web app provides highly accurate reports on search engine rankings and onsite signals that impact your Google and Bing rankings. In the video below, learn a little more about Fruition (and a few key SEO/SEM tips for small businesses) from Fruition's Brad Anderson, and scroll down to read about SEO Goals and Key Indicators.

Company Website: http://fruition.net/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/fruition

SEO Goals and Key Indicators

Google's Feb 2012 Update

Between February 25-28th Google rolled out another big set of changes to their algorithm. These changes knocked down a lot of short cuts that SEO companies were using, including blog networks. The red flags have been there for a long time. Blog networks are easy to uncover simply because of the complexity of trying to setup a truly diverse hosting environment. It is not just separate C-class IP addresses it is also registrars, DNS, admin login IP addresses, plug-in profiles, etc. There are so many easy ways to group sites as being related or identical that it is not worth the effort of trying to take short cuts with your linking. Instead focus on what is going to have a lasting impact on your SEO:

  • Page Speed – Improve your code, increase your hardware, etc.
  • Better Onsite Content
  • Usability

These three factors will have a lasting impact on your SEO during 2012 and beyond.

Get Your Strategy Together

Successful internet marketing campaigns have one thing in common: Comprehensive strategies. Today's marketplace makes it extremely difficult to compete in one area of internet marketing without complimenting that work in several other areas. For example, why invest in search engine optimization if you don't have a quality website to convert the traffic to leads or sales? Why invest in a mobile app if you aren't going to optimize the listing to generate a high volume of downloads? These examples show how a comprehensive strategy to internet marketing is the best approach for future success.

Fruition.net has been successful in this comprehensive approach by staying at the forefront of each individual strategy. At the core of these strategies is a collection of goals and key indicators we use to monitor, adjust, and track performance. Below you will find a few of the most important goals for each area of internet marketing.

Comprehensive Internet Marketing Strategies

Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website with the end goal of improving your ranking on the major search engines. Here are the goals and key indicators you should be tracking to evaluate the success of your SEO campaign:

  • Keyword Rankings — This one is easy! Determine which keywords you think will generate more business, write them down, and track your rankings for each of them every month. Side note: Make sure you aren't logged in to your Google account in order to receive unbiased results.
  • Non-Branded Search Traffic — This is the traffic that has come to your website via the search engines, but the visitor did not use your brand name in their search. Your website should already be capturing the branded searches, so the real test is how much non-branded traffic your website is generating and increasing each month.
  • Conversions — This is where the rubber meets the road. Increases in rankings and traffic are great, but ultimately these campaigns are all about generating new leads or revenue. We track phone calls, email inquiries, and revenue numbers for our clients to give them instant feedback on their marketing investment. Some clients take it a step further and track the leads via a CRM to produce a tangible return on investment.

Pay Per Click (PPC)
PPC is a quick method of generating an increase of traffic to your website. You are literally paying for each click, but watch out because your budget can quickly get away from you if you don't know what you are doing. Here are the metrics you should be following to ensure a quality PPC campaign:

  • Quality Score — When someone clicks on your PPC ad, you can direct them to any page on your website. It might be the home page or a specific landing page, but whichever page is chosen will be given a Quality Score (scale 1-10) by Google. This quality score measures the relevancy of the page as it relates to the PPC ad. The lower the relevancy, the higher the cost per click. Therefore, you want to make your landing page as relevant as possible and don't advertise unless your landing page Quality Score is 5 or higher.
  • Cost Per Conversion — This should be your #1 key indicator for tracking purposes. The cost per conversion measures the total cost it takes to generate a lead or sale. The beauty of this key indicator is that it encapsulates all of the moving parts of a paid search campaign: ad design, ad bidding, quality score, landing page design, landing page quality, landing page calls to action, etc.

Social Media
Social media has been a big buzz word for the past couple of years and for good reason. People are spending A LOT of time on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the like. If you are going to compete online, then you need to at least have a presence with the major channels. Here are a couple ways to measure your effectiveness:

  • Likes/Fans — This is an easy one to track. How many people like your business on Facebook or are following you on Twitter? The larger the number, the better. Search engines like to see a large following because they feel it represents authority and a leader of the industry.
  • Shares/Retweets — There are free tools available that can provide you with the number of times your content has been shared or retweeted. Another case of bigger is better because it shows the people who are following you are engaged with your content.
  • Google +1 — So far we have not seen a correlation between getting +1s and higher organic rankings. That has to change or it seems +1 will be considered a failure.

Website and Application Development
Building a new website or mobile application is a very detail oriented project that requires a well defined process. The best way to track the success of your campaign is make sure your process is well documented with dates attached to each of your deliverables of the project. The time spent up front in the planning stages will bring clarity to the project for all involved and help the project stay on task. Below is a platform that can be built into a very detailed list of deliverables for a development project:

  • Define the Scope of the Project
  1. Project Management
  2. Calendar of the project
  3. Resources needed (human capital, scheduling, technical proficiency, etc)
  4. Wireframes for the user interface (mapping the visitor flow)
  5. Approvals
  • Creative – Design Work
    1. Logos and branding
    2. Image and video content
    3. Clear calls to action
    4. Concepts presented to clients
    5. Revisions as necessary
    6. Client Approvals
  • Coding and Development
    1. Hosting environment
    2. Platform development
    3. Installation of all scripts, APIs, tracking, etc
  • Testing
    1. Cross browser testing
    2. Bug fixing
  • Optimization
    1. Titles
    2. Headers
    3. Descriptions
    4. Alt Tags
    5. Content

    Internet marketing is a rapidly changing marketplace. Employing several complimentary strategies and monitoring the performance will provide you with the greatest opportunity for success. Good luck in 2012 and may all of your internet marketing strategies come to Fruition!

    -Jonathan Mills, Fruition

    This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
    These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
    February 22, 2012

    An Insider's Look at SoftLayer's International Success

    It's been a long time since I put fingers to keyboard to write a blog, so I reckoned it was about time that I resurfaced on the interwebs. While this post won't announce any huge news like my last post about SoftLayer going live in Amsterdam, it might provide an interesting insight into what it's like to work for a dynamic, growing company.

    My time at SoftLayer has been marked by change at rapid pace — more revolution than evolution, I suppose. This has been true both in terms of my professional development and the trajectory the company has taken in the past 18 months: I have gone through a merger that more than tripled the size of the company, watched the expansion of our footprint in the United States (a new data center in San Jose and new pods in Washington, D.C. and Dallas) and participated in our expansion overseas when I worked on the Amsterdam launch ... And if that list wasn't action-packed enough, I've been a part of some fantastic product launches (Flex Images and Object Storage being the two most recent examples).

    When I joined SoftLayer, I kicked off fledgling analyst relations program, transitioned to corporate communications, and then seized the opportunity to serve as SoftLayer's EMEA general manager (temporarily until I found Jonathan Wisler to run the ship). Today, I'm responsible for driving our international operations in Amsterdam and Singapore, and so far, the work has gone according to the plan. Both facilities are up and running, and we have in-region folks in place to run the data centers and drive the region's business. As with every other DC under the SoftLayer hood, the Ops teams continue to knock it out of the park, and our business teams are just getting wound up.

    Our early success in the new international markets speaks volumes about the support our customer base has given us as we've expanded, and now that we've got fully fledged dedicated teams to run in-region sales and marketing in Amsterdam and Singapore, we're expecting the result to be akin to throwing gasoline on an already-roaring fire. Users in Europe and Asia can look forward to seeing a lot more from SoftLayer over the coming months as we ramp up our events schedule and start to push the SoftLayer message throughout both geographies.

    Suffice it to say, I am very excited about what lies ahead ... I suspect our competitors might not share the same enthusiasm.

    -@quigleymar

    October 6, 2011

    Raising Funds and Awareness - American Heart

    SoftLayer is having a contest between all departments to see who can raise the most money for the American Heart Association. Each department (some departments were combined depending on the amount of employees in the group) was asked to think of a fundraiser, event or just some way the team could raise money for a great cause. Whoever raises the most money wins the grand prize of bragging rights around the office.

    The Teams

    • Accounting/Finance
    • Marketing/Strategy
    • Administration/HR/Legal
    • Networking
    • CSA/Managed Services
    • Sales
    • CST
    • SBT/Infrastructure/Implementation
    • Executives (Officers and SVP’ s)
    • Systems – Windows/Linux
    • Facilities
    • Technology
    • Inventory

    Most departments have done very well, but given my affiliation with the Marketing team, I want to talk about how amazingly we performed. The Marketing and Strategy team kicked off our fundraising efforts with a BBQ event that consisted of ribs, brisket and potato salad, an auction with some great prizes like Rangers tickets, Calloway Golf polo shirts and FC Dallas Tickets, and T-shirts for sale that read, "DEDICATED and we don’t just mean our servers" sponsored by SuperMicro:

    AHA Fundraiser

    AHA Fundraiser

    And here are a few snapshots from the BBQ Event:

    AHA Fundraiser

    AHA Fundraiser

    AHA Fundraiser

    It's pretty clear that 3 Bars BBQ is a pretty big draw in the SoftLayer office.

    Needless to say this event was a great success! The Marketing team didn't stop there, though. We had FOUR more auctions ... And we pulled out the big guns (two 600GB SSD hard drives and two 16GB iPad 2s). In my biased opinion, the Marketing team worked the hardest for our donations with sweat and tears ... mainly sweat – you know how hot it is outside in the middle of June in Texas.

    To date, our team has raised a little over $7,500 in donations for the American Heart Association. You may say, “Wow that’s a lot of cash!” but one of the coolest ways we were able to raise so much money was that we didn't need to take cash: we got a mobile credit card device so the "I don't have cash on me" excuse was rendered useless! Yeah I know ... we are the smartest team ALIVE! After a few events, every department asked us to use our device for their fundraising efforts.

    I am so proud of all the work the Marketing and Strategy teams have put into this fundraiser, and I'm especially proud to be a part of an organization that goes to such lengths to help out a charity.

    Go Team SoftLayer!

    -Natalie :-)

    Categories: 
    September 16, 2011

    Social Marketing v. Social Media - And Them Cowboys?

    Once again the Dallas Cowboys let a game they weren't supposed to win slip away from them in the 4th quarter. Again it was Tony "oops" Romo that had a hand (or "didn't have hands") in the loss. I can't blame it all on him as I saw many problems that led up to the defeat. I, as a master football coach of 4-6 year-old flag football, could write multiple paragraphs on that subject, but because this is a social media blog, I will get back on topic.

    After last night's "4th quarter of doom" that probably led to crazy nightmares for my sleeping kids (I may have been yelling loudly and often), I decided to open Twitter to see what everyone in the world thought about the game. I have to admit I was a little shocked at how many Cowboy haters are out in the wild. Of course the game was trending, and the conversation was ... diverse: You had your die-hard Cowboy fans that were saying, "Shake it off, you weren't supposed to win anyway." You had your fair weather fans that were saying, "Great, another season opener loss, I guess I'll follow the Texans instead." You had the fans of other teams that were saying, "Haha, the Cowboys lost again – Go (Insert your team here)!" And, of course you had the pure Cowboy haters who were saying, "#$%^#$%^#$ the Cowboys they #$%#$% and #$%# and then #$%#$%. Eat it!" I would say most were Cowboy haters, and most of the tweets were not even close to being rated PG-13.

    Stay with me now ... I'm finally onto the real topic.

    Social Media
    What I saw on Twitter last night was real Social Media to me. It was current, real time, opinionated, cool and sad all at the same time. It encapsulated the thoughts and reactions of the public to something that was happening or just happened. Why is social media cool? A couple of weeks ago when the earthquake struck the northeast, people were saying that they received tweet updates of the ground shaking and notifications that an earthquake hit seconds before they felt the tremors in their area. Think about that and how many possible uses that has in lots of different industries. X happens, Y needs to know about it right away, Z tweets it or posts it on Facebook (or any of the 2000 other social apps out there), and like magic you have the information almost before you are supposed to. That's viral social media.

    Social Marketing
    Social Marketing isn't nearly as sexy. It's only and exactly what it sounds like. We do it at SoftLayer: You see tweets from us talking about press releases, new products, our new website, our new international locations and some of the other value we provide to customers because we know how easy it is to miss some of the best stuff in the noisy social sphere. It helps us build our brand and helps with awareness by getting our name in front of people who may not have seen it otherwise. It drives traffic to our website and straight to our order form. It is significant to our bottom line.

    The challenge with this kind of engagement is that the volume of content can seem overwhelming to some. Some customers only want to hear the viral social media kind of stuff with up to the minute news (which is our vision for @SoftLayerNotify), but it's tough to abandon the social marketing piece because it's been so measurably successful for us.

    With that being said, we want to hear from you about what you like and don't like about our social engagement. What you would like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Do you like it? Do you hate it? We're definitely listening ... Well as long as we're not busy getting ready for the next flash mob.

    -@skinman454

    January 3, 2011

    I'm Dreaming of TV Commercials

    With GI Partners' investment into SoftLayer last August and the subsequent merger with The Planet in November, I haven't had a spare moment to write a blog. As I write this, it's just before year end 2010, and now that we are the largest privately held pure-play hosting company in the world, I sort of wonder how soon it will be before SoftLayer TV commercials start popping up. Hey, maybe one day we'll do a Super Bowl commercial! We always dream big.

    Thus, I thought I'd try my hand at a script for our first commercial:

    INT. IT GUY'S DESK

    IT GUY is on phone to SERVER SUPPLIER.

    IT GUY

    We need another 50 servers as fast as you can get them to us – we are out of capacity and the big guns are demanding better email performance and lower latency for incoming orders and customer service traffic. I wish I could have them tomorrow, but…

    SERVER SUPPLIER

    Yeah, we can't do tomorrow. Let's see, I think I can squeeze them into next week's production run and then expedite shipping. We can probably have them on your dock in 12-14 days.

    IT GUY

    Oh boy. I don't know if that will be good enough. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. I have accounting on my case about minimizing lowly utilized machines while sales, marketing, and operations whine about not keeping enough spare capacity to handle business spikes. I can't win.

    SERVER SUPPLIER

    Ouch. Wish I could get them there faster, but 12 days is our best-case scenario for you.

    IT GUY

    OK, thanks for trying. Go ahead and get them here as fast as you can.

    SERVER SUPPLIER

    You wanna order a few more for a cushion?

    IT GUY

    Not if I don't want the CFO complaining to my boss about me over ordering – again.

    SERVER SUPPLIER

    I understand. We'll go with the 50 for now.

    IT GUY hangs up the call, still stressed out, talks to himself.

    IT GUY

    Geez. It'll take the full 14 days to get here. Then we have to rack them, cable them, test them, then provision them. It could be a month before they go live in production. I'm doomed.

    Another employee – IT GAL – walks up. She has a cheerful, stress-free demeanor.

    IT GAL

    So, why do you look so 'doomed'?

    IT GUY

    The business units I support need 50 new servers by yesterday. I'll be lucky to have them online and in production in a month.

    IT GAL

    What? Why so long?

    IT GUY

    Well, that's how long it will take them to be built, and shipped, and racked, and cabled, and tested, and provisioned, and...

    IT GAL

    [Cuts him off.] You should just use SoftLayer.

    IT GUY

    What? Who's that?

    IT GAL

    That's who I use in a pinch. Heck, it's who I use most all the time for infrastructure for the groups I support.

    IT GUY

    How's that?

    IT GAL

    Here, let me drive.

    IT GUY stands up. IT GAL sits down at his workstation. Move to screen shots of customer portal where applicable.

    IT GAL

    Here's my account at SoftLayer. Notice that I have servers as my foundation combined with cloud computing capacity that I can adjust on the fly and pay for it by the hour. If I need more power, I ramp up the cloud portion and boost my computing power in 5 minutes – not a month. Here, I'll show you. Click here, Click here and voila! I just added another cloud server. It'll be in production in 5 minutes. It's an hourly machine, so I can release it at the end of the day and it will cost me less than $20.

    IT GUY

    But how do your groups know that the new cloud server is out there for use?

    IT GAL

    I use SoftLayer's API connections. To them, it looks like any other server that's available on our corporate network.

    IT GUY

    It's that easy?

    IT GAL

    Yep.

    IT GUY

    So how do you comply with our backup plan guidelines and disaster recovery planning?

    IT GAL

    Easy. The production data lives in SoftLayer's Dallas facility. I back it all up at their Seattle facility, and the data moves over SoftLayer's private network that isn't exposed to the public internet. And all transit on the private network is free and doesn't count against my public internet bandwidth limits.

    IT GUY

    Speaking of bandwidth, what if one of those servers goes over its limit? Do you get hit with overage charges?

    IT GAL

    No. SoftLayer offers bandwidth pooling between servers as well as global load balancing. You can add it on the fly too.

    IT GUY

    Firewalls?

    IT GAL

    Also on the fly. No downtime at all.

    IT GUY

    Wow, I never knew a place like this existed. How do I get started? And how does your department pay for it?

    IT GAL

    You've got a corporate purchasing card, right?

    IT GUY

    Yeah.

    IT GAL

    Give them a call, order your servers, and pay with that card. It's a month-to-month contract. Just give 24 hours notice to cancel. Your first setup will take about 4 hours, but you'll be home at dinner tonight with your 50 new servers online. Not a month from now.

    IT GUY

    Thanks for the info! Boy, that's a relief.

    IT GAL

    After calling SoftLayer, don't forget to cancel that order of 50 to come here in a month.

    IT GUY

    That'll be a pleasure.

    Screen fades to black. Graphics appear.

    SoftLayer. It's That Easy.

    -Gary

    Categories: 
    December 20, 2010

    SoftLayer Market Positioning: Bang v. Buck

    SoftLayer's goal is to compete on performance and control, not price. The hosting industry is crowded with competitors undercutting each other on prices, and we don't want run in the race to the bottom.

    A few weeks ago, about 18,000 customers officially became SoftLayer customers. Over the past decade, they joined the fold under the banners of The Planet, EV1Servers, RackShack, ServerMatrix and maybe a half-dozen other brands. Each of those brands was positioned to appeal to specific market segments, but they shared the same pursuit of "value" to offer customers the biggest bang for their buck. There are two approaches to providing that kind of value:

    • More bang.
    • Less buck.

    In many cases, the "less buck" strategy was adopted. SoftLayer takes the contrary approach by maximizing the "more bang."

    If I were to put it more presidentially, I'd say, "The 'less buck' stops here."

    I get to chat with customers on Twitter, Facebook, the blog and the forums, and a lot of my interactions have been about pricing: "I used to get X server for Y, but now it costs Z." The trouble is that it's tough to compare many of the offerings apples-to-apples.

    If you were to create an apples-to-apples server comparison, you'd see that a SoftLayer server is the equivalent of a server from The Planet with a KVM, a private network, additional geographic network points of presence, increased network capacity, the ability to select where you want your server provisioned, faster provisioning, seamless integration with cloud solutions, and a lot more automation... And these are just the differences that came to me as I was writing.

    As a customer of The Planet, you could choose to omit many of the features above. As a customer of SoftLayer, we want you to be able to take advantage of the platform that was designed holistically to making growing and maintaining your hosted environment easier. The platform's architecture was dreamt up in garages and living rooms by folks that live and breathe technology:

    "It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do." – Steve Jobs

    The reactions I get when I talk about the features included in a SoftLayer server range from, ""Wow. I had no idea," to, "I don't care. I don't need any of that stuff," and as you're reading this post, you may have already decided your stance. If you don't see value in the SoftLayer platform, we might not get your next server-worth of business, but if you have just been looking at the dollars and cents, I'd encourage you to investigate some of the features of the platform and ask questions about how it might make your environment easier to manage.

    Along the lines of the platform being built for the future, I have a question for you: What would you change about the SoftLayer platform? What is it missing? What do you want it to do that it doesn't do yet?

    -@khazard

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