Sunday, March 31, 2013

How Having A Website And Using Social Media Can Drive Business Growth

Having a website and being active in social media can allow businesses to be more efficient, expand market reach, and increase customer satisfaction, all key factors for business growth. In addition, these online outlets allow businesses to connect with their customers which allows for growth and brand promotion.

Some key reasons for having an online website and being active in social media:

1. Online Brochure

Your website services as an online brochure that customers can access at anytime, from anywhere in the world, getting information about your latest products and services offered. Your website allows you to advertise your business every day, 24/7 and any changes that need to be made are effective immediately. 

2. Increase Conversion Rate
Your website plays a vital role in your conversation rate which is a measurement of how many  visitors to your website that take an action (for example a purchase or contact you for additional information) divided by the total amount of people who have visit your site. By creating a website that flows properly and is easy to use, you'll have an additional marketing tool that will help you sell your services and increase trust and confidence in your brand.

3. Ability To Track Sales and Build RetentionWith the proper use of technology, you'll be able to use tools that will help with managing and tracking sales, allowing you to figure out what works best for your website, thereby allowing you to continue to grow your selling strategies while retaining existing customers

4. Streamline Word of Mouth

By leveraging your social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest), you'll be able to have people promote your brand for free which creates trust and a stronger brand image. 

5. Cost Effective
Having a website and being active in social media is far more cost effective marketing tool than using traditional print media which doesn't have nearly the same reach. While newspapers and print advertisements do have their place in an overall marketing strategy, having a website and social media profiles is a must have for any business, especially SMBs with a limited budget. 

A well designed website and proper use of social media will give your business a competitive edge. For more information about how to leverage your business' existing technology to help with continued business growth and customer satisfaction then please check Iconic Mind which has been featured on Crunch Base or you can connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Google Maps Adds Real-Time Subway Departure Data

Google announced on Wednesday that its popular mapping app Google Maps has incorporated real time arrival and departure information for several New York City subway lines including the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 trains as well as the Times Square Shuttle.
That’s not the first time that Google Maps users will see a departure time at a subway station for those train lines. But previous departure information, like that provided for the rest of the subway system, is based on the scheduled departures of subway trains.
Google isn't the first private developer to pull data from the Mass Transit Authority (MTA) for developing an app; there are a couple of popular apps out there already including NextStop, SchedNYC and others, however Google is definitely the most well known. 

While this is a good start, there's still another hurdle which is getting the same real time information for the other two-thirds of the NYC subway system. Unfortunately those tracks don't have the same signal system and are several years and millions of dollars away.

MTA engineers are reportedly working on a temporary solution to the problem. 

Slow Internet? Blame A Hosting Firm And Spam Fighting Group

You're not alone if you feel as if your home internet is a bit sluggish. As reported by the BBC, security experts have claimed that the largest cyberattack in Internet history is taking place right now, which is slowing services like Hulu and YouTube to a crawl and making global websites unreachable.  Network security experts are worried that this can escalate to impact banking and email systems.

What's going on?

Spamhaus, a non-profit group that has headquarters in London and Geneva, helps organizations to fight spam by providing them with content filters. The group is able to do this by maintaining blacklists on malicious servers. 

Recently, Sapmhaus blacklisted Cyberbunker, a Dutch company that provides webhosting services and states that it will host any kind of website "except child porn and anything related to terrorism." 

Sven Olaf Kamphuis who has claimed to be a spokesman for Cyberbunker has said that Spamhaus was abusing its position and shouldn't have the power to decide "what goes and does not go on the Internet."

Spamhaus claims that Cyberbunker is in cahoots with 'criminal gangs' from Eastern Europe and Russia to coordinate DDoS attacks. Spamhaus claims these attacks started on March 19th and that these DDoS attacks are the largest in the history of the internet.

The technique "uses a long-known flaw in the Internet's basic plumbing," akin to "using a machine gun to spray an entire crowd when the intent is to kill one person." In other words, it's causing a major data pile-up.
Clogged Up
The effect that the DDoS is having is being felt globally. "If you imagine it as a motorway, attacks try and put enough traffic on there to clog up the on and off ramps," said Prof Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Surrey.
"With this attack, there's so much traffic it's clogging up the motorway itself."
"They are targeting every part of the internet infrastructure that they feel can be brought down," said Steve Linford, chief executive for Spamhaus.
Due to the massive amount of resources that these attacks are taking on Spamhaus and the problems they are causing, additional companies like Google are stepping in to help Spamhaus absorb the attacks. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Google Keeping It In The USA... Manufacturing Glass In California

The highly anticipated, futuristic digital eye-wear from Google named Glass will reportedly be manufactured in Santa Clara, California. Google will be working with Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, to assemble the product. Foxconn has been used by Apple for assembling iPhones, iPads and other Apple products. 

This announcement by Google is yet another example of a high profile company bringing manufacturing back to the US and giving a boost to President Barack Obama's drive to bring  “the next revolution in manufacturing is ‘Made in America’.”

Last year, Apple was the first major U.S. company to take President Obama's proposition seriously, with Apple CEO Tim Cook pledging to invest $100 million in American manufacturing and building one line of its Mac computers in the US.

Google currently has not commented on the story, so this report hasn't been confirmed as of yet, however if Google does indeed manufacture Glass in California, it would be a huge boost to American manufacturing and possibly pave the way for other U.S. electronics companies to follow suit. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Facebook Able To Provide Targeted Advertisements Based On Your Offline Choices

Facebook is looking to improve upon its targeted advertising strategy by collecting behavioral data outside of what Facebook users reveal about themselves on the site. By doing this, Facebook is looking to give marketers a 22% ROI increase on their ads. Facebook has partnered with the following companies to help with data collection:

  • Acxiom -  Data aggregating company using a variety of services such as federal government documents, court records, financial services and more
  • Datalogix - They claim that their database has over 100 million US Households and that the data they have one these Americans contains over 10 billion in purchase transactions and over 1 trillion in spending, allowing them to give you specific spending habits in categories like fine jewelry, automotive purchases, college tuition, etc.
  • Epsilon - Another transaction data collector that creates lists of prospective customers. As part of that data, they also include age, ethnic information, profession and political affiliation.
  • BlueKai - This company creates tracking cookies to allow brands to monitor customers visiting their website. The data can then be used to show a user an ad when they log into their Facebook account.

"Our goal is to improve the relevance of ads people see on Facebook and the efficacy of marketing campaigns," Gokul Rajaram, product director for ads at Facebook, said in an interview Friday. 

With this new targeted advertising initiative, consumers could begin to see advertisements that aren't just based on their activity on Facebook, but on what purchases they've made, giving them an idea of whether you prefer Tide or All for your laundry detergent, if you're more likely to give your significant other roses or lilies on an anniversary, and so much more. Basically, even if you don't reveal something on Facebook, the site may know about your online and offline proclivities through their partnerships with these various data collectors. 

According to a study, Facebook ads work. "Of the first 60 campaigns we looked at, 70 percent had a 3X or better return-on-investment — that means that 70 percent of advertisers got back three times as many dollars in purchases as they spent on ads," says Sean Bruich, Facebook's head of measurement platforms and standards. What's more, half of the campaigns showed a 5X return — advertisers got back five times what they spent on Facebook ads.

But the most interesting finding was the total lack of correlation between purchases and clicks. "On average, if you look at people who saw an ad on Facebook and later bought a product, [fewer than] 1 percent had clicked on the ad," Bruich says. In other words, the click doesn't matter; people who click on ads aren't necessarily buying, and people who are buying are almost certainly not clicking.
These numbers and the efforts being made to collect data speaks loudly about the data trail that consumers leave both online and offline and how this trail can be followed back to any advertising platform, including Facebook. The use of loyalty cards, visiting websites, giving your ZIP code at the checkout... all of this information gets used in helping to identify your purchasing preferences which in turn will allow Facebook to offer more targeted advertisements. 
Facebook claims that when allowing for these targeted ads, identifying information about users are not shared with advertisers. Facebook user names and email addresses are encrypted and then matched. Facebook is also allowing users to opt out of seeing specific advertisements on their page and have the ability to opt out of targeted messages by going to the third-party data partner's website. 
The process has given rise for the Electronic Frontier Foundation to provide step-by-step instructions on how to opt out. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mysterious Blackberry Partner Revealed; Brightstar Behind Purchase Of 1 Million Z10 Devices

It was announced a few weeks ago by Blackberry that a mystery partner had purchased one million Blackberry Z10 handsets. At the time, Blackberry did not reveal who the partner was, however the announcement gave a huge boost to the company as its shares shot up 8.2%. There was a lot of speculation that the mystery partner was a major carrier like Verizon or AT&T, but it turns out that the partner was Brightstar.
Brightstar is a wireless distributor that distributes products around the world. Approximately 40% of the company's revenue had been composed of Blackberry handset sales a few years ago. Apparently, Brightstar is confident enough in the Z10 that it made the purchase prior to launch. 
With that said, the U.S. launch of the Z10 occurred last Friday and did not go as well or garner the same kind of buzz that has been associated with new handsets coming from Apple or Samsung.
If you'd like to read a review, check out CNET's comparison of the Z10 versus the iPhone 5.

Steve Jobs Biography Gets Manga Treatment

Mari Yamizaki has drawn up Steve Jobs as a doe-eyed, dreamy, drug fueled genius in his new manga. The first volume will be available in the May 2013 issue of Kiss, a comic anthology for girls.

The manga is an adaption of Walter Isaacson's biography and gives Isaacson credit for being the source that the manga is based off of.

What you will notice if you ever pick up the manga is how beautiful the artwork is. The semi-realistic monochrome style is absolutely gorgeous and stays true to the Japanese manga tradition. Looks like this will be extremely popular with all the Apple fanboys!

Apple Adds Indoor Location Mapping By Purchasing WifiSLAM

WifiSLAM, a business which provides indoor mobile location services through the use of Wi-Fi and the variation of signal strength has been purchased by Apple for $20 million according to the Wall Street Journal. The company's co-founders include a former Google employee and, according to investor site AngelList, is being backed by Don Dodge who has worked at both Google and Microsoft.
This move isn't too surprising as Apple is looking to continue to build its arsenal and gain a competitive edge against Google's mapping services ever since the day they tried dumping Google's mapping service for the iPhone and iPad. That move was met with wide backlash from customers and ended with the firing of Scott Forstall who had been head of the mapping team and the return of Google maps back to the iOS earlier this year.
Google is currently offering indoor mapping in certain locations like sports venues and airports and other company's such as Samsung, Nokia and Qualcomm are all looking to get into the game as well by partnering with companies that can provide indoor location based services. 
As indoor location-based technology continues to improve, retailers will be looking to take advantage by sending out targeted offerings to users or the data can then be shared across social networking sites like Facebook or Google+ for additional user engagement. This type of information can be of great benefit to merchants which is why all these companies are looking to get a competitive edge and take market share for location-based mapping.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Assad Sympathizers Attack Multiple BBC Twitter Accounts

Multiple BBC Twitter accounts, which include weather, Arabic and other feeds were taken over by Syrian regime supporters.
It has been confirmed by Chris Hamilton who is the social media editor for BBC news that their twitter feed was indeed hacked.

This hacking is only the latest event to happen to corporate Twitter accounts. 
The BBC has confirmed that is back in control of all of its accounts as of last Thursday by about 3 pm which is when all the inappropriate/fake tweets were removed.
The attacks were initiated early Thursday morning; during this time a phishing email had been sent to several BBC staff which could have exposed password details. 
Social engineering
These attacks are the latest to happen in a series taht has seen Burger King, Chrysler and other high profile twitter accounts get hacked. 
"The most likely source of the hack is via social engineering - someone managing to elicit the password by fooling the user who keeps the password," Professor Alan Woodward of the department of computing at the University of Surrey stated.
Due to all these hacks that are occurring  industry experts are calling for Twitter to beef up their security and offer two-factor authentication.
Thankfully this latest hack doesn't seem to have used BBCs brand name to get users to click on malicious links or sign up for any type of scams, instead being a hack done by the Syrian Electronic Army for spreading political messages about Syria. 
Remember, you should always use unique passwords for any of your online accounts that are both hard to guess and hard to crack, so they should be at  least 8 characters long and contain numbers, special characters, and alternate capitalization. The password should also be unique to that specific online account and not be used for all your accounts. 
For more information on network security and support, check out Iconic Mind.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Apple To Launch iPhone without Retina?

According to Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital Markets, Apple will be launching a 'low-end' iPhone that will be without Retina display and features a plastic casing, allowing Apple to introduce an iPhone that will have a lower price point.
It's estimated that if Apple does indeed offer a low-end iPhone along with their other iPhone products that the addition to their lineup could add up to another $22 billion in revenue. However, this isn't the first time we've heard that Apple would be offering a low-end solution to their iPhone line-up. Last month, Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with KGI, reported that Apple would be bringing in a lower-cost iPhone that would be a hybrid casing of plastic and fiberglass.
While it does indeed seem that Apple is leaning towards a lower-end iPhone, there have been no official announcements from the company yet. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Facebook Adds Weather Forecasts To Events Page

Facebook is getting on the data mining train by boosting its Events feature with some predictive features.

Some of the features that Facebook users will now find are forecasts (thanks to Weather Underground), satellite imagery, and other conditions of the area where they're planning their next romantic picnic or hike. 

Users will be able to see conditions up to 10 days in advance, giving them the ability to choose the ideal day to host their event which is especially useful if one is planning to have the event take place outdoors.

A company spokesman shared the following statement with AllFacebook: "To get more information about the weather, you can click through to see Weather Underground's full conditions, forecasts, and satellite imagery. Thanks to its localized weather stations, we're able to provide results tailored to the particular location within cities (not just the city's overall weather). This is important for places like San Francisco, where the climate can vary dramatically from block to block. Current conditions will also be shown on places pages like parks, cities, and neighborhoods."

Since Facebook is looking to make interactions engaging, it's possible that the next step will be towards recommending contextualized information thereby influencing what decisions a user of Facebook makes. For example, if you are posting an event that's to take place outdoors for a softball game, Facebook might make a listing of recommended days based off of the weather, the schedule of your friends, etc.

The changes were rolled out this month to a limited group of users; full roll out will happen within the next few weeks and users who use the app on their phones and tablets can expect to see the roll out happen soon as well.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wonder About The View 22,000 Feet Out?

Google is constantly looking to make adjustments to Google Maps and allowing people to explore the world, including the places that few people ever get to see with their own eyes. If you've ever had a fear of heights or just don't have mountain climbing experience then Google has got some good news... the company just started adding images of some of the highest vantages on the planet so you can get a view from the comforts of your own home!
In various expeditions that were done by Google employees in 2011 and 2012, Google revealed in its blog that it has been able to add images for four (Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mount Everest in Asia, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa,  and Aconcagua in South America) of seven of the tallest mountains (Seven Summits) on each of the world continents. No need to worry about acclimating to the high altitudes!
The 360 degree panoramic views that you're able to see were done by taking photographs by Google employees and then stitching them together with Google's proprietary software which it uses for creating street views.
Prior to the addition of Aconcagua, the highest vantage point that was in Google Street View was Colorado's Mount Evans which has an elevation of a little over 14,000 feet.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Iconic Mind Utilizes Social Media For Maximum Benefits

Iconic Mind Sees Incredible Growth from Social Media (via SBWire)

Annapolis, MD -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/15/2013 -- Word of mouth marketing is now more powerful than ever. Consumers are continuously embracing social media channels to get a variety of information including news, updates and even offers from their favorite brands. Iconic Mind, a company that provides organizations…

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader Shutting Down In July

According to a post on Google's blog, the company will be shutting down its popular RSS Reader Google Reader due to declining useage and an effort to focus on putting energy into fewer services. The shut down of Google Reader is part of a broader "spring cleaning" which includes shutting down Google Cloud Connect, Google Building Maker, and the blackberry Google Voice application.
Google Reader is set to shut down on July 1 giving users a three-month period to find alternative feed-reading solutions as well as to export Google Reader data via Google Takeout
For some suggestions as to other services that you can use, check out this article from USA Today which discusses four popular reader services to try.
For those of you who just can't imagine life without Google Reader, you can try signing this petition at that was created by Dan Lewis.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Netflix Adds Feature To Allow Account To Be Connected To Facebook

Netflix is planning to launch a service it calls "Netflix Social" which will allow the media giant's users to share information regarding the movies and television shows that they watch with family and friends through Facebook.
This long-awaited feature is going to start rolling out today and expectations are that all accounts will be able to share by the end of the month. You can read a post from Netflix on their blog for additional information. 
The feature had been on delay until now due to the Video Privacy Prootection Act; now that Congress passed a bill dropping restrictions, Netflix is able to give users' the ability to share their video rental history.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iran To Block Illegal VPN Use

Iran has infamously had problems with filtering the internet - they've spent tons of money trying to lock cyber attacks as well as trying to the nation's users from accessing sites deemed by Iran as illegal. Iran has now 'fixed' their problem by blocking illegal VPN use. Authorities have stated that many Iranians were using these Virtual Private Networks to get around the various internet filters to restrict sites. The same authorities have also stated that users will be able to purchase government-registered VPNs since there are some users who need to use these networks for the additional security. 
Iranians who have been using the illegal VPNs have confirmed that the networks were shutdown and all ports closed. Users are no longer able to use sites like YouTube or Twitter, nor are they able to use services like Skype for placing phone calls. 
Thoughts are that the Iranian Government is making such harsh restrictions due to the fact that they are planning on holding an election for a new president in June - the country wants to prevent what happened during the 2009 presidential election. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Google posting a fresh record high of 815.35 and the stock is continuing to go up. This news is on the heels of the Dow Jones seeing highs that haven't been seen since 2007. All of this is pointing to optimism for the US economy strengthening - signals that companies are hiring more, the housing market rebounding, strong corporate earnings and more.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Evernote Hacked

Evernote, a California-based business which allows users to store and organize personal data on their servers, has released a notice stating that they believe they have fallen victim to hackers.
The company which has close to 50 million users said that some user data had been accessed requiring their users to need to reset their passwords, however financial information wasn't believed to have been accessed or stolen.According to Evernote, the only thing that was breached were e-mail addresses and the usernames and passwords that were associated with the e-mail addresses. 
Evernote is only the latest of a long list of company's that have been made to suffer due to hacking. Twitter, Apple and Facebook have all be victims of hacking problems as of recently as well as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
It's thought that the papers were hacked by the Chinese military, while those affecting the tech company's were due to Easter Europeans.