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Hootsuite dashboardThere are so many parts to social media, it can be overwhelming. First there’s strategy, then tools, and editorial calendars. But where I find many campaigns fall apart is in the day after day, week after week, delivery of content. How do you actually manage all of those channels? Lack of time is the number one concern for each and every company or organization I work with. Social media management tools are what make it all gel together.

I recommend, prefer, and use Hootsuite.

It’s a social media dashboard that allows the person or team managing a brand’s social media presence to visit one website and direct content to different platforms, track brand mentions, save searches, create detailed analytic reports, and schedule posts into the future. It has Free, Pro, and Enterprise versions and is available for mobile devices. I use the Pro level ($9.99 per month) because I have more than five channels connected to my account.

The social networks you are able to connect to are Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages, events, groups, search), LinkedIn (company page, groups, profiles), Google+ business pages, Foursquare, Myspace, WordPress.com, Mixi (Japanese social network), and a host of applications.

If you work for a larger company or organization that requires reporting to a board, the custom analytics feature is excellent. You can port in Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Twitter profile stats, your shortened click stats, Google+ page analytics and more to create reports designed just for your needs. Visual reports are a great way to communicate the achievements of a social media campaign to those that may not understand the technical details.

Working with lots of people can create headaches. Their teams features include: collaboration, team structuring, custom permissions for access to accounts, private team communication, and the best part-the ability to assign messages to specific team members for followup. This is the future of customer service! Just ask McDonald’s, Hard Rock Cafe, Virgin, Lamborghini, or PepsiCo. They use Hootsuite too.

My favorite part of Hootsuite is the scheduling feature*. You can create a message and send it out at a determined point in the future. Scheduling your posts is useful when you go on vacation, when you have a small team, when you have events that need to be promoted multiple times, when you want to your message to be viewed at different times of day in order to reach multiple audiences. The Pro version of this tool allows you to bulk upload as well (I have not had success using this feature).

*Tip: Scheduling posts ahead of time has risks. Something could change, a previously innocuous post could be viewed differently based on the happenings of the day, it can lead to complacency and a social media manager to believe they don’t need to be present on the channel. I recommend scheduling as only one kind of post. You really do need to converse, to interact, to be organic and present on top of predetermined content. Don’t put your online presence into neutral and walk away. Your audience will know and you will not get the return on investment that an engaged presence can bring you.

I know this sounds like a commercial.

Hootsuite Certified ProI once signed up for the affiliate program but I don’t actually participate. I’m telling you the benefits of Hootsuite because I like it, I recommend it, and I use it-not because I will get a kickback (I won’t). I am a Certified Hootsuite Professional, in fact I’m the only one in Sonoma County. There are two others listed in the directory. Both have since moved out of the area.

I not only train people to use all the tools that Hootsuite manages but I train on the social media dashboard as well. If you need assistance managing the coordination of posting content to your channels, I’d be happy to help.

How do I use it?

I print out my calendar twice a month and circle all of the public presentations I’m giving, classes I’m teaching, or other events of note. I create posts to promote those events, distribute to appropriate channels, and post them multiple times. I review my blog posts and continue to promote them, on average once per month, to multiple destinations. I also recycle other content such as videos, press pieces, or other valuable links. This ensures that if I’m locked in a session room all day teaching a class, that my channels are evenly filled with useful content, my brand is being promoted, traffic is being driven to my blog, my events are being promoted, and I don’t have to worry about radio silence. I spend about 30-45 minutes on this scheduling about every 2 weeks. I’m lightly scheduled about 6 months out at any given time. I also use it to monitor any keywords of interest such as my name, brand name, industry specific terms, or projects so I can see who is talking about what so I might strike up a conversation with someone.

After every meeting or other period where I’m unable to be online, I check my messages. First thing, I pick up my phone and check email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I answer any questions that have been asked of me and make sure that I’m reachable by my audience. I don’t rest on my laurels with scheduling. I am present as much as possible to interact, engage, communicate, and BE SOCIAL.

I’m not a Ninja.

But Hootsuite is one tool that allows me to have, what I call “Social Media Ninja Moves”. I’m asked all the time how I manage it all, how I get it all done, how I seem to be everywhere. I always have an assistant or intern but they don’t post for me. I do it all myself. Hootsuite is my trick and I want you to be able to use it too.

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