A Taste of Ann Arbor- The Beginning

As Eco- Friendly Interns at Ingenex Digital Marketing, Lauren Weingartz and I have grown accustomed to writing press releases, coming up with headlines, and scouring the web for templates and how-to guides. But this week we have been given the opportunity to embark on a new kind of adventure. An adventure far from the likes of Adwords and Google how-tos. Every Tuesday we will be walking around Ann Arbor and exploring the wonderful world of Ann Arbor restaurants, eateries, diners and bistros and then blogging about our experience. Service, atmosphere and “melt-in-your-mouth” food quality will all be up for discussion. So grab your sunglasses and umbrella – this IS Michigan- and join us on our latest dining excursion.

Google = World Cup Fan 2010

In the 1930’s it was decided that “football”, or soccer as it is called in America, would be dropped from the summer Olympics that were going to be held in Los Angeles. The committee sited the sport’s lack of popularity in America as it’s reason for dropping the sport. After the decision was made Jules Rimet, the Federation Internationale de Football Association president, began organizing a football tournament of his own. Years later the tournament grew from one with 13 teams, to one which currently boast 32 competitive teams.

The sport has grown increasingly popular in nations around the country. And with another World Cup about to begin in South Africa, it is no wonder that the world has already started to prepare. While avid fans proudly display their team’s colors, and flags for each country are placed for passersby to see; one much more subtle preparation has occurred. When searching “World Cup” on Google people will find that the site has actually changed it’s display name at the bottom of the search page to read as “Goooooal”.

One journalist named Stan Schroeder commented that he can’t help but wonder, with the option to create custom Google pages, if Google is slowly losing it’s brand identity. Or is it possible that the name has become so synonymous with search engines that the changes won’t make a difference in Google’s brand recognition at all?

It brings up the question of how much freedom websites should provide their users, when it comes to customizing their personal pages. Does it hurt companies to allow users to tweet their image? Or does it help the company’s reputation in some way? Only time will tell. But one thing that I think most can agree on is that before customization occurs, companies need to establish a strong brand identity. And with the technology wave moving us into the future, websites are one of the best ways to establish that brand image.

A2 Fiber YouTube Contest for a Cause

If you enjoy making videos, uploading content to YouTube, or if you just have an interest in Ann Arbor then check out the A2 Fiber YouTube Contest being presented by LA2M. The contest is in support of A2 Fiber, the city of Ann Arbor’s initiative to be one of the few cities Google selects as pilot communities for its Google Fiber project. The contest kicks off tomorrow, Saint Patrick’s Day at 11:30 at Weber’s Ann Arbor. An Irish lunch buffet will be served and you will also have a chance to say why you think Google should choose Ann Arbor to receive a Google fiber-optic network. Winners of the contest have a chance to win a multitude of prizes including a Weber’s Ann Arbor Hotel and Dinner Package, gift certificates to Conor O’Neill’s, or even a chance to win an Apple iPad.

On February 10, Google announced that it plans to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of communities across the country. These lines will stream data at 1 gigabit per second, about 100 times faster than most Americans get through their current cable and DSL providers. If Ann Arbor is picked as one of these communities it would be a major asset to the community. Not only would it improve the lives of residents but it would also lure high-tech companies to relocate to Ann Arbor.

LA2M is Lunch Ann Arbor Marketing. LA2M is open to client and agency side marketing professionals, and anyone else who wants to learn about marketing. It’s a chance to exchange ideas and get to know other professionals during lunch in a relaxed and friendly environment. They are known for giving free advice to businesses that attend our meetings. There is no membership fee. It was started in 2008 by Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing, an internet marketing firm in the Ann Arbor area, and a few friends.

For more information about the A2 Fiber YouTube Contest visit the contest’s website at http://www.la2m.org/a2fiber or check out the contest’s rules.

Tweeting for a Cause

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As the main focus of my eco-friendly internship I am assisting with and updating the  social media accounts for United Way of Washtenaw County.  As an intern with Ingenex, I am currently focusing on the Twitter and facebook accounts for this excellent cause.  United Way, as a whole, has roots dating back to 1887 and has been assisting with community needs by helping to cope with challenges throughout the Great Depression and World War II.  The organization has had several different names over the years, but has maintained the goal of building communities and motivating people to help others.

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United Way of Washtenaw County began around 1920 when the Arbor United Charitable and Community Service was organized.  For over 89 years UWWC has worked to improve community standards collectively by directly impacting critical issues.  UWWC partners strategically with local non-profits that provide human and health-care services in order to actively assist with high-priority issues in the community.  UWWC re-evaluates each of its partner non-profits with each years campaign to ensure that they are on topic, financially stable, and reporting benefits to the Washtenaw community through their efforts.  To see this years community partners for United Way Washtenaw visit their website.

Each Year United Way launches an active campaign around Labor Day, incorporating local employers and over 1,000 volunteers, which runs through the end of December and .  United way accepts donations year-round, but the largest concentration of promotional efforts to improve the lives of everyone in the community is during these annual campaigns .  This years campaign for UWWC focuses on on improving five critical issues for Washtenaw County:  shelter and housing, health-care, early childhood care and education, alleviating hunger and aging in place.  The campaign slogan is Give, Advocate, Volunteer.  Live United.

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If you are interested in volunteering, donating, or just learning more about what United Way Washtenaw does visit them on Twitter, facebook, and their website!  Live United!

Google Wave: Open the Floodgates

Google Wave launched a week ago. Yes, you might be upset because you didn’t get an invite, but that’s no reason to boycott it. Courtesy of Mashable, I’ve summarized some of the most important aspects of this redefining Web tool:

According to Mashable, “Google Wave is a real-time communication platform.” It’s real-time, so you can witness what other people are typing, character-by-character. Waves can be added to any blog or Web site and be edited by anyone else (wiki). Developers can build apps. in Google Wave; users can playback what’s been said in the past and can drag-and-drop files for sharing. These are just some features associated with Google Wave.

So, what exactly is a wave? “A wave, specifically, refers to a specific threaded conversation. It can include just one person, or it can include a group of users or even robots…Anything you’ve ever discussed in a single chat or conversation is a wave.” Within waves are wavelets, threaded conversations that contain blips, which are the single, individual messages. Blips are like lines in a IM conversation. It is also possible to post documents, extensions, gadgets…pretty much anything that can be shared.

Inside waves, you can share gadgets. For instance, any application already created in iGoogle or OpenSocial can be run within Google Wave. What’s nice is that applications are specific to waves, not individual users. In Facebook, you have to register for that specific app. to use it; in Google Wave, it belongs to everyone in that wave.

Robots are the other wave extensions. However, they’re more robust than the past annoying robots. “They can talk with users and interact with waves. They can provide information from outside sources (i.e. Twitter) or they can check content within a wave and perform actions based on them (i.e. provide you a stock quote if a stock name is mentioned).”

You can even embed a Google Wave conversation and use it as chat room, as a way for visitors to contact you, or something more.

Google Wave is still in its early phases, but soon it will be avaliable for all of us to enjoy and connect with.Brian Vandeputte

Using technology to stay connected

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So I’m writing this post nearly 4000 miles away from a little city in Spain called Granada. These days, one doesn’t have to be at home to stay close to the events of the week or even to work. With modern technology, specifically social networks, I am able to not only sufficiently complete my work remotely abroad from Spain, but I am able to stay up to date with my social circle and inform my family of my doings and whereabouts. Here are some of the tools I use and how I use them while traveling and working abroad…

Twitter: Without a doubt my favorite and most efficient tool. In the past, I kept a log of my travels via a blog, but it turned into a narrative of cathedrals and bars. I think the best parts of traveling are the little things you encounter, the things you don’t really remember to put in your blog. By connecting Twitter to my mobile phone, I can let my family and friends live my travels as they happen in real time simply by tweeting my experiences for the entire world to see. I did however run into a bit of trouble though when I promised my family I would tweet that I was safe as soon as I was done running with the bulls. My phone ran out of euros and I wasn’t able to let anyone know I was safe, chaos ensued and my parents and girlfriend started calling hospitals in Pamplona and everyone thought I had died. Have no fear I’m still here and am NOT writing this post from 6 feet under.

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Skype: In my opinion, this is the best video chat application on the market. Not only can you chat for free Skype to Skype, but for mere fractions of a penny I can call anyone in the world. Skype has given me the ability to stay close with my family and friends without costing me a dime. As a messaging utility, Skype is fast, robust, and lightweight. Skype also allows me to have the ability to SMS anyone in the world for some outrageously cheap rates. Another amazing snippet about Skype, they have opened their communication protocol for others to use. In laymen’s terms, other software engineers can integrate Skype’s VOIP technology to offer even more incredible features in the future.

Wikitravel: This is without a doubt my favorite website for traveling. Everyone loves Wikipedia, but Wikitravel takes it a step further and specializes the information strictly for traveling. Don’t k

now where to go for the weekend? Simply hop on Wikitravel and start surfing until you find that hidden little gem nestled deep in the woods or on a beach miles from civilization.

Facebook: This is an obvious one. One of the depressing parts of traveling is not knowing what is going on at home. Facebook’s mini-feed does an incredible job of making me feel like I am still sitting on my couch in East Lansing. Through traveling, I try and friend nearly everyone I meet. I have established my network around the world which I will be able to rely upon in the future. Too often people limit themselves to a close social network, my intention is to establish small networks all over the world and leverage them all as one. The possibilities are simply endless, upon my return next year I will have friends in just about every country imaginable.

Kindle: Way of the Future or Death of the Past?

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Or Both.  For those of you unfamiliar with the latest foray into digital reading devices, Amazon has provided us with the Kindle DX.  The major difference being the larger screen it offers from its predecessors.  The finer details, however, being, according to Amazon (because who can say it better, right?):

“At Amazon, we’ve always been obsessed with having every book ever printed, and we know that even the best reading device would be useless without a massive selection of books you want to read. Today, the Kindle Store has more than 275,000 books available, plus top newspapers, magazines, and blogs. This is just the beginning. Our vision is every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds. We won’t stop until we get there.

Whether you prefer biographies, classics, investment guides, thrillers, or sci-fi, thousands of your favorite books are available, including 107 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times® Best Seller list. New York Times Best Sellers and most new releases are $9.99, and you’ll find many books for less.”

Now, on the surface of things, you may ask yourself, what in that description warrants such a doomsday title to this blog entry?  Well, hold on a sec, first let’s look at the good that it brings.  For starters, everything previously mentioned – books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs on-demand and at your fingertips.  You can carry an entire library in your bag, purse, or briefcase.  Not to mention, it has 3G Wireless, text-to-speech (in other words, it reads to you), and supports PDF.  Beneath the surface, there’s the Eco-Friendly benefits, as well.  The first thing that comes to mind, while simple, is it saves trees.  No more paper, no more chopping down trees, right?  Environment – 1, End of the World – 0 in that regard.  It also decreases pollution caused by the production of books, magazines, and newspapers, and eliminates the damage done to the environment throughout the distribution channels, mainly the carbon footprint left by shipping.  All in all it sounds like a pretty great product…but wait…

There has to be something wrong with it.  Well, let’s start with the hefty price tag.  The original Kindle 2.0 can be had for $359, with the Kindle DX being available for pre-order at $489.  But in the end, the price is only a barrier to entry for those that can’t afford it…like interns or college students.  So say you can afford it, is that the only drawback? No, for starters, when a date comes over, you can’t leave random copies of classic novels and famous treatises lying around to impress them if they’re all on your Kindle.  You could also lose it and there goes your library in one fell swoop.  However, most importantly, what about the demise of the publishing industry as we know it? If everything becomes digital, then what’s the point of actual newspapers, books, or magazines?  If more and more people are simply downloading their reading material, then the printed word will cease to exist because 1) advertisers don’t want to advertise in a medium that doesn’t reach anyone, 2) there’s no point in printing them if no one is buying them.

For some of us, that’s just not something we want to see.  What about curling up with nice, big hardcover novel on a cold winter’s night?  Or bending the hell out of a paperback on the train home from work?  What about spreading the Sunday newspaper out in front of you at the kitchen table while sipping a cup of hot coffee?  Or rolling up last week’s edition of Entertainment Weekly or the Economist to kill a pesky fly (or shoo it out the window for you bug activists)?  Heck, some people will even miss the ink stains that begin on your fingers and somehow end up on your face, furniture, and clothes when reading the New York Times.  The point being, that innovation often spells the demise of something in favor of another.  Horse-n-buggy? Automobile.  VCR? DVD.  Knowing stuff? Google.

In the end, though, it’s all up to the Invisible Hand…of the Almighty?  No, of Adam Smith.  In other words, it’s up to all of you.  If enough consumers want it, then the Kindle will thrive.  If everyone wants it, then the Kindle and other products like it will replace our ink and paper past.  However, hopefully the Kindle becomes what it should be, a way to get people to read again and read more.  Not a replacement for books or newspapers, but a bridge between nothing and something…a complement to one’s library and subscriptions as a convenient way to read while traveling or commuting or a way get a book right away rather than having to drive to the bookstore or wait days for your Amazon order to arrive.

For someone who considers themselves a traditionalist, your humble blogger here sees the Kindle as a hopeful good-natured cousin to the printed word that will peacefully coexist and grow the world of literature rather than destroy it.  Always a fan of new gadgets, as long I can have my cake (the traditional book, magazine, and newspaper) and eat it too (the Kindle), I won’t complain.  And finally, a note to Amazon: If you would like to send the Eco-Friendly Interns a Kindle or two to test for ourselves, this blog entry can easily be edited to remove any and all elements deemed to cast the Kindle in a negative light.  Thank you.


Some Tips on Email Marketing Campaign

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How about an email marketing campaign?
In a world where customers are continuously bombarded by communications a company shall find the best way to catch their attention and let them listen to their messages. In such a setting who is more likely to be the winner is an organization with real interests to share and a smart way to do it.
An Email Marketing Campaign could be one solution to do that. If cleverly planned this instrument could commit a company’s public to its activities and highly improve its image.
You just need three things in order to start with it:
–    Contacts: they might be interested in receiving your news, it thus takes a long preliminary job in order to build relationships with customers and partners.
–    Good contents: you will have to draw your public attention and keep on doing it with captivating and appealing news.  Before starting with your campaign assure you have enough subjects to talk about for the very first period.
–    An email service provider to do it: at least you have to manage just a few contacts you can organize in a mailing list by your own, you will need a program created specially for this purpose. Let’s see how I managed it.
Searching the Web you will find many email service providers created to implement, send, track, and manage your email campaigns. I found out that some of the leaders in email marketing solutions are Vertical Response, Emma, iContact, and AWeber. Reading reviews and trying these four services I learned their commonalties and their differences and I came up with the best solution for me. They are all good in reaching the contacts and allow to import your contacts from an external database, which is really time-saving. Stats, an important tool in order to check the effectiveness of you campaign, are available also for the whole of them.
iContact is very good and affordable if you have a quite small database, as the cost considerably grows up with the increasing of the subscribers. With its more than 300 templates and the possibility for you to design your own, it is the best choice for those companies who will focus their email campaign more on the impact of the message itself than on the contents, as, with respect to other solutions, text is quite wasted in here. It also offers easy ways to setup forms to capture new subscribers from your website and, if you wish to enable that, a double opt-in for added security to your subscribers.
Another good program is Vertical Response.  Unlike iContact this service is much more efficient with the increasing of the list.  They have a good customer support available for online or phone help. They even offer 10,000 free email credits to qualified non-profits.
My Emma is also good, but a little less diffused than the other services considered. It is a nice-to-use program and its cost is quite low for small lists. As for iContact one of the strengths of this service is the design offered. Nevertheless, it is not recommended for business purpose as it does not allow differentiated communication or the creation of lower level lists.
My final choice went to Aweber. This service is recommended for medium size senders as it offers a complete set of features and good flex in use. With respect to iContacts and MyEmma, it has less graphical options, but, as my mailing campaign will be focused on interesting contents, I prefer not to have the text limitations those services have. What I liked the most about Aweber is its reliability and its strong anti-spam policy. This provider guarantees a full and personalized customer service, accessible by chat, phone, or even twitter, and with one person assigned to you for all support calls.
We will see what results this communication will bring. For now, I am happy to be involved in this new challenge that will see me always up to date and in the very first line to surprise my public with interesting and innovative news!

Marta Battiston

Campaigns, Voting and Election Tech

Obviously technology has played a ubiquitous roll on this very long and daunting path towards the White House. As we speak, I am glued to CNN on my TV, Huffington Post on my computer as the poll results continue to trickle in from precinct to precinct, state to state. Technology and digital media’s pogressive evolution has made this election unlike any election in history. It truly blows my mind that I have access to up-to-the-second poll results. However, access to this technology on Election Eve has become more like an addiction. And I’m enjoying every second of it.

Perhaps one of the most revolutionary and beneficial uses of technology was seen in Barack Obama’s campaign efforts. Obama and his organizers were able to assemble an email and text messaging campaign that seemingly amassed millions of foot soldiers. Not only did these digital campaigns provide subscribers with the latest information on Obama’s live and televised appearances, they provided volunteer opportunities and donation opportunities. This is a ground breaking and strategy and clearly it worked for Obama. This campaign resulted in a super wealthy campaign that was able to advertise on many media outlets across the nation. McCain’s campaign, on the other hand, was substantially poorer. Was this a result of Obama’s utilization digital resources? Perhaps.

No doubt Obama picked up where Howard Dean left. Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi. An article on GovTech discusses the way that Trippi was able to utilize the internet and create a grassroots organization to take what was an obscure candidate with very little campaign money and turn him into a legitimate contender for the Democratic ticket. By taking the campaign online, they were able to cut campaign costs while simultaneously gaining access new forms of fundraising. Previously, the internet had only been used to make in-person campaign easier and more organized (think listings of mass-mailings). Until 2004, no one had taken campaigns online.

Obama’s digital campaign literacy has revolutionized the way people access political information. Obama has appealed to the Google and Facebook generation, which no doubt resulted in astronomical figures in the polls. Last night we watched history in the making- a revolutionary campaign has made way for a revolutionary Presidential candidate.

Nature and Technology: Forever at Odds?

Our Human brains tend to operate in dichotomies: good and bad, man and woman, Obama and McCain and… nature and technology?! Humanity, or more specifically our advances in technology, have largely been responsible for the degradation of ecosystems, exhaustion of resources and extinction of species. Technology is therefore intrinsically in opposition to nature… or is it?

Ok, so our societal advancements have not always treaded lightly on our Mother Earth. It cannot be denied that we have done some irreversible damage. That being said, we are still a part of these integral ecosystems and what is done has been done. It is then, perhaps the most beneficial to utilize our technological advancements to help preserve, conserve and reduce what damage has been done (when possible). Yes, this is a rather large task, and one may ask simply how can you even begin to approach this? Well…

With the advent and ubiquity (literally) of the internet, solutions may be as simple as running a Google search. I recently stumbled upon a website boasting the ‘30 Best Eco Sites.’ As is turns out I hit the green goldmine of eco-sites! This site features a list of some of the best green internet resources. These top 30 sites include everything from environmental blogging, eco-clothing and products and day-to-day living tips. Each and every site serves as an excellent educational green resource, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

On site on this list that caught my eye in particular was EcoGeek. EcoGeek focuses on the connection between nature and technology and aims to prove that green gadgets can be good. Ah ha! Just what I was looking for- people are actually synthesizing these two concepts that until recently (and I mean recently) were definitively at odds. Maybe, just maybe, we can use this internet thing as a platform for a universal green movement…? Sure, technology has been bad for our planet. But it’s time to realize that technology may also have the power to begin to heal the environment. Shunning or ignoring the omnipresence of modern day technology will do nothing to save the planet. We must accept the reality of this situation and begin to use the tools we have at hand to begin to work towards a more sustainable future.