This is an archived blog from when I ran Conscious Public Relations Inc. from 2008-2018. Excuse the potential outdated-ness!

F5 Expo Session 1: Cloud Computing

Yesterday I went to the revitalized Massive Media Technology show, called the F5 Expo. A jam-packed day of sessions, a trade show, and keynote with author Malcolm Gladwell, F5 was an overall success (once you got in…), attended by a good 1000+ crowd in various industries. There were quite a few sessions, and mini-workshops in the trade show area, all of which I couldn’t go to. But I did take in a good 4 hours of sessions, which was enough for me for one day.

My first session was on Cloud Computing. Panelists included Howie Wu – Co-Founder and CEO of LayerBoom Systems, Mark Cunningham – Co-Founder & CEO of Indicee, Ryan Storgaard – Director of Cloud Services Strategy for Microsoft Canada (also exhibiting in the trade show) and were moderated by Rajan Sodhi – VP Marketing of Peer 1 Hosting.

Howie explained Cloud Computing as the 3rd generation computer. There is still much debate even in the IT world about what the definition of a cloud is, but my definition can be explained by MobileMe, which is a service I use to sync my iPhone and desktop computer contacts. My contacts are stored in an online database “cloud” so that both devices always have the correct info.

We’re already using Cloud Computing systems: Flickr, Facebook, Google’s Gmail, etc. are all sites or networks that work as a cloud. But it can’t just be a website – it must have some social interaction or information sharing on its platform. So how do clouds affect us and our business?

As outlined in this month’s Make it Business issue, Editor Victor Chew Wong says that there are huge advantages in the Cloud vs. desktop computing, one of which may be cost. Howie mentioned that is one of those systems with variable costs, depending on what your needs and usage are.

Another advantage is security. Although there are still legislation issues in BC surrounding cloud systems, it can be as secure as a physical server, and can be even more secure (ie. Google Docs) than emailing spreadsheets of data around. The level of security you’ll need for your company will vary from another’s, and you should make sure before you sign any agreements that a good service level and a third party auditor are mentioned. Oddly enough, Cloud computing systems have forced companies to look at their own level of security. I’d highly encourage you to read Make It Business’s feature story on Vida Spas and i-worx to see how a Cloud system improved Vida’s business.

Howie also stated that we’ll probably start off with hybrid systems – like Computershare’s Sharepoint site that I’m using when working there – before all servers start to get converted to clouds. It will also depend on consumer demand – just like people needed to get comfortable with E-Commerce to shop online, or do online banking. Ryan said it was a no-brainer – cloud computing is inevitable. Kids today are so tech savvy that it’s only a matter of time before it’s common knowledge for software to immediately work in our daily lives.

Favourite cloud apps that the panelists use are Google Apps, 37 Cities (a virtual office site I assume), and Mapping. I personally love my iPhone map.

F5 Expo Session 2: Search Marketing

The next F5 Session I attended was on a hot topic: Search Marketing.

Panelists included:
– Martin Stoddard – Bing USA
– Vanessa W. Williams – Yahoo! Canada (also in attendance at last year’s SOHO Conference)
– Ryan Kelly – Pear Analytics (USA)

I’ve been to quite a few events on this topic already, but it was a good refresher, and there was some news announced: Yahoo! and Bing’s impending combined marketplace. You can learn more about it at, and it’s obviously been done to compete with Google.

For the newbies, here are the acronyms you need to know:
SEM = Search Engine Marketing. The subsets of search marketing include:
SEO = Search Engine Optimization (optimizing your site for good search results)
PPC = Pay Per Click Marketing, where you bid on keywords and pay when someone clicks on the sponsored link/ad
SMO = Social Media Optimization. Similar to SEO, but pertains to Social Media networks.

Vanessa said that Yahoo is trying to come up with a system to track return visits, so that if someone clicks on a link but purchases when returning to the site on a separate visit, you can see those results.

I like how the panelists gave some great SEO tips for websites: using keywords, links, blogs, content updating, and great web platforms like WordPress and Out of the Box. Martin added that you should make sure your site is indexed on a search engine and that you don’t have too many layers (pages within pages) or that can make it difficult for a crawler to find you. He also touched on the quality vs. quantity of backlinking – listing your site on directories where your visitors are likely to find you, instead of listing it in as many directories as you can – something I’m guilty of doing in my early web days. Martin pointed out that big directories like Zoominfo and DMoz aren’t necessarily helping your search results anymore.

The search engines are now picking up social media links, comments, and media, so it’s important to engage now if you’re on those networks, if you haven’t been. Bing’s indexing algorithms (ie. formulas determining what makes one site rank higher than the other) are evolving and include photos and social media.

Another tip was to list your site in Yahoo!’s local directory, and other geographic based ones. There is Yellowpages/Canpages and Byzhub – a relatively new free business network. Bing also has a localized centre where you can pay to place your site.

If you are thinking of going the PPC route to get to #1, remember that being a Yahoo!, Google or Bing client doesn’t guarantee your rankings will rise – it will depend on the traffic of your visitors. If it’s any consolation, Vanessa said that users are 25% more likely to click on a link if it’s visible both as a sponsored link and organically. One trick to get more targeted visits is to use long-tail keywords/phrases (ie. instead of 2010 Ford, 2010 Ford Hybrid red Vancouver). You’ll get less traffic, but the ads will be more user-targeted.

Someone asked whether social media might be taking over search marketing – many people are now looking to YouTube for “how-to” type situations. But Martin said that search marketing is still on the rise with no end in site. One way to capitalize on SMO that I use already is content syndication, or sharing the one white paper/photo/link/video across all of your social media networks. One great site I use for Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Foursquare combined is Hootsuite, and my video aggregate site of choice is TubeMogul.

Stat: 60% of Canadians use more than one search engine. So consider both Google and Yahoo! (or Bing and MSN) when you’re developing a PPC strategy. Yahoo! is a more content-specific site, whereas Google can be very specific. You might also consider banner ads; not so useful and annoying at the onset, but Ryan pointed out that although you might not get a direct response, the more you see the ad (especially geographically) the more psychological the marketing can get.

Some final tips from the panelists:
Ryan: Do SEO before, if not while you’re building your site. Index your various pages, but make sure they point to a primary URL. Many companies make the mistake of listing all of their sub-pages and Google treats them all differently.
Vanessa: Use your SMO tactics effectively. Don’t publish information you don’t want shared across a search engine.
Martin: Use photos and videos in your SMO strategy effectively. If you’re varying your site for international use, make sure your content reflects the culture of the users. Ie., write in their language, or rewrite in their lingo.

F5 Expo Session 3: Stories

My third session was entitled Stories from the Trenches and wasn’t as hot of a topic as the others, but got me interested. I left during the session to catch some lunch before the next session, but the panel (Brad Lever of eCrypt Technologies, Mark Fancourt-Smith of Fasken-Martineau, Tom Ellis of the RCMP) had some great stories and tips about protecting your business and customers.

If you create something at work, it is property of the company, UNLESS you’re an independent contractor and can prove it was your idea. One tip was to make sure that only the people who need to see your documents see it – all too often people are sending to the wrong email address. One key issue to prevent a breach of security is to ensure that you have proper policies, training, and enforcement in your organization. Employees should sign a contract that states that they can’t use information upon leaving a company. This is highly important at a company such as Computershare. They do a great job of implementing systems to protect client information and hold employees responsible for their actions. They’ve also started to put a social media policy in place, even though it’s inaccessible at our office. 77% of companies currently have no social media policy.

Email disclaimers can be enforceable, if it gets to the point where it can be used as evidence in a court case. Office banter can’t be used if it’s just an idea – it must be written down.

Remember that how severe your risk is depends on your level of concern for your security.

F5 Expo Session 4: Mobile Marketing

This session was a full-house. No wonder, as it was lead by panelists Brian Wong – probably the youngest person in Digg‘s Business Development department; Scott Michaels – VP Client Services for Atimi Software; Olivier Vincent- Co-Founder & President of Canpages; and moderated by Adarsh Pallian – Founder and CEO of Pallian Creative.

The session focused on the app market, something I touched on at the VX panel I attended last month. To put things in perspective, Apple‘s iPhone corners 30% of the app market. Not a big number, but it’s significant.

Olivier said that apps have changed the way we live, and I agree with that statement. The panelists warned that if you launch an app, measure everything, and craft your updates based on user feedback, location, and other factors you find worthy of note. Olivier also found Google’s ‘augmented reality’ type mapping a bit useless, but some of the other panelists found it cool. And, it kind of is.

I think it was Scott who said that by 2012, the mobile space will be more relevant (more widely used, I’m not sure) than desktop computer use. And I also agree with that. Canpages actually isn’t pushing their mobile app right now because they’re still working on updates to make it 100% ready.

A lot of the conversation turned to the iPad and how that’s changing the mobile app world as well. Canpages will be developing one for the iPad soon, and Atimi will be at work on them much more because of the quality and faster data capture of the iPad vs. mobile phones.

Someone raised the question about tapping into the other 70% of app users – why don’t we target them before the iPhoners? The answer is that they’re just too insignificant a market on their own. Panelists suggested making an iPhone app first, then assess the demand of it from other device users. There are still major problems with Blackberry apps right now. You can also analyze your website and see which devices it’s also being viewed on, then go down the list from there. Market-savvy!

Someone asked another great question about just designing a mobile site and using that as an app… and the answer was, not good. Considering the iPad again, apps are actually much faster than websites. Not so for my iPhone right now, but Apple is doing wonders to change things up so far. And it makes sense that if you want to make your brand convenient and accessible to your user, you gotta have an app.

Welcome to the future!

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