Independence From Smartphones

As an electronics laggard, I just bought my first smartphone a little over three months ago. The world has become so much more accessible since becoming a part of the iPhone family. I know the weather, find out how my friends are doing, go shopping, text, and more all before getting out of bed in the morning. However, over the Fourth of July holiday, I went “Up North” to Hale, Mich. for five days. While you are suppose to enjoy nature and get away from society for a few days when on vacation, I found myself constantly checking up with everything I left behind because Grandma and Grandpa Conrad decided to get WiFi. For the first time since getting my smartphone, I wished that I left it at home.

Photo Credit: Mike Licht Via: Flickr Creative Commons

Is my smartphone taking over my life? It has been reported that smartphone owners check their devices over 150 times during the average 16 hours people are awake during the day. This constant need to check on what everyone else is doing, posting and saying distracted me from enjoying the beautiful lake house I was staying in. Apparently, 84% of people worldwide say they cannot go a single day without their phones and sadly I have become part of this statistic.

My questions is, why couldn’t I put my phone down or turn it off? According to Judson Brewer of Yale’s Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, people are addicted to their phones for the same reason many are addicted to gambling. Cellular Devices comply with the associative learning pathway of human brains, and this makes us feel good or bad depending on the situation. When gambling, people do not know when they are going to win and this makes winning even more fun when it happens. When using smartphones, we don’t know when we are going to get a notification or what it is going to say. This triggers excitement within us, causing addiction to our devices.

I love having a smartphone because it connects me with the rest of society. Entertainment and information combined make having a smartphone so convenient and enjoyable. However, the addiction we have with our smartphones need to be controlled. Next year, I plan on leaving my phone at home while I enjoy what the physical world has to offer.

What is Augmented Reality?

Is there such a thing as “too much” technology? A piece of technology that is getting stronger in the market is augmented reality. Some people describe this technology as “futuristic” and “mind-blowing”. In the next few years we might see a trend among the new digital marketing services. I am curious to hear what you think of it. Let’s start by defining the meaning of augmented reality.

According to Mashable: “Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”. This emerging technology has tapped into professional sports and most recently it will be helping us complete tasks that we might be clueless.

by turkletom

by turkletom

Imagine if your sport ticket could provide you with a lot more information besides where you are sitting. In India, cricket fans can activate this technology using their tickets and they are able to receive live traffic updates around the stadium, parking information and much more.

In Italy, a tech firm Inglobe Technologies launched an app using augmented reality, giving you the perfect skills of a mechanic to fix your car. Depending on the seriousness of the issue you might be able to fix the care on your own with the help of this ingenious app. From what we have seen in the news, this emerging technology is embracing the convenience and practical aspects people might be looking for. Augment reality is becoming the new problem solving technology in the next few years.

I do believe that this technology could be the game changer in the digital business and very soon different businesses will be tapping into them to interact and engage their customers on a whole different level.

What about you? Where would you like to see augmented reality being used? Do you think people will welcome this emerging technology positively? Comment on this post below with your opinion.

 

Building Your Customer Network

Business action and conduct are purposive: to solve problems (customer problems) and provide services, of course in a profitable way.  The sense of mystery regarding the future has always been a bother and slight annoyance for everyone, especially businesses.  Nobody knows if customers will suddenly drop in the near future or if the economy will suddenly go into recession.  Now with the existence of digital communications (content, media, behavior, and expectations), digital marketing has been created.  People now use multiple devices (all digital) such as smartphones, PCs, tablets, mp3, etc. to communicate contents such as apps, files, photos, music, and videos.  People are pursuing a digital lifestyle these days, thus businesses can tap into the psychology of their clients through digital marketing.  The future can be predicted due to the ability of tracking consumer-making decisions.  Due to this growth of a digital lifestyle, people leave behind their digital footprint that businesses follow to track and predict their behavior.  In order to track statistics related to consumer behavior, there must be a relationship between customers and businesses.  Through digital marketing, not only does a relationship form, but so does an interdependency between enterprise and consumer develop.  Marketers must study the customer decision journey, which has become increasingly digital.  Once businesses can see how consumers include certain brands and ditch others, they can adjust their company’s image to the liking of their customers.

Photo by thetaxhaven: thetaxhaven.posterous.com

The relationship between a business and its customer is no longer solely about the transaction; now customers become attached to their favorite brands and they try to advocate for them because they know there will be something in it for them ultimately.  When customers develop emotional and rational attachments to a brand, they become bonded and advocate, support, and protect that brand.  They know that they can score special deals, free offers, and even money for promoting their favorite brand.  They are also aware that if they keep their brands going then prices will be kept low.  Companies are obviously dependent on their clients, so they try very hard to keep their customers and to constantly attract more people who are similar to their steadfast clients.  There is most definitely a correlation between customer behavior and digital marketing efforts such as fantastic websites, personalized email campaigns, visually appealing graphics, social networking, photos/videos that give outsiders an inside look on what goes on behind the scenes.  The more energy businesses put into digital marketing, the more consumers will get excited and respond to the attention.

You should interview, say, at least 30 of your clients and find out how they feel about your company and it’s services.  Customers want to help you improve so that the products they receive from you are better.  Discover the fallacies about your company from your clients and others and then try to correct them.

Accumulate publicly attainable data on search activity of your company’s field and traffic patterns.  Use standard Google Analytics, Universal Analytics, Crazy Egg, Lyris HQ Agency Edition, WebTrends, SiteCatalyst.  You should track the number of people who use your site, comparing the number of visitors on each page, the number of visits by different users to see whether the same people keep returning to your site or if lots of people only visit once or twice.  It is also important to track your visitors with factors such as the country, state, city they’re from and what pages they look at while visiting your site.  Discover the keywords or phrases people typed into search engines like Google or Mozilla Firefox.  If that doesn’t give you enough information, buy additional data.

Ultimately, brands must find where their customers have discussions in order to learn what they think of the brand’s products.  Answer your customers’ questions and help them get what they need.  Listen to their suggestions and adjust accordingly in order to gain more advocates of your brand.

-Ariana Sauber

 

Politics of the Future: Digital and Social Media

What if President Obama held press conferences not in the White House, but on Google Hangout? What if he answered questions asked by the American people, rather than the news correspondents? Earlier this month India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram did just that. The minister participated in a live video conference that lasted hour, but the conference sparked conversations that lasted quite longer (e.g. #askthefm).

“People have been calling this era of computers, the Internet, and telecommunications the ‘information age’ … What we’re really in now is the empowerment age…This power is shifting…to a new paradigm of power that is democratically distributed and shared by all of us.” – Joe Trippi, author of Revolution Will Not be Televised

President Obama's current Facebook banner.

President Obama’s current Facebook banner.

Today everyone and everything is going social. Barack Obama and Fançois Hollande are on Facebook, and even The White House, the WTO, and the United Nations tweet.Digital media has become a new form of infrastructure. The United Kingdom offers virtual tours of Parliament buildings. The EU website has an Audiovisual Newsroom. Online presence is a public expectation.

The virtual world has a very real influence.The last two years proved digital and social media’s power to mobilize entire nations (i.e. revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria). Minister Chidambaram’s conference is further evidence of a growing desire to not only pay attention to the man (or woman) behind the curtain, but to eliminate the curtain altogether.

 

LEDs For Retail Lighting

Lighting makes a big difference to your customers and to how well your products are displayed, and every good retailer knows that things are more likely to sell if they’re well-displayed. LED accent lighting is a smart choice for displaying your product.

LED accent lighting is cost-effective; it may have a larger initial cost, but it will pay for itself. Other lightbulbs output most of their energy as heat; up to 90% for conventional bulbs, and 80% for CFLs. LEDs remain much cooler and are more efficient; most of the energy output of an LED is light instead of heat. Because LEDs use much less energy and are more energy-efficient, you will also see a savings on your energy bills.

LED accent lighting also retains its efficiency at a wide range of temperatures, making it ideal for use in freezer case displays and outdoors. And because they are dimmable and more controllable than fluorescent lighting, you can set them on timers and sensors that activate when a customer walks by, saving energy and creating an ambience. LEDs also are much cooler than halogen or fluorescent bulbs, avoiding problems if your customer happens to come in contact with the bulb itself when reaching for a product.

LED accent lighting is more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient than traditional fluorescent lighting, and emits a more pleasing, “purer” light, which makes your products and displays look better to your customers.

My kind of birthday town, Ann Arbor is

“How many birthday deals can you get in one day?” That was the question that drove the creation of the Ann Arbor Birthday Deals video I had the opportunity to work on. The piece is posted to TheDigitalBus.com, the blog run by Ingenex Digital Marketing.

The premise: Derek Mehraban, the Ingenex Digital Marketing CEO, celebrated his 40th birthday in August with the entire Ingenex team. Everyone piled into The Digital Bus — a fully-restored 1972 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper — in search of free birthday offerings. A number of Ann Arbor businesses provided complementary food and gifts — birthday candles, ice cream, truffles, cupcakes, ice tea, etc.

Erin O’Neill, content producer at Ingenex, drove the project. She shot the video and developed the concept. She said she wanted something “madcap” when she gave me the raw footage to edit. Drawing inspiration from reruns of “The Monkees” and Buster Keaton films, my touches included speeding up the action, creating humorous titles, and adding light uptempo music. Both Erin and Derek offered tremendous input during the editing process.

Working on projects such as this affirms my love for digital media and digital marketing. I find digital technology streamlines the creative process. Erin captured the footage on a small digital video camera and I edited it on my laptop using Final Cut Pro software. Digital also provides a mass outlet where others can provide immediate feedback. Various versions were uploaded to YouTube so the Ingenex team could offer input, and the finished piece was promoted through social media.

The video also serves as a showcase for Ann Arbor and its various businesses. The city is a great place to live and work and that comes across in the piece. Thank you to the following companies that were visited during the birthday outing: Ben & Jerry’s, Bubble Island, Cake Nouveau, Circumference, Cupcake Station, FOUND, Northside Grill, RoosRoast, Schakolad, and TeaHaus.

For a complete list of “A2” birthday deals, go to: http://arborwiki.org/Birthday_Deals.

Me and my laptop, strolling down the avenue

I like my laptop. I mean, I REALLY like my laptop. I was recently asked what is the one thing I couldn’t live without and I said, yes, “My laptop.” I wasn’t entirely kidding. I rely on it quite a bit in addition to things like, oh, food, water, oxygen, shelter, and clothing.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

It’s hard to believe I didn’t own a laptop until about five years ago. “Are you crazy?” a friend asked me in my pre-laptop days. “Why don’t you have one? You seriously need one! It’s awesome!” I didn’t understand what she meant then, but I do now.

My laptop is my “all in one” device. I use it for practically everything related to creating and consuming media — Internet browsing, sending/receiving
e-mail, writing copy, editing video, watching DVDs, listening to music, etc.

Then, there’s the portability. I use my laptop at the digital marketing firm where I work, at home, the library, the coffee shop, etc. The fact that I can take it wherever aids in productivity — a change in location will usually reinvigorate me if I’m working on a project and I start to lose focus.

My first laptop was a Dell. I used it for a few years before buying a MacBook Pro. It was a huge upgrade! The difference is in the hardware — the screen is much clearer and brighter, the speakers are superior, the trackpad is easier to maneuver, there’s a built in memory card slot, etc. I’ve always liked Apple products, but I have so much more regard for them now.

It’s interesting how we form attachments to products. I take note when Apple introduces new merchandise and people wait outside the company’s stores for days to buy it. I can’t see myself doing that, but I do have some understanding why the company inspires such loyalty and even fanaticism. I spend so much time on my laptop doing so many different things that it’s hard not to feel at least some connection to both Apple products and the Apple brand.

Social Media, Politics, and You

Many researchers and journalists, such as Matthew Fraser and David Carr, believe that social media was the factor that pushed President Obama past John McCain in the 2008 election. But this presidential election is a little bit different: social media has been around longer, everyone is more used to it, and more people are using it.  So how exactly has social media changed the game of politics and the 2012 presidential election?

Must Have a Presence
Candidates, local and national, have to have a social media presence in order to win an election. This is how today’s society connects with each other, and is the easiest and most effective way for a candidate to build a relationship with voters. Right now Romney and Obama are both using Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and blogs to connect with the public.

Long Term Memory
Not only will comments made by the candidates through social networks never really disappear from the Internet, every comment they make through any medium, good or bad, will never completely go away. They will always be able to be found through social media; the Internet never forgets.

Instantaneous Reactions
Also, because of our ability to tweet, retweet, share, and post content all over social networks, everything moves much faster. Campaigns can respond to negative advertisements and comments made by opposition immediately through their networks. On the other side of that, if a candidate or someone within their party makes an offensive comment that can also go viral in a matter of moments.

As the campaign has already shown social media can both help and hinder candidates. Who do you think is winning the digital campaign?

Row, row, row your show, gently down the stream

Online video streaming is pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say?

I now stream most of my entertainment online which is why I haven’t been inside a video store in years. A trip to the video store used to be such a routine part of enjoying TV shows and movies. Now, the concept almost seems archaic – driving to the store, browsing the shelves, waiting in line to check out a DVD, having to return a film to the same location, etc. And don’t forget late fees! Oh, those late fees!

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

What had been a successful business model for years began to erode once the concept of online streaming caught on with the public and the amount of available content became extensive. Blockbuster, once the nation’s dominant provider of home video and video game rental services, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. My independent neighborhood video store closed long before that.

I’ve been a Netflix member for a few years now, and I subscribe to their streaming service. I’m fond of documentary programming and they have an extensive selection of shows from National Geographic, Discovery, and History Channel. I’ve also watched several cable TV shows via streaming – “Mad Men,” “Weeds,” “Louie,” etc.

It’s been interesting to observe Netflix’s business model change as a result of streaming. When I first joined, the company primarily handled DVD rentals. Their streaming selection was limited and it was included as a bonus to members. Now, their offerings are vast and feature many newly released mainstream movies. The service now holds real value, and so I can understand why Netflix recently began offering streaming as a separate service.

And then there’s YouTube. I admit that I’ve enjoyed all the top viral videos along with what seems like the rest of the general viewing public – “Chocolate Rain,” “Friday,” “Charlie Bit My Finger,” etc. I’m amazed that a family video of one brother biting another brother can be viewed 484 million times!

I love the controlled chaos of YouTube. It’s like decades of pop culture exploded and landed on the site. YouTube satisfies whatever random thing happens to enter my head at any given time on any given day – a favorite scene from a movie, a song I enjoyed when I was a teen. It’s rare that I can’t find something.

Again, streaming comes down to convenience and accessibility, concepts the digital marketing agency knows well. If the mantra of today’s consumer of news and entertainment is “I want what I want when I want it,” then providers like Netflix and YouTube are happy to oblige.

Social Media Makes Customer Service Better

Something I found out firsthand this past week is confirmed by a press release last week via Garntner, a British technology research firm. Companies that don’t use social media to connect their customer base is the modern-day equivalent of ignoring customers’ phone calls!

 

 

“The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

This issue will matter more to businesses the more widely-adopted social media and internet marketing becomes, as it is an fast, flexible way of reaching out to customers with concerns and advertising products.

The reason behind this? Businesses are more successful when they reach out to their customers in the channel they would like to be reached in, and more and more people are choosing to use social media for much more than talking to friends. Take, for instance, a company like Comcast. After a frustrating round of phone calls when my Internet was just about (it was really slow!) down, I decided to reach out through their customer service twitter, @ComcastCares. It was very friendly and fast, and got my issue taken care of roughly two days before the customer support phone number told me it would, and it was certainly a good demonstrator of the power of a good social media agency.