Category Archives: tech notes

Tech Notes – HootSuite for Twittering Self-Marketers

Back when I gleefully signed on to be a Self-Publisher, I knew there would eventually be some marketing involved, but I was blithely ignorant of what that really entailed. To paraphrase a memorable They Might Be Giants verse, “I was young and foolish then. I’m feeling old and foolish now.” Perhaps I should have listened more carefully when my wise editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, ominously intoned, “Rob . . . marketing is a bear.”

After I released An Irish Miracle, and the full impact of my new role as a Self-Marketer started to sink in, I felt very much alone. Fortunately, I had been following @KristenLambTX on Twitter for several months. Her book, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, sounded like just the ticket for a lonely Self-Marketer. (You can read my review of We Are Not Alone on goodreads here.)

Along with her overarching principle of approaching social media marketing with a servant’s heart, Kristen cites Twitter as one of the obvious keys to a successful, multifaceted social media platform, and she recommended TweetDeck to manage the quickly cantankerous and often unruly Twitter Timelines that come with following more than a handful of fellow tweeters. Since I rely on tabbed browsing in Firefox to manage lots of open websites in one place, when I realized that TweetDeck was a separate, standalone application, I went looking for a similar solution that was web-based . . . and that’s when I found HootSuite.

As a social network management dashboard, HootSuite is a web-based and mobile app tool to increase your productivity by allowing you to manage all your social networks (and multiple user profiles for each, if you have more than one) in one place. There are free and fee-based versions available. I’m using the free version, at least for now. Although I’m going to focus on HootSuite’s integration with Twitter, the dashboard can help you manage all of the following social networks:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+ Pages
  • Foursquare
  • Myspace
  • WordPress
  • Mixi
  • HootSuite Apps Directory, for Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, and more

Here’s a brief overview of the main features I use in my HootSuite dashboard. There’s much more capability there that I am currently taking advantage of, but the HootSuite website has many resources to help us discover everything this tool has to offer.

From the HootSuite Dashboard, you can compose and send tweets, status updates and posts to any of the social networks you have connected your Dashboard to. The Dashboard can be organized with one or many custom Tabs. Here are the Tabs I am currently using:

  • Twitter Home (standard Twitter feeds)
  • Facebook (standard Facebook feeds)
  • Writing & Blogging (Twitter Lists)
  • Potential Readers (Twitter Lists)
  • Family & Friends (Twitter Lists)
  • News & Politics (Twitter Lists)
  • Popular Media & Technology (Twitter Lists)
  • Social Media Gurus (Twitter Lists)
  • Searches & Keywords (Custom hashtag and keyword searches)

Each tab is arranged in columns called Streams, which can contain standard data feeds such as your Twitter Home Feed, Sent Tweets, Mentions, several versions of your Facebook News Feed, and many others. Even more powerfully, Streams can also contain your existing Twitter Lists, searches for hashtags and streams based on keywords you enter.

HootSuite Dashboard

From the HootSuite Contacts Screen, you can see, interact with, and manage:

  • Twitter Profiles
  • Twitter Lists
  • People Following You
  • People You Follow

Anywhere within HootSuite, if you click on a user name, a popup window will display the available information for that user’s profile, along with several ways to directly interact with that user.

HootSuite Contacts Screen

As I mentioned above, HootSuite is available in web-based and mobile app forms, in both free and paid versions. Once you have Twitter, Facebook, and your other social networks set up and organized, I think you will see productivity improvements . . . maybe even a little peace of mind . . . building and managing your social media platform.

HootSuite for Web and Mobile Apps

Speaking as a newly minted Self-Marketer, I would be pleased to connect with you on one or more of the social networks of your choice:

Remember to get your copy of An Irish Miracle by Rob Mahan, too. It’s a story I think you will enjoy as a great summer read, or any time of the year! The e-book is also available from Barnes & Noble for Nook, kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Smashwords! The e-book will also be available on iTunes soon (I hope)!

All the best!

Tech Notes – Skip Password Purgatory

Gateway to Password Nirvana

Password Purgatory

Webster’s second definition of purgatory is “a place or state of temporary suffering or misery”. It’s where I used to go whenever the password I absolutely knew was correct was heartlessly rejected by the account I absolutely had to access. Not to be denied by some digital gatekeeper, I would resort to some really bad password strategies. You might even recognize one or two of them:

  • PW = “password”, “123456”, or “qwerty”.
  • Use the exact same password for everything.
  • Use birthday or anniversary dates (Heck, I had to remember them anyway.)
  • Write all my passwords on tacky notes and frame my monitor with them.

Sorry if I opened the particular bag you keep your cat in, but she probably needed a little air anyway. Now just about every online move I make, from blogging to shopping, from posting to self-publishing, requires a password. And many sites have gotten all we-take-security-seriously and require strong passwords like these:

  • AWd*4Qd5!g
  • %$x2sC2RQG
  • W4A%KJb#78

But I can’t remember one we-take-security-seriously password like that, let alone a few dozen or more. I’d need a computer to remember all those cryptic, meaningless strings.

Wait. Maybe we’re on to something there.

Password Nirvana

Turns out you can have your we-take-security-seriously passwords and remember them, too. The solution is using a password management program. Who knew? I won’t attempt a comprehensive review of all your password management options here. You can find plenty of those with your favorite search engine. But here’s some general information to get you started:

  • Many standalone password management programs are inexpensive or free
  • Most modern browsers already have built-in password management capabilities
  • Password management programs hide your passwords behind a long master password that you enter only once per session
  • Password management programs remember more than just passwords
    • Addresses / URLs of account login pages
    • User names
    • Passwords
  • Password management programs usually have options for storing your data
    • Encrypted or unencrypted
    • Locally (on your harddrive)
    • Removable media (on a flash drive)
    • Remotely (online)

The password management program I settled on a few years ago is RoboForm from Siber Systems. (This may sound like a commercial, but trust me, I’m no paid spokes-model for anyone.) RoboForm nearly revolutionized the way I use the Internet. Once I enter my we-take-security-seriously master password, RoboForm automates the entire login process for any of my online accounts, all with a single click of the mouse:

  • Opens the login page in a new tab
  • Fills in the user name and cryptic, meaningless password
  • Submits credentials to the digital gatekeeper

With a single click, I’m securely logged in and ready to opine, purchase or post.

Bottom Line

Read some password management program reviews and try out some of the free trial versions or even your browser’s built-in password manager capabilities. Once you settle on the password management program of your own choice, it will revolutionize the way you use the Internet and keep you out of password purgatory, all while enhancing your online security.

And take those little yellow notes off your monitor. They really are tacky.