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)

The morning after Sandy hit I read a post by John Herrman about how we use Twitter during disasters. “Twitter’s capacity to spread false information is more than canceled out by its savage self-correction. In response to thousands of retweets of erroneous Weather Channel and CNN reports that the New York Stock Exchange had been flooded with “three feet” of water, Twitter users, some reporters and many not, were relentless: photos of the outside of the building, flood-free, were posted. Knowledgeable parties weighed in.” Wisdom of the crowd?

Andrew Razeghi at Fast Company asks whether we should hire someone for what they know or whom they know. IQ or Klout score? He uses Edison and Tesla as examples of success (or lack of it) based on the strength of networks – Edison had a strong one, Tesla didn’t. “This difference between innovating privately and innovating out loud is one of the most significant differentiators between successful innovators and those that fail. It largely explains the success of new venture accelerators, corporate new venture groups, and even academic researchers. Those with the most robust, engaged, and diverse social networks win.”

Does this sound familiar? You’re excited about the potential that content marketing will bring to your company, but once you start thinking about what it will take, you feel overwhelmed and defeated before you even begin. Don’t despair. At Copyblogger, Eric Enge provides “9 tips on how to build a lean content marketing team in a way that might just make the size of the task a lot more manageable.”

Do paywalls work? Mathew Ingram at GigaOm says “the New York Times is clearly something of a bellwether — and in particular, a sign of whether paywalls can (or can’t) make up for the ongoing dramatic decline in advertising revenue. Unfortunately for anyone in the industry who was hoping for a definitive answer, however, the paper’s latest financial results are a mixed bag.” Association professionals will be interested in reading what he thinks about the membership model as an approach.

Anna Caraveli is one of my favorite association bloggers. She has written before about the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), a virtual professional network of veterinarians, not an association, that has “a growing membership of 49,000 and healthy profit margin.” How do they do it? Anna describes seven “practices from VIN that will help you translate aspirations and promises into new capabilities for engagement, relevance and innovation by embedding them in your organization’s DNA.”

The company that controls William Faulkner’s works has filed suit against Sony Pictures Classics, because Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, included a line from As I Lay Dying. Dave Itzkoff at the New York Times says, “It hinges on a single scene in the film, when its time-traveling protagonist, played by Owen Wilson, states: ‘The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.’” I read somewhere that one of Faulkner’s relatives is behind the lawsuit. I guess nobody ever explained Fair Use to him or her. This one should be thrown out, I’m sure every author, dead or alive, and lawyer would agree.

Finally, a feast for your eyes. Phillip Davies at The Guardian takes us behind closed doors into London’s hidden interiors. The photographs by Derek Kendall reveal “an amazing architectural heritage that rivals some of (London’s) most visited and celebrated sites.” Wouldn’t you love to take a tour of these secret places? Imagine sipping on an ale in The Black Friar!

Happy Friday!

I want to visit this Black Friar some day. Photo by den99 (Flickr).

If I had to pick one blog to take with me to a deserted island, it might be Brain Pickings. Maria Popova is a curator like no other, bringing us fascinating posts about creativity, knowledge, science, art, culture, and more. She describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large.” That’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Somehow I stumbled upon a post of hers from earlier this year: A 5-Step Technique for Producing Ideas circa 1939. She writes about James Webb Young’s method for “a productive creative process, touching on a number of elements corroborated by modern science and thinking on creativity: its reliance on process over mystical talent, its combinatorial nature, its demand for a pondering period, its dependence on the brain’s unconscious processes, and more.” Popova’s links within this post will take you down an “endless rabbit hole of discovery.”

John Perry would approve of the time I spend procrastinating over at Brain Pickings. He does the same thing all over the web. In his Wall Street Journal article, How to Be a Better Procrastinator, he says, “The truth is that most procrastinators are structured procrastinators. This means that although they may be putting off something deemed important, their way of not doing the important thing is to do something else. Like reading instead of completing their expense report before it’s due.” Exactly!

Steve Buttry may have written this post for journalists, but it shows the potential Twitter has for all kinds of professions and organizations, ahem, associations, I’m talking to you. I’m willing to bet that you’ll find something that resonates with your digital strategy in 10 Ways Twitter is Valuable to Journalists.

Dr. Susan Weinschenk (aka @TheBrainLady) writes about 47 Mind-Blowing Psychological Facts You Should Know About Yourself. I admit, I’ve only read about ten of these facts. I’m slowly savoring them. They’re part of her series of “100 things you should know if you are going to design an effective and persuasive website, web application or software application.” I don’t do any of those things, and maybe you don’t either, but, like me, you might be in the business of persuading. Soak it up!

I have a love/hate relationship with the word “awesome.” I have no problem using it when I see a sight that inspires awe, like the landscape of southern Utah. But too often we – yes, me, you, and everyone else we know – reach to it because we’re too lazy to find another word. It’s become shorthand. “Awesomesauce” used to be really special, but now it’s slathered indiscriminately.

In The Unfortunate Culture of Awesome, Deanna Zandt laments how “awesome” has taken over our social lives. “We are creating wittier, snappier, sometimes angrier, humblebraggier avatars. Everything is awesome.” (Yeah, I had to look up “humblebraggier” too.) I’m reminded of the Louie Herr post I featured last week: That’s Not the Real Me: How Vanity Sabotages Facebook Advertising.

Zandt misses the ordinary, little bits of life that people used to share more regularly. “Maybe it’s not critical to my existence that I know you like Chobani yogurt, but together with lots of other pieces of information, I can see what kind of person you are. And that’s critical for developing relationships with one another, digitally or otherwise.” Just so you know, I had cheesy grits for breakfast, and will probably make a smoothie after publishing this post.

Happy Friday!

Park Avenue, Arches National Park, Moab, UT

Now, that’s awesome. A hike through Park Avenue, Arches National Park, Moab, UT.

That’s Not the Real Me: How Vanity Sabotages Facebook Advertising by Louie Herr

I find this idea both hilarious and accurate, especially this: “We are actors on a stage. Shakespeare, as ever, proves prescient.” We’re a crafty bunch, showing off our best selves on Facebook, sometimes cool, sometimes not. Recently I’ve posted several photos of backyard wildlife – turtles, spiders, lizards – not sure what I’m telling advertisers and the rest of my Facebook friends with that display. I’m sure to return to posting oh-so-fascinating snippets of my life soon. After all, I have an image to maintain.

Example of a Humanized Culture by Jamie Notter

The Netflix Culture slidedeck has been around a while but it rocked my world only this week. There’s a lot in there – 126 slides – but it’s well worth scrolling through — a peek into an inspirational workplace. Jamie says, “It’s not about values that just sound nice (integrity, honesty, diversity, etc.). It’s about behaviors and skills that are literally valued by you and others in the workplace.”

Use Your Brain: Why Marketers Must Understand Neuroscience by Mary Beth McEuen and Emily Falk

Marketing never gets boring because it focuses on what makes us tick. McEuen and Falk tell us to follow the RULE: Reframe, Understand, Listen, and Engage your audience.

You Can’t Start the Revolution from the Country Club by Anil Dash

A new paid platform,, could be a rival to Twitter, after all, all the cool tech kids hang out there. And why not, the masses have invaded their precious Twitter so they need a new place to hang out and stroke each other’s egos. Life continues to have moments of high school. But I don’t completely blame them. I’ve had issues with Twitter lately, too much broadcasting (guilty) and not enough conversation. I’m determined to change my behavior and reclaim Twitter for conversation.

Dash says these “gated communities” like risk being exclusive. “Building a social tool for “just us geeks” permanently privileges the few people who get in the door first, which means you’re giving a huge leg up to those who already have a pretty good set of advantages to begin with.”

Why Web Literacy Should Be Part of Every Education by Cathy Davidson and Mark Surman

Web literacy should be part of every adult’s toolbox too, but sadly it isn’t. Davidson and Surman make a call for web literacy in K-12 education. “…if web literacy, including web programming, was adopted by every school as a fourth basic literacy, kids would not only learn how to code, they would learn about interactivity, collaboration, the melding of the artistic and the scientific, creativity, and precision.”

And, in other news…

The web is full of chatter today about Lance Armstrong, a fallen hero for many, a relentless bully for others. It’s time to turn away from that era of cycling and its doping culture, and focus on cleaning up the sport. That’s the mission of Jonathan Vaughters, one of Armstrong’s former teammates who now manages the Garmin-Sharp cycling team. Check out his NY Times op-ed about his thoughts on (and experience with) doping.

Meanwhile, the magnificently beautiful state of Colorado is hosting the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Yesterday, one of my cycling heroes, Jens Voigt, won the stage. Jens is known in the cycling community as the guy who will “go full gas” and sacrifice himself, in terms of pain, to help out the team leader. “Shut up, legs!” is one of his mantras. His quirky sense of humor comes through in his tweets, his blog at Bicycling magazine, and interviews. This lovable beast, and I use that term with respect and affection, turns 41 in less than a month, and has already announced that he’ll race again next season. Not bad for an old guy.

Jens Voigt after winning Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge – screenshot from Bicycling magazine video

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)

Have you heard of GrubWithUs? I hadn’t until I read this Fast Company article. GrubWithUs is a social network that arranges dinners with strangers at restaurants. You pay everything in advance, show up, have a most delightful time while getting to know several new acquaintances.

I would have LOVED something like this when I was single. Not so much to meet guys, although that wouldn’t have hurt, but as an easy way to hang out with new people for a few hours around a dinner table. I love that type of thing, especially when food is involved.

We had Meetup groups in Sacramento that did something similar, but the dinners usually attracted too many people. After a while, all the faces became a big blur — too much networking, not enough real conversation.

One of the top reasons people join associations is to meet and develop relationships with peers or prospects. Associations facilitate this by hosting conferences, volunteer opportunities and other events. Why not try the GrubWithUs model — small dinners for six to eight people? Here are some ideas:

  • During conferences and other meetings, like many associations do.
  • By geographic area for local members.
  • By conversation or brainstorming topic — pay for someone’s dinner and ask them to report back on ideas shared — market research!
  • By professional niche or interest.

Don’t focus on excuses to not do it – handling payments, staff time — you can find ways to make it work if you really want to.

The accounting department may have to become more nimble to pay the restaurant in advance, but it’s the 21st century, the age of PayPal, debit cards and taking care of business.

You might have to rely on volunteers. Thank them by paying or subsidizing their check, or giving them a promo code for an event or product.

Not everyone can afford to attend your conference to meet other members, but they will surely appreciate you making the effort to organize or facilitate member meet-ups.

Associations social dining members

Last night I went to the Kids Summer Stock Social Media Mixer at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

That’s a mouthful! What does it all mean?

It means I was in the Food Bank’s HUGE Raleigh warehouse full of boxes of all kinds of food — fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread, Mt Olive pickles, peanut butter, water, you name it — on towering shelves that reach up to the ceiling. Imagine Costco without all the junk food. A passionate Food Bank volunteer (thanks David!) led a group of us on a tour of this humongous building into several giant refrigerator and freezer rooms – a pleasant relief to the 90+ degree heat.

It also means I hung out with a bunch of fun and kind folks I first met on Twitter a few years ago but who have become friends whom I don’t see often enough. That’s the social media part.

However, the real reason we gathered was not to ogle giant boxes of sweet potatoes, but to support the Food Bank’s Kids Summer Stock program. I must admit when I first heard “summer stock” I thought of summertime theater – is that just a New England thing? But, no, this is a serious issue.

When school ends, breakfast and lunch programs end too for 270,000 kids in the Food Bank’s service area of 34 counties. Kids go hungry. Imagine being hungry all the time and the effects that would have on your mood, attitude, energy level, brain power and self-image. What a crappy way for a kid to live.

Kids Summer Stock provides the food needed to support these kids and their families during the summer. In the past three summers it’s provided more than 4 million meals.

freelance writer blogger copywriter raleigh

Last night’s mixer was not only fun but a way to get the word out to the local social media community about the Kids Summer Stock program. I’ve written before on the Socialfish blog about the Food Bank and their social media outreach. I like to call their database and website manager, Jen Newmeyer, their social media Champion because she uses social media, especially Twitter, to develop personal relationships within the community.

And what happens when it becomes personal? You care. Of course I’ve always cared about hunger in my community, even before I met Jen. When I lived in Sacramento CA and Arlington VA I supported food banks with time and money. There are so many other causes I’d like to give to, but with a limited charity budget, how do I decide where to give? How do you?

When it becomes personal, we care and we give. When someone I know and like is an advocate for a cause, I get interested. Think about where you’ve spent your charity time and money this past year. Some of your decisions may have been based on a deeply personal interest, for example, fighting cancer. But I bet you supported friends or family who walked or ran in charity events or you bought cookies from a Girl Scout. What was your motivation for giving? A personal relationship?

The Movember campaign inspired me to write last fall about the reasons some causes resonate with us more than others. My top reason: friends are involved.

The Food Bank understands the power of friends. They also understand the power of friends with influence and a platform. Chatty friends. Friends who write, tweet, share and socialize. Their new Social Media Ambassadors program gives a lot of their social media “friends” a way to spread the word about the Food Bank and its programs to their friends and network. This type of program appeals to today’s volunteer who prefers ad-hoc involvement: helping when they have the time in a way that fits their lifestyle and appeals to their interests.

Now, I’m going to appeal to you. Do you have $10 bucks to spare? Come on now, that’s not so much for many of us, that’s two beers at your local pub or a craft brew six-pack.

If you’re from central or eastern North Carolina, visit the Food Bank’s Kids Summer Stock page and contribute some money or time to the hungry kids. If you’re from elsewhere, you can find your local food bank on the Feeding America site. I bet you grew up with a full belly and refrigerator, let’s help the kids who have empty tummies and cupboards so their future can be full of happiness and success.

I’ve been cheating on my blog again. Here are some of my posts on other blogs — Avectra and Socialfish.

Yes, You Can Be Private in Public

Do you have a hard time convincing your members to get active online? Even the lure of curated resources, scintillating conversations and new friendships might not be enough to get them over a huge mental barrier – loss of privacy and, in their minds, loss of control.  Read the rest at Avectra…

Gratitude is the Best Attitude

Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, The Thank You Economy, hit bookstore shelves, iPads and Kindles yesterday. Vaynerchuk believes companies are “going to have to relearn and employ the ethics and skills our great-grandparents’ generation took for granted” when building their own businesses. By using social media platforms, organizations can give “personal, one-on-one attention to their entire customer base, no matter how large.”  Read the rest at Avectra…

Open Community Case Study – GoPlow

The first goal in SIMA’s vision statement is: “be the ‘go-to’ resource in their industry.” Brian believed they couldn’t do that until they had a open community website generating solid content.  Read the rest at Socialfish…

blogger writer associations community social media

Photo by Mike Licht (Flickr: notionscapital)

Making Your Community a Good Habit

Any community manager can tell you: “If you build it, they will come” only works in the Field of Dreams, not with online communities. What if you did your research, filled your community with valuable content, marketed it in all the right places and your members are still MIA?  Read the rest at Avectra…

Open Community Case Study – Food Bank

I first met Jen Newmeyer, who is the Food Bank’s social media person, at a Raleigh tweet-up last year. She’s done a great job using social media to create a very supportive community of donors and fans, so I immediately thought of them when planning the first case study for Open Community. And do you see what I’m doing here? I’m fulfilling my role as an accidental spokesperson by giving them the spotlight and spreading their message. See, it works!  Read the rest at Socialfish…

Lessons from Weekend Camp: EventCamp

I went to camp on Saturday: the EventCamp National Conference in Chicago. But, I didn’t fly to Chicago; I enjoyed the hybrid conference from the comfort of my home office.  Read the rest at Avectra…