Google Launches Video Chat- One More Step Towards World Domination

Google has taken over the world, or seemingly so. It seems like every week they are launching a new product or service. Last week it was Google’s phone, the Android,  and today Google’s popular email client Gmail has added video chat to its service. Google Video and Voice (the service’s official name) was launched today and should now be available to all.

I was checking out the latest Digg articles and was immediately taken by a headline proclaiming that Gmail was now offering video chat. What great news this is! I frequently find myself using Gmail’s chat option to talk to my friends periodically throughout the day… adding the possibility to video chat would make my chatting experiences that much greater. Gmail is probably the number one way that I keep in touch with my best friends- having recently graduated in May, we’ve found ourselves dispersed across the country- Gmail’s simple and efficient technology has greatly added to our ability to keep in touch.

Google’s video chat option follows suit. According to Cnet news, the technology is fairly ‘bare bones’, although it is simple to install and use. Gmail Video uses a fairly small plug-in to support its network as opposed to the flash technology. This is fairly typical of video chat services. However, Don’t confuse this service with Skype. Gmail Video uses only the Internet (as opposed to the phone).

Google Video and Voice does not serve as an update to the Google Talk service. Google Talk has offered voice-only technology for a while and will still be available with the addition of the Google Video service. Google Video and Voice is yet another channel for communication to which Google is harnessing to their advantage. Their is speculation that the folks at Google will continue to make Gmail a multifaceted and interactive service while simultaneously remaining easy to use. Google plans on adding an SMS text option to their variety of services within the next several weeks. Now I can’t wait until they launch that service…

I applaud Google for taking over the world in such a user-friendly manner- the channels of interpersonal communication now available are sheerly mind-boggling!

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.

Plastic Bag Bans Raise Environmental Awareness

In the past several years, the hideous truth about plastic bags has been gaining more and more media attention. People are beginning to realize what these bags are made from (petroleum) and how long it takes them to disintegrate in landfills (a long time, should they make it there). 

I began to realize this anti-plastic bag mass movement has trickled down to a variety of large chain stores in the local Ann Arbor area. Although perhaps this is an attempt to tap into the ‘green niche’ rather than operating out of eco-consciousness, I feel optimistic none-the-less that environmental stewardship is beginning to be addressed on a larger scale level.

Last night I was shopping for various toiletries at my local Rite-Aid. I noticed that even they carried cloth bags emblazoned with their logo! I was a initially a little shocked, and proceeded to the cash register where I told the clerk that I didn’t need a plastic bag. He seemed amazed at my ability to carry my three items by hand out to my car. He proceeded to let me know that some of his regular patrons will ask to double bag unnecessary items (such as a gallon of milk).

Wasteful behavior such as this makes me feel fortunate that many stores are beginning to add additional taxes when you use plastic bags. Additionally, many cities and states are beginning to propose an all-together ban on plastic bags. Both measures have proven to be very successful. In fact, China’s ban on plastic bags will save an estimated 37 million barrels of oil! This ban extends to the free bags distributed to customers. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to ban plastic bags or even to tax them. The city of Dallas’s local council recently stated that banning plastic bags and food containers would have a “negative impact on the local environment, the economy and the school system.” They went on to say they believe in educating people about what is responsible behavior and simply “not to litter…” a preventative measure that works oh so well…

All in all I am totally in favor of bans or taxes on plastic bags. I think that this is absolutely a step in the right direction; if people are more aware of their conspicuous consumption, then they are forced to take a step back and reevaluate their behavior. This increase in environmental awareness in recent years has spurred many programs that adress the urgent need for stewardship and sustainability. 

Recently, Ingenex has begun to research Michigan State University’s Be Spartan Green program. As discussed in my recent blog post, we hope to bring our eco-friendly internship program to help bring digital and environmental education to East Lansing. It is through awareness and education made possible largely due to digital technologies that we can work and strive towards a more sustainable future.

Twitter Keeps it Short and Tweet

There are literally hundreds of social media networking tools available on the web, many of which are free and fairly simple to figure out. While it is debatable which is the ‘best’ utility (as this is fairly opinion based), there is no doubt in my mind that Twitter offers something distinctive in the realm of digital technologies. Twitter can be used as a social networking tool through short, 140 ‘micro-blogs’ or ‘tweets’ as they’re called, that serve as status updates for an individual, organization or company. You can choose whose updates you receive and similarly people can add you and follow your updates. Here is one of the coolest features of the site: the ability to receive updates from your contacts via the Twitter webpage, through Facebook, as an RSS feed, SMS text message or via Instant Messages. Additionally, you can have your Twitter account automatically publish a link to your latest blog posts. You also can control your privacy settings and restrict who receives your tweets.

Twitter allows you to create your own personal profile complete with biography and links to any personal webpages that you may have. You can search all other Twitter profiles to find people in close proximity to you and with similar backgrounds and interests. Twitter is straight to the point; it allows for you to share instant information with a network of contacts in a concise manner.

This image is known as the Fail Whale, an iconic aspect of Twitter.

Many businesses and business-minded individuals alike have put this Web 2.0 tool to good use. Companies such as Whole Foods, CNN and JetBlue all have accounts that provide consumers with relevant-up-to-date information in their respective industry. You can also follow both Democratic and Republican Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates on Twitter- really useful to provide up to date information about their campaigns. 

Twitter is continuing to grow in size and popularity as many businesses are realizing that this tool serves to fill a unique digital niche. Not only can tweets provide up-to-the-second information about products and services offered by your business, but it serves as an interactive forum where a business-consumer dialogue can occur, allowing for maximum success on behalf of all parties. Of course, this interaction is even more beneficial for a business that operates in a primarily digital field (take Ingenex, for example).

Twitter is showing itself to quickly be the way of the future. Because accounts can be created for both individuals and large corporations, the type of information transmitted in a tweet can cover a wide range of meanings and purposes. Corporations can notify followers of potential sales, while individuals can let their contacts know that they’ve just recently posted a blog entry worth checking out. Tweets are short but extremely multi-faceted in terms of use and the type of audience they can potentially reach. I definitely recommend utilizing this social networking tool for both your personal and business needs.

The Dangers of Greenwashing

So it’s already been established that ‘green’ is in at Ingenex. We’re actively searching for ways to make both Ingenex and our eco-friendly internship more sustainable. Several of our past blog posts on our eco-friendly internship discuss ways that we could move towards a greener future and mode of bussiness down in the brickyard. As you are well aware, there are tons of ‘green’ living tips, and stores are stocked full of products that are claiming to be ‘green’ ‘organic’ ‘sustainable’ etc. The seeming ubiquity of such products and services has got to make you wonder- do they live up to the claims they make? Enter the dangerously fine line between green and greenwashing.

Wikipedia describes greenwashing as a term ‘used to describe the perception of consumers that they are being misled by a company regarding the environmental practices of the company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.’ Essentially this is used in reference to a company’s loose usage of marketing and PR buzzwords to convince consumers that their consumption is beneficial to the planet, when in fact it is not. Frequently, these products are identical to their conventional counterparts. 

Environmental Marketing firm Terra Choice is famous for coining and publishing the ‘6 Sins of Greenwashing‘- a reference used to differentiate between companies’ incentives for greenwashing their products and services. Terra Choice quantifies these sins as 1. Sin of the hidden trade off, 2. Sin of no proof, 3. Sin of vagueness, 4. Sin of lesser of two evils, 5. Sin of lesser of two evils and 6. Sin of fibbing.

 

By making claims such as these, the legitimate green market becomes somewhat tainted. Consumers are no doubtly duped by companies making such false or half true claims. Because there is little to no regulation on ‘green’ business (although more certifications are becoming more readily available), many critics continue to dismiss all ‘green’ products and services, which ultimately hurts the industry. 

With the rise of the digital age, the consumer has endless resources available to them upon the click of a mouse.  A variety of product certification websites as well as  peer-reviewed technologies on companies’ websites aid to put the power back into the hands of the consumer. The most important tool the consumer has access to is the power of information. If one is aware that not ‘all that’s green is gold,’ they are far more likely to do the background research and choose the product with a legitimate certification and is therefore better for the environment. The Greenwash Brigade, Energy Star Program, and the We Buy it Green Blog all serve as excellent references to help you pick the truly eco-friendly products that you need.

The Eco-Friendly Intern team is actively be working towards making more green-ovations around Ingenex. We are proud to be actively aware of the misleading dangers of greenwashing and feel confident we are heading in the right direction with our heavy reliance on digital technologies. We believe that digital communications are sustainable and the way of the future! 

Utilizing Digital Media in a Smart and Relevant Way

As a recent college grad, I have rapidly gained a wealth of knowledge regarding digital media and the beneficial (and not so beneficial ways) to utilize these various forms of technology. Most job seekers these days begin and end their search online. With wildly popular sites such as Craigslist, Career Builder and Idealist, it’s hard for the broke twenty-something not periodically check them out. Whether you are pursuing grad school, or prefer to enter the professional world as soon as possible, there is no doubt that there are resources to help to you do so and they’re only a mouse-click away.

Generally speaking, I’ve found mixed messages about working towards the ‘next step’ in cyberspace. In career resource guides, such as What Color is Your Parachute, warn in the dangers of being too heavily reliant on websites. Statistically speaking, this is far from the top of the list in terms of job-search success rates. But personally, I would beg to differ with this. I currently hold a job at the Ann Arbor Hands on Museum, an internship with Green Market Fundraising and of course serve as a member of the Eco-Friendly Internship team at Ingenex Digital Marketing. All three of these employment experiences I just so happened to stumble upon during several late night job-search sessions. 

Although I realize that I may an exception to this supposed rule, this raises several questions has to how one should approach the job search from such a plethora of digital listings and how to present yourself additionally. Personally, I would recommend to know yourself going into the search. It sounds stupidly simply, right? But take a moment to consider: What are you good at? What do you like doing? Where do you want to be? Are you interested in working for a non-profit for a for-profit organization? By asking yourself questions such as these, you can target sources of media that cater to what you really want. Approaching these utilities with an idealized outcome definitely proves to have advantages in terms of potential outcome.

Job search websites barely even scratch the surface of digital media’s usefulness for a young professional. As I discussed in my most recent blog post, social networking sites are a great way to make legitimate contacts and help get your presence known among an online community. LinkedIn, for instance, acts not only as a social utility that connects you to peers and superiors in any given industry, but allows you to actively search the United States for current job openings.

Many professionals, both young and old, may have difficulty creating a profile that is appropriate- whether their constraints be caused by lack of time, lack of experience or unfamiliarity with the given interface. Ingenex Digital Marketing‘s newest product, Social Harbor, offers a solution to this. Social Harbor offers professional online profile management- for a fee, they will create an online presence for you on a variety of social networking sites, create inbound links to your sites and create maximum SEO efficiency. This resource is entirely unique and offers a service unlike any other profile building agency on the web. If you’re interested in creating a legitimate, presentable profile online, I highly suggest you check it out!

Of course, these are very few examples of available online digital media resources relevant to recent college grads or those on the job hunt. These types of resources are ubiquitous; the ones you choose to use and how you choose to use them is entirely up to you. It is indeed important to present your self as you, but it is important to do so with considerable thought.

Eco-Savvy Marketing in Ann Arbor: The Google Experiment

If you’re anything like me, anytime you find yourself uncertain about anything, you simply open your browser and ‘Google it.’ I do this literally dozens of times a day (I know, I know…) but until fairly recently had little awareness that I could actually have an influence on what results show at the top of the page. Enter the “Google Experiment.” Creating a more easily searchable online presence is one of Ingenex‘s many specialties. So, one of our assignments for this week was to pick several search terms, weave them into the title and body of our personal blog entries, cross-link everyone’s keywords to our blogs, and watch our chosen terms rise on Google’s search rank. We took two screen shots of our Googled our words pre-blog and post-blog to demonstrate the efficiency that cross linking blogs and blog entries can have. As I am interested in the environmental side of digital marketing, my chosen search keywords were Eco-Savvy Marketing Ann Arbor

 

 

Eco-Savvy Marketing Ann Arbor Before Picture

Eco-Savvy Marketing Ann Arbor Before Picture

Eco-Savvy Marketing Ann Arbor After Picture

As you can see, this experiment proved to be quite successful for my search terms. The rest of the Ingenex team’s blog entries and keywords proved to be similarly successful. Derek wrote on Digital Marketing Education, Pedro chose Experimental Marketing Michigan, Amanda did Marketing an Eco-Friendly Expansion, Nick chose Online Publishing Marketing, and Jennifer worked on Digital Eco Fusion. For more insights regarding keyword and search engine optimization, I suggest you check out their blog posts. Although my personal blog entry was not the first result, it was in the top four. Prior to my blog entry and my fellow interns cross-links, there was no one such thing as ‘eco-savvy marketing in Ann Arbor;’ rather it was a mishmash of vaguely relevant isolated words. Hopefully, after Derek and all interns have posted their weekly eco-friendly blog entry detailing their keywords and linking back to mine, I will see an even higher rank for ‘Eco-Savvy Marketing Ann Arbor’ on Google. This phenomenon, or keyword optimization as the digital pros call it, is extremely important when trying to digitally publicize a product, blog, person or website. Therefore, one’s keyword choice is something that deserves a special degree of thoughtfulness regarding the desired outcomes. As you could imagine, it is important to have several words that are more common and popular. However, if all of your keywords are fairly commonplace, it will be quite difficult for Google to return your desired page with a high rank, as these words are competitive and used frequently on many pages. If in 2-3 words you can carefully describe what it is offered on your site, then you are far more likely to achieve successful results. In the blogosphere, cross-linking to blogs using keywords can achieve similar results to running an online search. As our intern experiment proves, keyword optimization serves as a useful tool to spread the word about your product, blog or website. It can also be an effective tool for the consumer; I can’t tell you how many times I have chosen the higher ranked websites returned from my search. Keyword optimization will prove to be exceptionally useful, especially as we are actively expanding the eco-friendly internship across the midwest and using a variety of different types of media.

So until next time, keep Googling (thoughtfully, of course.)

The Ann Arbor Blogosphere: Learning From the Locals

Blogging is not only a great tool for personal expression, it’s also an excellent way to promote your online presence, therefore serving as the ultimate multi-media marketing tool. Ann Arbor local John Roos, uses his blog to promote his coffee roasting/delivery business around the area. His site, RoosRoast, provides the history of his business, beliefs behind what he does, an online store, and of course, his blog. I’ve been following his blog since this past Wednesday and found it to be an interesting resource. For Roos, it serves as somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness regarding his brew sessions around town. As he states on his blog, Roos is big into local- whether that be his own business, or eating locally in Ann Arbor. John Roos knows good coffee and good food and isn’t afraid to let you know that. I think that’s a large part of the appeal of his blog. He puts himself, his business, his artwork and his experience out in the Ann Arbor blogosphere for people to read. Yes that’s right, John Roos not only brews delicious coffee, he is also a self proclaimed “New American Folk Artist.”

 

 

I think John Roos was an excellent blogger to follow; his site exemplifies how the creation of your online presence can reflect all aspects of your life. In the digital world, it’s easy to compartmentalize different aspects of your life. However, as Roos shows, it’s just as easy to have a website and blog that can be used to play off of each-other. Being a new blogger myself, I found it quite refreshing and insightful to see a fellow Ann Arborite using the blogosphere for personal and professional uses simultaneously. I look forward to following Roos and his coffee (and artwork) trials and tribulations well into the future.

Ingenex Digital Marketing: Working Towards a Sustainable Future

Adapting sustainable business practices in the workplace is becoming increasingly more essential, both in terms of adapting to the current economical recession, as well as to maintain a level of competition with fellow businesses. More and more businesses are ‘green;’ those that have yet to update to more sustainable models of operation are simply getting left in the dust.

 

So what can Ingenex do to keep up with the Jonses? Being a business reliant on digital technologies, Ingenex already has an edge over its traditional marketing competition. Here are some simple tips to help further reduce our impact on the earth and its resources.

 

– Reduce the use of paper products. By sending all memos by email, a large amount of paper can be saved.

– Switch all paper products that you do use to 100% post-consumer products. This way you can ensure maximum sustainability.

-Switch light-bulbs to compact fluorescent light-bulbs (CFLs). These highly efficient light bulbs last up to ten times as long as their iridescent counterparts.

– Turn off or ensure that electronic devices are in sleep mode when not in use. This can potentially save tons of electricity!

– Telecommute whenever possible. With the outrageous prices of gas these days, who wouldn’t love working via computer from the comfort of their own home?

– Get the word out there at Ingenex is all about sustainability and is actively working towards a greener future and business practices!

 

 

 

These tips provide a great starting point. But, it’s important to remember that you can always do more. There are many resources on the web that offer useful insights regarding reducing global impact. GreenBiz offers an ebooklet that focuses on “Greening Your Business” tips for small to medium sized businesses. It includes everything from purchasing greener products, to creating a ‘green team’ with your employees in the office. EnvironmentalLeader offers some emerging industry standards regarding the best practices for green businesses. Each of these sites is well worth checking out!

 

I will also be posting updates in my blog as Ingenex takes strides towards a more eco-friendly future!