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James Bourke
 

Having Trouble Managing Your Social Media Sites?

Six tools you can use today to make it easy.

April 25, 2011
by James Bourke, CPA.CITP

TechBytes

As CPAs explore ways to take social networking to the next level, they continue to face challenges in managing the availability of time to dedicate to this process. Here are six tools that are available today that can help simplify that process.

Let's assume that you have already established a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and possibly even started to tweet. Let's also assume, like most, that you are finding it difficult to remain active and visible on each of these platforms. With the many tools available today, there is absolutely no reason to manage each site independently. Here are a few of the many tools that are available for little or no charge that allow for collaboration between various social networking sites, as well as integration features with applications that we use every day that will simplify the task of keeping on top of your social network presence.

One of the easiest places to get started is from within an application that a majority of us use every day — Microsoft Outlook.

Microsoft Outlook now has an Outlook Add-In known as the Microsoft "Social Network Connector." Currently available for seamless integration with both LinkedIn and Facebook, this connector will bring social network connection activity, not only to the desktop, but within Outlook, allowing for monitoring of activity involving Outlook contacts and e-mail recipients as you communicate with them throughout the day.

This screenshot from within Microsoft Outlook shows how the Social Network Connector would appear once the add-in is installed and enabled. The new window appearing in the lower half of the screen shows not only the contact's profile picture, but also social networking and e-mail activity from that individual.

If you already own Outlook you'll like the price of the Social Network Connector — FREE!

You can download the appropriate versions of the Social Network Connector by clicking on the images below:


Bringing the social networking experience into e-mail makes sense. If you are like most professionals, the one application that you can't live without and the one that is open daily and longer than most, is Outlook. The ability to "socially" collaborate with friends, clients and other associates, while in e-mail simplifies the process dramatically.

Microsoft is not the only vendor that believes in e-mail integration with social networking, Xobni is another amazing tool that integrates with Outlook to enhance your social-networking experience.

Significantly more powerful and robust that Microsoft's Social Networking Connector, Xobni (pronounced "zobne") not only integrates e-mail and social-networking activity, but it also acts as the "go to" place to see all activity between you and that contact.

Once installed, Xobni opens a window on the right side of Outlook. Similar to Microsoft's Social Networking Connector, Xobni will reveal the profile picture, but does so much more. Some key features include:

  • Conversation Threading. Interchanges between you and a contact are instantly displayed as a list of e-mail conversations. E-mails are threaded based on their subject and are shown in the order in which they occurred. Xobni also conveniently shows you which conversations include attachments with the help of a handy paperclip.
  • People and Files Conversations. Xobni shows you a list of the people who have participated in a conversation. Furthermore, all the files exchanged between those individual are listed. Xobni takes the guess work out of e-mail by threading Outlook in a meaningful and easy to understand way. This is huge! How often have you sent an e-mail attachment and wondered not only to whom it was sent, but also where that file was stored. Now, Xobni brings that capability into Outlook in one easy to navigate window.
  • Hidden Associations. Xobni organizes your contacts and ranks them based on the volume and frequency of your interchanges. It analyzes the From, To and CC sections of your e-mail and then displays the relationships that exist between your contacts. You just might be surprised by the results. You might discover that two people in your inbox know each other because they've been on e-mails together, but this information had never surfaced before. You may also find your business partner's assistant's name quickly without having to go back and search through the CC line on old messages.

Like Microsoft's Social Network Connector, a free version of Xobni is available. However for $29.95 you can take Xobni to a whole other level. You can download and try Xobni here.

Easy Management of Social Networking Media

Moving on to a few tools that allow for easy management of your social networking presence, outside of one specific site, Hootsuite and Pluggio are two that are worth looking into.

Hootsuite

One of Hootsuite's most powerful traits lies in its dashboard. Rather than being a social network, Hootsuite allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. Using Hootsuite’s unique social-media dashboard, teams can collaboratively schedule updates to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wordpress and other social networks via web, desktop or mobile platforms plus track campaign results and industry trends to adjust tactics rapidly.

Hootsuite brings all of your social networking activity to one place. Doing so allows you to easily manage discussions and activity taking place without having to waste time visiting multiple sites.

Pluggio

Are you sometimes amazed at how often some individuals tweet? Would it surprise you if I told you that they likely spend less time tweeting than you do, but have found a way to better manage the process?

There are a number of very popular tools to assist you with the constant visibility process, but one that I like using to manage my tweets is Pluggio.

Pluggio's most powerful feature lies in its ability to schedule "rolling" tweets. Rolling tweeting allows you to be "present" even when you are on vacation, on the road and even when you are sleeping.

If you follow me on Twitter you can see the power of Pluggio firsthand. To follow me simply click on my icon below:

The most common way to gather "tweeting" topics is to review other people’s tweets and RSS feeds. Pluggio brings this power to their application. I am a big believer in reading every tweet before I put it out there for the world to see. By scheduling rolling tweets you have the ability to pre-read those tweets at your convenience. Now, if you only have the ability to touch social networking once or twice a week, you can use that time wisely to pre-schedule a week's worth of activity.

There are multiple pricing models available for Pluggio, but you can start with a free basic plan.

Conclusion

This is just a sampling of some of the many tools and applications readily available to help in managing your social-networking presence. Remember, for social networking to work for you, you need to be active. Being active does not mean that you need to post discussions and tweets 24/7. You simply need to understand the best way to manage this new way of communicating!

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James C. Bourke, CPA.CITP.CFF, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown where he is director of Firm Technology. He is a past president of the New Jersey Society of CPA’s and currently serves on AICPA Council and the Chair of the AICPA CITP Credential Committee. He has been continually named by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Profession.