Posts Tagged 'Twitter'

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

October 4, 2010

SoftLayer Fire Hose

Hi. My name is Mark Quigley, and I am a new Softlayer employee. In specific, I will be running the company’s analyst relations program. This is my first week with the company, and the fire hose has not yet been turned off. In fact, I think that this has been among the most intense weeks of my working life.

Softlayer moves at a pace that I am not overly familiar with given time I have spent with some very large (and inevitably slow moving) companies. It has been a pleasure to find myself in a group of 'quick-thinking doers' versus 'thinkers that spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing.' I have seen fewer PowerPoint decks and Excel spreadsheets this week than I thought was possible. It makes for a pleasant change, and change is a good thing (My wardrobe has also undergone a SoftLayer transformation. It now features black shirts and some more black shirts).

The week began with the announcement that SoftLayer had launched its second Dallas data center. The data center (DAL05) has capacity for 15,000 servers, delivers 24x7 onsite support, and has multiple security protocols controlling entrance to the facility. The diesel generators that sit outside are massive – think of a locomotive on steroids. DAL05 is fully connected to SoftLayer's data centers at the INFOMART in Dallas, in Seattle, Washington, and in the Washington D.C. area in addition to the company’s network Points of Presence in seven additional U.S. cities.

The reason for the expansion is simple – Softlayer continues to grow. In fact, our new office location would appear to be mostly a home for large generators and server racks in the future than it is for people (there are more of those to come, too). Current plans call for the addition of two more pods to DAL05 to come alive over the next 18 - 24 months. In addition a facility in San Jose is expected to go live early in 2011 and we are in the midst of international expansion plans. There is a lot going on around here.

I think it is interesting to step back for a second and take a look at what is driving this growth. The fact that SoftLayer is ruthlessly efficient, allowing customers to get from 0 to 60 faster than anyone else is certainly one reason. So are the fantastic support processes that are in place. The guys around here are very good at what they do. That being said this is a time when a rising tide is raising all ships. And this is a good thing. I mean, we want to beat our competition with every time we see them across the table, but we are glad that there are enjoying their share of success because it means the marketplace is booming. Even better, it is showing no sign of letting up.

The changes that we have witnessed in the past fifteen years are nothing short of staggering. I remember sending faxes to clients as the primary means of document exchange and then being thrilled at the notion of a single AOL account via dial up being shared by five people in the office. Now I have access to the internet via at least two devices in the office and one when I am not. At home I surf the net and watch content streamed via NetFlix over my iPad. My son plays the PS3 online with his pals, my daughter spends time watching Dora the Explorer on the Nick Jr. website and my wife has reopened countless friendships with high school friends that she has not seen in decades via Facebook. I don't think that I am unusual in my habits either. None of this happened ten years ago.

The most recent wave has come with the arrival of social networking sites (which had a much different definition when I was young!) and associated applications. Companies like Twitter and Facebook has driven a terrific amount of innovation, and continues to do so. So too have companies like Apple – music downloads and application downloads are now in the billions. The net result of this has been in a terrific amount of business for companies like SoftLayer. I mean, who ever thought that on-line farming would drive as much interest, traffic and money as it has? And the really cool part of all of this is that the world my kids will occupy in ten years is going to be richer than mine by at least an order of magnitude. SoftLayer will be there to make it all work. It is going to be a fun ride.

-@quigleymar

July 20, 2010

Back in ancient times, and an eye on the future

I recently returned from vacation (go ahead and let out your jealous, exasperated sighs). During our vacation one of our stops was the ancient mayan temples at Chichen Itza. For those who ever get a chance, it’s a must see. The landscape is emerald green, the temples are awe inspiring, and the weather is beautiful. For those who aren’t quite sure about what I’m talking about, here’s a nice image to refer to:

While the temples are cool, even more amazing are the little details the Ancient Mayans put into this that really set it off. Things like the serpent visible only on the spring equinox, the echo when you clap (which sounds like a bird – no kidding!), amongst others.

What’s really interesting here is the story of human engineering, and to see how far it’s come since those ancient times, and even though Its mind-boggling to see how far we’ve come, it’s quite intriguing to see what they did with their own type of technology.

While they used to clap at the temple, we now send facebook or twitter posts. They passed their stories and music verbally over centuries, and we share MP3s and other media across the globe at the speed of light. While SoftLayer sits at the edge of technology with our state of the art datacenters, hardware, and networking topology, it’s pretty hard to compare to the tools used by, and the creations made by the people of this era. Luckily our tour guide re-assured us that we’ll be fine in 2012, despite what the movies say, so we’ll have plenty of time to see some more amazing advances in technology. Who knows that our future generations will say about our ‘rudimentary’ communications and technology some 2500 years from now.

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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

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!

March 24, 2010

Location, Location, Location

South by Southwest (“SXSW”) Interactive wrapped up last week, and one of the recurring themes was how location-based services (LBS) are changing the landscape of social media. When you port social media apps to the mobile phone, a world of LBSs are opened to you.

There are many use cases for LBS, many for social media, and the intersection of the two are even more interesting.

As seen with foursquare and Gowalla, bringing in LBS into a social application that lets you add tips/comments to restaurants, bars, etc. instantly turns it into a quick way to see where the “hot” places are currently in your area. Adding game mechanics (like badges) only makes foursquare even more addictive.

This is the new hotness.

The New Hotness

The intersect between Location-based services and social media.

Is it any surprise that twitter started supporting location-based tweets this week? They’re simply keeping up with the trend. I expect to see location-appropriate contextual ads in applications on mobile phones more now. If you’re walking down 5th street, and you’ve given your application access to GPS information, advertisers would love to be able to tell you to drop by their shop on your way to wherever you’re headed.

ShopSavvy, for instance, could push notifications to customers using that app letting them know where deals are in their proximity.

There are detractors. Plenty of people still want to keep their location private. If you’re an at-risk person (in an abusive relationship, for instance) you should think twice before turning on location-based services. More and more websites/applications these days are starting to set very “open” defaults rather than restrictive defaults. As Danah Boyd recently said, we were once a people who kept information private and decided what to make public. Now we are more and more making data about ourselves public by default, and take more effort to decide what to make private.

Edit: A day after I posted this, I found an article by Kevin Nakao which provides more detail on location-based services. It is a great reader and can be found here.

January 20, 2010

Hosting for Haiti

SoftLayer is joining the online project Hosting for Haiti in an effort to raise awareness and funding for the American Red Cross. The earthquakes in Haiti on January 12 and the resulting aftershocks have left the country devastated.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to providing emergency relief and recovery to help those affected by the disaster.

This project is a joint effort between hosting providers like ourselves. Peer1 Hosting, GoGrid, The Planet, ServInt, and Rackspace are all involved in helping with donations and spreading awareness. If you would like to get involved, follow the info link at http://hostingforhaiti.com/.

Follow on Twitter: @hostingforhaiti or use the hashtag #hostingforhaiti.

January 12, 2010

SLXXXXX Twitter Log

8/24/2009 1:00PM – Just ordered 3 more servers from SL. Man I love how easy it is to order, and the provisioning time is incredible.

8/24/2009 11:45PM – Got the new servers setup; now I have redundancy for my app. G’nite.

9/04/2009 8:00AM – Suhweet, just passed 50K users for my app. Hitting the pool.

9/21/2009 6:42PM – Oops, app crashed too many users. Recovering now. Thank goodness for monitoring alerts.

9.21/2009 8:13PM – Sorry all, app back up. SL CloudLayer really helped. Their portal makes it all easy.

9/22/2009 3:13AM – Ok stayed up late tonight and added new functionality to the app and added a new app server, geographic load balancing baby!

10/6/2009 2:45PM – Thanks for all the support on the app, keep the new ideas coming. 450K users and growing.

10/31/2009 5:50PM – Happy Halloween! 627K users. Thank you!!

11/14/2009 6:02AM – Getting close 989K users. Party at 1 Million. Just added 2 new front end servers in each DC, adding cloud storage now for Data replication/protection.

11/21/2009 7:31AM– It’s finally here 1 Mil. Party time! Isn’t ad revenue the greatest. The in game pay to play money is fun too. Thanks all!

12/10/2009 4:42PM – Still growing. I was alerted that one server crashed. No users affected. Technology is cool.

12/18/2009 9:16PM– ‘Bout to go silent for the Holidays. Hope you all have good ones. See you at 1.5 million when I return.

12/19/2009 7:00AM – Decided to add a couple more cloud instances for good measure. App is smoking fast.

12/31/2009 10:45PM – Monitoring just hit my phone, at party will check asap.

12/31/2009 11:00PM – Found a netbook at the party. App is crashed. Looking.

12/31/2009 11:07 PM – WT? All servers down, hard down. SL up and friend app good on SL network. Investigating, sorry for outage.

12/31/2009 11:10 PM – Hackers? Not sure all servers affected. Ping only. Had very secure. No problem before.

12/31/2009 11:29PM – Portal password got hacked. Intruders OS reloaded every server with RedHat, turned off all CCI.

1/04/2009 6:00AM – Happy New Year, mine sucked – app back – 5000 daily users. Sad day.

While the above is completely fictional, it could happen to just about anyone. Don’t let it happen to you. No matter how long and how secure you think your password is, there is someone out there who can crack it. It is one thing keeping a server secure and most technical geniuses are very adept at doing just that. With all the time and effort it takes to keep your servers secure, you might find that you have slipped in other areas. SoftLayer is here to help in VIP Style.

The cutting edge SoftLayer portal now has optional Two Factor Authentication support using VeriSign’s Identity Protection. First, what is Two Factor Authentication? It is defined as, “something you know (password) and something you HAVE (pin number of sorts).” Here is how it works:

You buy a physical device in the form of a keychain token or a credit card token; or in the cool age of technology, you can simply get one of the free phone apps that do the same thing for you without the extra piece of equipment to carry. Once you get the device/app you would go to the portal and register the token’s unique ID and attach it to a username on the account. The master user gets this FREE and then if you want other users on your account to have this functionality it is $3 per user per month. If the master user does turn on this functionality no one else will be allowed into the system without using two factor authentication. Once this is setup, the user will login using their “known” password and then they will also have to enter the “code” (the thing you have) on the token device or phone app to gain access. The code changes on a fast schedule so this is extremely secure. This would have made the New Year’s celebration for the person above much more fun.

One last thing, since we partnered with VeriSign you can use the token device or phone app for different sites that use the VeriSign product. PayPal is one example. Here is a complete list.

Now that you know about it, and now that we offer it, don’t be the guy that doesn’t keep the portal secure and misses out on a Happy New Year!

October 30, 2009

Powered By the Internet

I recently engaged in an interesting conversation with my significant other. It went something like this:

Her: "The company made us take our facebook page down, because it wasn't official"
Me: "Really? I figured that'd be an awesome way to market your company... Create a group, invite all of your customers to join you, and advertise via facebook"
Her: ...

While the actual conversation did last a lot longer, she later made a valid point. Being well versed in the web hosting industry (as she has to deal with my barrage of nerdery on a daily basis), she mentioned that it made complete sense that a company such as SoftLayer should use the Internet, and social networking to connect the employees, customers, and fans together, pushing that envelope just a little bit further. Our whole operation, after all, is in fact powered by the internet.

We have all avenues open for social networking to help us power our business. You can look at what's going on in SoftLayer at any given moment via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The InnerLayer... the list goes on, and surely continues to grow. It's only a matter of time until the next best thing comes around (does anyone remember MySpace, or Friendster?), I'll bet a paycheck* that we'll be quick** to jump on board.

After all, when all is said and done, there's no wrong way to market yourself. People do it all the time in their social networking profiles. They may present themselves as a party animal, a scholar, or a hard worker, but regardless, they're putting their image out for the world to see... and while it seems like a large paradigm shift for businesses, when one stops to think about it, it makes perfect sense; it's a free outlet to market yourself!

So while some companies are stuck in low gear, SoftLayer has hit the throttle, and speeding ahead, continuously braving ahead into new and interesting ideas. We'll continue to push the limits of what's acceptable to most, and use every tool to get our name on the streets.

* Comment made in jest. I will NOT bet an entire paycheck.
** I make no guarantees as to exactly how "quick" quick will be

July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Fourth of July – Independence Day is more than just a day for us to hang out with friends and family across the United States and gather around the BBQ and watching fireworks and bombs blow up. It is a day that we celebrate our founding fathers courage and bravery in the pursuit of liberty and freedom.

If it wasn’t for these men and their dreams, I would not be sitting here at SoftLayer writing this blog for a company that loves us to share our words and views with others. I have been amazed how over the last few weeks how Twitter and other sites have helped the country of Iran speak their voice and let the world know what is going on over there. We would never know what is going on as their government would not allow it to be voiced on the state ran television.

So, as I am camping this Fourth of July in the San Juan Islands, fishing on the lake and watching the skies over Friday Harbor light up, I will be thankful for what our founding fathers accomplished on that day in 1776.

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