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StringHub –Where Educators, Students and Startups Meet

Article first published as StringHub –Where Educators, Students and Startups Meet on Technorati.

As a guest writer, Technorati published my first article last week, which is shown below. I found it a great compliment to be asked to write for Tehnorati. After all, Technorati, the very first search engine for blogs, is considered the gold standard, with an index of more than one million blogs. Let me know what you think…

I always get excited about finding cool new ways to help small and medium-sized businesses solve one of their greatest challenges – lack of resources. Introducing… StringHub.StringHub graphic

StringHub is attempting to tackle this resource challenge by linking instructors and professors with businesses via student projects. In fact, this equation promises to help everyone including our sagging economy. Businesses will receive valuable help they need from inspiring artists and professionals and students will receive the opportunity to take part in ‘real-life’ business situations.

I recently met Adam Hoeksema, co-founder of StringHub, online and found his passion and insights to be inspiring. Adam’s innovative thinking promises to drive educational institutions everywhere to adapting Internet technologies to create a more meaningful, far-reaching impact, while introducing their students to the art of entrepreneurship. The concept was Adam’s brainchild, but taking it online required a team effort. Adam is the business, marketing and finance guy in this partnership. The Internet technology, namely their website StringHub.com, was created by his brother and co-founder, Brandon, who is actually still in high school. A self-taught programmer, Brandon has done a remarkable job with the website. It’s a simple, clean interface that allows educators to submit class projects to be matched with businesses in need.

I asked Adam about the background and details surrounding StringHub.com and here’s what he had to say:

Adam, how and why did the idea of StringHub.com occur to you?
“I graduated from Taylor University in May of 2010 with a degree in accounting. In June, I started as Client Services Manager at the Flagship Enterprise Center, a business incubator in Anderson, Indiana. As I worked with our clients at the Flagship Enterprise Center, I realized that startup companies need a lot of help. They need help with graphic and web design, social media, video production, public relations, web application development, and the list could go on. There are college students working on class projects in all of these areas, but typically the projects have no real world application. The projects simply go to waste; they are just for practice. We thought if we could unlock the real world value of student class projects we could create a win-win situation for both businesses and students.”

What is StringHub’s mission?
“I want StringHub to fundamentally change the way that college and university class projects work. I believe that the best way for students to learn something is to try and fail in the real world. You can’t do that through case studies, or projects for imaginary businesses. So first and foremost we want to help improve the educational experience for students. At the same time, we want to help small businesses flourish, add jobs, and create wealth. Those are lofty goals, but we believe it is possible.”

What type of projects would StringHub.com participate in?
“Currently there are millions of student class projects in areas like:
▪ Marketing
▪ Public Relations
▪ Business Management
▪ Graphic Design
▪ Web Development
▪ Social Media
▪ Finance
And many more subjects

Typically these projects just go to waste. They are ‘practice.’ http://stringhub.com is attempting to create a platform that unlocks the real world value of these student class projects in order to help support entrepreneurs.

Many of these class projects could be free to the entrepreneur. We believe that a focused approach can really accelerate a startup. Imagine an army of students all supporting an innovative, world changing startup company.”

What do students gain from this?
By connecting student projects with real world applications students are gaining:
▪ Real world experience
▪ A professional portfolio of completed work
▪ Relationships with a network of potential employers

For example, Adam refers to an integrated marketing plan created for HeatMax, Inc. at the University of Arizona. Four University of Arizona students helped to create a new product line called Toastie Toes that helps women keep their feet warm in cold weather. Their professor, Hope Jensen Schau matches student teams with companies to work on projects like packaging, distribution, advertising and public relations. The four students in question have earned local fame and have also been contracted to continue their work with HeatMax, Inc.

Overall, the University of Arizona example is the same model that StringHub.com will employ. It is a web-based platform that allows tech schools, colleges and universities to unlock the real world value of student class projects, by connecting student projects with opportunities, and managing the entire project through an online workroom.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Angry Birds Take Over Halloween

The Angry Bird phenomenon isn’t over. Mobile, iPod and other hand-held device owners have made Angry Birds the hottest game of 2011. Apparently, being the most popular Halloween costume of the year isn’t enough to satisfy Angry Birds. Angry Birds Halloween Costumes

Move over Charlie Brown, here is Angry Birds’ Ham’o’ween. Just in time for Halloween, they have put together a short video announcing the newest update for Angry Birds Seasons and also introducing the newest Angry Bird. This Angry Bird might be small but it packs a big punch! Pursue the pigs through 30 levels filled with pumpkin patches, exploding jack-o-lanterns, and creepy skeletons, lit by a full moon and eerie lantern light. Complete all the levels to find some special Halloween surprises!

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, a less business oriented, more personally related edition than our blog that is offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you. Are you venturing into online marketing? Give us a call!

Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl on Monopoly-Busting Google

This just in…
Herb Kohl’s office released this press release yesterday. Below are excerpts from his Opening Statement Of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl For The Of Hearing, “The Power Of Google: Serving Consumers Or Threatening Competition?”

Herb Kohls Senate Webpage image

“The basic premise of Google at its founding was that it would build an unbiased search engine — that consumers would see the most relevant search result first, and that the search results would not be influenced by the web page’s commercial relationship with Google. Its goal was to get the user off Google’s home page and on to the websites it lists as soon as possible. As Google’s co-founder and current CEO Larry Page said in 2004, “We want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point.”

However, as Internet search has become a major channel of e-commerce, Google has grown ever more dominant and powerful, and it appears its mission may have changed. For the last five years or so, Google has been on an acquisition binge, acquiring dozens of Internet-related businesses, culminating most recently with its proposed acquisitions of Motorola Mobility and Zagats. It now owns numerous Internet businesses, including in health, finance, travel, and product comparison. This has transformed Google from a mere search engine into a major Internet conglomerate. And these acquisitions raise a very fundamental question — is it possible for Google to be both an unbiased search engine and at the same time own a vast portfolio of web-based products and services? Does Google’s transformation create an inherent conflict of interest which threatens to stifle competition?

In the last few years, Internet businesses that compete with Google’s new products and services have complained that Google is now behaving in a way contrary to free and fair competition. They allege that Google is trying to leverage its dominance in Internet search into key areas of Internet commerce where it stands to capture from its competitors billions of dollars in advertising revenue. Rather than fairly presenting search results, these critics claim that Google has begun to subtlety bias its search results in favor of its own services. This conduct has the potential to substantially harm competition for commerce on the Internet, and retard innovation by companies that fear the market power of Google.

Antitrust scrutiny is not about picking winners and losers, but is about fostering a fully competitive environment so that consumers can fairly pick winners and losers. As more and more of our commerce moves to the Internet, it should be the highest priority of antitrust policymakers that the Internet remains a bastion of open and free competition as it has been since its founding. We need to protect the ability of the next Google to emerge, the next great website or application being developed in a garage in Silicon Valley or Madison, Wisconsin.”

I’m glad our legislators are looking into this subject. I’ve long thought that Google is the ‘new Walmart’, but I’ve been hesistant to say anything. (Google controls my SEO). As you know, I’m always on the side of small and medium-sized businesses. I think Mr. Kohl, once again, has taken the lead on a difficult, but timely subject. What do you think?

Google+ for Everyone!

I have a confession. As a social media enthusiast, I should have been biting at the chomp for my Google+ invite. Like many, I was not.  But finally, a friend passed along an invite and I took a look inside. Kicked the tires and still wasn’t that impressed. Then I attended a local Social Media Breakfast in Appleton, WI, which featured an open group discussion on Google+, where it’s going, and why it’s important to me, and will be, to the small and medium-sized businesses that I work with. Very helpful stuff!

My new outlook on Google+?Google Plus Project

Google+ actually offers something new. Before our breakfast meeting, I considered it merely a rip-off of Facebook, just invented to pull market share. Now, I see that it is a bit different with a different goal. In actuality, I think it may steal more market share from LinkedIn, than Facebook. You’ll see why in the examples below.

The more I use Google Plus, the more I understand how important it will become. Trust me.

So what’s new and unique about Google+?

It offers the ability to control who you are speaking with and allow separate conversations between different sets of friend and business ‘circles’. Businesses professionals will be able to connect with their various customers, leads, vendors and resources separately, but on one closely connected platform. As the sales and business cycle progresses, joining various groups for collaboration will be seemless -just create a new circle.

Google circlesThe magic of Google+ is that it allows you much closer interactions.  It opens the doors to people that you may not know, but would like to. For instance, I can follow Chris Brogan and really have a conversation with him. It doesn’t feel the same on Facebook or Twitter. It just doesn’t. So who is Chris Brogan, you ask? He’s my ‘Go-To’ guy (although, I doubt he knows it) for social media advice and online breaking news. Check out his helpful tutorial, “Start Now On Google Plus”. Let me know if you need an invite –I have extra ones!

What’s next on Google+?

If you’ve gone to Chris’ link, you’ve learned some easy ways to connect with people already on Google+. “Friendsurf” a little. What fun.

Then add some more to your profile, add some posts, maybe link to your website, blog and add some photos. Read some interesting posts by others; share them. It has a déjà-vu characteristic to it, but it still feels different and new. Then, as Chris says, check out the comment sections. It’s sort of like Twitter and Facebook combined, pulling from the best of both worlds.

Google+ Rollout Strategy

Has anyone thought of the Google+ strategy behind the rollout? There have been MANY negative comments around this. I’d just like to offer what I hope is perhaps a different viewpoint. I think it may be genius! By limiting the amount of users, and reserving it for the early-adapter, social media techies, Google+’s first phase used a strategy designed to “get the kinks out”. The second phase of their rollout strategy seems to be “by invitation only” which will encourage the early-adapters to support and teach this new stream of users. Since Google and all of their products do not supply ‘live’ help and very little online feedback, this second phase strategy is probably a good idea. Maybe even key to it’s survival.

Why Wait Anymore?

Where the tires hit the road will be in the third phase, which I suspect will be a more open rollout to the public. Soon Google+ will attract ‘niche’ communities, just like other social networks have in their start-up phases. Celebrities have already begun to spring up and other opinion leaders (besides those working in social media) will follow. Just as a tee-hee, I noticed that there is still not a ‘politician’ group on Group As, so it’s still relatively unspoiled.

What lays ahead for Google+?

Will Google+ garner enough enthusiastic support for long-time Facebookers to give up their personal pages, established friend connections, photos, etc.? Or will it perhaps find its own value, apart from Facebook? Will the ‘Walmart-like’ strategy, one of total market dominance, ultimately persuade users to move to Google+? After all, they currently own google.comyoutube.comblogger.com, and gmail.com. Four of the top trafficked sites of the world. As they become ready to tackle the next phase of growth for Google+, are they likely to up-the-ante on those not using Google+? Could they introduce a scoring system similar to Klout to give advantage to their early-adapters and top-users? Could they lower the SEO of sites not embracing Google+? The possibilities are endless and pretty much theirs to choose. Time will tell.  What do you think?

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, usually a less business oriented, more personally related edition than our blog that is offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you. Are you venturing into online marketing? Give us a call!

The Dark Side Of The Cloud

I am often asked what cloud computing is. Most people know the buzzwords: working in the cloud, move to the cloud, life in the cloud, etc. Technically speaking, Wikipedia says cloud-computing means using multiple server computers via a digital network, as though they were one computer. Cloud computing, like regular computing, can be broken up into three layers: infrastructure, platform and application. Each layer has it’s own issues in cloud computing. For the most part this blog discussion is about the application side of cloud computing –consumer and business applications, but the principles pertain to the other layers, too.Cloud application relationships

In plain terms, you can tell that you are dealing with cloud computing when you have access to applications and data from a network device (smartphones, iPods, laptops, etc.). Cloud computing differs from the classic client-server model by providing applications that are executed and managed via a web browser, without an installed software program required. Google docs and Facebook are examples of cloud apps that get used everyday worldwide without anyone giving it a second thought.

Still don’t get it? Here’s a great simple video explanation.

There is a Saleforce.com video that says their cloud computing solution does away with businesses needing to purchase and implement their own databases, office space, servers and business apps. They don’t have to hire the staff to support the infrastructure. They claim that businesses will experience lower costs, more scalability and offer better security. Indeed cloud computing is a great concept, similar in nature to the Internet itself, just more capitalized. It’s all about consumer power and the benefits of using shared resources and technology.

There is no doubt that cloud computing is the wave of the future. Stopping the growth of cloud computing would be like stopping Internet expansion. Cloud computing can provide some very solid benefits like: lower costs, increased reach, collaboration, easy and stable software updates, no capital expenses, and working remotely. But there is a dark lining to many cloud apps and I’ve found a few things people should be watching for when deciding which ones to choose. Here’s my list of things to consider.

1. Assess the software or service carefully and have ‘an exit plan’

I started a couple of years ago with a new free cloud-based service called iCyte. It’s a bookmarking site that allows you to annotate and organize your web searches. After about a year and a half into using this software, they started charging a monthly fee. I decided not to pay the fee, but found the best I could do to export my vast collection of data was to export it to a very messy .csv file (aka spreadsheet). Lesson learned. I don’t give up info, pictures, and/or even clicks until I find out if I can get that info OUT in a usable manner. Test it early.

2. Does it fit the scope of your business?

When I ‘tested’ Salesforce.com within a small business, I found that although it may have been a good solution for a medium-sized business that had database-knowledgeable staff ready to customize these apps, it was not as easy as they portrayed. Most small businesses would not have the know-how or man-hours needed to get Salesforce.com or many other cloud apps to work easily for them.

3. Sales guys never think about security

Although the sales guys may tell you that cloud computing is safer, the proof is in the news recently. From Citigroup to Sony, this article explains how, in fact, there is cause for great alarm and  describes the vulnerability of cloud computing.

4. How supporting is your support personnel?

Do they even have support personnel? Can you get a  REAL PERSON on the phone to help? One of the first things that I check before choosing a cloud computing vendor is who will be the support team and if it offers live support. Since I speak only American, then they need to, too. Simple as that. If they do not speak American English, as in the same syntax, slang, etc. then I know when I get frustrated with an issue that I will not be able to get my point across. I’ve tried and tried it and now it is simply –my choice.

5. Beware the ‘free trial’

After the ‘free trial’ is done, businesses that ‘tested it out’ find difficulty in recovering the info and getting it back in house. If it’s a one month or 3-month trial, BEWARE. The longer you use a trial, that you decide later is not worth it, the more time and data you have added to someone else’s software. I suggest, in the event of the trial not working out, that you first assess (see point #1) how you will export the info out of their site and back into your system OR run dual processes (work in both places) while you test their system.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Top Five SXSW 2011 Videos

NASA at SXSWSXSW 2011 has wound down for this year, but they’ll be back next year and I plan to be there. SXSW has something for everyone, especially in social media or inbound marketing. So many of the heavy hitters are there that it makes ones head spin.

It has taken a bit of searching around, but I found several short videos that really share the SXSW experience. These are all worth watching –sometimes more than once. Let me know what you think. It’s almost like being there.

3, 2, 1, Twitter: The NASA Tweet up Shuttle Discovery Launch

Phylise Banner, from APUS, speaking on how people are using tweet-ups to gather for Shuttle Take-offs. Sounds like fun.

“Mario” – SXSW 2011 Film Bumper

This film bumper makes me feel like I can’t wait to see the movie, a grown-up tongue-in-cheek version of my favorite video game. Just a bit naughty.

Gary Vaynerchuck -Author, Wine Connoisseur, Explorer of all things Social Media

You can’t help but love Gary. Such passion! He epitomizes the energy born from social media. Three for the price of one here:

Keynote part1- http://bit.ly/i3lcej

Keynote part 2- http://bit.ly/fuGxSz

Keynote part3 – http://bit.ly/hOx9ac

More Gary Vaynerchuck –he was a busy boy

1-1 Interview part1- http://bit.ly/ffpS1K

1-1 Interview part 2- http://bit.ly/hlvWeg

Matt Mallenweg, WordPress/Automatic

Speaking on the growth of WordPress and next step P2. Matt says that, yes, WordPress has moved beyond a blog platform and is, in fact, a complete web platform. Yes, indeed.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

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Can The Energy Problem Be Solved By SXSW?

This week in Austin, Texas a crucial community comes together. The SXSW (South By South West) Film Conference and Festival is a productive, inspiring convergence of talent, smart audiences and cutting-edge thought leaders. As they celebrate their 25th Anniversary, their focus has moved from concentrating on simply music to including other creative channels like film, writing and interactive, which includes web, social media SEO, etc. A large portion of next year’s creative content in TV, films, advertising and online in America and even abroad will originate from SXSW.

SXSW Bob Metcalfe

Photo- Bob Metcalfe interview at SXSW, Austin, Texas

SXSW has found the true meaning of ‘creative’. It encompasses all media, but is the inspiration of so much more. If the world has a chance of resolving its problems and meeting the demands of the future, it may do well to adapt some of the lessons now streaming out of SXSW.

Lessons that could potentially solve issues like energy. Energy, you ask? What’s a topic like energy doing in a conference on creativity? That’s what I first wondered when I saw this interview. Take a look at this short video. It’s called, “The Future Enernet: A Conversation with Bob Metcalfe”. During this interview, insights into solving the problem of energy are shared by Bob Metcalfe, who co-invented Ethernet and founded 3Com. His life’s work has evolved around computer science. He played a vital role in providing systems and solutions that advanced the Internet to become what it is today.

In this SXSW interview, Dr. Metcalfe explains how development of the Internet achieved a remarkable outcome. This final outcome provided the world with abundant data storage for less money. He contends that his can be repeated within the Energy Industry. Who wouldn’t want to be able to use more energy and pay less? This is the basis of his talk and what a captivating idea it is. I dare say, it sounds like he is even willing to roll up his sleeves and put these thoughts into action. Now that’s what America, no, the entire world, needs more of.

It’s creativity like Bob Metcalfe shows that makes SXSW so much more than a mere music festival. It’s thought leaders like Bob Metcalfe, Matt Mullenberg (WordPress) and Marissa Meyer (Google) that bring SXSW to the highest level, no doubt promising another 25 years of crucial, creative conferences.

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, a less business oriented edition than our blog that is offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Emergency in Japan; the First Help to Arrive

Japan earthquakeIncreasingly when there are emergencies worldwide, the first responding aid is provided by today’s social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and, in this case, Japan’s own Mixi. Though Japanese TV reported ‘Live’ almost immediately, during this week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, personal communication was another matter. Most communications were down and cell phones were often jammed. Social media powerhouses once again proved themselves as critical communication tools during a natural disaster.

Text-Driven Devices work first

Devices that are text-driven were the first to support communication. Adding to that capability is the nature of how social networks are structured. They are based on people’s relationships providing a more direct path of communication to loved ones. In the aftermath, these social networks are aiding in the task of locating missing people and returning them to their families.

Social networks with worldwide reach

Social networks with worldwide reach are providing a forum for comfort and hope to the grief-stricken Japanese. One poignant tweet from Japan expressed this well, “I feel great anxiety and fear of the earthquake, but I was cheered up by many followers and overseas people. Thanks a lot.”

Twitter has become vital

Tweets for Japan that included hashtags like #prayforjapan and #tsunami became top trending topics almost immediately. But more importantly was the strategic and critical support that it has provided in emergency communication, such as one used for this plea sent from someone in the Miyagi Prefecture, “We lack water, food, blankets, human power in Miyagi-prefecture’s hospital. Plz! #earthquake #eqjp #sendai #save_miyagi #j_j_help me.”

The next step relies on International help

As of this writing, Wikipedia is reporting that, “Japan received condolence messages and offers of assistance from a range of international leaders. According to the United Nations, search and rescue teams from 45 countries had been offered to Japan. Japan specifically requested teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the U.S.”  Additional aid has been offered by Germany, United Kingdom, and Republic of China (Taiwan).

So far, absent from this list is Japan’s neighbor, China, who as a want-to-be world leader should step up to the plate. Early help is vital and the earlier Japan gets real help the better with 13 million people in Tokyo alone. These people are now living without basic supplies and systems. This situation will become dire very soon. With pressure from social networks like Twitter, perhaps aid will arrive more swiftly and perhaps countries will feel the pressure to do their part.

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, a less business oriented edition than our blog offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

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