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Upcoming Outdoor Events & Activities in South Florida

There is plenty to do in South Florida as we step out of summer. Below you will find a list of some of the top, most talked about outdoor event and activities happening now and coming soon. 

Downtown Delray Beach Craft Festival

One of the most exciting festivals of the year in South Florida, the Downtown Delray Beach Craft Festival takes place at the intersection of Atlantic Ave and SE 4th Ave. With a location as strategic as that, this festival showcases the best of the diverse-yet-complimentary cultures of the two sides of Atlantic Avenue.

The festival is almost-entirely the product of the efforts of the local community – consisting of some of the most prolific store owners, artists, and restauranteurs. It is therefore not a surprise that it is so well-organized and highly managed. Make no mistake, though, while the organizers may be local, people from all over the country (and sometimes even beyond!) come over to the heart of downtown Florida to see the show in action!

Takes place: Sept. 11-12
Address: 330 E Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33483
Phone: (561) 746-6615
Price: Free
Website: http://www.artfestival.com/

Upper Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival

Organized by the REEF Environmental Education Foundation, the 12th Annual Upper Keys Lionfish Derby & festival is a two-day-long fishing adventure at the gorgeous Postcard Inn Resort and Marina. As the name itself suggests, the theme of this festival is lionfish, and just about every activity here revolves around them.

Open to the public (provided they have bought the tickets), this festival has a plethora of events and activities, which includes (but is not limited to) lionfish tasting sessions, lionfish dissection, fillet and cooking demos, fish-themed arts and crafts, raffle games and prizes, and tons of products on display and available to purchase from over 30 eco-friendly vendors. Last but not the least, South Florida’s famous Soulgrass Band – The Copper Tones will be headlining the live music scene at the venue.

Takes place: Sept. 9-12
Address: 98300 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037
Phone: 305-852-0030
Price: $100 per team (Minimum 2 people and maximum 4 people per team)
Website: http://www.reef.org/events/florida-keys-lionfish-derby-and-festival

Annual Underwater Music Festival

If you love underwater activities and music, this is the destination for you. Organized and hosted by the combined efforts of local Floridian radio station US1 104.1 FM and the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, the festival is a nod to people enjoying diving while also being mindful of the environment and specifically the rapidly dwindling coral reefs. The festival will be held at Looe Key Reef, located around 6 miles south of the Big Pine Key in the larger Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Suitable for both snorkelers and divers, the festival is dedicated to environmentally mindful diving and reef protection. But that doesn’t make it fall short on its entertainment quotient. The Annual Underwater Music Festival has a good number of elements that give its visitors the ultimate bucket-list underwater experience. From the one-of-a-kind conservation concert to the “mermaids” and other characters popping up between waves, this is a place where the level of visual excitement is high and unique.

Takes place: Sept. 18
Address: 27340 Overseas Hwy, Ramrod Key, FL 33042
Phone: 305-872-2215
Price: Free
Website: http://www.fla-keys.com/calendar/all/florida-keys/202109/

Yesteryear Village 30th Celebration

The Yesteryear Village is one of the biggest historical attractions of South Florida, and this festival serves to highlight its legacy. Now in its 30th year of celebration, this is a fun-filled extravaganza that you can enjoy with your family, while also getting a healthy dose of tradition, education, and of course, history.

The highlight of the event will be the Loxahatchee Schoolhouse, which was the first major structure to be constructed in the village. Most activities will be in and around this area, and will include an extensive food-and-drinks menu, live entertainment, interactive shows, a vintage-themed market, live cooking demos, a car rally, farm animal showcase, along with a pledge and a flag-raising ceremony.

Takes place: Saturday, September 18, 2021
Address: 9067 Southern Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33411
Phone: 561-793-0333
Price: $6.00 – $9.00 per person
Website: https://www.southfloridafair.com/events/2021/yesteryear-village-30th-celebration 

Punta Gorda Sullivan Street Craft Festival

One of South Florida’s most prolific events, the Punta Gorda Sullivan Street Craft Festival is dedicated to finding and showcasing local and indigenous talents in arts and crafts. This takes place in an outdoor exhibition form, where the various items on display literally adorn the streets of Punta Gorda.

The exhibits include a plethora of items, which include (but is definitely not limited to) paintings, jewelry, sculptures, visual models, fiber, ceramic, wood and glass. That’s not all though – they are also supporting digital arts and mixed media, and some of their sections are exclusively devoted to them.

Takes place: Sept. 18-19
Address: 331 Sullivan St, Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Phone: (561) 746-6615
Price: Free
Website: http://www.artfestival.com/

Miami Beach Pride

This worldwide popular festival was delayed due to COVID-19, but it is back and how! One of the most anticipated events of the year, the Miami Beach Pride has the support of some of the most powerful private and public entities, such as the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, the Miami-Dade County Mayor, the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, among others.

The 10-day-long festival brings all members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with their supporters, allies and friends – all under one roof to celebrate equality and diversity. The festival includes Pride-related events such as expos and community booths, a wide range of food and beverage vendors, play areas, live entertainment, cultural, educational showcases, and of course the annual parade.

Takes place: Sept. 10-19
Address: 1130 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Phone: Tickets range from $35 to $10,000 – depending on the events and programs
Price: (305) 496-7635
Website: http://www.miamibeachpride.com/

Surf N’ Sounds

Surf N’ Sounds is just as its name would suggest – a combination of laid-back activities dedicated to have you appreciate the ambience of the sand and the sea. Unlike many events, this one does not go much beyond maintaining a good quality of food, drinks and activities, designed to keep people have a good time, unencumbered.

The festival showcases local Floridian cuisine at its best, with a variety of vendors that serve food across various food choices and cuisines. It also has a great beverage scene – one that includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The alcoholic drinks are served in the VIP area and include various craft and premium preparations. Last but not the least, the venue will have live music featuring DJ Rokwell and Tasty Vibrations.

Takes place: September 25th
Address: 400 SW 2nd St, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Phone: 954-828-7275
Price: Free – $45
Website: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/surf-n-sounds-tickets-163180672785

Harvest Festival, Flamingo Gardens

The growth of flora is a common-yet-incredible phenomenon, and one that is surely worth celebrating. The Flamingo Gardens of Florida does exactly that with its Harvest Festival, a one-of-a-kind event showcasing the best of Florida’s plant life.

This four-weekend festival, which typically takes place in the fall offers a wide range of activities surrounding the outdoors. These include meet and greets, live entertainment, arts and crafts, contests and games, a pumpkin patch, and of course their famous free hayrides that run from 10am to 4pm (local time). This year, they will also have a new Gallery exhibit on the Conquistadors.

Takes place:  October 9-31
Address: 3750 S Flamingo Rd, Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955
Price: Free – $21.95 (Discount available under selective conditions)
Website: https://www.flamingogardens.org/

Night Market at Dania Pointe

As the name suggests, this is a festival that begins after sun-down. An extensive street market that is held one the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month, it is an almost-exact replica of the famous Temple Street of Hong Kong (and its local market).

Produced by the UniteUs Group, the bazaar features a large range of curated, community-oriented items produced by local farms, craftsmen, artists and musicians. It is a common sight for people to browse through handmade goods in the vendors’ stalls, with a queue of local musicians’ outputs in the background.

Takes place: Sep 10
Address: 139 S Compass Way, Dania Beach, FL 33004
Phone: 833-800-4343
Price: Free (entry)
Website: http://www.nightmarketatdaniapointe.com/

34th Annual Las Olas Art Fair

Located in the jewel of Fort Lauderdale on Las Olas Boulevard, 34th Annual Las Olas Art Fair basically boils down the best artists in the city to showcase them on a single platform. The venue boasts an eclectic collection of boutiques, art galleries and dining spaces that reflect the multicultural system – from fusion food to Cuban American cuisine and more.

The festival holds its position as one of America’s 100 top art festivals, and there is a valid reason why. For one, it does not just display the art – it also has a meet and greet with the artists who created the work, and learn more about their experience and perspectives, bringing in an extraordinary level of authenticity and involvement. Add to that the ability to window shop as you walk the streets and dine at sidewalk cafes, and you are all set for an amazing trip you will always remember.

Takes place: Oct 16-17, 10am-5pm
Address: 620 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Phone: (561) 746-6615
Price: Free
Website: http://www.artfestival.com/festivals/las-olas-art-fair-fort-lauderdale-florida

Broward’s Best BBQ Spot is Booming

If you live in South Florida, you have surely heard about Juliette Johnson. She is a veteran in the restaurant scene, and in the recent years has transformed the BBQ scene with her one-of-a-kind pop-up stand.

Lickie Stickie BBQ at the Sunday Farmers Market. Feb 14, 2016.

Known to her family, friends, and fans as a relentless pit master, Juliette is known to be seen with her Lickie Stickie BBQ pop-up stand set up every Saturday and Sunday – a pursuit that has happily kept her waking before sunrise on days that are ordinarily used for resting. In her own words, neither rain nor sun could stop her from pursuing her passion, as she knows that her customers (who are happy to be known as her fans) too wait for her to show up.

 The stand, which primarily offers Caribbean and Southern-style barbecue, gets set up at Volunteer Park in Plantation every Saturday, and at the Veterans’ Park in Tamarac every Sunday. While her pop-up remains open from 9:30am to 3:30pm, be warned – if you are among the many looking for her uber-popular brisket – they get sold out in the first few hours. And while the barbecue is the highlight of her menu, Lickie Stickie also offers other common American delicacies such as fish, ribs, lamb and chicken, along with tasty sides such as baked beans, collard greens, mac and cheese, and of course, grits.

It is probably no surprise that the pop-up has over 300 to 600 visits each day it is open.
As the stand is all set to move to a brand-new brick-and-mortar location, Juliette hopes that her fans too will follow her there. 

Chef Juliette has an interesting career. The South Florida resident, who has always been passionate about cooking, and especially barbecues – credits much of her knowledge and expertise to her father, who was a crucial part of family-owned Art’s BBQ back in the 1960s and 1970s. Her first experience came from learning to cook for her brothers, and it only went forward from there. She eventually quit her job 12 years ago to pursue the stand, which now enjoys immense popularity in the region.

Juliette’s main focus are the Caribbean and Southern cuisine, a love she developed from her travels in the US and Caribbean’s. She also happens to have an interesting collection of sauces, most of which are a family secret recipe.

At Leads Online Marketing, we have been long-time fans of Lickie Stickies BBQ, having got our first taste back when it used to be a tiny pop-up operating only on Friday and Saturday nights in the Tubby’s Liquors & Drive-Thru parking lot. It was instant love! The operation moved and expanded to the Tamarac Farmers Market every Saturday, and we were happy to be there when we could be. And the best thing is – even though it is now a massive BBQ pop-up AND restaurant, the good old taste is still the same. Enjoy!

Lickie Stickie BBQ on Facebook

Juneteenth – What Is It And Why It Is Important

An important observances in the United States is ‘Juneteenth.’ A portmanteau of the words ‘June’ and ‘Nineteenth,’ the day marks the oldest official nation-wide celebration of the end of slavery. To put it simply, this is the day when a Union General Gordon Granger came Texas and announced the end of the civil war and the freed status of the slave. This sparked a series of events that ultimately liberated thousands of people to be able to choose the lives they wanted to live. Juneteenth is a highly regarded event in the history of America, and more specifically the history of African Americans in the country.

The chain of events leading up to Juneteenth is quite the interesting one. In reality, the then President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on the 1st of January in 1863, which declared slavery illegal and emancipated all slaves. However, the news did not reach all parts of the country equally. While many of the northern states implemented the rule immediately, some in the south remained in the dark – which meant that over 250,000 enslaved persons remained to suffer in slavery over 2 years after it was formally abolished.

All of this began to unravel when Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston in Texas on 19th June 1865, and officially announced that slavery was in fact outlawed in all states – even the former confederate ones (like Texas). The Mayor of Galveston, however, refused to believe General Granger and continued to enforce slavery, instead falsely stating that the power to decide to free slaves rested in the hands of the plantation owners. While a major upheaval did ensure that wouldn’t happen, those who were emancipated were continued to be oppressed by other means such as being hanged or shot for made-up “charges” (like expecting fair treatment from their employers or being legally employed in the first place). Thus began a struggle to erase these unfair practices – one that continues even today.

Juneteenth is clearly in a crucial moment in the history of African Americans. Not to mention a lesson of its own when it comes to social justice. But it is more than that. Juneteenth marks the undying spirit of freedom, and the power of trying – even against the direst of circumstances. For instance, in the earlier days, several states refused to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, and Black communities were forced to celebrate it in secrecy. While these developments were not what anyone had in mind after being legally freed, it meant that people kept trying to push boundaries and make the best of what they had.

Today, Juneteenth is celebrated all over the United States, and sometimes also in other countries such as Mexico, which have their own personal connection to the event. With roots that run deep into our nations history, as well as the emotions evoked and relevance to this day, President Joe Biden has now made Juneteenth an official Federal Holiday. 

Top 7 Digital Marketing Trends to Follow In 2021

Ask anyone what the year 2020 meant to them, and you are bound to hear the words “unpredictable” or “unusual” in the description. And that is barely a surprise – as far as game-changers go, this year was admittedly the biggest. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we did everything – from education and work, to lifestyle and shopping, and beyond.

Digital marketing, of course, has been no exception to this. Not only did 2020 see most, if not all, of the predicted and anticipated trends go out the window, it led to companies and agencies to have to “pivot” in record time by changing their marketing strategies in record time. Online shopping going ultra-mainstream, social media browsing increasing manifold, working and studying-from-home becoming the new standard, and video conferencing becoming the go-to way to communicate led to a massive change in the dynamic s of interaction between brands and their customers.

While the pandemic continues to spread even in 2021, we are more prepared than before to figure out what the trends are as we proceed further into this year. Below are 7 key online marketing trends dominating thus far in 2021.

1. Influencers and Live Streams

The phenomena of using influencers to market products and services are nothing new. In fact, many companies today have dedicated influencer marketing divisions, and some are even known to base their entire operations on this. However, with people being isolated due to stay-at-home orders, and attending in-person events and socializing with family and friends going out of the question, people’s digital footprint ended up being bigger than ever before. Social media in general and live streams in particular have gathered immense popularity. This is mainly because of the fact that live streams offer a level of personal involvement that is closest to in-person interactions.

There has been a massive upward growth in the number of live-stream viewers as people are virtually up to see all kinds of things – be a live-stream of their favorite celebrity, a brand showcase or even an online class. With COVID-19 still not out of the picture, it is safe to say that this trend will indeed continue throughout this year – to say the least. Marketers, must therefore, make sure to tap into the benefits of this as long as it remains a top trend.

2. Brand Transparency

In an era big giant brands and companies have come under the fire for years of shady activities, people are now emphasizing on seeing transparency in the brands that they use. Simply offering the assurance of genuinty is not enough – brands need to go the extra mile to connect with their customers and show their authenticity.

Add to that the current turbulent times means that brands which aim to remain trustworthy and relevant will need to get creative and find new and novel ways to flourish. A great example in this regard is the #HotelsForHeroes campaign by Hilton, which offers free rooms and room services to medical workers. Such an act demonstrates how an otherwise niche luxury service can adapt to the needs of the people in an emergency situation.

3. User-generated-Content

In the recent years, the axis of marketing has shifted from being seller-centric to buyer-centric. These days, a superior customer experience is crucial for any brand to achieve success and profits. When it comes to customers, the top things they expect from a brand they like is personal connection, social proof and the assurance of having made a profitable purchase. User-generated content (UGC) is the one element that checks out in all of these departments.

Such content, which includes user testimonials, review photos and videos, and even unsponsored reviews on social media is touted gives brands the element of reliability, since they literally portray the customer point-of-view. UGC already has a history of helping brands establish a feeling of trust among their customers, and 2021 will see this trend continue to evolve.

4. Sustainability Will Thrive

Since the last few years, people in general have become more aware of the things they consume, and have begun to add more emphasis on the carbon footprint of the items they consume. Brands have been seen to respond to this need by tweaking their processes – from changing their packaging and systems to using recycled materials to make their products.

A trend that has evolved steadily over the years, and there is no reason for it to slow down during 2021. And to make sure that people know about their eco-friendly initiatives, companies need to invest in marketing to demonstrate their positively-changing values.

One of the best examples in this regard is The Ocean Cleanup, which recently unveiled their first product that was made fully from waste plastic collected during the Great Pacific Garbage Patch event. They explained the inner working of their brand using TINT, and further added that the revenue they would generate from the products they sell would circle back to fund their cleaning and conservation campaigns.

Inclusivity Will Be Important

Beyond the coronavirus, one of the biggest highlights of 2020 was the issue of inclusivity – or perhaps the lack of it. Taking a departure from the pandemic, movements such as Black Lives Matter are highlighting the hidden issues within the larger society.
According to a study, this awareness toward the issue of inclusivity is causing a shift in purchasing behavior. As many as 41% of shoppers left retailers that they felt did not reflect the ideas of diversity and identity, while 29% was willing to let go of brands that did not show any kind of inclusivity.

Developments resulting from such an identity-driven way of thinking are definitely going to stay. Any brand that can be vulnerable with its consumers, and can show them how authentically involved they are when it comes to matters of inclusivity shall thrive due to having created a between connection with their customers.

Visual and Voice Searching

The use of visual and voice-activated mediums such as Google Lens or Alexa has already been steadily growing since 2018. 2020, however, saw an explosion in the number of consumers turning to voice and visual based searches. The reason for this explosion could be many – people being stuck at home, being isolated and lacking opportunities for conversation, and even turning to the technology because it was easiest to use and readily available.

The one thing we know, however, is that this high number of alterative search users is not going down anytime soon. In fact, as of writing this article, every 1 out of 4 homes in the United States own at least one smart device of this kind.

With search mediums beyond text taking the center stage, marketers will need to seriously amp up their SEO strategy. Simply sticking to textual and on-page SEO will no longer bear the same results.

Compact Content

2020 saw a sharp rise in all kinds of home deliveries – from raw materials to smart devices to delivery of readymade food. But the trend didn’t just end there. Bite-sized, easy-to-consume media content like short podcasts, curated lists, and email newsletters saw an immense increase in popularity as well.

This is basically a behavioral shift within people – and one is will be here to stay. It will only be fair to assume that businesses which can create such type of content for their consumers shall stay ahead of the competition by creating a more personal and intimate connection with their consumers.

The unusual nature of 2020 essentially displaced the trends that were being anticipated – many trends never saw the light of day, while other new ones emerged. Yet, many of the current trends ended up being modified. All of this meant that brands had to get creative in marketing themselves – while maintaining the connection and the humanity quotient.

While 2021 so far seems to be somewhat stable-but-somber, one can only expect for the above-mentioned trends to continue as we move further into the year.

New Green Workplace Practices a Big Deal for Business Bottom Line

 In a world where issues like the economy, natural disasters, and the global pandemic reign as big concerns, being environmentally conscious doesn’t feature as top priority. That does not mean, however, that it is unimportant. In fact, what many companies fail to realize is that besides preserving the environment, having an eco-friendly workplace has a massive upside for the business bottom line – with both immediate and long-term benefits such as reduced spending and better quality of employee well-being. 

If you are among the many who have thus far not implemented green practices in your office, you may feel intimidated by the idea of starting out. Do not worry – a few small changes can go a long way to reduce your business’ carbon footprint by a mile.

Here we discuss various ways to implement eco-friendly practices at work that will benefit your company’s earning -both immediately and in the long run:

Consider going paperless

Using physical paper entails a chain of expenses – one that is definitely includes more than the cost of paper itself. Expenses include (but can definitely not be limited to) writing material like pens and pencils, buying and maintaining printers, purchasing ink cartridges, as well as the storage and space involved in keeping equipment as well as supplies. In fact, a study by Gartner says that companies tend to spend as much as 1 – 3% of their total annual revenue in printing-related expenses alone. 

There are many ways one can implement a paperless policy – or at least reduce using paper as much as possible. You can start by either removing or greatly restricting employee access to printers and printing supplies. The next step would be to replace as many printed documents with electronic versions. For instance, instead of putting up memos on the wall, you can email them to your employees. You can even use online signature systems instead of physical agreements. 

Measure Your Power Consumption

When it comes to becoming more eco-friendly, reducing your power consumption is one of the best ways to save both energy and money. And while switching off the lights when they are not in use is a fabulous start, there is so much more than you can do to implement a better green strategy. For starters, you can extend the lights-out policy to other facilties such as monitors, computers, televisions, chargers, and other appliances that are present in the office. 

Another effective way to cut back on power is by using renewable energy. For example, you can install solar-powered lights instead of conventional ones. If possible, you can also install solar batteries to power your office equipment and appliances. While these require a little investment in the early stages, it will pay off in both the short and long-term in terms of reduced costs and insurance benefits.

Promote Positive Change

Paper is not just used for documents and official purposes. Activities such as employees using Styrofoam or paper cups to drink coffee, or disposable food cartons are also big source of wastage. The best way to avoid this is to replace these with more sustainable options. This can include a range of equipment that includes (but is not limited to) cloth towel and napkins, multi-use coffee filters, water filters, and washable utensils.

It doesn’t have to be a cut-and-dry affair – you can include your employees in your initiatives. For instance, you can gift your employees reusable mugs and straws. You can also incentivize them for small acts such as brining their own tiffin boxes to work.

Why Your Law Firm Needs to Hire a Marketing Agency

In today’s day and age, relying on pamphlets, business cards and word-of-mouth to promote your business is simply not enough. Any business establishing a marketing strategy that ensures a steady flow of convertable leads needs a firm grasp of digital marketing tactics. This is even more applicable if you own and/or operate a law firm.

It is virtually impossible for legal professionals to get involved in building and executing marketing strategies first-hand, given the busyness of their schedules. That being said, it is also important for them to be able to consistently promote their businesses and services and have a steady flow of qualified leads. The answer? Hiring a marketing agency to address these needs.

Here are 6 ways in which a quality marketing agency can benefit lawyers and law firms:

It Will Help Bring Results:
Marketing agencies are devoted to one thing and one thing alone – to build your brand and to promote it in the best way. Through their years of practice and its resulting expertise, they know that while there are many ways to reach this goal, there are only a few that can get the job done keeping into consideration the time, budget and needs of the law firm. Agencies have the expertise required to employ the right strategy and tactics that can propel your firm to the level it deserves.

It Will Help Improve Your Website’s Design:
Back in the day, simply having a working website with basic details was enough. Today, however, a website needs much more than good looks and contact information. By far, the most important of these is having a responsive design. As more and more people are now using a variety of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, website designs need to be able to adapt to the size and dimension requirements of these devices. A marketing agency will always make sure that your website’s design is on point and remains that way.

It Will Help Your Business Rank Higher on Search Engines:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial aspect of any business trying to promote themselves online – and law firms are no exception to this rule. It is both a science and an art of optimizing your website in a way that it appears to naturally rank higher on search results. A marketing agency can fully justify this. They are fully aware of the various techniques that can be used to boost rankings, which will bring more visitors to your website – and eventually leads to your business.

It Will Help Create A Better User Experience:
Having a responsive design and SEO are undeniably great starters to having a high-functioning website, but the journey does not end there. While these can ensure that visitors get to your website, you need other elements that ensure that visitors stay there. This includes (but is not limited to) customer support systems, insightful blog content, automated messaging, and email systems.

It Will Help Build Credibility & Trust:
In order to be able to thrive as a law firm, your business needs to have a reputation of being credible and trustworthy. That can only happen when people know about your stellar performance when it comes to serving your customers. A marketing company fulfills this very gap. They know that simply bragging about your achievement won’t work – and that customers need to be able to connect before they opt to avail your services. Through their years of expertise and experience, they know to employ methods like referral programs, customer testimonials – both on the website and on third-party platforms such as Yelp.

It Will Help Keep Your Strategy Consistent:
If there is one thing about marketing, it is that most – if not all things keep changing with the times. SEO rules, social media algorithms or trends are never the same for a long period of time. What counts as a solid strategy at one point of time may be a redundant one not much later. A marketing company will prevent your business from hitting this wall by constantly staying on top of your firm’s marketing strategy and ensuring that it moves according to the current situation.

The End Of One Old Journey & New Beginnings With Google

 2021 has been an interesting year thus far. After the plethora of missed plans and stay-at-home orders courtesy the global coronavirus pandemic, and the volatility surrounding the presidential elections, the world is beginning to embrace its new normal. Google, too, is following suit – the technology super-giant is witnessing shifts in the company as some aspects of its operations are coming to an end while others are only beginning. Just as Google Payments chief Caesar Sengupta is bidding farewell from the company, Google itself is carrying on a large-scale expansion throughout the United States, which will inject more money into the economy, and of course, create thousands of new job opportunities.

Below, we shall dive into these changes in detail, and find out what they mean for the future of the company, and for the people themselves:

Caesar Sengupta exits Google Payments
In a news that has come as a shock to many – both within Google and beyond, Google Payments chief Caesar Sengupta has announced that he will be stepping down from his position on the 30th of April 2021 – after over 15 years of service to the company. The Singapore-based Sengupta explained in a LinkedIn post on how it was time for him to see if he could “ride without the training wheels” after having spent his time in Google’s highly innovative-yet-protective environment.

Throughout his tenure at Google, Sengupta has been a highly influential force and has brought forth key changes into the company. As part of his position as the vice-president and general manager of Google Payments, he has helped re-brand and launch the Google Pay app in the US, along with launching the app from scratch in several others, including Singapore and India. Google Pay is now one of the most popular platforms worldwide – boasting over 150 million users across 30 countries. He has also been known to be the key force behind several related initiatives which include (but is not limited to) the “Next Billion Users” and ChromeOS.

As of now, Sengupta is currently undecided on the kind of role he will be taking over going forward. Google too has not made any announcements thus far as to who will be taking over the reigns once Sengupta effectively steps down.

Google is Unveiling Its Big Expansion Plans
Google may be witnessing the end of an era with the resignation of Caesar Sengupta, but that is not stopping the tech giant from making further advancements to expand. As the workplace has been embracing a hybrid model of working (i.e., one which includes elements of both remote and in-office systems), the company is making a massive investment driving growth across the US.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently revealed in a company blog post that Google will be investing over $7 billion in an array of data centers and offices all over the country. He further explained that the main idea behind this move is to empower local communities and small-to-medium businesses, which can collectively drive a bigger and evenly distributed growth and help the US better in its path to economic recovery.

The move has 2 key takeaways – the first (and more obvious) one being the creation of new jobs. By investing from the basic level and giving small and local businesses more to work with, the company will help create thousands of new jobs, which means more employment and economic benefit for all. The chief executive has mentioned this as part of its post – adding how the move to invest will create “at least 10,000” new jobs.

The other takeaway clearly shows that the future of work is neither completely remote nor in-office, but rather a unique blend of the two. Google investing in offices in the first place proves that remote work shall not in fact be a one-and-done deal.

North Carolina’s New Engineering Hub
One of the expansion initiatives that are active right now is the one in North Carolina. Following the trend of tech companies moving away from the Silicon Valley, Google too is opening its own brand-new engineering hub in the Old North State. The hub’s main function will be to assist companies with cloud-based service-related requirements, which include remote collaboration and database management, among others.

The hub, which will call the city of Durham its home, will be specializing exclusively in Google Cloud Products and plans to become the top engineering hub for cloud services. The hub is currently in active recruitment mode and plans to employ at least 150 permanent employees within 2021 – a number that is slated to increase to 300 in 2022 and 500 in 2023. Their milestone is to have at least 1,000 employees working in the hub by 2023.

Google Antitrust Battle Expands as More States Join the Lawsuit
One of the biggest blows to Google in the last year has been the antitrust lawsuit filed against the company. Led by the state of Texas (which had originally filed it), the lawsuit was filed on the basis of governments witnessing the tech giant violating numerous federal antitrust laws to give its online advertising profits a major boost. Over the course of time, other states, too have joined the lawsuit.

In the recent months, Montana, Nevada, Alaska, and Florida have joined lawsuit. Furthermore, the territory of Puerto Rico has also joined the fight again the Alphabet company. Together, this brings the total number of states and territories joining the fight to 15.

Facebook, Google and the Australian Law that will Change the Concept of Paid Media

The relationship between tech firms and the news world over the years has been quite an interesting one. While tech firms freely share content from news organizations in the name of promoting journalism (while making profits), said news organizations have protested the practice, citing unfairness in standards when it comes to dealing with bargaining rules.

While this has, on various occasions led to clashes between the two entities – and sometimes even those involving the law itself, not much has been done to actually repair the issue. The closest development that has ever happened is the deal Facebook recently made with news outlets in the UK (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/dec/01/facebook-to-pay-uk-media-millions-to-licence-news-stories) which requires the former to pay a certain annual sum to the latter in exchange for featuring their content.

The Australian government, however, seems to be on a path to change all of that. In what is being considered a landmark move worldwide, their parliament has passed a major law that will now require global tech powers to pay for any news content they feature on their platforms.

Known formally as the ‘News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code,’ the law has been passed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after an 18-month period of discussion and deliberation. According to the ACCC, the passing of the law has been the need of the hour, given the severe lack of balance of power between the two entities.

Up until now, tech platforms have been taking away the larger portions of revenue earned from ad spend involving original news content. Essentially, around 53% of revenue from all ad spend goes to Google, while 28% goes to Facebook. This leaves a mere 19% for all other parties involved. Media companies have further argued that it is beyond unfair for the companies to profit in this way from news and analyses that they have painstakingly put together – and offer them the least cut when it comes to profits.
The new media law essentially turns this concept upside down. Based upon the initiative of allowing journalists and news outlets to earn the funding they deserve, the law makes it mandatory for global technology platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay the news organizations for their content.

The law essentially regulates this through a set bargaining code that allows both parties to come to an agreement within a particular framework. In the event that they cannot reach any agreement even with the framework in place, an arbiter will be brought in to determine the “final offer arbitration.”

Both tech platforms and media companies are expected to fully abide by the code. The law explicitly states that either party found breaching the code – even if it is “based on good faith,” shall be punished by a fine equivalent to $10m or 10% of the company’s annual turnover – depending on which is larger.

Unsurprisingly, technology companies have not taken the news well. Both Facebook and Google have cited the law as unfair and have threatened the Australian government with suspending users from sharing news content and eliminating the search option respectively. Google even went on to publicly launch a campaign against ACCC’s code, calling it a major factor behind “breaking search. The only entity that has so far supported the initiative has been Microsoft. Though not yet subject to the code, they have shown positivity for the same, and have openly claimed that they would be happy to comply.

With the law now passed, the next steps include the ACCC’s treasurer reviewing the workings of the code for the upcoming 12-month period. The main goal behind this is to see to it that the purpose of passing the law – to ensure that news organizations are rightfully remunerated for their content – remains a reality.
 

Small Business Website Essentials

Ever wondered why some businesses end up generating more sales and revenue – despite their size, while others continue with mediocrity – even when they offer top-notch services? The answer is the website. In today’s day and age, where going digital is not an option but a necessity, it is not enough for any business to simply have a website – they must see to it that their website is optimized the right way i.e. it ticks the right boxes to be the most accessible as possible to its customers. 
For small business, having a proper-functioning website is even more essential. Websites that do not utilize the best of optimization to offer a good customer experience end up losing out on revenue and potential customers without even knowing it. And yet, we often get to see poorly made sites that lack copy, have bad design, or even fail to feature basic information. 
In such circumstances, one might ask “What does a small business website need to succeed?”
Below we explore ten essentials that any small business website must have to offer their visitors a great experience thus earning their business. 

#1 – A Simple Domain Name

When it comes to websites, the domain name is a very important part of the brand. As a small business, you must remember that the best brands are the ones that stay in people’s memories. The best practice here is to default to your company name, along with a “.com” domain address, or a “.org” domain address in case your business is a non-profit organization. Secondly, make sure to avoid using punctuations (such as hyphen and underscore), numbers, or heaving stylizing. Doing so would only  make it difficult for potential visitors to remember.

#2 – A Good Hosting Platform

One of the worst nightmares for any business is to have their online information compromised by hackers. Not only does it lead to data loss and logistical issues, it also promotes untrustworthiness among your customers, who would then think twice before even considering visiting your website. It is therefore imperative that you use a hosting platform that is safe, secure, and can block cyber-attacks.

#3 – Simple Navigation

A successfully designed website is one where the visitor can easily navigate through its various pages without getting the feeling of being lost in a sea of content. While it may sound very obvious, many websites do fail to incorporate the basic elements needed to create a good user experience. 

Must-haves to create an intuitive design include adding and/or combining colors that are easy on the eye, making sure the navigation bar remains at the top of the page regardless of the position (which is also called a ‘sticky navbar’), seeing to it that the navbar has the links to reach every important page in a single click, and finally, ensuring that the company logo on the navbar takes the user to the homepage.

#4 – A Concise and Clear Introduction

No one wants to visit a company’s website to conduct investigations on who they are and what they do. It is only sensible for companies looking to gain traction to clearly state the company’s purpose and range of activities.

For starters, the website should clearly state the name of the company, along with bullet points of all the products and/or services they offer right on the homepage. This will allow visitors to decide if they need to go further at a glance. This should be followed by the ‘About’ page, which should give a little background on the company, explain their “why” and elaborate on the elements mentioned in the homepage.

#5 – Knowledge of SEO Basics

In times when almost everyone utilizes searches to find what they are looking for, you need to make sure that your company comes up on top of the list. In the world of search engines, this can be achieved through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Basically, this refers to the practice of designing your website and its content in a way that it gets indexed higher for searchers looking for a company like yours.  

SEO best practices change with time and include both on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO elements include using the key words in correct positions, adding backlinks, and using high-grade multimedia, such as videos, images, and interactive staging. Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is more about the coding of the website, and the naming of the URLs and page titles.

#6 – Links to Social Media Pages

When it comes to the web, there are many places where your potential customers can engage and interact with your brand. Social media is one of the best place for this. Make sure that your website visitors know that you are active on social media by adding links to popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also go a step further and add widgets to your website. These show a small preview of your social media posts, which shows your engagement in the community.

#7 – Quality Content

For any small website to add value, having good quality content is a must. When someone visits your website, they are looking for something. Through your content, you can give them exactly what they are looking for, and even give them a reason to come back for more.

There are many ways you can go about it. For starters, make sure that your core content (i.e. the copy on your homepage and about pages) are on point. Next, you can build a body of content by adding relevant and authentic blog posts that centre around your industry and expertise. Last but not the least, you can add the occasional “content bonuses” such as eBooks and interactive quizzes. Make sure to update your content regularly and utilize the right short and long-form keywords for SEO.

#8 – Testimonials and Customer Reviews

Having trust is key when it comes to establishing a relationship with your prospects. When your prospects see other customers describing their experience of working with you, it makes your products and services more tangible to them. Adding reviews and testimonials from customers helps them relate to those who have already been in their shoes, which in turn helps in building trust.

#9 – A Clear Call to Action

No matter how many features you have on your website, at the end of the day you are here to sell your products and/or services. It is, therefore, essential to include a ‘call to action.’ You must keep in mind that the attention span of visitors is of all but a few seconds, and subtly reminding them by inviting them to reach out is a great way to remind them.

This can be done in many ways – by adding messages to reach out for a free quote, adding products to their shopping cart, signing up for exclusive offers, and even participating in seasonal sales. Make sure to highlight your suggestions by highlighting the texts or using special buttons or even animation.

#10 – Contact Information

Clearly stating your contact information on your website is an absolute must. Not only will they help your customer get the information to reach you, it will also help you rank higher for local SEO. Besides the dedicated contact page, you must feature your business’ address, phone and fax numbers, and email on every page. Make sure to add the email and phone number on top of the sticky nav-bar as well. 

 

Apple vs. Facebook: The Privacy Policy Debate

Privacy is a tricky subject when it comes to navigating the digital world. On one hand, we want and appreciate getting personalized recommendations on our favorite streaming platform or shopping app. On the flip side, we are unable to show the exact appreciation for the ways through which companies procure this result. While we do understand that personalization requires being transparent with our information, the prospect of having our very personal data out there for companies who can use them with little recourse can be intimidating. 

Companies aren’t all that far away from the conflict either. Let’s take the case of Apple, a company that has long since helmed itself as the defender of users’ privacy. The tech giant’s CEO Tim Cook recently announced the company’s new privacy policy at the Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference in January 2021. Basically, the new policy will be enforced with the next Apple software update and will allow users to exercise full control over the companies that they allow to share their data with. Unlike other versions, however, this will be a mandatory requirement in the new updates.

This essentially puts an end to the woe of the “one-and-done” system of all apps having access to the same data and eliminates the need for any third-party apps to be transparent with their policies. Simply put, users will no longer need to worry about apps changing their policies.  

While this may seem like a breath of fresh air to users, other tech companies are not happy with this development. Leading the charge is Facebook, another tech giant that has long since helmed itself as the defender of medium and small businesses. Their app has been known to depend quite heavily on personalized advertising customers, much of which is admittedly dedicated to highlighting small and medium-sized businesses that utilize paid ads. And if Facebook’s 4th quarter earnings report for 2020 (https://investor.fb.com/investor-news/press-release-details/2021/Facebook-Reports-Fourth-Quarter-and-Full-Year-2020-Results/default.aspx) is anything to go by, it is evidently clear that that they have a lot of revenue to earn as well.

Apple’s new policy, however, puts an end to all of that. When the user has the power to block apps from reading any data at all, platforms like Facebook cannot offer the same (or any) level of personalized experiences. Given as this prevents them from also representing said businesses on the same level means that the revenue stream will soon see a significant drop, which is never good news.

Facebook has not been shy to speak on the matter in public, putting in perspective the future plight of businesses, who will see a considerable decline in reach courtesy the new Apple privacy policy. Small businesses, who largely depend on these ads for exposure, will bear the biggest brunt of all.

Not only has Facebook issued their official statement on the matter on their own platform, they have also proceeded to print ads on leading daily newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Their aim behind it all is to show Apple that while the move may be coming from a good place, the effects might actually have the cons outweigh the pros.

While the exact date of these updates are yet to be announced, it is expected that they will roll out by the middle of 2021 at most. What happens to apps, and the companies and businesses behind them is something that we can only truly understand once it happens.