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Unscrambling Bandwidth

Unscrambling The Bandwidth Puzzle

We often hear- “You can never have enough bandwidth.” But how much truth is there to that? Our internet usage patterns have changed drastically since the late ’90s, when Yahoo messenger was the hottest communication channel, and email a nice novelty and not a necessity yet. Consumers now have come to expect a rich multimedia web experience with streaming video, music and social media updates. Residential users are heavy bandwidth users too. Thanks to Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Pandora and online gaming services from Playstation to Xbox. Today bandwidth needs for business is complex too, with more juice required for cloud-based services, VoIP telephone systems, video conferencing, Google Apps, Office 365 for email and collaboration platforms. Let’s try to make sense of what all this means for businesses.

How Does Bandwidth and Data Transfer Affect Internet Browsing?

Almost every action a user takes online involves downloading some amount of data. The bandwidth and data transfer rate mostly affect the speed at which we browse websites or download files for personal or office use. For instance, your bandwidth would directly affect speed when you download images, songs, videos, movies or access any file across the Internet. The larger the bandwidth, the faster a given file can transfer across the network at any given time. Internet users with more bandwidth also find that web pages load faster and there are no lags when video streaming.

How Does Bandwidth Affect Your Website?

It is also especially important for website owners to understand bandwidth allocations in their hosting accounts. Failure to find the right bandwidth offer can result in an underperforming slow website and additional charges.  Websites and apps require different bandwidths depending on how complicated their design is and how content-rich they are. When someone arrives on your site, all of the assets that are required to display the requested webpage in a person’s browser are downloaded from the server to their computer, which takes up bandwidth allocation. Even if anyone downloads or sends emails through your hosted domain then the size of those emails counts towards your bandwidth usage too.  For example, if your website contains a 1MB picture, which 3,000 visitors view, it uses 3,000MB (3GB) of bandwidth.

As your site begins to attract more visitors, the traffic between the web server and local computer slows down the loading time of your site for visitors, regardless of their internet connection speed. Your hosting company cycles through each user request and transfers a small portion of the data at a time, as visitors are forced to line up in a queue. And if there is a huge spurt in visitors at the same time, you may well find that your site is unavailable because the server has transferred the maximum amount of data for the allowed bandwidth.

Bandwidth And Web Hosting

When picking a web host to run your website, you should look for the best server resources available to keep your site online and consider factors such as bandwidth, data transfer, and disk space. Imagine you’re moving goods from your warehouse across a highway using trucks for delivery to customers. Bandwidth can be likened to the number of lanes on the highway and the volume of goods your trucks transfer across that highway would be data transfer rate. And disk space could be compared to the space your goods take up in the warehouse. With high bandwidth, your site will cope better because more people can visit your site at the same time and fully enjoy the optimum web experience you created for them. So, understanding traffic patterns is extremely important when choosing a bandwidth option.

Most web hosting companies offer a variety of bandwidth options for their tiers of hosting packages from 1 G to 100 G, with some even offering unlimited bandwidth. Lunarpages can provide the maximum bandwidth you need within its cheapest hosting account too. It is also easy to upgrade should you need to.

For businesses that have “bandwidth-heavy” content such as video, online apps, large images, audio files and those with a lot of traffic, a dedicated server with about 1TB of monthly bandwidth allotment should be enough to handle the data moving in and out of the network. Feel free to discuss with us about which web hosting option would be best for your bandwidth needs.

Cryptocurrency

The Age Of Cryptocurrencies And Blockchain Technology

There is a lot of buzz around cryptocurrencies not just in the investment market and tech companies, like Amazon and Microsoft but also among common consumers, who are keen to know more about it. The cryptocurrency market is now worth nearly a whopping $19 billion. For the uninitiated, cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that is completely stored and generated electronically. This digital currency uses cryptography to control the creation of monetary units and also to verify the transfer of funds.

Cryptocurrency has no physical form and is generally decentralized, meaning that transactions are tracked by every person on the cryptocurrency network, not by one central figure or entity (generally called the blockchain or ledger.) Since it is not backed by any government or legal entity, its supply is not determined by a central bank either. It is instead based on a decentralized network with all transactions and new currency minting performed by the users of the system.

So how did cryptocurrency first come into existence, especially without the backing of any government?

History Of Cryptocurrency

The first decentralized cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was the creation of a shadowy figure (or group of figures) with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, who first published the Bitcoin white paper in 2008. The concept of Bitcoin was based on the idea of an open-source, ownerless, transparent currency to replace the government backed fiat currencies, which are susceptible to risk of manipulation during exchange and settlement. With a distributed ledger system, Bitcoin cannot be debased and its value cannot be manipulated by a single, controlling entity.

Following Bitcoin, many other cryptocurrencies came into existence to change the mechanics of moving money. Currently there are over 700 currencies recorded from the well-known Ethereum to the obscured Coinye West. Ether is the cryptocurrency that is powered by the ethereum network, which runs a different blockchain and “if:then” system to Bitcoin. This smart contract system allows Ethereum to be traded if a certain condition is met. Ethereum, XRP is the fastest & most scalable digital asset, enabling real-time global payments anywhere in the world. ETH became one of the world’s best-performing digital currencies with $8,204,416,132 market cap, despite a well-publicized hack. In comparison, alternative digital currency Dash has a market capitalization of $690 million, while Monero is worth about $430 million, according to price tracking website https://Coincap.io.

Cyrptocurrencies make money more efficient, with lower transaction fees, less overhead and reduced volatility risk due to instantaneous settlement and no single point of failure. It also diminishes risks associated with cyber security, and regulatory requirements.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

Although nearly everyone has heard of Bitcoin, the most famous digital currency, very few people are aware of the underlying mechanics – blockchain ledgers and decentralized transactions, or their power to change the current system of financial transactions, storage, and security systems.

A blockchain is a public ledger or list of records of all cryptocurrency transactions that take place across the peer-to-peer network, which is arranged in data batches called blocks. Each block uses cryptographic validation and references the previous block by a hashing function to link together into an unbroken chain. The ledger is not stored in a master location and neither is it managed centrally; instead it gets distributed on multiple computers at the same time so that anyone with an interest can maintain a copy of it. Users provide computational power to assist with the verification of transactions in real time (known as “mining”). Using this method of verification, every transaction ever conducted with Bitcoins is recorded in the blockchain ledger, and it is confirmed with each transaction. So effectively this permanent database that coexists in multiple locations can be seen and tracked by anyone on the network, making it highly transparent.

The technology is based on public-key cryptography and encryption meaning that the communication is secure from third parties. Consumers can complete online transactions without having to provide any personal information to merchants for verification or storage. Only a transaction record is created. So cryptocurrency transactions are considered pseudonymous and not anonymous.

Blockchain Is The Future

In fact, the decentralized blockchain technology is being seen as a massive disruptor in numerous sectors from telecommunications, healthcare, legal, cloud computing and more. The blockchain technology looks to remove any waste in the system with smart contracts and smart products.

A blockchain ledger system will revolutionize archaic financial instruments, escrow accounts, digital wallets, stocks, bonds and the securities market. It is also likely to result in a rise in Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) offerings from service providers, because an autonomous decentralized storage system would reduce costs dramatically and improve client-side encryption. Blockchain doesn’t just provide anonymity-assurance; it also ensures permanence of the data which makes it invaluable for the attribution of assets, maintenance of data records, date-stamping and geo-stamping events, and so on.

The digital currency market is making steady progress. There are new blockchain-type platforms emerging and even governments & financial institutions are now taking cryptocurrencies seriously and making huge investments in blockchain technologies.

Business Intelligence

Empowering Your Organization With Business Intelligence

In the age of information technology, the ability to use data and information in real time can dictate how organizations successfully work, communicate and collaborate. Today the amount of information being generated every second is massive. No matter your business’ industry or size, everyone has access to quick information. However, the real power behind making rational business decisions does not lie in the petabytes of data and information itself but rather in making sense of the big data. This is where business intelligence tools can give you a competitive advantage.

What is Business Intelligence?

Currently the big buzzword in the business landscape is business intelligence but what exactly does it mean?  In short, Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the technology infrastructure, applications, architectures and processes for the collection, integration, analysis, reporting, presentation and delivery of business information for better decision making. The main components of Business Intelligence systems are data-driven Decision Support Systems, Executive Information System, Customer Relationship Management System, Geographic Information System, Management Information System and Online Analytical Processing and Multidimensional Analysis. They are all based on data warehouse technology, where the data is cleaned, integrated and analyzed before being presented in the form of easy to understand information that helps improve business processes.

Importance Of Business Intelligence For Your Organization

Big data consists of a huge haystack of hidden needles of information that you need to make sense of to make smart business decisions, but unfortunately these are not readily apparent. Looking for a needle in a haystack, especially without a plan, can be overwhelming and most of us will never find it. Similarly you may have a huge spreadsheet with tons of transactional data but how do you make sense of all those numbers?  Business intelligence software allows you to gain meaningful actionable insights for growing revenue, increasing profitability, and improving operating efficiency of the business. Business intelligence in combination with analytical processing and reporting is changing how organizations function. After all, business decisions based on hard data are entirely more reliable than decisions based on instinct or assumptions. It is the timely, accurate analysis and data-driven conclusions that should provide actionable insight into business processes. Data-driven businesses make decisions five times faster than their competitors and are twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries.

Categories Of Business Intelligence Analytics Tools

Most business people only have a very broad understanding of the term ‘business intelligence’, which includes a variety of different business intelligence tools to improve the decision making processes and tactical strategic management. There are two broad categories of business analytics tools that support different business intelligence styles and capabilities:

  • Guided analytics and reporting: It includes the traditional business intelligence styles that have been used for decades by a few decision-making managers to perform recurring analyses of specific data using predefined data sets and metrics. End users can select, filter, compare, visualize and analyze data for the purpose of guided analysis and reporting. IT is generally responsible for managing the underlying data and business intelligence applications used here.

The common business intelligence tools in this category are reports, executive dashboards, scorecards, integrated spreadsheets, query and reporting tools, corporate performance management and business intelligence search. For example, with a guided analytics package, such as QlikView, you can typically set up prepared business applications featuring dashboards, charts and calculations that can be updated through user clicks and selections. But the business user will not be able to draw their own data visualizations or add their own data sources, without the help of a developer.

  • Self-service business intelligence: Self-service is currently the proverbial Holy Grail of business intelligence because users can access any data they want, when they want it, how they want it, without having to rely on other technical resources or IT. (SSBI) solutions are generally flexible and easy-to-use so that end-users can analyze data, make good business decisions, plan and predict on their own. However, there is some IT involvement needed for data access and tool governance based on the security and needs of the business users to avoid losing control over data. Moreover, the data sources need to be consumable by the business tool, which may involve working with IT to get a proper explanation of the data schema needed for analysis.

Business intelligence tools used to perform ad hoc analysis of data belong in this category. The self-service BI tools allow users to add data and define new metrics when performing their analysis, either for a one-time-only analysis or the formulation of a recurring analysis that can be shared or published.  The business users of self-service tools are thus both information consumers and analytics producer. This people-centric approach to self-service BI improves the speed and efficiency of daily business operations.

There are other advanced analytics tools that data scientists use for data intake, integration and cleansing to build predictive and prescriptive analytical models, such as predictive analytics, statistical modeling, data mining and big data analytics software.

Business Intelligence At Your Fingertips

With access to an unprecedented amount of data everywhere across a business, the role of business intelligence is now more important than ever in democratizing the data analysis process. Businesses that fail to adopt the right business intelligence approach are missing out on a huge opportunity to enhance their organization. Business intelligence tools can help your business better understand customer behavior, forecast trends, anticipate objectives, avoid bottlenecks, improve social collaboration, and give decision makers the power of strategic planning.

reputation management

Cost of Online Reputation Management

Do you know what people are saying about you online?  Traditional marketing has always known the value of word of mouth marketing.  Today the internet, well, more specifically search engines, has made knowing what people are saying about you even more important than traditional word of mouth marketing.  Why?  Because 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  So, if your reputation isn’t managed well it could be very costly.  And, did you know that what people say about you online impacts your search results?  Let’s learn some more.

Case in Point

A few years ago, American Airlines had a costly run in with a guitar.  In fact, it cost the airline $180 million and a 10% loss in their stock prices.  When a passenger witnessed the airline mishandling his guitar, which resulted in the instrument being seriously damaged, and the airline refused to pay for the damages, the passenger — musician David Caroll — wrote a song, United Breaks Guitars. The YouTube video was a huge hit with more than 15 million views and the major contributor to the airlines dip in stock prices.

Granted, this one incident didn’t bring American Airlines to destruction, but it is a good example of how, when a company has a bad reputation, business is simply more difficult to conduct, the cost of doing business increases and it’s far more difficult to retain customers and employees, shareholders, and other important stakeholders, than it is in good times.

How to Fix a Bad Online Reputation

Arguably, protecting an organization’s reputation is the most important yet difficult task facing senior management teams and boards of directors today.  First, it’s important to point out that reputation management is a game best played using offense.  When you’re on the defense, when you’re trying to fix a negative online sentiment it’s an uphill battle that takes a lot more work than had you started your vigilance early and when things were calm and clean.  However, if you find your business in a toxic situation, here are some things you can do to keep your reputation on track:

  • Monitor! This is first and foremost. If you don’t know whether or not you have a negative reputation, how can you fix it?  There are a lot of tools as well as agencies such as LocalDirective that offer services to help you monitor your online reputation.  But just like protecting your online identity, monitoring isn’t enough.
  • You need to respond to what is out there and be proactive in acquiring positive reviews, testimonials, and stories from happy customers.
  • Finally, never become complacent. The moment you think you’re safe something will happen.  What I mean is that just because there isn’t negative chatter around your business doesn’t mean that you don’t need a reputation management program.  Be proactive in building your brand as a strong company to do business with.

You know, Benjamin Franklin once said “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it”.  No other words have ringed so true as this statement.  Especially in today’s digital, share-everything world.

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

Managing your online reputation isn’t just for businesses with a toxic situation.  Your online reputation also plays into other things such as your search results.   I am sure you’ve seen the stars that show up next to a company in Google search results, but did you ever wonder how or why the stars were there?  Most SEO strategists find a strong correlation between reviews and organic search result rankings, particularly in Google. It is widely believed in the industry that the importance of reviews as they relate to search result rankings will only increase over time. Therefore, being able to display your stars will show Google that your customers trust you, that they are happy with what you provide, and that you’re a credible solution.  Here are some things we know about reviews and how they impact local SEO:

  • It’s generally believed that 10 reviews left at Google provides a little bit of a ranking boost
  • Google may be trying to incorporate review sentiment into its ranking algorithms so it would be who of you to get ahead of that and start managing your sentiment today so that when this does happen you’re not playing catch up.
  • On-page SEO remains the top factor that Google considers when ranking local business, but studies show that reviews are rapidly growing in importance.
  • Finally, Google knows a fake review when it sees one and can penalize you for such tactics. In order to rank and to rank with stars, be sure that your reviews legitimate.

 

Get Started Today

While SEO and online reputation management play nicely together, they are not the same thing and should not be used unethically to impact each other. Online reputation management avoids using black hat SEO techniques.  Black hat techniques can ultimately damage your reputation by making it difficult to maintain a positive long term presence on search engine results.

At DirectiveGroup we can help you develop an ethical online reputation while avoiding harmful tactics such as buying fake reviews. Online reputation management done well is designed to establish a long term positive online presence for a business or individual. Let us help you create engaging social media profiles, a positive review presence, and multiple points of positive, high quality content to ensure that you maintain a positive online reputation that lasts.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at DirectiveGroup, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact them today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Taxonomy for design & Why Use It on Your Site?

What is taxonomy? It is vital if you are in the middle of a site design or redesign, and provides a method of organization so there is no frustration when organizing it.

You want your visitors to not only find what they are looking for quickly, but you want them to linger a while and explore your site. And, if you have a lot of content, you’ll want to be able to find it easily. Your site’s success – or lack thereof – sits on the foundation of its organization.

Taxonomy: An Organizational Method

So, what is taxonomy and how can it help get you better organized?

Taxonomy is a hierarchical structure for the classification or organization of data that enables websites to be categorized according to topics and types, enabling easy information retrieval.

To me, the most beneficial aspect of taxonomy is that is reduces manual content management. It allows you to dynamically retrieve and display anything on a page based on enabled tags or structured fields within your content. Taxonomy gives you the opportunity to balance the page’s content with other relevant information.

How Does Taxonomy Work?

Logistically, the way it works is that you are making content load dynamically when a page is accessed by programming a search on any number of taxonomy tags or other fields within your content block or page.

No doubt, you’ve seen this, but haven’t recognized what was going on behind the scenes. Amazon’s site includes taxonomy-driven content publishing. Whenever you log in and go to a page of interest, notice how when you scroll down a little you’ll see a section telling you other customers who bought this bought that, too. Or, it will show you what you should buy today based on what you bought yesterday.

Another example can be found at online news services, such as Reuters. If you’ve ever signed up with one, you’ve been given the opportunity to personalize your experience by your unique interests. That way, you don’t have to waste your time scrolling through hours of news you’re not interested in. As soon as you log in, you get to see what matters to you.

Some taxonomy sites allow the visitor to interact and filter in ways I just mentioned. But, other sites don’t require user interaction at all. You can also develop a site with only a little user interaction.

 Taxonomy Considerations

If your site has proper taxonomy, you will be able to bridge across subjects, and better manage and often reuse your content – at scale. Of course, it will assist with effective navigation and will, ultimately, provide a better product and brand alignment. At the end of the day, it will improve SEO and findability, and even support social sharing.

When creating a sound taxonomy, the first few things to consider is its projected longevity and flexibility. This means thinking ahead to what your site might become – what additions might occur down the road. You’ll also want to think from the perspective of what terms your visitors might use and what structure will help support your business goals and help your content perform optimally. And, don’t forget to understand the scope of your project. Taxonomies can easily get out of hand.

To develop the scope of your taxonomy, imagine a Venn Diagram. The taxonomy lies at the intersection of your business context (or purpose), content and users – which are your target audience.

The Benefits of Structuring Your Own Taxonomy

Taxonomy can be a huge boon for your website. However, equally clear is that this is not something that can be built overnight. It requires strong input from both your multi-disciplined team and from your users. You have to thoroughly understand your target audience and have a good grasp on how they think. After all, you’re creating something that should be almost intuitive.

Taxonomy requires vision and commitment to plan and execute. Many companies don’t bother to standardize data definitions. Yes, it takes real time to properly define your data. But, the many benefits of having a taxonomy structure under your site are huge. Not only for your users but for your team. The many, many ways you can utilize such a structure are endless.

As you can understand, developing a taxonomy can be quite daunting.  GlobalDirective can assist your team to structure your data.  Because we have been placed in the 97-percentile of Google partners, we’re not just doing a few things right, we’re doing most everything right. Allow us to show you how to achieve real success.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

flash storage

Advocating The Use Of Flash Storage

You are likely to have used flash storage at some point in your life, if you have browsed the web on a laptop, listened to music on an MP3 player or even texted someone on your smartphone.  In fact any device with flash chips that can serve as a storage repository is loosely termed as flash storage. It can be anything from a USB device to an all-flash storage array. Flash storage was initially only used to augment traditional media or hard disk drives as a caching complement. But since then flash technology has become faster and more reliable. Solid state drives (SSD) with fully integrated circuit board, containing multiple flash chips are now being designed to replace the spinning media for hosting data sets for key applications. With enterprise data storage needs continuing to rise, it may be time to revisit the flash versus disk-based storage systems debate. Let us take a serious look at the benefits of having an all-flash infrastructure for data centers.

What Is Flash Memory?

A traditional hard drive utilizes rotating platters and heads to read data from a magnetic device, whereas flash storage uses a type of non-volatile semiconductor flash memory technology to store data. helps to eliminate any rotational delay in spinning disk and seek time functions to improve performance. Toshiba and Intel first produced flash memory devices way back in the 1980s that were based on electrically erasing programmable read only memory technology, which allowed data to be written and deleted electronically in a flash.

Flash uses a trapped charge on non-volatile memory chips to store data and therefore the data is retained, even when power is removed. The primary technologies used for flash storage are single level cell, dual level cell, triple level cell, 3D Flash and variants on each of them. The flash memory capacity has doubled every year since it came about and according to estimates the cost per bit for flash has reduced by a factor of 200,000, which is why enterprises are now looking at flash as a complete replacement for hard drive arrays.

Choosing An All-Flash Array

An all-flash array is a storage system wholly built around solid-state drives or flash memory with very high I/O capability, instead of traditional hard disk drives (HDD). Flash provides fast, reliable and consistent performance with low latency and fast data transfer rates. Flash storage devices are now available with capabilities of 500,000 up to one million input/output operations per second in a single footprint and latency figures of one millisecond or less. They can stand up to the demands of high-performance applications for instant access and low latency.

Adding SSDs into existing hardware platforms may provide a better solution than a hard drive-based array but it certainly does not best utilize flash storage capabilities. Traditional storage arrays help in optimizing the performance of the hard drive through the use of caching and intelligent algorithms to complement the physics of accessing spinning media. Whereas all-flash arrays are designed from the ground up to work with the unique characteristics of flash media by providing enough back-end bandwidth capacity to cope with solid-state media. There is also planning for wear leveling across all devices and preparation for multi-layer redundancy in case of failure.

Operational Advantages Of All-Flash Storage For The Enterprise

All-flash arrays may not be less expensive than hybrid arrays or traditional hard disk arrays, on a dollar-per-gigabyte basis ($/GB) but a better cost comparison model would be on a dollar-per number of input output operations per second basis ($/IOP). The total cost of ownership and acquisition cost for all-flash solutions can be significantly lowered by intelligently using storage optimization technologies, such as data de-duplication, thin provisioning, and compression. According to a study by Wikibon, the total cost of ownership for flash is expected to continue to fall through 2020 and the cost per terabyte will reduce from roughly $151 in 2016 to $9 by 2020. All-flash disk arrays can provide ultra-high speed performance, enterprise-class availability, reliability and storage efficiencies with built-in preventive maintenance for cost savings.

All-flash solutions are better for high performance applications, such as transactional databases or virtual infrastructures, including server and desktop infrastructures that can often cause a bottleneck. SSD arrays are more suited to an environment where low latency and consistently high throughput are required because it can deliver millions of IOPS and sub-millisecond latency in a tiny space. Flash memory can speed up complex database operations and provide consistent robust performance capabilities with built in redundancies, while being scalable and reliable.

Flash storage can allow a company to do things that were simply not possible to do with traditional storage, like speed up its business analytics process and to potentially create new business opportunities. SSD’s remove bottlenecks in the environment by speeding up existing processes and providing quick access to stored data so that businesses can do more in the same amount of time. A move to flash storage can considerably reduce the backup window and decision-making time, while increasing work productivity and revenue growth.

Solid-state drives are more durable because they don’t rely on any moving parts whereas hard drives depend on spinning disks. There is no cause for concern about damage to the storage units or loss of data should any disaster happen to the flash storage. This is an amazing attribute where data security is concerned. Due to the lack of moving parts in flash storage, SSD’s use fewer resources than traditional storage solutions, thus saving substantial money in reduced energy costs.

Transition To Flash

Your organization should first evaluate its data set, application behavior and workload to best determine whether it would benefit from an all-flash storage system in its data center.  Storage management of massive disk arrays can be challenging but more enterprises are transitioning to all-flash data storage for time-sensitive and key performance applications. Falling SSD prices and the availability of more quantifiable reports from organizations about the strategic business advantages of adopting an all-flash storage solution will definitely result in an uptick for all-flash rollouts.

Understanding and Marketing to Generation Z

The year 2080 will be the start of a time in our history which will be unlike any in recorded history. There will no longer be an age group that outnumbers another. That changes everything. And, though 2080 is pretty far down the road, those changes have already begun – with Generation Z.

When I first heard of Generation Z, I thought it was just another generational group characterized by its own set of idiosyncrasies resulting from its very existence and place in history. And, in a sense, it is. But, it very well could be something more.

All other generations, from Depression Era, to WWII, to Boomers, Generation X, and then Millennials each fell into a specific age group. All were born at definite times which shaped who they became and how they viewed the world and their place in it. That, in turn, dictated how we could best advertise and market to them.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z is not completely characterized by one age group; though, it could be. Most notably, it is characterized by a mindset. If we were to give it a birth time, it would be between 1995 and 2005. But, since Gen Z is a group whose members all use new technology, hyperconnectivity and collaboration to drive change through innovation, it is said anyone can be a part of this group, no matter their age.

The new philosophy behind Gen Z is to get rid of negative generational stereotypes and put the focus on working with technology and each other to make great strides in the world in which we live and work.

There are a few main philosophies which are the driving force behind Gen Z. This should be our focus as we interact and engage with them.

  • Instead of relegating people to generational boxes, the thought is to amalgamate everyone’s good traits or abilities to create a cohesive team.
  • Hyperconnecting means everyone has the same opportunity to access the same information from the Internet. And because anyone can be connected, anyone can learn and develop skills.
  • Influence – and not affluence – is the new power. This influence is wrought from a strong personal brand.
  • Gen Z believes you can hack through anything – breaking tradition and changing the rules – to get anything they want. The term coined for this is Lifehacking.

How Do We Appeal To GenZ?

Gen Zers have a very limited span of attention. It is said to be 6-8 seconds. Yes. Seconds. But, because they are so fast-paced, and have been bombarded with so much since birth, they have decidedly highly-selective filters. If they like what you offer, they are committed. And, as with Millennials, they are far more concerned with relationships and engagement than they are with any other type of marketing activity. So, you’ll want to focus your efforts on connection points and creating those relationships, in tandem with usual marketing efforts.

And, as is with Millennials, social media is pivotal in the lives of Gen Zers. In fact, 40% say social media impacts their happiness. So, make them feel good about themselves.
Because Gen Zers have grown up in such a corrupt world, they intensely desire to make a real difference. Create campaigns that show you care about your brand’s impact. Show you care about more than just your bottom line. Tell the story about how your brand impacts the greater good.

If you connect with them and are real with them, and if you can prove that you care about them and the world we all share, you will have shot at getting GenZ to love you, buy from you, and amplify your message throughout their social media stratosphere.

Materials To Help You Get Started

As with any target market, research is paramount to your success.  Be sure that you segment your market appropriately, understand what appeals to them, and how and when to best reach them.  Consumers are early 60% of the way through the purchase process before they ever engage with sales so knowing how to disrupt their thinking and attract their attention, no matter what generation they are from, should be an important part of your plan.  At GlobalDirective, we have an eBook on Persona Based Marketing that can help you get started with painting the right picture of your GenZ market.

It’s a lot of work to take on by yourself.  GlobalDirective can help.  We have been placed in the 97% percentile of Google partners.  That means that we’re not just doing some things right, we’re doing a lot of things right.  And we can help you with those “things” too.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Start Your Dream Blog In 5 Easy Steps

Blogging is a hugely popular means of communicating and disseminating information and news nowadays. There are millions of blogs online as more people are taking to it to express their ideas and creativity. Your blog can be exactly what you want it to be from a simple web log, or a public journal to even a collaborative space for people with similar interests. The only roadblock in the way of aspiring bloggers is not having adequate knowledge about the technical basics of how to go about getting their first blog up and running. We have put together a simple Blogging 101 guide to help you get started right away.

Guide To Create a Dream Blog

Here’s a quick look at the few simple steps you will need to run through in order to start your dream blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform
  • Get a domain name and set up your own webhosting
  • Configure and design your blog
  • Start producing content for your readers
  • Marketing your blog

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each step in the guide to help you start your first dream blog.

Step 1- Choose Your Blogging Platform
You first need to select a blogging platform so that you can get your content up onto the web. There are many open source platforms around for building your blog and they are supported by most web hosting companies. The main blogging platforms you can choose from are:

WordPress – is a massively popular blogging platform with countless plugins/add-ons and customizable content management system (CMS) offering superior features built for bloggers so that they have complete control over how their blog looks

Ghost – is the new kid on the blogging block and it has created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere

Drupal – is a popular blogging platform but it is difficult for novices

Joomla – has a great CMS but there is a steep learning curve involved
For those who want to avoid paying for a blogging platform – however small the cost—you can grab one for free from Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr. But before you take a decision, know that free blogs have downsides too, including:

  • You won’t be able to get a custom domain name with many of the free blogging platforms, which can seem unprofessional to potential subscribers and customers.
  • There are many limits to free blogs such as level of customization or available bandwidth for uploads. Moreover you will not be able to fully monetize your blog.
  • With Blogger or Tumblr or the free version of WordPress you don’t actually own your blog and they can shut you down anytime without any prior warning. All your site content can be deleted with no way to recover it for even minor indiscretions such as using copyrighted images by mistake.

Step 2- Get a domain name and Set up Webhosting
Next you will need a domain name, which is the URL or the site address for your blog online. Every blog should have its own domain but it can be hard to find a domain name that isn’t taken! For your blog, choose a short name that can be easily remembered. Also consider its uniqueness and what the domain says about your brand. Do remember to take into consideration copyright and trademark factors when selecting your domain name.  Once you have a domain for your blog, you need to think of where your blog will be stored online. Selecting a reliable webhost is essential because this company will be responsible for putting your website up on the internet so that anyone online can see it. All the content for your blog will be saved on there. Investing a little money on domain registration and a good webhost will ensure that your site gets backed up regularly and you can recover your website for any reason. It is wise to get your domain registered from the same place that you get your blog hosted to save you from future headaches.

You can get your dream blog up and running with the Starter Blog Hosting package from Lunarpages at a super affordable rate of $3.95/mo. Lunarpages offers fast and easy setup for WordPress installation, intuitive control panel for easy website file management and 24/7 technical support.  If you already have a domain registered, Lunarpages will provide you with the necessary information to easily transfer your domain. You can install WordPress on your blog in just a few clicks through Lunarpages and then make changes from the WordPress administrator area.

Step 3- Configure and Design Your Blog
Take your time to configure WordPress themes as it controls the look and feel of your blog. You do not need coding expertise or design knowledge to design your dream blog. WordPress theme is a pre-designed template for you to customize your blog exactly how you want it to look. There are two aspects to every theme: the framework and the design element. To make your blog standout in the crowded blogosphere, first impressions with an impressive design theme count for a lot. You may select from thousands of free themes available online, but investing in a premium theme can help improve your brand image. Additionally, they are secure, fast, easy to navigate, and responsive designed for both mobile and desktop. You will find that they are also easy to customize and install. You can find themes for your blog at Themeforest, StudioPress or the WordPress Library.

Installing your theme is even easier as it comes in a .zip file format and you can upload it direct to your WordPress Dashboard by logging into your WordPress blog. If it is a free theme, you can click Install on the preview screen of your WordPress dashboard. WordPress also allows you to switch themes or go back to your old theme with just a few clicks and without fear of losing any precious content or images.

WordPress allows you to install and use plugins through its dashboard to make your blog feature rich and more functional. Do keep your added plugins to a minimum and install just the best ones you need.

Step 4- Start Producing Content For Your Readers
The soul of a successful blog is in its writing. If no one wants to read your content then your blog will not get too many subscribers. The two main types of content that you can create for your blog in WordPress are ‘Pages’ and ‘Posts’. Pages are static pages that will not see much change and it helps link to and from your navigation area/menus on your blog, such as the ‘About Page.’ Regular posts are what appear on the front page of your blog, with comments and the date of publishing.

The aim of a blog is to ultimately provide valuable content that people actually want to read and share with their friends. To create great content, you need to put thought into more than just words. Blogs should not be huge block of text without any visual breaks (such as bulleted lists). Posts should include images or videos and you can use stylized fonts and colors to make your content stand apart from the rest.

Step 5- Marketing Your Blog
You may have setup your blog properly and published great content but this is no guarantee of anyone ever discovering it online. For your blog to grab more eyeballs, you need to promote your blog correctly. There are several methods you can utilize to properly market your blog including:

  • Social networks– When you publish your blog post do make sure to post a link on your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. Promoting your post on social media platforms improves your chances of getting more shares and you may also see an increase in traffic to your blog.
  • Commenting on other blogs– You can access people with similar interest areas by leaving a comment on other related blogs with a link back to your own blog. Make sure not to abuse this method and only submit a useful comment to get people interested in wanting to learn more from your blog.
  • Guest posting– You can also get readers of other blogs to hear about your blog by writing guest posts. Get in touch with other blog owners and offer to write a post for their site with a link to your blog.
  • Online forums– Make sure you join popular online forums related to your topic to make helpful posts on the site. Most forums do allow you to post a link to your site in the signature at the bottom of every post you write. If your forum posts are high quality and informative, people will surely want to click on your blog to read more.

Now that you know the technical side of setting up your blog, let the fun times roll. There will be a lot of learning along the way but don’t let that overwhelm you. Welcome to the blogosphere and enjoy expressing yourself in your new blog.

Ecosystem

The Power Of Together: Partner Ecosystems For Business Growth

Major technical innovations and growing customer demands in recent years have led to the popularity of less centralized ecosystems in the business world. The stress is now on building equal partnerships with value-adding third party vendors such as service providers, hardware and software vendors, value-added resellers, two-tier distributors, managed service companies and referral evangelists, for a rich collaborative ecosystem supporting your company’s product/service offerings. If your company is not positioned to participate in this new multiple partner ecosystem model, then you are likely to lag behind. Are you wondering about the future challenges of successfully building mutually beneficial relationships in your own company’s ecosystem? What are the different types of companies that your business will need to partner with in the coming years for continued success? In this article, we explore the efficacy of network partner ecosystems to support the “anytime, anywhere, any device” business needs of today.

Why Ecosystem Partners?

Any large or small business can substantially reduce operating expenses and gain important competitive advantages from a strong, strategic partnership networks. Partners can help overcome your limitations of internal resources to build new solutions and allow you to scale your business in terms of technical ability, customer support, and sales capabilities that you would never be able to achieve alone. The technology ecosystems dating back to the 60s through the 90s were smaller and had a tendency to roll out changes over months or years. The difference going forward is that rapid advances in technology and changing customer demands now require a more agile adoption, development, and use of multi-vendor solutions for any infrastructure. Moreover changes on the vendor and customer side keep shifting the goalposts making it a real challenge for businesses to stay aligned. Businesses can no longer wait for providers to catch up with major technical innovations but rather look to unleash the power of skills, tools and ideas from associated partners in order to grease the wheels of growth. You get cost-effective, real-time access to diverse partners and solution providers as part of your technology ecosystem. A rich partner program enables adoption of assorted technology for different layers of infrastructure to create better solutions and services for customers. There are virtualized platforms, cloud services, appliances, on premise solutions, internally developed applications, hosting services, and different customer devices that can all interact.

Potential Ecosystem Partners

Success depends on embracing innovation, change, and technology to solve business problems. A rich partner network provides the best antidote for resolving business problems involving a range of services and technologies. Here are just some of the key partnerships businesses can develop with other organizations.

  • Technology Partners– Partnering with a technology company provides valuable products that can be integrated into another vendor’s product to capture newer markets. They include third party application developers, implementation tools providers with specialization in “tools” to add value to your product and platforms, verticalization specialists focused on building industry specific customized solutions for their customers, or even platform providers for tighter integration. Businesses can also benefit from partnering with system integrators, who can build systems using off-the-shelf hardware and software packages from different vendors to meet your company’s IT needs, or even with bundlers or value-added resellers integrating various solutions into a single bundle for customers.
  • Technology Service Providers– Technology service providers are professional service companies or individual professionals working directly with the technology product. They work either with end clients or together with other partner organizations. Tech service providers include implementation consultants to help customize and configure technology products for local markets, vendor management consultants for negotiating and procuring vendors, custom development specialists to build applications or technology centered on off-the-shelf solutions, or support service providers for maintenance and technical support of products. Managed service providers specializing in the network, its infrastructure, and the implementation of services for customers can enrich your business partner ecosystem as well.
  • Sales and Marketing Partners-These partners are distribution partner channels that help in scaling sales and marketing of your company’s product and services. You may be interested in developing co-marketing partners to work on different solutions for the same customer base. Your business may even benefit from building partnerships with referrers or different types of sales agents who recommend their customers to your services or products. Most importantly, creating partner networks with end retailers of IT, network, and software solutions can most definitely help grow your business’ reach.

There are also non-technology service partners who can influence the decision of prospective buyers in the market towards preferred vendors like industry associations, standard developers, technology evangelists, training providers, and industry analysts.

Partnering Challenges  

A clear partner ecosystem development strategy should be part of the growth plan of your business. Let us look at some of the top challenges faced by the service provider ecosystem when building effective channels and partnerships for the future.

1. Your business needs to develop a gap analysis to identify pressing problems in different aspects of your business. This will help determine what you can do and what weak areas you need your partners to address.

2. You have to define and support a culture of partnerships within the company. It is possible to build a committed partner-centric organization with effective features like partner programs, deal registrations, conflict management policies and good support systems.

3. Finding and building relationships with the right partners and service providers can prove to be a real test as they need to be aligned with your company needs. Your choice of partners should be based on the value proposition and benefits you can gain from these different players.

4. Companies often find it daunting to manage operational challenges with partners, while working on ongoing sales engagement to strengthen their presence in the market. It can be hard to balance competitive partner alliances in order to reduce the pressure on the distribution channels.

5. Time and resource management is central to building trusted partner relationships. It is absolutely essential to fully support your partners’ solutions, services, and sales efforts for the sustained success of your business. You also need to ensure adequate training for the technical and sales teams to improve the quality of service and support your business offers. The real challenge lies in improving the integration between service, training, certifications and community supported knowledge base being offered by partner networks.

6. It is vital to keep communication channels with partners and vendors open in order to promote engagement and help partners grow the ecosystem as a whole. Good communication and partner-to-partner connections can lead to excellent execution and sharing of responsibilities for success.

Scale-up With Partners

Henry Ford- “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  With an ecosystem of trusted partners at your side, it is a win-win situation for both businesses and customers. Multiple players in an ecosystem model provide incremental value with the addition of each new user and each new service. Whether your partnership ecosystem is large or small, it enables rapid changes in competitive advantage for companies and helps create new customer experiences with a vision for the future. Businesses across all industries and not just limited to tech, product or service providers can develop partner ecosystems to capture new growth opportunities.

Get Intimate with Your Customers. Start a Podcast.

If I told you that podcast marketing has been around since the 1980’s would you think I was crazy?  First known as audioblogging, podcasts started in the 80’s but didn’t take flight until 2004.  Unlike radio marketing where listeners choose a station and are forced to listen to whatever content the station is publishing, podcast marketing is an intimate, opt-in medium where you have to be a good story teller with ultra-compelling content that keeps your audience wanting more.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Maybe not literally, but when you can build a relationship and connect with your listeners, you get invited into their lives.  Podcasts allow you to build relationships like no other form of content can.  There is something special about hearing a story.  After all, the most basic, human form of storytelling is audio.  It allows the listener to fill in the gap and paint their own picture of the story you’re telling. 

Podcasts are about connecting. They have a voice.  It’s this voice that forms a bond and keeps listeners coming back for more.  There is no “LOL” in a podcast; there is actual laughing.  When your target market can hear you laugh, hear the “ummms” and hesitation, the inflections and the excitement in your voice, when they hear the human side of your personality, life gets breathed into your content and relationships are formed.  And because of the mobile nature of podcasts, you can go with your listeners anywhere that they take you….even the dinner table.

Get to Know Each Other First

Some would say that the podcast trumps any other form of content.  I would disagree.  While a podcast most certainly can stand alone, it is also a fantastic tool to use in conjunction with other forms of content.  In fact, other pieces of content should be used to introduce your brand as a stepping stone in the relationship.  Blogs, for example, are a great way to build trust and credibility.  A research study conducted by Research Now uncovered that 84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or a service on a blog.  Blogs attract new audiences, establish authority, and build engagement. Once these things have been established, it’s easier to branch out into other, more perosnal forms of content such as podcasts.

Have a Plan

Planning your podcast is just as important as planning any other form of content.  Here are a few steps to take before you start recording:

  • Build an editorial calendar: just like you would with your blog or social media marketing, an editorial calendar keeps you organized and outlines your topics
  • Choose a software: there are a lot of options depending on whether you use a Mac or a PC.  Either way, select a program that is easy to use and fits within your budget.
  • Write a script: you do not have to read it line-for-line, in fact we discourage that, but a script gives you guidance and keeps you on topic.
  • Tag it: make sure you tag your file so that it is search friendly.
  • Upload it: enough said.
  • Promote it: let your target audience know that you have published a new episode.  Promote it using email, blogs and (of course) social media.

Getting Started

The benefits to producing a podcast include not just an increased connection with your audience, but also greater visibility online, increased SEO, more traffic being driven to your website and an increase in brand awareness.  Podcast listeners are growing rapidly.  Those who consume podcasts on a weekly basis listened to an average of five podcasts per week.  Now is the time to get on board with this growing form of content. 

So what now?  It’s a lot of work to take on by yourself.  GlobalDirective can help.  The first step to implementing a successful social selling campaign is to understand your target markets habits, interests and pain points.  From there you can build your content to address these things by successfully writing valuable and findable pieces of information that your target market cares about. 

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.