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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Microsoft Plans to Acquire TikTok – The Right Choice?

The biggest tech news story right now is Microsoft’s plans to acquire TikTok.

If you haven’t scrolled mindlessly through it yourself, you’ve almost certainly witnessed your children, nieces, or nephews stare at their screens, giggling and dancing to videos on the newest millennial obsession —TikTok.

As one of the world’s most downloaded apps, the short-form video-sharing platform is now the subject of both a government investigation and a $30 billion acquisition.

How did it get here?

It’s both a long and a short story. The real buzz right now, however, is that the White House has raised suspicions of its users’ security. Suspicions so serious that President Trump has threatened a national ban if the app is not purchased by an American company.

Government Opposition

TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance Ltd., has been under recent investigation for harvesting user data. While nothing has been confirmed, the U.S. government is viewing ByteDance as a potential security threat.

This is not ByteDance’s first rodeo. After purchasing popular video app Musical.ly in 2017, the company merged the existing users and content to effectively create what we know today as TikTok.

As COVID-19 stay-at-home orders increased, the app spiked in popularity. Garnering over 130 million US downloads just within the first few months of 2020.

Although nothing has been finalized, President Donald Trump has discussed his distrust of the app multiple times in the past. Especially as political tensions rise between the US and China.

On July 31st, President Trump went as far as to tell the press “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States”.

This public scrutiny has pressured many large tech corporations into the dealmaking process. It’s clear the White House hopes the app will be bought by an American company.

With a $50 billion evaluation, buyers were always going to be in short supply. However, Mr. Gates has come to save the day.

Why Is It Looking Likely Microsoft Will Acquire Tiktok?

Why Is It Looking Likely Microsoft Will Acquire Tiktok

As one of the world’s most downloaded apps, it seems TikTok’s US purchase should have a few more of the big names in the running contenders. Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon are all on the same playing field, so why does Microsoft have the upper hand to acquire TikTok?

The answer— trust.

All four of these other major tech companies are under investigation for breaching user security. The very reason President Trump hopes to move TikTok’s control into American hands.

After a conversation between President Donald Trump and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the technology powerhouse confirmed dealmaking has begun with ByteDance.

After the rumors were confirmed, Microsoft saw a large increase in market cap. Confirming the deal’s positive impact on their business.

If the deal goes through, not only would Microsoft gain control of American TikTok, but also Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Turning Over a New Leaf

As one of the top companies in the world, Microsoft is no stranger to success. However, in the past decade, the corporation has shifted focus to its corporate cloud intelligence.

They’ve been focusing on products like Bing, Mixer, and their Windows phones. Although these products have not taken them to the heights they’ve previously reached.

Besides multiple Xbox releases and a $26 million acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016, Microsoft has stayed away from consumer-based products in recent years.

While Apple and Amazon stay consistently at the forefront, purchasing the world’s most popular social media platform could leapfrog Microsoft to the top.

The company plans to finalize the TikTok deal before September. Well before President Trump’s September 15th deadline to either ban or acquire American TikTok.

Microsoft has also discussed transferring all of TikTok’s Chinese code to the U.S., which would take up to 15 million lines of artificial intelligence. Although this will be a hefty task, Microsoft believes it can complete the transfer within the year.

Will the White House Get a Cut?

The pressure for TikTok’s purchase came directly from the White House. This, as a result of the U.S. government becoming increasingly worried about ByteDance’s access to American data.

After threatening a national ban on the platform, Microsoft began deal-making with both ByteDance and the government as a solution to keep the app in use.

Clearly, President Trump should get credit for facilitating the deal’s beginning. But does this mean the U.S. government should get a percentage of the acquisition?

On Monday, President Trump told the press “Whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, or it was the Chinese, what the price is, the United States should get a very large percentage of that price because we’re making it possible”.

He then compared the U.S. government to a housing lease. With TikTok as the landlord, and Microsoft as the tenant. While some onlookers view this comment as extortion, others believe it may be fair.

Whether the government will— or even can— get a cut, adds yet another layer to this multi-billion dollar acquisition. It’s going to be an interesting few months as this deal unfolds and we find out if Microsoft does acquire TikTok.

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How Technology Changed Advertising

After realizing we all survived Y2K, the 2010s hosted many societal changes like the rise of social media, two royal weddings, and the Game of Thrones phenomenon. We started the decade with the release of Instagram and Snapchat, which have become essential aspects of daily life and career building.

Just ten years ago, these platforms did not exist.  Now companies hire teams of experts, spending millions of dollars, to craft their social media presence.

Submerged in Social Media

Before dog filters and viral memes, the marketing industry-focused their budgets on TV commercials, newspaper ads, and radio sponsors.

It is no secret that newspapers and magazines have been replaced with YouTube and Instagram, and advertisements follow the masses. Through the decade, the dramatic rise in social media site usage has altered the advertising industry’s role in society.

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In 2010, Morgan Stanley executive Mary Meeker gave a presentation on digital advertising opportunities. Meeker pointed out that companies spend 39% of their advertising budgets on television, while only 13% goes to internet advertisement.  She estimated that it was a missed opportunity evaluated at $50 billion.

In later years, a PwC report evaluated the 2017 U.S. advertising market size as $86.4 billion online, while TV came in lower at around $71 billion.

It seems that the marketing industry took Meeker’s advice, and learned from their past mistakes. The past decade has tipped the scale in favor of the internet, increasing the opportunity for digital marketing.

Multimedia messaging app Snapchat has made just over $1 billion in revenue since its 2011 release. Advertising accounts for a whopping 99% of the 2018 revenue evaluation after introducing the ‘Discover’ feature, where users can view content from a variety of other media sources.

The app has also introduced sponsored filters such as Taco Bell’s Super Bowl filter which was viewed 224 million times. As more effort was focused on targeted ad placement for its younger audience, Snapchat’s U.S. ad revenue increased by 89% between 2016 and 2017.

At what cost?

The rise of the internet and digital marketing has also come at a price, as user privacy is under suspicion. Voice-activated assistants like Alexa or Siri listen for their programmed commands and record everything in earshot along the way.

Within the last decade, privacy concerns have evolved from a debatable skepticism to a confirmed fear. Google confirmed that it’s Google Assistant does record user interactions for employees to review.

Google claimed only 0.2% of all audio snippets fall under review.  The fact that Google employees are listening to any private conversations is a problem in itself.

Social media platforms can then take this information, along with search history and messages, and use it to personalize advertisements. If a user posts, messages, and searches about an upcoming trip to their favorite amusement park, odds are they will see amusement park advertisements pop up all over their social media feed.

In the past few years, Facebook has become the antagonist in this internet privacy story.  After all, they were accused of selling user’s personal data to advertisers. While the technological powerhouse has denied selling data, they have in fact sold advertisers access to their users.

Facebook may not collect all personal data to ship to the highest bidder, they do, however, sell access for companies to advertise.

Brand Clarity

Advancing into the digital age, consumers are now smarter than marketing professionals would like to admit. In 2010, the world had 1.99 billion internet users, a number that jumped to 4.54 billion users in just ten years.  Internet users now make up 59% of the global population. With so much access to the internet, it is easy to find any brand or product.  This has built the necessity for companies to be more transparent than ever.

In the past, if a television commercial claimed their product was organic or ethically made, the consumer had no reason not to believe it- but widespread internet accessibility challenges claim.

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Rather than sell consumers with a fictional story like campaigns of the past, modern marketing revolves around the testimonies of trusted social media personalities.  Old Spice’s popular 2010 commercial “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” featured a satirical story, claiming Old Spice deodorant could make a man the ideal romantic partner. Now, up and coming hair-care brand Function of Beauty markets their product solely through social media influencers hired to post candid videos sharing their honest endorsement.

With transparency so accessible, honest endorsements are a great brand strategy.

What will the future hold?

As internet usage increased, digital platforms have spoken.  They have chosen the path of advertisement-based media. This choice continues to define the way users consume digital media throughout the decade.

After the past few years of weaving through a maze of pop-up ads just to read an article, I think I speak for everyone when I say monetizing digital consumption is getting old. Many users have taken to ad blocking sites, paying to remove advertisements from internet searches and social media feeds.

According to a PageFair report, 615 million devices were using ad blocking technology in 2017. These numbers are projected to only increase as more and more frustrated users would rather break the bank than watch another Candy Crush commercial.

While this may be a temporary solution, changing the advertisement-heavy online culture should start with the companies. If platforms can meet frustrated consumers halfway, both can establish a middle ground where companies profit and users are not bombarded with over-advertisement. Check out our blog on Making Money with Social Media to learn more about monetizing social media.

As the decade comes to a close, the door to online marketing has swung open. With growing accessibility and usage, online platforms are replacing traditional entertainment media and taking the advertisement industry along for the ride.

 

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Why CRM is Important for Organizations

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, which is a term that refers to practices, strategies, and technologies companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data. Keeping the customer at the heart of your company’s strategy is key to building your brand.

Running a business is tough. As a small business owner, CRMs provide reassurance. This software was created to help companies effectively manage their customer base and to follow up on potential customers, so their efforts can be focused on other areas of the business.

Sounds pretty good, right? And yet, many companies will try to bypass investing in a software to support customer relationship management.

Why Excel is Not the Answer

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Wait, can’t I do all of this in Excel?”

If you are just starting out and have less than 5 customers, yes, you can input customer information manually into an Excel sheet. The problem with this approach is that it is not scalable; looking ahead, you will want to double or triple revenue, and the time you and your employees will have to take manually recording customer information is going to reduce the capability to follow up on valuable opportunities.

Another drawback is inputting customer information into different locations, or sheets make it difficult to analyze the information. In order to discover which strategies are working the best for your customer retention, you should be able to quickly view historical data. Viewing the complete history of your company’s interaction with a client sheds light on where things went wrong in unsuccessful transactions, or how customer loyalty was built through successful communications.

Diving Deeper into CRM

“CRM” is the name used for any system or model selected to manage a company’s interactions with its current or future clients or customers. Though the available software differs, the objective is to allow the company to follow customers throughout the customer lifecycle. The goal is to improve customer service relationships and assist in customer retention, thereby raising profits.

At its most basic level, CRM software consolidates customer information and documents into a single database.

Technical Offerings

Below are the things that a CRM can do for you. Each element takes a small bit of learning, but once you have the skills, you can greatly boost your sales success!

Sales Force Automation

Some CRM systems automate certain business functions of the sales cycle. This is especially useful for crafting personalized messages to follow up on lukewarm or cold leads that human sales personnel give up on or completely forget about. In sales, it’s rarely a “no,” it’s usually a “not right now.”

Marketing Automation

CRM tools with this feature can automate repetitive tasks to enhance marketing efforts. For example, when a new lead is generated via the customer entering their email address into a landing page, the system may automatically send newsletters and marketing materials to keep their interest.

Geolocation Technology

CRM software can include this type of technology, which creates geographically relevant marketing campaigns. One awesome application for this approach is for when disastrous weather occurs and the CRM software reaches out to check in on the customers’ well-being.

Workflow Automation

CRM systems help businesses streamline mundane workloads, enabling employees to focus on high-level tasks.

Follow the Customer

Some CRMs can be used to gain insight into customers’ digital behavior and preferences outside of your area. This is done with data created by mobile payment from a digital wallet and passbook technology that tracks the customer after they’ve left your site!

Human Resource Management

CRM systems can be used to help track internal company information, such as employee contact information and performance reviews.

Operational Benefits

Customer Snapshot. One place to store all of your customer information means you can easily generate reports to show the health of your customer relationships. Therefore, the software is fully aware of your customers’ needs so you don’t have to be.

Instant Metrics

Going along with this customer snapshot, you can generate reports on various aspects of your business automatically. This data can be used to see gaps in the customer relationships, forecast trends and plan for the future.

No Mixed or Duplicate Messages

Keep every member of your team on the same page. Does one customer need an immediate follow-up call? Does a customer relationship that has gone stale need a little rekindling? A solid CRM also means the chance for duplicate messages to be sent to the same customer is greatly reduced.

Personalization

Tracking offline and online activity allows organizations to personalize content and offer the greatest value to the customer.

Reminders

Integrate the CRM with your company calendars to relate important events or tasks with the relevant client. The CRM can also suggest suitable times to contact the customer.

Behavioral Analysis

As mentioned, some CRMs track the customer’s digital path after they’ve left your site. This path can provide valuable information your company can use to really know your customer, which helps to build buyer personas, provide value with relevant content, etc. When you are able to view real-time customer actions in everyday life, you have the opportunity to see where and how your product fits in with their lifestyle.

Companies are now trying to combine digital, mobile, social and offline CRM data. The implications for enhancing customer relationships with this data are expansive and, as consumers, it is something we can all look forward to experiencing.

Let’s Sum Up The Benefits

For most businesses that are just getting off the ground, departmental jobs are mixed across the company’s employees.

A CRM system synchronizes, automates and organizes all of the customer-facing areas within your company, from sales to marketing to customer service. By providing your employees with one centralized place for storing customer data, internal and external communications are promoted. Creating a snapshot of all of the data touch points is one of the challenges big companies face, which further supports the point that investing in a CRM system from the start is necessary, as it can be expanded as your company grows.

Interested in learning more ways to make your company grow?

Elevare works with you to create memorable experiences throughout the customer lifecycle using stunning web pages, digital advertising, and content marketing.

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Microsoft Pushes Windows 10 on User’s Systems

Introducing Your AI Host

Your Windows operating system has nifty AI-like process called BITS or the Background Intelligent Transfer Service. BITS is the system process responsible for downloading updates from Microsoft Servers. Recently, it is also responsible for automatically downloading and forcing users to upgrade to Windows 10.

What Does Upgrading to Windows 10 Mean For You?

Have you already upgraded to Windows 10? If not, there was probably a reason for the delay. Maybe concerns about software and hardware compatibility? Maybe you wanted a choice in the Microsoft Operating System in which you run your computer or mobile device? Do you have privacy concerns from rumors you may have heard? In which I can tell you, this is a very valid concern! Whichever the reason, if you weren’t aware of the workarounds to prevent this forced change, you have already or will have continuous messages recommending the upgrade. Either that, or you are like the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of users that recently restarted their computer to find that Microsoft gladly took care of the upgrade for you! That’s awesome right?! Not really…

I use Windows 10 for my own computers and I think it’s pretty great. It has convenient features and the interface is much more intuitive, than that of Windows 8. It’s faster than Windows 7, which was a heck of a lot better than the failed Vista OS. So I do genuinely believe that Microsoft’s Windows 10 is a great system and can help make using the computer, tablet, etc, more efficient.

However, being in the industry for quite some time (over 15 years), I have seen the chaos that upgrading to a new OS can cause for consumers and businesses alike. Now, the good news is that, generally speaking, Windows 10 plays fair with most software and hardware connected to computers from Windows 7 and up. However, as I saw when Windows 8 came out, some hardware such as printers and specialized devices are not supported by Windows 8 through the manufacturer. This makes it difficult or impossible to use your devices, products and software.

As an example, a quick search brought up an article with the following segment:

windows81

Here is the link for credit to the author: Is Your Software & Hardware Compatible With Windows 8.1?

Your Life, Connected … Everywhere

Hardware issues, patches and the like aren’t the biggest concern I have for the general public regarding the Windows 10 upgrade. Here’s where things get crazy, “Welcome to Skynet Version 1.0”. For those of you who are fans of the Terminator franchise, you know what I am talking about. For those of you who aren’t, well this is what it means: Every program, internet search, website, contact, typed word and more will be available for the team of Microsoft to view and analyze.

When you finish installing Windows 10 by choice or get it pushed upon you on restart, there are a few things you need to do if you want to keep your personal computer, well… personal.

Let’s take a look at the custom privacy settings screen upon completion of your installation.

Windows10Privacy

 

Windows10Privacy2

 

At the top of the customization screen, the very first option is:

“Personalize your speech, typing and inking input by sending contacts and calendar details, along with other associated input data to Microsoft.” This is set to ON. So inking input like signatures, typing input like browser searches, your contacts which connect all your friends to you. Essentially means that Microsoft is creating an entire scope of you and your online activities. This mean they are building a profile about you for use at a level we aren’t quite sure of at this point.

It’s not just Microsoft, however. Google and Apple have been under scrutiny for their privacy policies as well. A movie called Terms and Conditions May Apply, was even made in 2013 regarding corporations and their policies. Bottom line is, if you don’t want this personal information all sent to Microsoft, toggle these options to OFF.

How to Prevent the Automatic Update

If you aren’t sure that you are ready for Windows 10, or you are concerned about all the other issues regarding privacy, hardware compatibility, software compatibility, etc, then here’s what you can do:

Check if the download is on your computer already.

To do this you need to verify if the $Windows.~BT folder exists on your hard drive.

  1. It’s a hidden folder, so you need to open File Explorer, and from the ribbon menu, navigate to View, and click on Folder Options.
  2. Go to View and under “Advanced settings”, check Show hidden files, folders, and drives.
  3. Click Apply and OK.
  4. Go to your main Windows drive and you’ll now be able to see if you have the$Windows.~BT folder. If the download has already completed, you’ll notice it’s taking between 3GB and 6GB of your local storage, when you check folder properties.

Stop Windows Update from downloading the files without your approval.

  1. Open Control Panel and navigate to Programs and features.
  2. From the left pane click the View Installed Updates link.
  3. If you’re running Windows 8.1 Update, look carefully for these updates: KB3035583 and KB2976978. If you’re running Windows 7 Service Pack 1, look carefully for these updates: KB3035583, KB2952664, and KB3021917.
  4. Right-click each update and from the context menu click Uninstall.
  5. If you’re asked to restart, simply click to do it later and continue uninstalling the updates.
  6. Reboot your computer.

Now that the updates are out of the system, we need to tell Windows Update that we don’t want to install those updates in the future.

  1. Open Control Panel, go to Windows Update, and click Check for updates.
  2. From the left pane, click on Important to view those updates.
  3. Depending on your version of Windows look for the updates we have mentioned above, right-click on them, and click Hide update. This last step will block the service from re-downloading the updates in question.

In conclusion, our opinion is that a personal computer (or tablet) should remain as such and not be subject to hidden or forced upgrades, purposeful privacy exploits and the like. If we receive a free operating system upgrade or share our lives with Microsoft or the rest of the world, we should be allowed to do so by choice, not by ambiguous settings or obscure relinquishment of our rights as product users.

We hope that this article helps you make the best decision for your computing needs and helps you avoid any unwanted changes to your personal computer. We would love to hear your feedback on our Facebook and Google+ page as well!

Sincerely,
The Elevare Team

 

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