Take A Stand Against PIPA & SOPA Acts

vector-glass-globe-913-1883You may have heard about Protect-IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) currently under consideration in Congress. We would like to make sure you are aware of Appletree MediaWorks official position on SOPA.

As a national provider of online Web services, we oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or Protect-IP (PIPA) Acts currently under consideration. While we observe the concerns of those who are troubled by the potential impact on protecting intellectual property online, Appletree MediaWorks feels there is an urgent need to strike a balance between dissemination of and access to information and protection against its illegal use within the public domain.

The US government is currently reviewing SOPA and PIPA as possible ways to prevent unlawful distribution of copyrighted materials available on the Internet. These current proposals, if passed, would allow for significant interventions into the technological and economical basis of the Internet. This could put the vast benefits and economic opportunities of entirely legal and legitimate e-business models at risk. Generally, companies offering technological services should not be forced to be the executor of authority in such matters. If they were to act upon every implication of content infringement without any judicial research into the actual usage of its customers, the integrity behind their customer’s freedom of information and speech would be enormously harmed.

We encourage every Internet user concerned about these plans to contribute to the debate and to raise their voice with their local representatives in the House or Senate. We welcome the serious consideration by the US Congress of the potential
harmful effects on Internet freedom should SOPA and / or PIPA be passed as law, and hope the stability of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) remains intact.

One way to express your concerns could be to use one of the websites that emerged to protect user interests in the current legislative debate, such as Fight for the Future, “a nonprofit working to expand the internet’s power for good”.

At Appletree MediaWorks, we support you, our customer, and an open Internet. Thank you for being one of our extremely valued customers, and for taking the time to read this.

QR Codes Decoded

Quick Response CodeQuick Response (QR) codes became a fast spreading phenomenon as soon as the technology was released for public use in 2011. Designed originally for use in the auto industry for tracking vehicle parts, these matrix-style barcodes became popular in printed media for their quick readability and large storage size. A single QR code can store over 4,000 characters (numbers and text) or about 3 megabytes of binary data (such as a jpeg image). Anybody with a smart phone can download a free application for scanning and reading these QR codes on the go, such as ScanLife for the iPhone, QR Droid for the Android, or QR Code Reader for Windows Phone 7.

This technology becomes valuable for tying the real world back to your online marketing strategies. QR codes can be added to printed media as a way to share a certain landing page or social media campaign to your QR capable readers. For example, a successful QR implementation might consist of a QR code placed on the back of a printed catalog, with the text, “Scan this code with your smart phone for online-only deals and savings!” The QR code would then have a link embedded, which would lead the customer to a special “deals” page on the company’s website.

For a modern customer, QR codes offer the advantage of not having to open up a browser and physically type in a URL, along with the feeling of being given access to “exclusive” content. In order to tap into these feelings of exclusivity, it is wise to plan your QR codes around landing pages that are not obvious to regular visitors to your website. For example, an advertisement posted on the wall at a concert could contain a QR code that takes people directly to a landing page which begins, “As a special thanks for attending the event we sponsored, we’re offering a special 15% savings on any online purchase of $50 or more, using this coupon code…” Such a campaign would complete a media circle and help to tie your online brand with a real world presence.

Want to create a QR Code for your own campaign? There are several free QR generators available online, such as Kaywa QR-Code Generator or QRstuff.com’s QR Generator. QRstuff in particular offers a wide variety of QR generation options, even allowing you to embed WiFi logins, calendar events (exclusive event invitations), Paypal “buy now” buttons, etc. The many options available will surely ignite all sorts of ideas for creating a unique “printed” social media campaign that suits your particular strategy.

Struggling to define a print strategy that builds upon your social media campaign? The professional marketing strategists at Appletree MediaWorks can help you get started by developing and implementing a unique solution that utilizes all the benefits of QR codes as well as dozens of other emerging technologies to attract and maintain a devoted customer base for years to come.

Does Your Business Belong on Facebook?

facebookIn 2010 many of us were fortunate enough to see The Social Network – David Fincher’s Oscar award winning drama about the turbulent rise of Facebook. The film’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, captured the attention of film critics with as much unblinking enthusiasm as today’s youth afford “The Facebook” itself. Teens have surrendered so much of their lives to online interaction that the real world seems to be only an extrapolation of a person’s online status. Those of us who resist the pull are eventually sucked in – because nothing is “official” until it happens on Facebook.

Amidst the pull, businesses were quick to feel the tug. If everybody in the world is looking at one billboard, it makes perfect sense that business owners would want to see their name up there. I recall when requests began to trickle into my inbox, followed by a flood. Everybody wanted a Facebook page and a Like button for their business. Now pretty much every reputable business has exactly these two elements. But this is usually where it stops – they do it because everybody else did. But what will be accomplished? Let’s take a look at “why”.

Facebook was initially created as an exclusive club where university students could interact with other students. Zuckerberg did not worry about making the service profitable initially because he wanted it to be “cool”, shunning the banner ad approach in favor of a clean, polished look. This initial marketing helped to foster what is now known as a social network, where friends connect, keep up with each other’s lives, and even chat live.

This friend driven social atmosphere becomes fertile ground for grass-roots marketing, where buzz can be passed between intermingling social circles that are already tuned in to listen to their friends. The fact that marketing passes between friends makes it more meaningful than a simple ad. For example, if a billboard tells me to Eat at Joe’s, I might – or might not. However, if my friend Nathan tells me he just had the best corned beef sandwich he’s ever tasted at Joe’s, I’ll be on my way there!

For any business, the best way to take your Facebook marketing efforts to the next level is to attract people to “Like” your Facebook page. Encourage your customers to visit your Facebook page – add it to your business cards, your stationary, etc. Don’t be pushy, but when a customer has just had a good experience with your business, that is a perfect time to encourage them to “Like” you on Facebook. Satisfied customers are the best ones to spread the word, which has very high marketing potential. One satisfied customer “Liking” you on Facebook could mean hundreds of people seeing the recommendation from someone they trust.

At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you to “Like” Appletree MediaWorks on Facebook, so here is my shameless plug.

The next piece of the puzzle is to update your Facebook page regularly. Remember that people who have “Liked” your page will receive your updates in their News feed, so by sending out regular updates, you will keep your business in the forefront of their mind. Remember not to overdo it, though, as people may also “Unlike” your page if they feel they’re receiving too much spam. Instead, focus on providing useful, helpful updates every other day, or even once a week. The goal is to keep your customers valuing your business and coming back for more.

In conclusion, Facebook can indeed be a wonderful marketing tool for your business, if handled correctly. Your satisfied customers are your best marketeers, and Facebook helps you utilize them to generate buzz. Your business DOES belong on Facebook.

Joe Job

How to Survive a Joe Job

To a budding or established company on the web, the possibility of cyber attacks is very real and can be damaging to your reputation if not handled correctly. One of the worst of such online threats is the all-too-common “Joe Job” attack.

Essentially, a Joe Job attack happens when an attacker sends fake (spoofed) spam email that appears as though it originated from your domain. Email has always been one of the most insecure protocols on the Internet – anybody with even a minimal knowledge of technology can send email “from” whoever they want, without much effort.

Usually you become aware of such an attack when you begin receiving a flood of angry email replies to the spam (since the Reply-To address is often your own). Now begins the long arduous task of saving face amongst the onslaught of defamation. It seems daunting, but we have compiled a comprehensive guide to surviving a Joe Job attack, should you be unfortunate enough to become a victim:

1. Create abuse@yourdomain.com and postmaster@yourdomain.com if these do not already exist. These should either be set up to forward to you, or you could configure your email client to also receive email from these addresses. This is so that information sent from SpamCop and other blacklist services is not missed. Whenever somebody submits one of the spam emails to SpamCop, real time reports will be forwarded to abuse@yourdomain.com. Fortunately, SpamCop is smart about these things and will realize that the emails are not originating from your domain.

2. Set up a spam information page with information about the attack and a form where victims can submit the header information from the offending emails to help you expedite the investigation. In cases where the attack is being carried out by a devious competitor, this will have the benefit of letting them know you’re onto them, and they need to stop. It also helps the people who are receiving the spam. They may be hearing about your company for the first time by receiving the defaming spam, and the proactive ones will almost certainly be browsing your site looking for answers. It will help immeasurably to provide them with the information they are looking for, letting them know that the email did not come from you and that there is something they can do to help end the attack. As you begin to receive more information it will also help with your own investigation. Appletree’s Joe Job information page is an excellent reference.

3. Create an alert link from your home page that directs people to the spam information page without distracting the customers who are there under normal circumstances. The point is that you need to address the issue with an official response and a way for proactive victims to do something meaningful to help stop the attack.

4. Once people begin sending you full header information thanks to step 3, you can begin doing some research to find out where the attacks are coming from. As you view the full headers, the only line which cannot be faked is the “Received” line, which usually contains the originating IP address. This may or may not be useful because a smart attacker will often bounce their emails off of several “open relay” servers, effectively hiding their original location. This information will still be very valuable to SpamCop, however, in building up a blacklist of known “open relay” servers, which will be beneficial in the long run. Make sure to create a SpamCop account and submit all of the spam emails you receive.

5. Notify your web host about what is going on. Even though the emails are not being sent from their servers, it is good for them to know what is happening. Sometimes web hosts will help with the investigation.

6. Utilize your social networks – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc – to send out helpful “security” reminders, while being sure not to instill fear. The people in your own network will appreciate the information even though they most likely did not receive the spam email. The spammer usually has different targets and goals, separate from your own. It is always a good idea, though, to make sure your own customers are aware of your spam policy and that you are actively on top of keeping them safe while doing online business with you.

Other than that, be very gracious and kind to the victims who complain about getting spam from your company. Being knowledgeable enough to briefly explain the nature of the problem will go a long way towards turning potentially bad press into a network of allies.