barred Hootsuite owl by nebirdsplus

This article was originally published in the Association Executives of North Carolina’s Success By Association magazine, February 2016 issue.

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Social media is a great way to connect with others, find and share resources, and build a community. But how do you find time to manage it? At a recent AENC Technology Roundtable, I told my fellow attendees about two time-saving social media tools I couldn’t live without: Hootsuite and Buffer. They both have free and pay versions: I use the free version of Hootsuite and the $10/month version of Buffer.

Like you, I have limited time to spend on social media, unless I’m procrastinating, but my social media ROI is worth the effort. Since many of the people in my association network live outside North Carolina, I only have the chance to be with them “in real life” at the few conferences I attend each year. Social media helps me maintain a presence in and provide value to my association community.

Hootsuite, your content dashboard

I use Hootsuite to read and interact on Twitter, although it does much more than that. Hootsuite helps me make sense of Twitter, and that’s important when you follow more than 3,000 Twitter accounts like I do (don’t ask!). The Hootsuite website is a customizable dashboard. At the top of the dashboard is a box where you compose and schedule tweets (or other social media updates).

The dashboard is organized by tabs. Under each tab, you can display up to ten columns. The first tab is the default Home tab, the page that’s always displayed when you go to Hootsuite. My Home tab is set up to show columns for:

  • Home – tweets from all the people I follow, i.e., what you normally see on your Twitter home page
  • Mentions – tweets with @deirdrereid in it
  • My Tweets
  • Messages (private inbox)
  • Messages (private outbox)

I also have a column on my Home tab for one of my Twitter lists (Friends) and one of my saved searches (deirdrereid – my website domain, so I can see when someone tweets a link to one of my blog posts). You can also create a column for Scheduled if you use Hootsuite to schedule tweets.

My Hootsuite tabs are organized by topic, for example, Associations, Content Marketing, Writing, Brain Food, Clients, and Locals. Under each of those tabs, I go deeper with columns for Twitter lists and searches related to each topic. Instead of wading through hundreds or thousands of tweets every day, I skim my Hootsuite columns (my lists and searches) to see the tweets that interest me most.

I’ve created dozens of Twitter lists organized by topic. Lists can be public (viewable by others) or private. Most of mine are private. When I follow someone on Twitter, I add them, if appropriate, to one of my lists.

For example, under the Associations tab, I created columns for my Twitter list of association staff, my Twitter list of association vendors, a saved search for #assnchat (the association community hashtag), a search for #aenc, and searches for upcoming association conferences.

Your association could create lists of members, prospects, industry media sites and blogs, technology vendors (helpful for keeping up with technology and industry thought leadership), association management sites and blogs, industry hashtags (perhaps #eventprofs or #profdev), or conference hashtags.

When I have 20 minutes to spend on Twitter, I might focus on a few columns to see what I can find to read, for example, one of my content marketing columns, the #assnchat column, and my Friends column.

In addition to Twitter, Hootsuite also supports Facebook (profile, page, and group), Google+ (page), and LinkedIn (profile, group, and company). In the Hootsuite App Directory, you can find other social networks to add to your dashboard, like Instagram, YouTube, and Flickr.

Buffer, your content publisher

Both Buffer and Hootsuite can be used to schedule and publish tweets and Facebook and LinkedIn updates, but I prefer Buffer.

Buffer allows you to create a publishing schedule for each day of the week for each of your social networks. You can choose your own times or use the times suggested by Buffer’s algorithm.

Buffer supports Twitter, Facebook (profile, page, group), LinkedIn (profile, page), Google+ (page), and Pinterest. The free version of Buffer limits the number of messages you can schedule, so I use the $10/month version—their Awesome Plan. The Awesome Plan allows you to connect ten social profiles, schedule up to 100 posts at a time, and give access to two people for each social account. You also get analytics for the messages you’ve published in the last 30 days.

You can schedule messages on the Buffer website or you can use the Buffer extension icon for Chrome and Safari browsers. When I’m reading something I want to share, I click my Buffer extension icon. A Buffer editing box pops up, pre-populated with a suggested tweet and shortened URL. I select which of my social accounts I want it to publish to, and edit the tweet, if I wish, for those accounts. For Twitter, I can abbreviate the text and add a hashtag. For LinkedIn, I can add more text and remove any Twitter abbreviations and hashtags. If you want to revise or reorder any of your scheduled messages, you can do that on the Buffer website.

Both Buffer and Hootsuite have apps for your phone and iPad so you can check and schedule social media updates when you’re away from your desk. I can’t imagine using social media without these two tools. They help me use my time effectively, find good reads, and share my finds with others.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer for technology firms serving the association market. The association community remains her professional home after spending ten years at national and state associations overseeing membership, vendor programs, marketing, publications, chapter relations and more. 

Still trying to figure out Twitter? I don’t blame you, they don’t make it easy. Check out my Twitter basics series:

 (Creative Commons licensed photo by nebirdsplus)