The Indy 500 Leverages Social Media for the Ultimate Fan Experience

What comes to mind when you think of spring?

Birds chirping, lawnmowers running and flowers blooming are all signs that warm weather is here to stay. In Indiana, it’s not spring until you hear the sound of race cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you’ve never been to the Indy 500 I suggest you put it on your bucket list. Don’t worry if you can’t make it this year though, because the Indianapolis Motor Speedway does a fantastic job of bringing you all of the action throughout the month long event.

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Let’s start with their Facebook page. May is obviously their busiest month, but even during their non-peak times they are updating their page frequently and getting some impressive engagement. During the month of May, the page is updated at least once a day with what is going on at the track and upcoming events as well.

The IMS takes advantage of the customized tab feature with links to their Instagram account and a collection of videos, as well as a Livestream where you can watch many of their events in real-time.  Even with over 150,000 fans, they are great responding to comments.

Now let’s check out their Twitter account. My only complaint about their Twitter feed is the lack of tweets with photos. We all know how important visuals are with Twitter now and they are definitely missing a big opportunity to showcase the drivers, cars and facility.

On the other hand, they are tweeting frequently throughout the day as well as retweeting and engaging with their followers by answering questions and holding contests. They use social media to alert their followers with weather updates because there is nothing more unpredictable than Indiana weather.

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Moving on to their YouTube channel, which they have been doing a great job with this month. It is updated each week, but most importantly: the videos are short. None of the videos uploaded are over five minutes, with the average length being between one and two minutes. They give a rundown of each day’s practice for everyone who couldn’t make it out to the track as well as insightful interviews. The onboard videos let you experience the track through the drivers’ eyes.

Whether you are a fan of racing or not, I suggest you tune into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s social media this Sunday. Don’t worry about having to jump around to their different social media platforms; their website has put together a fantastic multimedia social media stream. I would love to hear your thoughts on their social media presence. Let’s connect on Twitter.

Russia vs. Ukraine: The Cyber War

The Russian vs. Ukraine battle has taken to the internet. Battles are no longer being fought solely on the ground anymore, they are being fought on the internet and in boardrooms.

Russia has used similar cyber war tactics in past conflicts as well. During the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008, Georgia was hit with web defacements, massive DDoS (Distributed-Denial-of-Service) attacks and limited Internet access. The message “win+love+in+Rusia.” was spread throughout the servers hosting important Georgian websites including the government and transportation sites.

What is a DDos attack? DDoS attacks are when people attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by interrupting or suspending services of a host connected to the internet. One of the tactics is flooding a website with so much traffic that it cannot respond to legitimate requests. The majority of these attacks have been done by people and groups not directly associated with either government.

These attacks aren’t all on the digital side either. The Russians are also using old school tactics to attack Ukraine by switching off phone service. This is a big threat because Russians installed Ukraine’s telecommunications infrastructure during the Soviet Era. One pro-Russian group who goes by CyberBerkut has taken credit for blocking over 700 Ukrainian government phones. “I confirm that an IP-telephonic attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row,” Valentyn Nalivaichenko, the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, said in a news briefing this past week.

Hacking is very popular in that part of the world. Hackers on both sides are launching attacks on various websites and agencies. The hacker that broke into Target’s database and stole 40 million credit card numbers is allegedly from Ukraine. Russian universities offer top-notch computer security degrees as well. Russia Today’s website was also the victim of hackers, who broke into the site and effectively changed the word “Russia” to “nazi” in headlines and articles. One headline read “Putin: Nazi citizens, troops threatened in Ukraine, need armed forces protection” after the hack.

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The group “Anonymous Ukraine” has even gotten into the mix by hacking over 100 mb of emails from the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) led by former boxer Vitalia Klitschko. One email by Kitschko that was leaked thanked the Lithuanian president for funding Ukraine’s protests. The email hack was part of a campaign called OpIndependence that has a goal to keep Ukraine independent from NATO and the EU.

Have you been following this event and the impact that social media and the internet has had? Let’s chat about it on Twitter or in the comments below.

Euromaidan: The Vital Role Social Media is Playing in Ukraine

For those few that still think social media doesn’t have a global impact, just take a look at what is happening in Ukraine right now. From gathering thousands of protesters to the Square to showing where a bathroom is, social media is being used as a strategic tool in this incident.

“Facebook has been our lifeline, we check in with our friends who go to the protests, and when I see that they are online again by looking at the active green dot on Facebook, I am relieved they are okay,” Kateryna Monastyrski said about staying in contact with friends who are in Ukraine right now. She is Ukrainian but currently resides in South Florida.

Euromaidan, or “European square” was the name coined for the revolutionary movement. The official Facebook page for Euromaidan which was created on November 21st and has over 272,000 likes. This page (along with a few activists on social media) was the catalyst for thousands of people to gather on Kiev’s Independence Square. The Facebook page is all in Ukrainian, which suggests that this page is for information spreading to locals instead of the world.

It is also an extremely active Facebook page with multiple posts added every hour with each one receiving numerous Likes and Shares. The posts on this Facebook page range from letting protestors at the Square know where a hot meal is being served to informing people all over the country about current events. Learning from past protests they built a digital map for people as well.

When fugitive President Vikto Yanukovych had a press conference last week after fleeing his mansion, “Euromaidanfinger” became popular on Twitter. “Euromaidanfinger” is when a person takes a picture of their hand flipping off Yanukovych while he is on their television.

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Just recently the Russian Prosecutors’ General Office blocked access to more than a dozen “Ukrainian nationalist organizations” on social media. The organizations were apparently promoting “direct appeals to carry out terrorist activities” and encouraging “participation in unsanctioned mass actions.” Vkontakte is the largest European social network with more than a 100 million active users. Apparently one of the group’s pages was hacked and a message was sent to the Russian terrorist Doku Umarov asking for help with fighting the Russian army.

One of the most powerful things social media has shared with the rest of the world during these protests are the images of the events. Not so much the images of armed guard but those of the bloodied faces of the civilians. You can really see the fight and the passion in the eyes of these protesters, which does more for an outsider than reading about the attacks or watching a newscast.

131201133901-02-ukraine-protest-1201-horizontal-galleryWounded photographer at Kiev protest

 

Check back next week when I will recap what has happened in the recent days and how social media has further impacted this event. If you want to connect with me between posts, you can find me on Twitter or Google+.

 

Startups: Critical for Our Economic Growth

When you hear the words “tech startup” or “startup” in general, what comes to mind?

Most people think of money, cool office spaces or the next revolutionary app. Startup companies are an essential part of our economic growth and with millions of Americans out of the workforce we need these startups to keep thriving. If they hit it big, these companies can add hundreds to thousands of new jobs around the country. Another important aspect of tech startups is that they can drastically improve our lives or the way we look at things. Take for instance, Leap Motion, which developed a controller that senses how you move your hands and lets you use the computer in an innovative way.

What’s wrong with this is that for every one successful startup there are three that fail. 75% of all startups fail while 90% of all products fail. Startups don’t happen overnight; they take a lot of money, sweat and employees who sometimes have to work for future compensation. The problem right now is that people are more hesitant to leave a secure job, even if that job is not satisfying, to go to something new. People who start a company have to rely on family, credit cards, investors and savings to fuel their initial costs, which compounds the stress they already are enduring.

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After the financial crisis, venture capitalists and investment banks have been wary of investing with an unproven person or new product or service. That is slowly changing, but it is nowhere near the point we were at before 2007-2008 after being burned by poor performing investments. Currently, the average funding per company is $1.5 million, and not investments are failures. Just take the success stories of companies such as Dropbox, AirBnB and Infogami. Brian Chesky, CEO and founder of AirBnB, knows the story of hard work, rejection and eventual success in forming a startup. But those success stories are few and far between.

Health insurance is another big concern right now. It’s hard for anyone to leave one company that has health insurance for another company that doesn’t. I can guarantee you that most startups do not have health insurance, let alone any other benefits. One thing is for sure: if you are starting your own company, you are going to try to keep your costs low by not providing benefits. This is a problem for business owners now, and also future entrepreneurs, who will start to second guess turning their idea into a business.

Being a founder or employee of a startup is both nerve-wracking and thrilling at the same time. There are many restless all-nighters that come with extreme highs and lows, but these companies are vital for our country on many fronts.

Have you been a part of a startup in any aspect? I would love to hear some of your stories! You can leave a comment below or catch me on Twitter.

Facebook Recreates Your News Feed with Paper

Love Facebook but hate the app for it?

Almost regularly, I hear people complain about how much they hate the Facebook app on their iPhone or Android. It’s too slow, it crashes, the search functions don’t work properly, it doesn’t update information…the list goes on and on. If you’re one of these Facebook app naysayers, you’re in luck: there’s an app for that.

Facebook introduced a new app this morning called Paper for iPhone users. While it was previously thought to be a news-reading app meant to rival Flipboard or Google’s Newsstand, it’s more than that. Paper pulls in your Facebook News Feed while filtering out all of the other distractions. Browse through news stories from your friends in a full-screen sleek design, allowing you to beautifully view larger pictures and open links in a new way. As you can see in the video below, pressing buttons to see content has been almost eliminated and replaced with gliding gestures and iPhone movement for smooth transitions between your timeline and opening up content.

In addition to being able to read content from your News Feed, you can add in content from outside sources in sections such as sports, tech, design, pop culture, science and more . While we don’t know exactly where Paper will pull from, Facebook promises they will be “emerging voices” and trusted publications.

If you’re an iPhone user, the app will be available on February 3 (there is no release date yet for Android). Something to note about the app’s release: Paper will launch without an ads.  This marks the premier release for Facebook’s Creative Labs department (a 15-person team), which promises more standalone apps in the future.

Will you download Paper? What other types of apps would you like to see from Facebook’s Creative Labs team in the future?

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

If you haven’t heard of Snapchat, it is a photo messaging application that users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to their friends for a maximum of 10 seconds.

Usernames and mobile phone numbers for more than 4 million Snapchat users were stolen from the photo-sharing service this past week by hackers.The hackers say that they only wanted to call attention to flaws in Snapchat’s security. They posted the usernames, along with mobile phone numbers, of 4.6 million users, with Xs in place of the last two digits of each phone number.

Do you know if your data has been leaked? Go to Snapcheck.org to check. If your username is on the list, there’s nothing you need to do immediately. The biggest danger is that thieves sometimes collect information in small bits and then put it together. For instance, if you use the same username on multiple sites, or if your phone number is available on other sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, someone could potentially match the Snapchat data with what’s published elsewhere. You might decide it’s safer to use different usernames on different sites, but there’s no way to avoid all risks because you almost always have to share at least a little personal information to use any online service.

The best advice I can give you is to remain vigilant about protecting your credit and identity in case something does happen. Here are three tips to protect your online identity:

  • Create Strong Passwords. Your passwords shouldn’t be predictable, short or easy to hack. Longer passwords that include special characters work best. The more complicated the password, the better, so make sure to use uppercase and lowercase along with special characters or symbols. Instead of “password123,” try “Pa$sword48011.” Change your password often and try not to use the same one across multiple accounts. 
  • Protect Your Smartphone. 32% of people save login info on their phone. Don’t keep any personal information on your phone. If you lose your phone and there is no password on it, anyone can access your information. Did you know that 62% of people don’t put a password on their home screen? That means that your phone is susceptible for anyone to access your bank accounts or social networking sites.
  • Know What Info You Share. What information do you share online? One study shows that 68% of people with public profiles shared their birthday information, 18% shared their phone number, 63% shared their high school name and 12% shared their pet’s name. Go into your account’s privacy settings and check out the information that you’re sharing. In the age of oversharing, you’ll be safer keeping some things offline.

Snapchat will be adding new privacy features that will allow users to opt out of a “Find Friends” feature that uses their phone number. They’ll also be adding internal restrictions that will make it more difficult to employ the method hackers say they used to expose 4.6 million accounts. “The Snapchat community is a place where friends feel comfortable expressing themselves and we’re dedicated to preventing abuse,” Snapchat said in the post, which did not include an apology to its users.

If one of the biggest social networking sites could be hacked, is anyone really safe?  If your company doesn’t have a top notch security system, we may be able to help. Contact us to see how we can help you.

Was your account hacked in the Snapchat security breach? How do you protect yourself from online identity theft? Let me know the comments section below or tweet me directly at @YuppItsDebbie.

Top 6 Apps For Those Living and Working in Indianapolis

Everyone wants apps that can make their lives easier. Even as a local, you sometimes want some professional advice about your city. From finding the best restaurants nearby to discovering new music during your work day, these are some of the apps you should have in your arsenal when you are living and working in Indianapolis.

Yelp You have probably heard of Yelp since it’s been around for a few years now. But if you haven’t, you should download this app and see all the benefits!  It’s one of the best way to find local businesses. Use Yelp to search for everything from the city’s best taco place to the most renowned chiropractor. I like to use it to check out all the restaurants near me and their customer reviews. If you don’t want to download the app, Yelp is also online at www.yelp.com.

Uber  So you live in the city but don’t have a car to get around? Enter Uber, an app that connects you with a driver at the touch of a button. Uber is a lot like a taxi service but a more modern way to travel that is at your fingertips. No more waiting around and flagging down taxis. Request a ride using the app and get connected to a personal driver within minutes. Connect with PayPal or your credit card and once you arrive at the destination, you will get a receipt.

Gas Buddy – Let me introduce you to your new best friend. When you have a long commute to work and you need to keep a close watch on your spending, where to get the cheapest gas is often front of mind. Gas Buddy will let you know where to get the least expensive gas anywhere in Indianapolis. There’s no excuse not to take advantage of the cheapest gas around.

Parkmobile  Parkmobile is a new and better way to pay for parking using your cell phone. It takes the stress out of parking, dysfunctional parking meters and having to rummage in your purse for cash and coins. You’ll find Parkmobile in private and public parking lots, on city streets, airports, stadiums and just about anywhere you park.

IndyDT  If you are headed to or live in downtown Indianapolis, this is the app that will let you know all that there is to do and see! This app has an unique feature including “Hot Now” that lets you know the newest and best events and promotions. Looking for something fun to do this weekend or even next month? The app shows everything from sporting events and concerts to festivals and theater performances. There is always something to do in downtown Indy so get out there and have some fun!

Pandora  If you want to listen to Christmas music all day or music similar to your favorite artist, this is where you should go. Discover new music effortlessly and for free. Create personalized stations that only play the music you love. Pandora recently put in a “Sleep Timer” and “Alarm Clock” option where you can go to sleep listening to your favorite music and wake up listening to it as well.

Which of these apps do you use daily? Are there any apps you think should be on this list as well? Let us know in the comments below or tweet me @yuppitsdebbie!