alexa-google-home

Shhh! The walls have ears.

2017 is shaping up to be the year of the digital assistant.

Devices featuring voice recognition digital assistants took CES by storm this year. Intelligent, voice activated digital assistants abound. Amazon has Alexa, Microsoft has Cortana, Apple has Siri and Google has… well, Google.

Amazon’s Alexa stole the show as it seems to have gained first mover advantage by not only featuring successfully in the popular Amazon Echo device, but also being the voice recognition system of choice for other companies producing everything from media streaming to fridges.

I think people are just waking up to the possibilities for – and dangers of – this technology.

We were amused by the story of a 6 year old girl using Alexa in her parent’s Amazon Echo to order herself a dolls house. When the news was reported on local TV in San Diego, the words spoken by the newscaster triggered other Amazon Echoes within earshot of tuned-in TVs to perk up and attempt to do the same. Ooops.

The trouble is – that’s how easy it can be to voice activate these digital assistants. They hear their trigger phrase (or think they hear it) and off they go. I’ve often seen my Google phone activate when it thinks it hears me talking about the Google Assistant (normally using the words, “OK Google” as part of a wider conversation on the topic).

"People are just waking up to the possibilities for – and dangers of – this technology."

Should we be concerned about this?

Maybe. You may or may not know that Google already records and retains all your Google activity. This includes keeping an audio transcript of everything you say whenever you activate Google’s digital assistant. Alexa does the same thing. You can review and delete these messages, but they are there.

You can see your Google audio transcripts by visiting https://myactivity.google.com and filtering the content to “Voice & Audio”.

When we tried this, we found that many snippets of conversations had been captured and could be replayed at the touch of a button. This included personal or work related conversations that could have included sensitive material. Try it yourself, it’s a little unnerving.

We’re not discussing anything nefarious here – but why does this make me uneasy? The thing is, these tech firms say they need to capture and retain this content to help fine tune the accuracy of their digital assistants. Maybe…but still.

On that note, whilst Alexa is the star of this year’s CES event, newly arriving Google Home (not yet available in the UK) may yet win the race. The search giant may be a late comer to the personal assistant device party but it’s own Google Assistant should, on paper, have access to a wider range of information than Amazon.

If only it had a more personal name than “Google”. My bet is that it will sooner than we think.


good-HQ

Digital businesses boom in London

London is open.

Facebook, Google and Apple have announced major expansions in London, proving the capital is open to the world’s biggest brands and is the leading city for trade and investment.

Facebook announced they will be doubling their presence in the UK by opening new headquarters in London’s Fitzrovia. The new hub will open in 2017, creating 500 additional jobs including engineers, marketers, project managers and sales staff.

Google, who already has a London HQ, is moving 2,500 staff into brand new digs in King’s Cross. The new 371,000 sq ft building consists of 11 floors and even includes a 90m running track for employees to let off some steam. Rumour has it the tech giant has snapped up a number of nearby properties, suggesting further developments in the future.

Rumour has it Google has snapped up nearby properties for future developments.

Earlier in the year Apple revealed that they will be making Battersea Power Station their new headquarters, spending an eye-watering £9 billion on the project. Apple will be moving 1,400 staff from multiple sites around the capital into their new campus, expected to be open in 2021. Apple will occupy six floors (500,000 sq ft) of the Grade II listed former electricity generator.

London’s position as a global technology hub isn’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.


instagram

Up your game with these 9 Instagram hacks

It's tough in the world of Instagram.

With over 500 million active monthly users, it can be difficult to find and interact with your ideal audience. Are you struggling to create content that people like, or failing to gain engagement and followers? Get the most out of Instagram with these nine hacks.

1. Hashtags

Did you know the most popular Instagram hashtag is #love? A sure-fire way of getting more likes, followers and comments is by using hashtags. Use appropriate (repeat: appropriate) hashtags on your posts and you’ll find your engagement rates sky rocket. You’re allowed to use up to 30 tags per post, excluding comments, which means you can comment on your own photos with extra hashtags to reach more people. Do some research about what your competitors are tagging and, if you can think of a use for it, create your own hashtag.

2. Lighting

Instagram is all about photos, and good photos need great lighting. A well-lit, naturally bright photo will always get more likes than a dark photo. It’s a no-brainer. Try to take your photos in a light room (or outdoors), but stay away from harsh sunlight.

3. Angle

Know your flat lays to your FWIS’s. Products, food, clothes and more can benefit from flat lays. Essentially this is taking a birds-eye view photo of your subject laid flat on a surface. Check out @flatlays Instagram account for inspiration. FWIS (From Where I Stand) is another popular Instagram angle, which creates a sense of viewing life through someone else’s eyes. Just make sure you have cool shoes on. Check out @fromwhereistand.

4. Filter

Instagram’s own filters are sufficient for some, but not us. We love Ludwig, Juno and Crema, but sometimes it’s just not enough. Use your phone’s inbuilt photo editing software or our favourite app, VSCO, for more editing options. VSCO has hundreds of free filters to choose from and, better yet, you can upload a VSCO edited image to Instagram and continue to edit in-app. Your editing options are endless, just don’t go OTT. Once you’ve found your favourite filter style, try to stick to it.

Know your flat lays to your FWIS’s.

5. Captions

Keep them short, sweet, informative. Think of it this way: if you’re posting a photo of your dinner, we already know quite a lot about your meal. You might want to tell us what it is, if it was nice, or how to make it. Instagram users scroll through photos quickly, so you don’t have much time to grab their attention. Chuck in an emoji if you’re feeling fancy.

6. Timing

When’s the best time to post on Instagram? Good question. Start with your audience demographic. How old are they? If they’re of working age, posting during working hours should be avoided. Where do they live? Don’t forget about time differences. If your audience is in the UK and USA, posting in the evening (UK time) is a good place to start. When is your audience online? At school, whilst commuting, whilst the kids are at school, in the evening, etc. Think about your audience, combine these answers and you’ll find your perfect time to post on Instagram.

7. Links

Instagram does not like links. No one will copy a link and paste it into their phone’s browser, so don’t bother pasting a link into the caption of your photo. The only way around this is by changing the clickable link in your Instagram bio. If you’re releasing a new product, plugging a blog post, or referring to a recipe, pop the link in the URL section of your bio. Change this link before you post or immediately afterwards – IGers are fast movers.

8. Take advantage of Instagram’s apps

Instagram is not a one-app band. In fact there are three official sub-Instagram apps to enhance your Instagram experience. Boomerang adds fun to your stream by creating short, snappy videos that play on a loop (a bit like Vine, but shorter). Layout answers all your photo mosaic prayers, giving users a number of – you guessed it – layouts to input multiple photos. Hyperlapse creates stabilised time lapse videos that allows you to edit the speed of the video.

9. Engagement

Believe it or not, Instagram isn’t just about cool photos. There are real people behind Instagram accounts, and they like to talk. If someone comments on your post, don’t ignore it. Respond to get the conversation flowing. In the same breath, spend time commenting on other people’s posts, too. You’ll find that this helps to get you noticed as an active and engaging user, which is exactly the kind of user people want to follow. Ka-ching.

 

That’s it. Whilst nothing happens overnight, if you abide by these nine hacks, you’ll no doubt propel yourself (or your company) through the harsh digital world that is Instagram. Good luck!


work-place

Facebook launches Workplace

Workplace by Facebook is a new way to communicate with your colleagues.

When was the last time you communicated with your friends by email? Ages ago, we bet. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage and FaceTime provide us with a simple way to talk and share images and videos with our friends and family. Workplace by Facebook combines all of these features but is designed for communicating with our colleagues. Instead of using Facebook before and after work, Facebook wants us to use the platform during working hours too.

Here’s how it works: Workplace by Facebook has the same look, feel and features as Facebook. Colleagues can create groups (e.g. “Advertising” or “A/W 2016 Ideas”), invite other colleagues and use the platform to brainstorm, share photos, arrange and hold meetings online, and much more. Think of it as a Facebook page just for your office.

Importantly, and quite rightly so, your personal Facebook and Workplace Facebook pages are completely separate. No more worrying that your latest drunken escapade will be on show to your bosses.

Workplace could replace all emails within your company.

Admittedly, similar services have been around for years. The difference is everyone is familiar with Facebook, making Workplace much easier to navigate and for newbies to hop on the bandwagon seamlessly. It involves very little training, meaning fewer costs for businesses.

We now have an excuse to spend all day on Facebook.

What about security? You’re probably hesitant to discuss business critical, highly sensitive information on a social network, right? The good news is that Facebook is serious about security. Companies control all of their data, meaning you can modify, delete or export your data at any time. You can read more about Workplace by Facebook’s security here.

We expect companies with a large workforce will benefit the most from Workplace. It seems like a great place to collectively brainstorm and communicate, which can be tricky and confusing when you have to factor in 50 members of a team via email.

If you’re still a bit confused about how Workplace by Facebook works, watch this video.


How to create an Instagram business profile

Finally, Instagram business accounts have arrived.

The change adds a call-to-action button to your page, displays your sector, and, most importantly, has analytics.

Making the change is simple.

  1. On your mobile, open Instagram
  2. Go to the profile you want to change to a business account
  3. Click on Settings (top right corner)
  4. Scroll down and click "Switch to Business Account"
  5. This will prompt you to login to Facebook
  6. Login to Facebook and allow the app to view your Pages
  7. Select the page you want linked to the Instagram account
  8. Confirm the details of your business

Done! Your page will now be a business account.

PLEASE NOTE: Be cautious when choosing an account to make a business account - you can only authorise ONE page on Facebook to be an Instagram business account. This means if you manage more than one Instagram account, only one will be able to be a business account.

Once you've made the change, your page will change slightly. There will be a call-to-action Contact button under your general stats, and you'll be able to explore analytics in the top right-hand corner or on individual posts.

Get snapping!


Nextdoor: Connect with your neighbours

Originally tested in the US, new social media network Nextdoor, aimed at encouraging social interaction between your neighbours, is launching in the UK.


Nextdoor
enables you to interact with your neighbours via a mobile app. Neighbours can post about crime alerts, items for sale, required services (babysitter, plumber, etc), parking or building notifications, events, and much more.

Lost your pet? Found a child's toy? Maybe there's an issue with litter on your street? You can discuss this directly with your neighbours on Nextdoor.

Neighbours must verify their address via postcard or phone number, and once verified (and there are more than 10 members in one neighbourhood), the fun begins. The app has proved a great success in the US and has been tested in 500 neighbourhoods in the UK. It is thought that the timely launch of this app will help to rebuild local communities as a result of the Brexit vote.

We have social networks for close friends and family, for places we want to visit, for following celebrities, and for contacting businesses. Why not create a social network for our neighbours? Nextdoor is the ultimate community noticeboard.

The app is new to the UK so you might find that your neighbourhood doesn't have enough members to get started. So tell your family and neighbours that you (might) already talk to about the app to get the ball rolling.

More here: https://nextdoor.com/

We've signed up and below is an example of our neighbourhood.

nextdoor social network


10 Social Media Sins

Resident web development manager, Adam Leone (and self confessed social media grump) is having a bit of a moan and has come up with ten social media sins. These are just some of the things we experience on a daily basis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

1. Referring to loved ones as "This one" or "These people"

Posting a picture of your friend or loved one, with a description that reads along the lines of "Found this one at the pub".

Ah, yes - only the true 10 or so friends will get what you're talking about. Good job you were so cryptic about your relationship with "this one".

 

2. Motivational posters, quotes and memes

An image of a sunset, someone walking down an empty road or someone looking longingly into the distance with a quote or caption by someone that we've never heard of.

We all have that one friend on Facebook who feels the need to preach through the use of memes or posters about how we can best live our lives.

 

3. Detailing your child's every move

It's become a trend now to upload images of ultrasound scans, followed by an image of the little one fresh out of the womb.

Here's something to consider before you next post a picture of your little one. No one cares about your child as much as you do.

 

4. Adding the word "Life" to hashtags

Uploading pictures of yourself on a beach, on a boat or somewhere else, accompanied with hashtags ending in "life". #YaughtLife #BeachLife #AnnoyedLife.

We get it, your existence on this earth is perfect because you've nestled yourself into whatever niche or fad that best suits your #QuirkyLife.

 

5. Uploading too many holiday photos

This is a fairly obvious one. Twenty photos is enough - not a 100.

Why is this annoying? Facebook is a place to pick and choose what you want people to see, not every little thing that goes on during your trip away - nobody is really that interested in you.  Also, holiday photos just advertise the fact that your house is empty.

 

6. Duck feet

When someones feet are pointing inward in a photo.

This is meant to make the person look cute or slimmer by increasing the size of the thigh gap. Just stand properly please.

 

7. Over hashtagging

Using hashtags too much.

#When #You #Use #Too #Many #Hashtags #It #Just #Becomes #Noise #And #Looks #Like #Youre #Shouting!

 

8. The whinger

People complaining about their lives in a status - feeling tired of this.

People complaining about how they've only had three hours sleep or another arduous day at the office. These people actually serve a purpose by keeping things real on social media, however it's still a blatant cry for attention and shows a lack of perspective.

At least you have access to a phone or computer to upload your moans to the world. Some people in the world don't even have access to running water.

 

9. Voicing your political opinion

People taking a "higher ground" with their views during referendums or other times of political strife.

Proceed with caution. Know what you're talking about fully before doing this, or even better still, get a job in politics and make a real difference.

 

10. Speaking in the third person

Adam Leone is actually guilty of #thisone #ThirdPersonLife #SocialMediaGrumbles #SocialMediaSin #Facebook #Twitter #Instagram


A kicker of a social media manager slip-up

Every social media manager's worst nightmare is posting something on the wrong social channel.

With the click of a (wrong) button, a social media manager can unleash any number of posts, tweets, photos or videos to the wrong account for thousands to see. For an inexperienced manager, this is an easy mistake to make. For those of us more experienced, this is only a distant nightmare that we (touch wood) hope will never happen.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to the social media manager in charge of Arsenal's Mesut Ozil and Man City's Ilkay Gundagon's social media channels. A post that was clearly meant to be posted on Gundagon's Twitter page was accidentally posted on rival team player Ozil's page. The link between the two is that both players are German-Turks, which makes it even more likely that this mishap was the working of the same social media manager.

The interesting part of this story is the reaction from fans. Many were disappointed at the realisation that Ozil wasn't personally tweeting himself. Fans felt betrayed and annoyed that the persona they'd come to know and love was actually a random person at the end of a computer. The upside to this is that the social media manager must have been doing a good job to make fans think it was the man himself.

So, what can we learn from this all-mightly slip up? Firstly, take social media with a pinch of salt. It's highly likely that your favourite celebrity is paying for a professional to run their accounts for them. Secondly, remember that for many, social media is all business. Whilst the average Joe might use social media for its primary purpose - communication - celebrities, footballers, brands, bloggers, etc use social media for business purposes, and it can be very lucrative. Last but not least, if you do want someone to run your social media accounts, choose someone with experience and a good track record. I'm sure we know someone...


iphone

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


Five reasons why WordPress is the best for blogging and websites

Here at Terra Ferma we’re pretty evangelical about WordPress. As a free blogging     platform and the backbone for premium websites, Wordpress has loads of advantages for different users: businesses and bloggers alike can benefit from its dynamic themes, SEO friendliness, fantastic functionality, incredible usability...the list goes on. In fact, 15% of the top 1,000,000 websites in the world use WordPress (including The New York Times and Time Magazine Blog). This can all seem a bit intimidating for the humble blogger, yet this evolving and expanding platform should still be the top choice for your blog.

Almost five years ago I decided that I’d like to channel a passion for cooking and eating into a blog. I’d admit it; I had no idea what I was doing. Since then I’ve learned a few things about how easy it can be to create, nurture and expand a Wordpress blog.

So here are five reasons why WordPress is the only word in blogging:

  1. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to use Wordpress

Creating a WordPress site; choosing a theme; and uploading your first post is simplicity itself. As long as you know how to open a web browser, you can create your very own blog. Of course, if you would like help developing your site, you can get all the support you need from WordPress savvy website development experts like us!

 

  1. Perfect for the technologically savvy

WordPress blogs can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want. With lots of additional functions, it offers the opportunity for users to gradually develop their blog. Whereas other blogging platforms leave you high and dry when you want to change things up a bit, Wordpress always offers easy ways to improve your site.

 

  1.  It offers amazing themes

WordPress offers a fantastic choice of free designs as well as a huge catalogue of Premium themes. Whether you want a personal gardening blog, or one to showcase your business, there’ll be a theme to accommodate it!

 

  1. It’s incredibly popular

Wordpress really dominates the blogging world and has been around for over a decade. This means that users instinctively know their way around Wordpress sites, making it really easy for site visitors to navigate. You might have fantastic content, but if your reader can’t make head to toe of your blog’s layout, they’re not going to stick around.

 

  1. Content is easy to manage

In the digital world, content is king. It doesn’t matter how flashy your site is, if you can’t easily manage and clearly display your fantastic content, you won’t be able to draw the readers in. WordPress also have a great app – perfect for uploading posts and photos on the move!

 

Perhaps the best thing about WordPress is its potential. If you’d like to find out how to get the most out of your blog then please get in touch.