Peer-to-Peer Marketing: Should You Buy In?

Peer-to-Peer Marketing

Yesterday, AdWeek Magazine ran an article about peer to peer marketing that made a lot of businesses sit up and take notice. The fact is that peer-to-peer marketing is thriving. Companies (big and small) should really get in on this movement while they can. Whether you've just purchased that cheap hosting with domain package or you've been running your business for decades, here are some peer-to-peer marketing tips. connect with central hub Peer-to-Peer Marketing

Why Bother?

Peer-to-peer marketing works and it's free: two excellent reasons to sign up. Getting your clients to talk about your business for you is gold. Chances are that some of your clients are already talking about you, but it never hurts to amplify those conversations (or add a bit of fuel to the fire).

This type of marketing begins by building trust in your brand (something that major companies like Coca-Cola are excellent at). After building up trust, try your chances with social media tactics. Making social media sharing simple is a great way to encourage people to talk about your business. How can you do this?

Peer-to-Peer Marketing: Building A Social Media Presence

Actively pursuing a social media following takes more than setting up a Facebook page. People have to believe that there's someone behind that page (again, trust plays a huge part here). It's recommended that you entrust one person to run a page, so that your followers can become familiar with that one person's voice – we all sound different, even through social media, and your company's social voice should be recognizable.

Sharing as much information about your company as possible is also a great idea — just make sure it's information that your clients want to read about. Post photos of interest, engage in conversations, and talk back. If you do make a mistake – don't erase that comment or post.

Erasing only, well, erases the trust that people have in you. Made a major social mistake? Admit it, apologize, and leave the post alone. What else can you do other than build up a social presence?

Peer-to-Peer Marketing: Partner Up

The aforementioned AdWeek article suggests partnering up with a new social or peer startup. Startups need funding, support, and help from local businesses, and you can provide this (if you are already established). Team up with a peer-to-peer program that projects the same image you want to project. Share thoughts, ideas, and clients.

If your customers see that you are engaged and involved in new ideas, they will likely associate your brand with these concepts – more free advertising. Encourage peer-to-peer connectivity amongst your employees, on your website, with your clients — and even through your cheap hosting company.

How? Did you use a hosting company that is in line with your ideas (eco-friendly or otherwise?)? Let your clients know, and make the connection with some other peer-to-peer group. For example: if you went out of your way to find an eco-friendly hosting company, you could promote the services of a community car sharing service on your site too. See how easy peer-to-peer can be?

Got any other peer-to-peer marketing ideas to share? Please leave a comment below — or ‘ask and expert' if you have any questions about this concept!

Web Hosting: How It All Started

Web Hosting: How It All Started

The Internet: a powerful place, where businesses put themselves out there on a worldwide level, and users have access to any information imaginable. Web hosting companies of all sorts exist to help people and businesses set up their websites, whether a storefront or informational site. http Web Hosting: How It All Started

But did you know that prior to 1991, web hosting was very different than it is today? Did you realize there was, at one point, no such thing as cheap hosting companies? Let's take a look at the history of web hosting, starting with a look at the development of the Internet itself, to see how far the industry has come.

Web Hosting: How It All Started, The History Of The Internet

Back in 1962, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT published articles describing this seemingly outlandish concept: a network of computers worldwide, all interconnected and able to share information and resources, what he called the “Galactic Network.” He was chosen to head the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the Computer Science program at MIT, convincing those who would eventually take the reins to focus on his concept of networking.

This early research led to Lawrence G. Roberts and Thomas Merril successfully connecting a TX-2 computer in Massachusetts with a Q-32 computer in California in 1965, creating the very first computer network. It was quite slow, with data traveling over the dial-up line provided by AT&T at 2.4 kbps, but amazing nonetheless.

Web Hosting: How It All Started, Speed It Up!

Licklider's work focused on packet switching, where data traveled the phone lines as small packages rather than the solid circuit lines that were typical of this time period. Both Roberts and Merril felt the circuit switching they had relied on was inferior, deciding to go with Licklider's idea. Soon after beginning the work, they found that three other areas of the US were working on the same idea, all unaware of each other!

In 1966, plans for what he called ARPANET were revealed by Roberts, the very first wide-area network in history. The plan was a success in 1969, when computers at UCLA, The Stanford Research Institute, The University of California Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah were successfully linked together. Each individual computer was considered a host, allowing them to share data with one another. Two year later, they added 19 more hosts and 13 nodes to the network.

Web Hosting: How It All Started, The Internet Is Born

The 1980s brought us rapid advancements in the computer science field. The TCP/IP format was developed, linking the ARPANET network to various other networks, giving them the ability to operate as individual systems while still accessing the data network-wide, the infancy of what we know as the Internet today.

With all of these computers being linked together, it became necessary to differentiate between them. Thus, the Domain Name System (DNS) was created. The first six domains: .edu, .gov, .mil, .com, .net, and .org. The first registered domain name in our history:

Web Hosting: How It All Started, Expanding The Internet

1991 saw the National Science Foundation opening the Internet up to the world. CERN made it happen, relying on HyperText Markup Language (HTML) created by Tim Berner-Lee, and specifications regarding Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). The Internet was introduced to a wider audience. Gone were the days of the Internet being a place for computer geeks and universities exclusively.

With this growth came the entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity, getting in on the ground floor of web hosting. The bigger the Internet got, the more businesses with no technical experience wanted in on the action. E-commerce was on the rise, and companies capitalized on that by starting web hosting provider companies.

Web Hosting: How It All Started, Web Hosting Today

Back then, web hosting was expensive. As it was so very new, there wasn't high demand. These web hosting pioneers saw what they could gain, purchasing servers to rent out space to those businesses wishing to own a website but didn't have the capital or time to invest to do it themselves.

Over time, as demand increased, costs came down. Today, if you are a business without a website, some people will turn elsewhere. We want information immediately, and we want an easy way to purchase products or offer feedback to a company. The Internet gives us that, but it's all made possible by a web hosting provider.

Where will the industry go from here? There are constant developments, like cloud hosting, a somewhat new arena. You can rest assured that the demand will never die down, it will only increase, and someone out there is working on the next big solution.

Are you lucky enough to remember the early days of the Internet? Web Hosting: How It All Started, Share your stories and thoughts on how far it has come with us!

Hackers Against Monsanto

Hackers Against Monsanto

Monsanto: a self-proclaimed friend to farmers, bringing biotechnology to the food we eat. The tables seemed to have turned a bit from that day in 1983 when they first announced they'd genetically modified a plant cell, bringing the first genetically modified crops in 1987.

Hackers Against MonsantoNow, there are marches against the biotech giant by both farmers and citizens alike, held in 52 countries and 436 cities on May 25. Farmers worldwide feel Monsanto is controlling the seed market and charging a high price for the altered seeds: even Haitian farmers protested seeds that were donated in 2010, burning a small pile of seeds symbolically.

In the US, it is not much different. Although more accepting of the use of genetically modified seeds (other countries ban GMO altogether), there is a movement to go organic by those that just don't trust the safety of genetically modified foods. People living in the US are slowly becoming aware of the issues GMO presents, and some are taking action.

Hackers Against GMO

In March of 2012, AntiSec went after Monsanto by publishing a database of their material, snatched from the company's web servers . It was outdated, so it wasn't a knockout punch — more like a slap in the face. AntiSec, hackers affiliated with Anonymous, said it didn't matter that the move caused no real harm to Monsanto. They wanted the biotech giant to be aware that they will keep up the attacks in protest of actions they see as wrong.

“Your continued attack on the world's food supply, as well as the health of those who eat it, has earned you our full attention,” AntiSec wrote. “Your crimes against humanity are too many to name on one page.

Hackers Against Monsanto: Where It Started

Anonymous had been fighting against Monsanto since July of 2011, with hackers attacking Monsanto's website, gathering and releasing data regarding 2,500 people within the agriculture industry. Monsanto claimed 10 percent of the information related to their current and former employees.

In a statement by Tom Helscher, Monsanto's director of corporate affairs released in July of 2011: “Last month, Monsanto experienced a disruption to our web sites which appeared to be organized by a cyber group. In addition, this group also recently published publicly available information on approximately 2,500 individuals involved in the broader global agriculture industry. Contrary to initial media reports, only 10 percent of this publicly available information related to Monsanto's current and former employees. The list also included contact details for media outlets as well as other agricultural companies.”

It isn't just the GMOs that are controversial. The company also used to provide the military with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, as well as manufacturing bovine growth hormones. Today, it focuses solely on pesticides and GMO seeds that are resistant to these pesticides.

Why AntiSec Attacked

AntiSec stated that the purpose of the attacks on Monsanto's web servers was to protest the lawsuits brought forth by Monsanto against organic dairy farmers, simply because the farmers disclose on their labels that the products are growth hormone-free.

“You have put over 9,000 small-time farmers out of business by using your enormous legal team to bury them with your malicious patent lawsuits,” said a statement released by AntiSec in March of 2012. “You have continually introduced harmful, even deadly products into our food supply without warning, without care, all for your own profit.”

The growth hormone has been sold to Eli Lilly soon after settling these lawsuits, shifting their focus to genetically modified seeds.

Monsanto's Future

With the Farmer Assurance Provision (called the Monsanto Protection Act by those against the company) somehow finding its way into the Agricultural Appropriations Bill on March 26, 2013, basically making it illegal for courts to ban the planting and sale of GMOs no matter what health information is discovered regarding the products, it seems the company is safe in the US– for now. This provision is only applicable until the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

The marches against Monsanto that occurred recently are evidence that the people worldwide aren't going to accept the use of GMOs, despite what the government tries to do. With hackers getting involved, vowing to continue attacking their servers until something changes and the use of GMOs is banned, it is uncertain if their reign in the agricultural world will continue.

How do you feel about this issue? Do you think there is nothing wrong with using the seeds that help farmers produce higher crop yields, or do you attempt to support the organic movement?

The EFF: Protecting Freedom Of Speech On The Internet

The EFF: Protecting Freedom Of Speech On The Internet

The Internet: a vast place, full of websites loaded with information on just about any topic you can imagine. As such, one should expect questionable content to pop up from time to time. Some don't agree that there should be graphic, sexual content offered online, while others don't see the harm in it. As long as a disclaimer and age restriction, it shouldn't be a problem — one can choose not to view the content. EFF-logo The EFF: Protecting Freedom Of Speech On The Internet

When a corporation takes it upon themselves to punish a site from the content they publish, no matter what it may be, it's a good thing we have the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to turn to! While web hosting companies are able to choose whether or not they will host certain content, the EFF protects the free speech rights covered under the First Amendment of any content published on the Internet.

Nifty Archive Alliance v. Stripe

One such instance of justice: the case of the Nifty Archive Alliance. They are “a nonprofit entity that supports the Nifty Erotic Stories Archive, a free, volunteer-supported website hosting a wide range of erotic fiction for the GLBTO (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, & Others) community.” While it's true that erotic fiction is age restricted material and that not everyone enjoys reading it, it is protected by the First Amendment.

Stripe decided to suspend the account of the non-profit, feeling that the content they posted on was in violation of Stripe's agreements with MasterCard and Visa. The EFF asked Stripe to reinstate their account, and after numerous discussions, that's exactly what happened.

According to a statement by the EFF: “MasterCard's rules, for example, ban ‘sale of a product or service, including an image, which is patently offensive and lacks serious artistic value (such as, by way of example and not limitation, images of nonconsensual sexual behavior, sexual exploitation of a minor, nonconsensual mutilation of a person or body part, and besiality).' Visa and MasterCard's brand protection rules are subject to a wide range of interpretation. Questions about what erotic stories are overly offensive or not sufficiently artistic beg for interpretation, and we are concerned that payment processors might be choosing to shut down sites that host entirely legal fiction out of fear of violating these agreements with the upstream providers.”

The “Gatekeepers” Are The Problem: The EFF: Protecting Freedom Of Speech On The Internet

While it's true the Constitution prevents our government from censoring content such as erotic fiction, there is no law out there stopping payment processors like Stripe from cancelling accounts, no matter if they are legal or not, because they don't like the content. Even web hosting companies can choose whether or not they will host the proposed content.

The EFF realizes this, and goes on to say, “There are ever-increasing opportunities for third party service providers' rules to supersede the First Amendment and censor speech. To be clear, payment providers as well as other intermediaries have their own First Amendment rights not to carry speech with which they disagree. But we believe that intermediaries — like ISPs, registrars, payment providers, search engines, and even platforms for user-generated content like Facebook — are most valuable when they serve as neutral platforms. Online speech is dealt a serious blow when these intermediaries choose to actively censor controversial content. Worst of all, censorship by these private actors isn't subject to judicial appeal; terms of use typically give these intermediaries the right to shut down any account at any time for any reason.”

They call these intermediaries “the gatekeepers,” and it isn't the first time they've had to battle against them to protect Internet freedom of speech. Earlier in 2012, PayPal adjusted their own policies after the EFF went after them for the same reason as Stripe.

It certainly won't be the last time, either. As long as there are people on this earth, they'll be disagreeing over the censorship of offensive material. The EFF will be there, assuring that the Internet remains a free and open place.

How do you feel about this issue? Do you think offensive material belongs on the Internet, or would you rather see it cleaned up a bit? We'd love to hear your opinion!

Business Advice from Sun Tzu

I started the research for this article with the intention of helping out would-be cheap hosting providers. Really, though, this kind of lesson applies to startups and businesses of all kinds (in addition to cheap hosting providers, of course). What's the lesson? Business Advice from Sun TzuArt-of-War Business Advice from Sun Tzu

It's one that the Wall Street Journal covered extensively not too long ago in an article titled ‘If You Want To Beat ‘Em, Learn From ‘Em First.' The article details the ways that you can learn from your competitors.

Keeping Your Enemies Closer

As the old saying goes: “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” This statement was originally written down by Sun Tzu in his epic work ‘On the Art of War.' The book is complex and full of mind-bending strategies, but the concept is simple enough: keep a close watch on your competitors because you can learn from them.

What can you learn? Find out how much revenue your competitors rake in. Discover who their clients are, what their market is, and why they remain competitive. In the case of web hosting, you might think about what makes a site like GoDaddy so immensely popular. Or, you may wonder how GoDaddy has handled PR issues. All of this can be researched easily. There's something else that you can learn too.

Avoid Mistakes Made

The other vital thing that you can learn about competitors is the mistakes that they've made. History repeats itself, but you don't have to be the one repeating those mistakes. You can, however, take a good look at the obvious missteps, how the problem was handled, and how you can better the current issue.

For example: if company X got into a PR mess because they promised Y service but couldn't deliver, you can create a similar Y service — only better. You could also point out how company X went wrong, and how your company will be better (indirectly, of course, to avoid any litigation). Where can you get all of this information?

Don't Beat Around the Bush

Call that competing hosting (or other) company. Ask about plans, drill customer service reps about details, and find out what you need to know. You can also Google many of these things, and you can read through client reviews. People that have used a service will likely talk about it. Just make sure you ask.

Business Advice from Sun Tzu, Don't shun your competitors completely. These businesses can easily help you shape yours. Do you follow Sun Tzu's advice and keep your enemies closer?