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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)

So far we’ve reviewed editing your profile in Part 1 and your settings in Part 2. Now we’ll take a look at some ways to use LinkedIn for networking and professional branding.

Send out status updates to let your network know what you’re working on or to share links that you think your network would be interested in reading. This isn’t Facebook so stick to professional topics and don’t do it so frequently that it’s annoying – no more than a few times a week sounds right to me. Here are some prompts for update ideas. You can talk about yourself, or, even brag about others sometimes:

  • [your name] is writing …
  • is reading about …
  • thinks that …
  • wants to know what you think about …
  • is looking forward to speaking at …
  • is looking forward to attending …
  • just published a …
  • is collaborating with [name] on …

Groups are a mess right now as LinkedIn has recently made changes that have made them a mess of RSS feeds and horrible design. There have been many complaints in social media blogs so I’m hoping that LinkedIn makes changes so that groups will be worth returning to. As they are now, the discussion feature is not easy to use and real discussions are not easy to find.

In an optimistic mood, I suggest that you go to Groups –> Groups Directory to search by keyword for those that might interest you. You can customize your settings for each of your groups by selecting the group in My Groups. Then once in the group select More… –> My Settings.

  • You can choose to display (or not) the group’s logo on your profile.
  • You can opt to receive an email each time there is activity in the group (not recommended), or a daily or weekly digest of group activity (recommended), and specify an email address for that digest.
  • Allow the group manager and members to message you. If it becomes a problem, you can change the setting.

Participate in group discussions. You can start a discussion, comment or ‘like’ what someone else has said. Do not spam the group, and by that I mean do not post promotions for your business, webinars, events, etc. Too many groups become full of noise due to all the well-meaning posts about webinars and seminars. Also, please do not add any RSS feeds to a group. Don’t make the situation worse. Try to be a good citizen.

If you contribute valuable content, it’s possible that your discussion will be selected by the group manager as Manager’s Choice. Also, active group participants will be labeled as Top Influencers. However, make sure your contributions are worthwhile and not just filler to get that billing.

Get familiar with the Questions & Answers section. It’s found under the More drop-down in the header, then select Answers. Questions are organized by categories listed in the right side bar. You can subscribe to an RSS feed for each category (and sub-category) that interests you. By answering questions posted by others, you will establish your expertise. The person asking the question also has the option of selecting a Best Answer and if yours is selected, it will be listed on your profile in the right side bar under [Your Name’s] Q&A – Expertise in.

Browse through the Applications directory and add any that interest you.

  • Share your PowerPoint presentations with SlideShare.
  • You can share your upcoming itineraries on My Travel by TripIt. This is a great way to find out if others in your network will be in the same city as you so you can arrange a meet-up.
  • Use the Events application to search for events that you are attending and RSVP. You can also use this feature to see the events that those in your network are attending.
  • Share your current reads on Reading List by Amazon.
  • Huddle Workspaces is an online collaboration tool that you can use with others in your network. Use to share files – your resume and an online portfolio of articles and other documents that showcase your talent.
  • I mentioned WordPress and Blog Link in Part 1 of this series. Use these to import your blog’s feed into your profile.

Go to Contacts –> Add Connections and import your contacts from your email provider (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) or from your computer in the form of a .csv file (Outlook export format). Do this every quarter so that LinkedIn will notify you in your network updates if any of them join LinkedIn.

When you send invitations to connect, please don’t use the default message. Check the box for Add a personal note with your invitation?. Prove that you care about connecting enough to take a few seconds to personalize the message. This is particularly important when connecting to those whom you don’t know well or haven’t seen in a long time – they may not quite remember how they know you.

If one of your connections is making too many updates for your liking (maybe they’re sending all their tweets to LinkedIn) or you’re connected to someone whose updates really don’t matter to you, you can hide them in Settings –> Home Page Settings –> Network Updates.

One thing to remember about all social networking platforms: everyone has a different connection philosophy. Some only connect to those they know well; some to anyone they’ve ever met; some to those they only know online; and some to anyone in the same industry or city. When you receive an invitation to connect, select either connect or ignore. Avoid selecting I don’t know this person. If someone gets that label too often, LinkedIn will assume they’re a pest and suspend their account.

Do you have any tips to add?

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In LinkedIn Basics: Part 1, I gave some tips for enhancing your LinkedIn profile. Now let’s look at your profile Settings. The link to Settings is at the top of your home page. It’s a good idea to go through each setting when you have time so they’re set in a way that’s best for you.

Profile Settings

Where there is an option on visibility, as in My Profile Photo, Member Feed, select everyone. This is a networking site, there’s no need to hide anything.

Check Public Profile. Make sure that Full View is checked and that all the boxes underneath are checked.

In Twitter Settings, select Yes on Display your Twitter account if you have a Twitter account and would like those who view your LinkedIn profile to know about it.

For Share your tweets in your LinkedIn status in Twitter Settings, I suggest selecting Share only tweets that contain #in. LinkedIn is not the same audience as your Twitter followers and your tweets may not always be appropriate for LinkedIn. It might be too much noise for your LinkedIn connections if you make each tweet a status update.

Email Notifications

If you would like to display your email address so others can contact you about opportunities, check Contact Settings. Enter your email address in the text box under Opportunity Preferences.

Review Receiving Messages to make sure it’s customized the way you wish as far as frequency of emails – individual delivery, daily and weekly digests or none at all.

Check that you are receiving all invitations under Invitation Filtering.

Home Page Settings

In Network Updates –> Manage Updates by Type review the types of updates you want to see on your home page. Your selections here will depend on how interested you are in the LinkedIn life of your connections.

RSS Settings

If you would like to subscribe to the RSS feed for your network updates so you can view them at your leisure in Google Reader, you can get the feed address in Your Private RSS Feeds. An RSS feed will send you updates from your connections and deliver them to a feed reader, like Google Reader. Commoncraft videos explain how RSS feeds and Google Reader work.


Make sure you are receiving invitations in Group Invitation Filtering.

You can change the order in which your groups are displayed in Groups Order and Display. I’ll go into more details on groups in the next post.

Personal Information

Make sure your full name is checked, not your first name/last initial in Name & Location.

In Email Addresses, always have more than one email address listed in Current Email Addresses. In case you lose access to a work email address, you want to be sure you have a personal one listed there as well.

Privacy Settings

Check Connections Browse. Select Yes to allow your connections to see your other connections. The best approach to social networking is one of giving and helping. You can’t help others by hiding your connections.

Profile Views is a tricky one. Do you want people to know you visited their profile? Does it seem sort of stalkerish to you or completely normal? I go back and forth on this one, sometimes I have name and headline selected and sometimes, when I lean toward halfway hiding myself because I want to be nosy or curious privately, I have anonymous profile selected.

Review your Profile & Status Updates. For Publish profile updates, recommendations and companies you follow?, select Yes because if you make significant changes to your Profile — for example, new title or position, new award, etc. — wouldn’t you want your network to know? However, if you are editing your profile (doing housekeeping) and it’s not newsworthy, change this option to No before you do all that editing so you don’t keep sending out updates on your editing.

For Notify your connections of status updates?, select Yes because this is a great way to stay visible and encourage engagement with your network. Next time I’ll give some tips on using LinkedIn, including status updates.

Update: Part 3

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LinkedIn is the top social network for hiring, according to a recent study. You should take as much care with your LinkedIn profile as you would your resume. This series of three posts will show you how to use LinkedIn for networking, professional development and personal branding. But first, here are some tips to enhance your profile.

Start by going to Profile –> Edit Profile on your LinkedIn home page. On the right, there is a blue bar showing profile completeness that suggests how to reach 100%. Start by following their suggestions until your profile is 100% complete.

linked in basics tips how to

Upload a professional photo, ideally the same photo you use for Twitter, Facebook (unless you prefer something more informal for that platform), your blog or website and any other online communities you frequent. Using the same photo will help establish consistency in your online presence — a personal branding plus, if you’re into that type of thing.

Your Professional Headline — the tagline underneath your name — is by default your title in your Current Position, but you can change this to anything that better reflects what you do and that will be better understood by others. Remember the power of keywords — this field is indexed by LinkedIn search. Use those same keywords throughout your profile.

Websites – List your websites (yours or your company’s) and your blogs. You can customize the descriptor by selecting Other.

Twitter – Add your Twitter account URL and username to the Twitter field. You can also display updates to your Twitter account (your tweets) on your profile page. However, don’t assume your LinkedIn connections are the appropriate audience for sharing all your Twitter updates in your LinkedIn status. Your tweets may be perceived as noise if you tweet frequently. Also, many people tweet not only about their profession or industry, but also about their personal interests – the Tour de France, local news and recipes. Is LinkedIn the appropriate platform to share those tweets? Be selective and add #in only to tweets that are appropriate to share with your LinkedIn connections. Many third-party Twitter applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite also give you the option of marking individual tweets for LinkedIn or Facebook.

If you have a blog, use one of the Applications (WordPress or Blog Link) to import your blog’s feed into your profile.

Edit Public Profile –> Your Public Profile URL to create an URL (website address) that displays your full name — great for Google indexing — instead of the ugly-looking default address. This more concise URL will be easier to use on business cards and other networking sites. Also, make sure that Full View is selected for your profile.

Add a Summary and Specialties. This is your marketing copy; make it compelling. These are searchable areas so take full advantage of keywords.

Look over each editable area (especially Education and Current/Past Positions) and make sure they are complete. This is the resume portion of your profile. Former colleagues will be able to find you easier if you include past positions.

Interests give a glimpse of the whole person. Your interests may differentiate you or help create a bond to someone with similar interests. Just be smart about what you include.

Add any credentials and awards to Honors and Awards. Don’t forget anything you received due to your volunteer activities.

Ask for Recommendations. Don’t be shy. Do it when someone’s memory is fresh. Include a personal note with your request.

You can rearrange the sections of your profile by selecting the symbol at the top left of each section and dragging the section above or below other sections. Decide which parts of your profile you want to accentuate and drag those sections to a higher position. For example, if you are looking for a job, you may wish to move your Recommendations further up, especially if you have a lot of good recent ones.

Next time I’ll look at the Settings page and some tips on using LinkedIn to share your expertise.

Update: Part 2 and Part 3

Last week I spoke to the Georgia Society of Association Executives about how to use social media for their associations. Here’s the session description:

Don’t create that Facebook or Twitter page yet! There’s prep work to be done. Learn what to do before diving into social media, or, if you already jumped, how to ensure a good return on your time investment. You’ll learn to plan, monitor, measure and use the tools effectively.

I posted my PowerPoint presentation along with a PDF of the presentation including explanatory notes on Slideshare. I also created this handout for the attendees that covered some best practices and supplementary resources. Although the presentation was created for an audience of association executives and staff, the same principles apply if you manage a for-profit business.

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When you’ve worked for home builders associations for ten years, it is hard to completely cut the cord, and I’m very glad for that since they’re a great community of members. I was back in the fold this week speaking to the members of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties about social media. I posted my presentation, Social Media for You and Your Business, as well as a PDF of the presentation including notes, on SlideShare.

Social Media for You and Your Business

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On Friday I was a speaker at the Association Executives of North Carolina’s Technology Forum. I talked about using social media as an individual for personal/professional reasons and as an association. I posted the presentation, as well as a PDF of the presentation including notes, on SlideShare. You can link to that from the graphic below.

I also created this handout for the attendees that covered some basic tips and best practices for social media.

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I know that there are many association mid-level staffers (managers, directors, etc.) who are personally engaged in social media and believe that their association could benefit from it. However they are not in a position to lead their association there. What do they do? How can they somehow work the system and get their leadership to see that social media can help their association achieve its goals and so much more?

First, they need to look over their association’s strategic plan (or mission, goals, etc.) and see where social media can fit in as another tool or strategy to achieve those goals. Pay particular attention to these areas as they can all be enhanced by social media: advocacy, public relations, member recruitment, member engagement/retention, member communication, education and events.

Set up some Google Alerts on your association’s name, acronym, and variation of name, publications, conference/trade show, chapter acronyms, competitor name/acronym, and any other keywords that will help you to listen in on what people are saying out there. Set up a Twitter Search on the same terms. You can set up RSS feeds for all of these so that you can receive the alerts and search results automatically. I use Google Reader to get my RSS feeds.

Export your member and staff list, or if that is too cumbersome, export a list of your leadership, committee members, and show/meeting attendees. Be mindful that this will exclude those whom you probably would most like to know better – your “mailbox” members (that old term should be replaced!). Upload your list to Facebook and LinkedIn, and then to a Gmail account and have Twitter search that network for you. Find out who is active and what’s on their mind. Do a lot of listening.

Also do a search for some of your leadership’s peers (both staff and members), your association’s competitors and other associations that are similar in member type to yours. Are they involved in social media? These examples can be helpful later when trying to sell your leadership on social media.

Then make a plan. Review your organization’s goals or strategic plan and note how social media tools (starting with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) might help your association achieve those goals. Only plan to take on one of these tools at a time – baby steps. Remember, you can’t just create a presence and walk away, you need to stay engaged, and that takes time and effort. Break your plan down into immediate, short-term and long-term ideas, keeping in mind that your plan will change as your association learns.

Try not to go it alone. Talk to some of the staff whom you discovered are involved in social networking. Bear in mind that many will not want their personal social media life to be known at work but they can be allies and advisors to you. Contact some of the members and ask them for advice. Tell them that you are “going renegade” and investigating options to further your association’s goals through social media – you’re just in the research phase. Ask their advice and if they would like to help. Take advantage of this intelligence-gathering opportunity – you can find out a lot about their real perception of the association, what they want/need, how they envision their association.

This is a lot of work but you will learn much from it. A huge concern to any CEO about social media is the amount of time it requires. This is a valid concern and one that you should be ready to address. It’s why I haven’t mentioned blogging as part of this plan, although it may be something to consider depending on your association’s resources. Another reason to have allies amongst staff is that you may already have in place others who can assist with this effort. Social media can not belong to one department alone. It must be integrated across many departments and can be an aid in breaking down departmental silos since it will require collaboration.

Here are some recent posts that will help you prepare for this task and for the nay-sayers.

What else does someone need to do before they bring their ideas (and a plan) to the big guns? Some of you have gone through this at your association. What advice do you have?