All I Want for Christmas is the Perfect Social Media Tool

I love Twitter and I like Facebook. For my day job as a writer of content for business, I use LinkedIn, but not so much for my fiction work. I’m pretty good at Twitter and LinkedIn. Not so good at Facebook, but mostly because I don’t have the time to maintain it at this point.

Being a social media enthusiast, I am always looking for ways to do it better, and for me, that usually means better engagement more efficiently. But, one thing I am insistent on is keeping it real. I do not do any automated DMs, follow/unfollows, or replies. They drive me crazy! And, I don’t measure my success based on the number of followers I have.

I’m writing this post in the hopes that someone has found the perfect tool. If not, at least someone may get value from my comments on the tools I use. Either way, all thoughts and ideas are welcome! (Except for trollish thoughts, but thankfully I don’t get many of those on my blog.)

My current tools:

Twitter – Obviously, I use Twitter, but I also make frequent use of Twitter lists. For example, I have one called “worth revisiting” that has all of those accounts I follow that actually have interesting things to say. I visit this list regularly to look for things to retweet. Some Twitter management platforms give you the ability to see list streams, but I’ve never found one that is as clean as Twitter itself.

HootSuite – I’ve been using HootSuite since forever (maybe 2010?) as a Pro-level subscriber. Mostly, I use HootSuite to manage the publication of promotions for my blog posts, reviews, and books. I’ve tried various frequencies for posting, but 2-3 times a day feels “genuine” to me. (a.k.a. not annoyingly promotional) Since I’m active on Twitter almost daily, these tweets are broken up by retweets and ad hoc posts. Again – keeping it real.

I like HootSuite because it lets me link to all my accounts, including those I manage for business clients. But, I don’t find the various tweet streams all that useful. For example, “New Followers” doesn’t make it obvious who is following me back vs. who I might want to follow. I can get that by clicking on the three dots, but other tools I’ve tried let me just hover over an account to see their profile/latest tweet.  For me, the fewer clicks the better!

So, the bottom line for HootSuite (for me) is that it is great at scheduling tweets on bulk or even one at a time; not so great for managing interactions.

Crowdfire – Crowdfire had me a bit hot under the collar a few days ago when they accidentally deleted my account, but it’s back now, and I’m not one to hold a grudge. I was on their base-level paid plan (Pluto), but I just upgraded to the next level (Earth) so I could connect to more than just two accounts.

There’s a lot to like about Crowdfire. It’s extremely easy to use. I can see who followed me and unfollowed me. If I click on the Twitter ID, it will take me to their tweet stream. I have to be careful with this, though. If I’m logged into another account on Twitter, following them there will follow them from that account. I’m sure more than one technology CEO has wondered why they’re being followed by a writer of romance novels.

I can also do some cool things like see who’s following someone who writes similar books to mine to find accounts I might like to follow. (And, by extension, who might like to follow me.) I don’t think there’s a way to follow them all, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do that, anyway.

Crowdfire is currently my favorite tool, but it has two main drawbacks. First, it’s geared toward Twitter and Instagram. I don’t have an Instagram account. Maybe I should, but like I said, I need to stay focused. I saw an announcement earlier this year that said they added the ability to connect to a Facebook account, but I don’t see that feature. Maybe they decided to take it away. If anyone has more info on this, I’d love to know what happened or what I’m not seeing.

The other feature that’s missing for me is the ability to bulk upload tweets. As I mentioned, I use this feature in HootSuite. I don’t schedule a lot of tweets a day, but it’s more efficient to schedule them for at least a couple of months at a time. If Crowdfire had this capability, it would be my go-to social media tool, with or without the ability to connect to Facebook.

ManageFlitter – I have had a paid account with ManageFlitter, but right now I am on the freebie plan. ManageFlitter doesn’t have the features to replace either CrowdFire or HootSuite, but even at the free level, it has some features I haven’t seen in other tools.

For example, I can see who is not following me back, but I can also see how long ago I followed them. I have people follow and then unfollow me within the same 24-hour period all the time. Doesn’t bother me at all because I assume they bought into one of those “get 10,000 followers” scams. They probably weren’t interested in having a genuine connection anyway. But I am, so I like to give people at least a few weeks to see that I followed them. Even then, I won’t automatically unfollow someone just because they unfollowed me if their tweets are interesting.

One drawback to the aforementioned feature is that it doesn’t tell you how long ago you followed someone in terms of a date or number of days. It simply gives the order, e.g., the 1021st person you followed. I have 5000 followers, and I probably only follow an average of 100 new people every month, so I’d have to assume I’ve been following that person for a while. Still, it would be nice to see it in terms of time.

Manage Flitter will also tell you which of the accounts you follow appear to be fake. It’s not foolproof, but it does help me clean up my follows. The paid account will also tell you which of your followers appear to be fake, but not much you can do about that. I also like that you can see how active/influential Twitter account are. Finally, there are some interesting analytics, but at this point, they aren’t my style. For me, Twitter isn’t a numbers game.

But other than those features, ManageFlitter leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t appear that I can manage more than one account from the console. I checked the features of the paid plans, and it’s not mentioned there either. I also don’t think I can manage accounts from other social platforms; just Twitter and the Instagram accounts I don’t have. Finally, I can’t use ManageFlitter to schedule tweets, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to engage with new followers.

So, Dear Santa…

What I’d really like for Christmas this year is a tool that has the power-scheduling features of HootSuite, the ease of use and features of Crowdfire with the ability to manage accounts from multiple platforms and the insights found in ManageFlitter. (And maybe world peace.) Anyone have any idea where I can go to get that without spending hundreds of dollars a month just to be a social media enthusiast.

My kind of legal thriller

I'm taking a bit of a departure today from the my typical reading choices: classics, romances and history books. I received an advance copy of Deadly Proof through the Bethany's book reviewer program. I almost requested a different book
Amazon link
because legal thrillers aren’t usually my thing. However, I had just finished rereading a Michael Crichton novel for my book club, which I loved, but it left me wanting a little more…better character development especially of female characters, maybe a little romance, and if not some overt faith, at least characters that acted as if they had a moral compass of some sort guiding their decisions.

 Deadly Proof fit the bill. I have a weakness for heroes who have served, especially if they show a little vulnerability, so Landon’s character was perfect. I liked that the author did not give him a stereotypical case of PTSD. Instead, he was wrestling with something that I think even those who haven’t served could understand.

 Kate is a strong female lead with some definite weaknesses. She’s a little emotionally high-strung at times. And, she’s a bit of a workaholic. But, she’s also guided by a strong sense of right and wrong, and she makes you believe that you really can fight on the side of right, even in the tough world of “Big Law.” 

The story should also appeal to those who love legal fiction. It’s clear Dylan has a background in law, but she’s not heavy-handed with the jargon. What technical terms she uses, she manages to explain in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the story or sound forced. On the other hand, if you’re not a fan of the legal details, you can blip over some of details without losing the storyline.  

Review: A Spy's Devotion

Genre: Historical Romance
Subgenres: regency, clean read, faith-based
Author: Melanie Dickerson, @melanieauthor
This is my first read by Melanie Dickerson, an established author whose main focus seems to be
Amazon Link
faith-based/inspirational medieval romances. After reading the acknowledgments at the back of the book, I think this may be her first Regency. If so, well done, Ms. Dickerson. (Even if not her first, it’s still well done!)

I’m not a huge fan of Regencies. (I know! What is wrong with me???) But, I picked this one up because I am always looking for new historical authors whose books favor the sweeter side of romance. Plus, it was available through Kindle Unlimited, so the risk was minimal. I’m still not a huge fan of Regency romances, but I have become a fan of Ms. Dickerson’s.

The story starts out with the heroine and hero running into each other at a ball. It’s not a bad beginning at all, but in this day and age, when we’re used to someone getting shot or kidnapped by page six, it just seems a bit slow. It’s more reminiscent of an old-fashioned Regency, and those of you who miss this genre’s heritage, should like the way this one begins.

For those of you who crave a little more action (in the plot, not between the sheets), this one picks up nicely – as you might expect a spy novel/romance to do. It’s not exactly a spy thriller, but we’re reading romances for a different sort of thrill, aren’t we? The story doesn’t sag in the middle as so many do, and by the end, I really felt for the peril the heroine was in. The best compliment I can give this story is that I stayed up late and started work late to read it. I even considered putting off my Bible study homework so I could finish it.

The heroine in the story is level-headed, and the hero is an honorable man. He’s a soldier on leave from the Peninsular War (fighting Napoleon on the Iberian Peninsula.) This is probably one of the reasons I liked it so much, despite it being a Regency. The hero and heroine felt like real people, with real lives. He is supposed to go back to the front, but gets delayed as he investigates a potential plot to kill Wellington. There were a few loose ends that didn’t exactly get neatly tied up, but they may in the other two books in the series. (I’ve actually already read A Viscount’s Proposal and I am eagerly waiting A Dangerous Engagement, which will be released in September.)

I put this in the sub-genre of “faith-based” as opposed to “inspirational” because I characterize the latter as something which is intended to convert or convince. The heroine’s faith plays some part in this story, but it is downplayed. I think even readers who aren’t yet sure about “Christian romances” will enjoy this one.

Review: Spinster

Genre: Historical romance (England, late 19th century)
Amazon link
Subgenre: clean read, secular
Author: Suzanne G. Rogers, @suzannegrogers 

One of the things I love about Kindle Unlimited is that I get the chance to read authors I’ve never tried before, pretty much risk-free. The latest on my ever-growing reading pile is Spinster by Suzanne G. Rogers.

This one starts out a tad rough. Although, I am the first one to toss a poorly written book aside, so it’s not THAT rough! Just bear with me a moment.

It has a very appealing premise, but the characters seem a bit touchy. I can understand the younger ones. As a parent of teenagers, that seems realistic. But, even the older ones snap at each other a bit more than seems warranted.

The other challenge is the heroine, Claire, who seems awfully capable given her upbringing. She hurls legalese with ease at her neighbor. Only later in the book do we learn that her father is a noted barrister. But, given the way she argues her point, you might have thought she was, too.

She’s also a quick learner. Once on her own, she seems to just know how to cook, including what ingredients she needs to buy to bake things, even though she’s probably always had servants to do that sort of thing. She has one minor disaster with a loaf of bread, and then everything is smooth sailing. She does have a cookbook of sorts, but still…I’ve been baking for forty years or more, and I often have disasters, minor and major, even though I have modern conveniences such as a mixer and an electric oven.

Now that I got that out of the way, this is a lovely read. It is clean. There is some kissing and a touch of innuendo. (Probably far less than in the average high school hallway, though.) Meriweather (Meri) and Claire are both likable characters, and the animosity between them is understandable. Their relationship progresses at a nice even pace, and nothing seems contrived.

Aside from the teenaged angst, the secondary characters are also likable, especially Meri’s guardian-turned-butler, Franklin. Their relationship has an Alfred/Batman feel about it, and I enjoyed their interaction immensely.

The book takes a turn toward a mystery at the end. It would have been nice to weave that in more at the beginning of the story, but it’s not totally out of the blue and is a nice way to conclude the story.

Favorite line: “Society considers me a spinster, too.” Claire sat next to her [housekeeper] on the stairs. “I’m beginning to wonder, however, if spinsterhood is more about how we view ourselves rather than how others view us.”

Ms. Rogers is a prolific writer, so if you enjoy her work, you will have plenty to read. Just scanning through some of her books, it looks like many of them are also available on Kindle Unlimited. If you’re thinking of springing for a membership, having a good author you can turn to time and again, makes it that much more worthwhile.