6 Free tools for small businesses

We round up the six best free tools for small businesses to improve productivity, create content and target audiences.

1. Grammarly

Goodbye typos! Grammarly is a free browser extension and desktop app that scans everything you type, picking up not only typos but grammatical errors, too.

 

2. Hootsuite

Social media is really important for start-ups, but you can spend all day logging in and out of accounts. Hootsuite combines everything in one easy-to-use platform. If you pay a small fee per month, you can have as many social media accounts connected as you like. The best bit? You can schedule posts from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Instagram.

 

3. GIMP

GIMP is free, open-source photo editing software. It functions almost as well as Adobe's Photoshop (and let's be honest, unless you're a professional photo editor, you probably don't need Photoshop), and literally costs nothing. Great for creating content for social media and even logos and branding.

 

4. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free analysis service which measures website activity and performance. Want to know how many visitors your website has? Analytics will tell you, along with SO much more important information. This can help you focus your business on the most popular areas according to your audience's activity.

 

5. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides

After discovering this, you'll wonder why on earth you still use Microsoft Office. Google has its own version of Word (Docs), Excel (Sheets) and Powerpoint (Slides), which are stored online so you can always access them. Better yet, you can share these documents with colleagues or clients and they can edit the documents at the same time as you.

 

6. Scoop.it

Creating content for social media, email newsletters and your website can be time-consuming. Not with Scoop.It - sign up for free, input a topic (e.g. "technology"), enter a few keywords and BAM. You'll be faced with a multitude of popular content related to your keywords, ready for you to easily share onto your channels.


PDF email newsletters don't work – here’s why

Create a PDF, attach it to an email, and send it to your entire database. Easy, right? Right. Effective, right? Wrong.

Email marketing is a such a powerful tool, yet so many businesses aren't using it to their advantage.

By sending a PDF attachment to your contacts, you're bypassing the huge potential effective email marketing has to offer. In fact, if you're not careful, you may damage client relationships - not to mention your emails will probably end up in people's junk or spam inboxes.

Here's 5 reasons why PDF email newsletters aren't effective:

 

1. Spam issues

Using an email server such as Outlook? You could be in for a shock. Every time a reader marks one of your PDF email newsletters as spam, you lose credibility with ISPs (Internet Service Providers). If this happens too frequently, an ISP may well block emails from your domain name, which means your customers won't receive anything from you. What's worse is you won't know a thing until error messages take over your inbox.

2. Corrupted files

Annoyingly, some email servers modify your email as it passes through their system. Whilst not your fault, this can result in a corrupted PDF file, meaning you've just sent your database a PDF that no one can read.

3. Blocked attachments

Your PDF email may make it past an email server, but you're not out of the woods yet. Spam filters in all major email hosting such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and Outlook may well block your attachment (the PDF) entirely. Attachment-based email viruses are growing rapidly, so to the likes of Gmail, any attachment is a potential security threat.

4. Missing forwards

Your customers may love the content within your PDF, but what happens when they want to share your email? This is a great and invaluable way to spread the word, but PDF attachments have a tendency to go missing once an email is forwarded.

5. Large databases VS PDFs

You've probably spent time and possibly money creating a database of your customers, clients and potential leads. The thing is, sending out a PDF attachment to hundreds, or even thousands, of emails in one go is a no-no. It's a sure-fire way of telling email servers that you're sending spam, plus, it's likely that the program you use to store your database doesn't get on with email attachments.

 

OK, maybe PDF email newsletters are a bad idea. So now what do I do?

Simple! HTML email newsletters.

These may sound scary, but there are programs that do all the coding behind the scenes, so you don't have to. By sending email newsletters through these programs, which are secure and email server-friendly, you free yourself from spam issues and are able to track the activity of your email campaign.

It's also a lot easier to manage your database in these programs, most of which automatically remove dud emails.

We use multiple programs and software to create and send email newsletters, but our favourites are MailChimp and Infusionsoft. We are able to design branded email templates to match our clients' business, arrange content and images in a stylish, functional way, and can easily manage multiple databases at a time.

We’re here to help if you need it.


7 Social media marketing fails guaranteed to make you laugh (or cry)

Social media has many benefits for businesses big and small, but sometimes companies get it so wrong. Here are our top 7 social media marketing fails.

 

1. #SusanAlbumParty

A classic hashtag gone horribly wrong.

Susan Boyle, Britain’s Got Talent 2009 contestant (was it really that long ago?) innocently released an album and was holding an online launch party.

Unfortunately her social media marketing team seemingly overlooked the hashtag, which, when Twitter users typed without the capital letters, spelled Su’s Anal Bum Party. Got anything to tell us, Su?

social media marketing fails

 

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2. Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Here’s a lesson in how to alienate a large group of people (in this case, 4 million vegetarians and vegans) – stick loads of posters up around London and all over social media about how GREAT meat is and how vegetarians and vegans are missing out.

Way to p*ss off 11% of the UK population, GBK!

social media marketing fails social media marketing failssocial media marketing fails

 

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3. Robert Dyas Christmas Advert

Good social media marketing campaigns usually leave customers with a feeling, wanting to take action, or start a conversation. But this? Nope. We STILL don’t know how to react.

Robert Dyas released this advert on Facebook as a present for us all at Christmas 2015. Apparently it’s a parody of American retailer Red House Furniture's commercial.

There's no such thing as bad publicity, right...?

https://youtu.be/_YS2dSa-Ud0

 

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4. Boaty McBoatface

Us Brits are great, aren’t we? When faced with the task of naming a brand new, state-of-the-art, multi-million pound investment polar research ship via online poll, which do we choose? Boaty McBoatface.

The name gained tens of thousands of votes, pushing it to the number one spot in the poll, and creating a massive wave of excitement on Twitter.

I guess the lesson of this marketing fail is… Don’t trust the Internet to name a boat?

NB: T&Cs stated that the Chief Exec got final say, who clearly didn’t think Boaty McBoatface was a good enough name (what?!). So they picked “RSS David Attenborough” – a worthy alternative, we say. But don't worry, Boaty McBoatface lives on via Twitter.

https://twitter.com/DoubleEmMartin/status/711796991903174656

 

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5. #AskSeaWorld

Oh dear. Who’s coming up with these awful ideas?

If you're not in the picture, SeaWorld has had a MAJOR backlash ever since the documentary, Blackfish, exposed the lives of the captured killer whales in their care.

In attempt to rehabilitate their image, they came up with the hashtag #AskSeaWorld to encourage Twitter users to ask questions about their park. Cringe.

https://twitter.com/BringtheFlag/status/581198861533908992

 

https://twitter.com/Vagabionda1/status/731167868738539520

https://twitter.com/KellisKupcakes/status/581137858666229760

 

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6. Microsoft's AI Twitter Bot

Science is GREAT, but when Microsoft combined science with Twitter, things went a bit wrong. And by a bit, we mean a lot. Car crash, if you will.

Microsoft launched an AI Twitter account, which is basically a robot account that learns what to say via its users through conversation.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, Tay (the AI) turned into a right knob, spewing racist tweets to the world. Safe to say Microsoft swiftly deleted these tweets and put the project on pause. See you later, Tay.

social media marketing fails social media marketing fails social media marketing fails

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7. South West Trains #SWT20

This is the icing on the marketing fails cake. South West Trains celebrated their 20th anniversary by asking commuters to share their favourite memories with the hashtag #SWT20.

They were asking for it really, weren’t they? Here are our favourite responses.

https://twitter.com/Jamescarragher/status/685074012544851968

https://twitter.com/Woody_woodo/status/685115063162789888

https://twitter.com/ol_king_col/status/685042269901209600

https://twitter.com/easterlauren1/status/685115024222875649


How to make a cool $10k

News reaches us today of one clever kid. 10 year old Jani from Finland is suddenly $10,000 better off thanks to Facebook. Well, thanks to Instagram really (Facebook owns Instagram).

What did Jani do to earn his windfall? Simple. He hacked into the supposedly highly secure Instagram application and started deleting comments left by other users. He then told Instagram, who then told Facebook who then gave him $10k for his trouble. And probably a job at some point in the near future.

Read all about it here


Happy Mondays

Yes, we know it's Monday, but try watching this without laughing and set yourself up for the rest of the week.


The end of Internet Explorer

You might remember that Microsoft released Windows 10 late last year. Ringing any bells? What you may, or may not, have noticed, is Microsoft Edge. That's Microsoft's new web browser, their answer to the slow death of Internet Explorer (IE).

IE has been losing the battle of web browsers for years now, particularly since Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have been on the scene. Microsoft knew they needed to get their act together and hence created Microsoft Edge, their brand new web browser. Admittedly, we don't quite think Edge has taken off as well as they'd liked it to - I guess the Chrome and Firefox users are thinking "If it ain't broke...", which is fair enough. Both browsers work really well.

This being said, Microsoft Edge is slowly taking over Internet Explorer completely. In fact, as of January 12th, the software giant will no longer provide security updates or technical support for IE 8, 9 and 10. That means if you're still using those browsers, you could be vulnerable to threats. Microsoft are keeping IE 11 for now, so we'd recommend upgrading to the latest version if you want to hold on to the browser. Otherwise, you'll need to pack in IE altogether and get used to Edge.

To be honest, we're not surprised to see the back of IE. We've not got the best wrap with it, in fact, we've found it quite problematic in the past. We are strong believers in Google, so our advice would be to make the move to Google Chrome if you're wondering where to turn.

RIP Internet Explorer.


25% of the Internet is managed by WordPress

Breaking news! WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg broke some pretty big news on 9th November this year - WordPress now manages 25 percent of the Internet. That means a quarter of all websites built are made using WordPress - that's a LOT!

The guys at W3Techs (responsible for the most reliable and extensive web technology surveys) crunched the numbers and broke down the Internet by popular content management systems, and WordPress far exceeded number two on the list, Joomla, at 2.8 percent.

CMS stats

W3Tech also shows that WordPress has been the fastest growing CMS, in fact useage grew 1.7 percent since January to now (November 2015), which is a huge increase compared to the competition.

cms stats 2

Mullenweg mentioned that these numbers usually change with every month, but that it's pretty exciting WordPress supports one in four of all websites.

It's not gone to the co-founder's head though, as Mullenweg remarked “The big opportunity is still the 57% of websites that don’t use any identifiable CMS yet, and that’s where I think there is still a ton of growth for us (and I’m also rooting for all the other open source CMSes)".

The future definitely seems bright for WordPress!

Source


A lot can change in four years...

Websites are living, breathing things, and like us humans, they age too. But unlike us humans, websites can actually grow younger (we're totally not jealous) with a little bit of help from, well, us! And here's a perfect example:

One of our longest standing clients, Champor-Champor, a super delicious Thai restaurant in the heart of London, came to us over four years ago looking to create a website for their swanky restaurant. Obviously we jumped at the chance and created a beautiful, easy-to-navigate and fully functioning website.

Fast forward four years and guess what? Things have changed. WordPress designs are more seamless, better designed for user experience and generally look modern and cutting-edge. Let's just say it takes a lot less time for a website to become vintage than say, a car! It was definitely time for a refresh.

So what did we change? Pretty much everything. Whilst we used the same content (which has been continuously updated throughout the years), we're using a brand new parallax theme which essentially structures the website into one fell swoop (or one fell scroll, if you will). Parallax themes have become really popular over the last year and can really add that "wow" factor to a website.

We've also utilised some professional images our client had, displaying them in a full screen way that their old website simply wouldn't have been able to achieve. We could go on, but simply put: the whole website has had a complete upheaval and refresh. And we (that's us AND our client) love it. Have a peep here.

Trust us, a LOT can change in four years. In fact, a lot can change in even just a day with the ever-evolving internet, whether it's new features, new apps and plugins, or simply new trends. It's definitely crucial to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to websites, and luckily that's our job! Think your website might need a refresh? We're always happy to have an informal chat, so pop us an email or give us a bell.


Bring in the old, bring in the new!

We've been super busy in May, having launched numerous high-profile websites for clients old and new. However we're especially proud of two websites in particular and they hold a special place in our hearts here at Terra Ferma Media because they're just a hop, skip and a jump away from us in Wimbledon!

Thought to be the oldest recorded horse stables in England, Wimbledon Village Stables approached us looking for a new website to bring their business into the 21st century. Their out-dated, unresponsive and non mobile-friendly website needed a serious re-jig, and we were the ones for the job! With a lot of careful planning and working very closely with the client, we were able to create a beautiful new website for Wimbledon Village Stables which has, we quote, "changed [their] lives!".

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Wimbledon Brewery. Whilst the original Wimbledon Brewery was tragically lost in a fire in 1889, a small team of local business men decided to bring the brewery and beer scene back to Wimbledon. Wimbledon Brewery needed a basis for their online presence and came to us to create their very first website. This website needed of a lot of customization in order to produce the website the brewery required.

Here's what our happy clients have to say about us:

Carol Andrews, Wimbledon Village Stables

"Thank you all at Terra Ferma Media, we love our new website!"

Mark Gordon, Wimbledon Brewery

"The team at Terra Ferma Media fully understood our brief and delivered accordingly, it is a pleasure working with them and we all look forward to unveiling further website developments over the coming months."

 


Google's upcoming SEO update - what you need to know

Search engine giants Google will be rolling out a major SEO update this April (next month!) that will see mobile-friendly sites rank higher than those that aren't designed for mobile.

It's thought that small businesses will be affected the most, with leading SEO experts suggesting they could lose up to 30% of their traffic if their websites aren't responsive.

How will the new SEO update work?

When someone using their phone or tablet searches for something related to your business, and if your website isn't mobile-friendly, it's likely that your search result will be pushed down Google's rankings.

At this stage, it doesn't look like desktop versions of websites will be affected. Ie, if someone is searching on a desktop, even if your website isn't mobile-friendly, your Google ranking should remain the same.

Obviously the best outcome would be that both desktop and mobile search results benefit your business. This could mean updating your website entirely to ensure it's mobile (and desktop) friendly.

So, is your website mobile-friendly?

One of the quickest ways to tell if a website is mobile-friendly is by its responsiveness. By this, we mean your website should re-jig itself when the screen resolution is changed. Simply minimize your browser whilst on your website, and if the website re-orders itself to leave no horizontal scrolling, it's responsive. If your website stays exactly the same and requires you to scroll horizontally to view the menu, then it's not responsive and not mobile friendly.

If you're still not sure if your website is mobile-friendly, Google have their very own free mobile-friendly test. Pop your URL into the box and see what the big guys at Google have to say about your website.

I don't think my website is mobile-friendly, what do I do?

Don't panic! It's fairly simple to create mobile-friendly websites, and us tech folk at Terra Ferma specialise in mobile-friendly WordPress websites. In fact, every website we've ever created has been responsive and mobile-friendly. For us, it's a no-brainer to optimise our websites for mobile devices.

Take a look at our work here and get in touch if we can help you with anything, big or small!