Web and Social Media

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.


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)

Have you ever pulled up a website on your phone and been frustrated by the tiny text and tabs? Unless I’m desperate to do something there, I usually give up. In either case, I’m frustrated by the awful user experience. Don’t they care about their customers?

When’s the last time you looked at your association website on a mobile phone? Hopefully, it was a good experience because, according to technology research firm Gartner, by 2013 more people will access websites with mobile phones than with desktop computers.

You’ll see evidence of this trend if you look at your website’s analytics and note the different browsers, operating systems, and screen resolutions used by visitors. Bear in mind, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, the numbers may reflect the cold reality that your mobile users have tried and given up on your site.

Members increasingly want your association in their pocket. When they’re not at a desktop computer, they want to find and read what they need, look up other members’ contact info, register for events, attend webinars, and participate in online community discussions.

If your website is difficult to navigate on mobile phones, if images or pages don’t load, or if users have to scroll or zoom excessively to view content, you have a big problem. It looks like you don’t care.

Read more about responsive design websites at the Avectra blog.

responsive association website design

photo by Jeremy Keith (Flickr/adactio)

Something unusual happened to me yesterday. I had a conversation on Twitter.

You might be surprised to hear that, after all, I’ve been a Twitter resident for a long time. But somehow the magic between me and Twitter has faded over the years.

When I first started using Twitter regularly back in 2008 I spent much more time there, especially after I was laid off in early 2009. Back then Twitter seeded many relationships for me – both in the association and Triangle communities. Many of those relationships were deepened during meet-ups and conferences and soon turned into friendships.

It’s easy to rationalize time spent on socializing and professional development, and easy to get sucked into long Twitter sessions. As I got busier with freelance work, I had to change my Twitter habits. I began scheduling my time there and even setting a timer so I wouldn’t spend more than my allotted 20 minutes.

I now use Buffer to schedule tweets and share good reads. I’ve always loved sharing information and resources, even in past careers – the frustrated librarian in me, I guess. Originally I intended those automated tweets to merely be a supplement to whatever I tweeted in real time. But some days, those seven posts were the only sign of my Twitter presence.

Sometimes I would get on Twitter for my 20 minutes, find a lot to read, but not see any opportunity for conversation. Sure, scores of tweets passed through my stream from the nearly 2000 accounts I follow, but either I couldn’t think of anything to say or the tweets were automated. Sometimes I would reply to someone and then never hear back. I don’t take it personally, that’s how Twitter is now.

Luis Suarez has also seen changes in Twitter and got riled up enough to write, Twitter is Where Conversations Go to Die. My tweet and Laura Talley’s retweet of his post inspired the Twitter conversation we had yesterday. The three of us had just a short conversation, but I’m hoping it marks a turning point for me.

If we put our minds to it, can we reclaim Twitter for conversation? Can we reclaim it in a sustainable way? I’m not going to spend hours a day on Twitter and neither should you. How do we make it work?

My first tactic is to create new lists for conversation with those I know, those I don’t know but whose brains I admire, and fellow writers. I already have lists for many of my professional and personal interests but these lists will be a bit more filtered. Perhaps by focusing on these new lists, I can find the conversations I desire amidst all the broadcasting.

I’ll continue to keep my All Friends stream in its usual place in Hootsuite because I love the serendipitous finds it brings me. Plus, maybe I’ll find conversation there too. I’m a dreamer.

One solution to my problem is to participate in more Twitter chats, but they’re a heavy investment of time. I used to always participate in #assnchat, the association community’s weekly chat at 2pm Eastern on Tuesdays, but if I’m in a good writing flow, and I usually am at that time of the day, I don’t want to break away for an hour-long chat. Perhaps another scheduling challenge I need to overcome.

What’s that you say? Yes, we know the #assnchat hashtag is odd, but we’ve come to love it.

I’m curious. Has your approach and use of Twitter changed over the years? Do you find yourself hanging out on other platforms because Twitter has become disappointing? How do you use Twitter to have good conversations?

twitter conversation change

Photo by Alan Levine (Flickr/cogdogblog)

Museums and associations, they’re more alike than you think.

  • Nonprofit mission-driven membership institutions governed by member boards
  • Engaging audiences through education
  • Traditional and hierarchic cultures
  • Professional staff siloed in departments
  • Risk-averse and slow-moving
  • Striving to remain meaningful to a growing younger market

While volunteering in two different museums, I overheard many staff conversations: they worry about the same things we do. When I read the blogs of museum professionals, I’m struck by how much we’re wrestling with some of the same issues.

Many museums are experimenting with new ways to engage with visitors and the public — fun short-term initiatives, like the New Museum’s visitor tweet reviews, and bold long-term steps, like the Walker Art Center’s new website.
The online museum community has been raving about the Walker’s new site, calling it “a game-changer” and “a potential paradigm shift for institutional websites.” What’s the big deal? And what can associations borrow from their approach?

Engagement catalyst

Like most museums, the Walker’s website was focused primarily on providing information about their collections, exhibits and membership. It was all about the Walker. Now the site is, in their words, “an online hub for ideas about contemporary art and culture, both inside the Walker and beyond.” They busted through their physical walls to start a conversation in the online world, where they engage not only those who might visit the museum in Minneapolis, but anyone interested in contemporary art and culture.

Please read the rest of this post about websites as industry hubs at the Avectra blog.

association website content marketing

Google’s new privacy policy takes effect on March 1. It allows them to collect and consolidate user data from all its web properties — Search, Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, Maps and about 50 other Google services. You can’t opt out.

Google has always collected this data at its individual sites. Now it will combine them to get a fuller profile of each of us. Why? It’s all about the green. The more Google knows about you, the more money it makes with targeted ads. Or, in Googletalk, it can provide “a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

What’s privacy worth?

This year’s Art Basel Miami Beach included an installation that prompted attendees to weigh the cost of privacy. Branger Brize set up a charging station, but you could use it only if you agreed to the Terms of Use giving them license to download and use the photos stored on your phone in a digital art projection at the exhibition. Hmm, dead phone or public embarrassment?

Forrester Research says people are more informed about privacy, distinguishing between extremely sensitive information and other data. 44% of consumers surveyed said they hadn’t completed an online transaction because of something they read in a privacy policy. And it is generational, young people are more open and willing to give up their information in exchange for discounts. Naivety or savvy consumerism?

This is our new reality: weighing how much privacy we’ll give up to use a service or make a purchase. We tolerate Facebook’s exploitation of our data because we give it up in exchange for using their platform. We value the return on our data: access to social networks, customization, recommendations, and ultimately, better products and services.

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog.

privacy personal professional data associations

Photo by Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Although it’s been around for two years, Pinterest has finally hit the big time. Everyone’s talking about it. It’s fun and, frankly, a bit addictive.

Pinterest is a virtual pin board — imagine an online scrapbook or vision board. Pinterest users create thematic pin boards based on interests, hobbies or dreams. When you see a piece of online content accompanied by an appealing photo, you “pin” the link (and corresponding photo) to one of your boards by using the website’s Pin It button or a Pin It bookmarklet, or by uploading the link.

Your boards and pins (images) are public. You follow people or their boards, re-pin their pins onto one of your boards, or “like” other pins – the Likes show up on your Facebook page. You can browse pins by topic or search by keyword. It’s social and serendipitous.

Why the buzz?

Pinterest was dismissed by many as merely a niche site for women planning weddings and craft projects, but, according to ComScore, it now has over 4 million users and is rapidly growing. Its traffic increased 329% in the last quarter! No longer niche, it’s one of the top ten social media sites in the world.

Who uses Pinterest?

I see people on Pinterest who don’t use Twitter or Facebook regularly; it’s attracting a new social media audience. The market research firm Experian says Pinterest users are primarily female (58%) between 25 and 44 years old (59%). These demographics “distinguish it from other new social media platforms, which are generally populated by men 18-24.” We’ll see about that, I’ve seen a lot of men join Pinterest recently.

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog.

Pinterest for associations social media

Texas Apartment Association's Pinterest boards

Google’s recent changes to its search algorithm just threw a wrench into your online strategy. Even the White House took notice.

Search users who are logged into Google, that is, anyone who uses a Google app like Gmail or Google+, now have the option to search for “personal results.”

google+ associations

Personal results include updates, links and photos shared by people and organizations on Google+, “transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships,” per Google in their post, Search, plus Your World.

Also, Google+ Profiles are now included in search results and have become part of the autocomplete script in the search field. In the Recommendations sidebar, People & Pages on Google+ are included alongside the usual Google ads.

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog.

If you’re one of my Facebook or Twitter friends, you know I love the Tour de France. You probably also noticed how angry I am about ESPN’s Michael Smith laughing online and during his show, Around the Horn, about two cyclists being hit hard by a car on Sunday during stage 9 of the Tour. You can see how hard in the video shown on Dutch TV. No Dutch is required to know what the commentators are saying.

My friend Danielle Hatfield noticed my anger. She also recognized Smith’s behavior as a social media failure for ESPN. Michael Smith tweets as an ESPN reporter. Whether he knows it or not, he represents ESPN online. Danielle’s post, ESPN: When Your Brand Representatives Become a Liability, dives into this further.

How it all began

Here are the tweets Smith sent out to the world on Monday. They have been deleted from his Twitter account. My earlier screen captures can be seen on Danielle’s blog:

  • “For real, am I wrong for laughing at that Tour de France crash? Can’t get over the driver speeding off as if he didn’t know he hit someone!”
  • “I’m sorry that crash is hilarious. Every. Time.”
  • “It had been far too long since I’d angered an entire community. Today I’ve managed offend cyclists everywhere. Guess what? It’s still funny.”

That is how a man with 95,713 followers on Twitter replies publicly when he sees a car at high speed hitting two cyclists, one of whom, Johnny Hoogerland, flew through the air, landed in a barb wire fence and got 33 stitches later that night.

Eben Oliver Weiss at Bicycling magazine summed up the situation: “The true courageous athletes are picking themselves up off the pavement after hitting the road at 25 to 35 miles per hour and finishing a 140 mile ride. Not for high paying endorsements or lucrative contracts, but a true love of a sport and the desire to be there for their team mates.

tour of france espn michael smith twitter social media

StomachOfAnger t-shirt

Why oh why

You’d think ESPN would love those kinds of heroics. How could Smith be so insensitive? His derision is easily explained. Cycling doesn’t “rate” as a sport in his mind and in the mind of many Americans.

  • Cycling is too European, despite American success. American teams and cyclists are some of the best in the world. Over the last several years the Tour of California has become one of cycling’s premier events attracting the world’s best teams.
  • Cycling is boring. Lots of guys ride in a pack all day and then sprint the last 100 yards to the finish. I used to think baseball was boring, until I understood all its nuances. There’s a lot more to cycling than a novice eye picks up: strategy, history, traditions, unwritten rules, points competitions, specialties, personalities, teamwork, athleticism, grit, courage, heroes and villains.

Maybe Smith doesn’t like cyclists in their spandex outfits on expensive bikes taking up the road. Every community has its share of rude holier-than-thou jerks, including cycling. However, most cyclists are drivers too and they are doing their best to safely share the little road they have.


Like any community already feeling maligned and misunderstood, the cycling community responded with shock, then anger. Nancy Toby was the first to rally the troops via her blog and Twitter. The story and anger spread. But the Twitter cycling community is small and currently distracted by the Tour. We’re already spending several hours a day watching and reading about the Tour. How much time is left to fight Michael Smith and his bosses at ESPN?

At first Smith lashed out at his critics saying it wasn’t that serious — they should lighten up or go play in traffic. He proceeded to tweet all day, bantering with his followers about the angry losers. A lot of those tweets seemed to have disappeared too. Many of those “losers” were people who had lost loved ones to cycling accidents or been hit by cars themselves.

tour de france espn michael smith social media twitter

Photo by HeyRocker (Flickr)

Eventually at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, an apology was issued: “I apologize for my insensitive remarks re: the TdF crash. I recognize my comments were inappropriate given the serious nature of the crash.

ESPN has muzzled him. But does he really understand the callousness of his remarks and the influence they might have on his followers? Many in the cycling community continue to ask for his removal. He seems sure that won’t happen.

WilliamsR24: “All of these people attempting to ruin ur life and ur the jerk? It was a joke. Just like these people attacking u. A joke.”

MrMichael_Smith: “thanks man. believe me i’m good. not gonna succeed.”


So what’s the moral of this story besides “don’t be a turd?”

Train your ambassadors. Your ambassadors are anyone on staff who blogs, tweets, comments or communicates on a public platform. People assume your organization condones their behavior. Show them how to communicate, especially to critics; don’t assume they already know.

Be constantly vigilant. If ESPN’s PR staff had monitored Smith’s tweet stream, you can be sure they would have stepped in and said, hey, buddy, cool it. But Smith kept going down the ugly path, egged on by his fans.

Examine your personal brand. Maybe ESPN approves of Smith’s style? Maybe, like Anheuser-Busch and Miller/Coors, ESPN thinks their entire market is 22 year-old men who are obsessed with boobs and balls (the athletic kind, of course) — a market that likes Smith’s brand of humor. But what happens when your personal brand finds it way far beyond your loyal fans? How will it play in the mainstream press? What would your mother think?

Funny how? I like dry humor, dark humor and making fun of people as much as the next person, but I know when it’s gone too far. Even Dennis Miller who skewers people with a scary yet brilliant kind of smug satisfaction knows you must think about the consequences of your humor. When you laugh at a potentially tragic and personal event, like cancer or car accidents, isn’t that crossing a line? I think so, especially when you’re a role model of sorts and your behavior might influence others to have the same cavalier attitude toward life and limb.

Respond sincerely. No one believes Smith’s apology. No one thinks he’s changed his attitude. No one believes ESPN cares. I never had an opinion about ESPN; it was just another sports channel I watched. I was neutral. Now, I’ve lost respect.

Campaigns need many voices or big influence. Does the Twitter cycling community have any real voice or power? I fear it doesn’t unless mainstream journalists or celebrities take up the cause. Lance would have been perfect for this, but he’s compromised and has enough of his own problems. ESPN is betting that after a few days, the passion will die down, the pesky Twitter cyclists will go away and all will be forgotten. That’s a shame. I bet the scorn and distaste for cyclists won’t be forgotten by Smith’s 95,713 followers on Twitter. That’s scary.

Another lost opportunity. Wouldn’t it be something if an influencer did get ESPN’s attention, educated their staff and turned an ugly episode into a positive campaign about road safety or cycling as an affordable and fun way to get and stay fit? Paging Chris Horner!

Update: If you’d like to tell ESPN what you think about Michael Smith’s behavior, go to http://espn.go.com/espn/contact. Thanks!

tour de france espn michael smith twitter social media

Chris Horner in yellow (leader) at 2011 Tour of California (photo by Dave Strom)

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