Hootsuite is an online social media management tool.

For today’s AtoZ Challenge, a month long, alphabetical blogging challenge, the letter “H” is for Hootsuite

Hootsuite is an online social media management tool.

Hootsuite is an online social media management tool.

Here’s a little secret—I post to both of my Facebook accounts and Twitter from six to ten times a day. Every day. Whether I’m on vacation, shopping, sleeping or watching the Detroit Red Wings not make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in twenty-five years. (bitter? who, me?) I’m all over these social media outlets like dandelions on a spring lawn.

How do I do it?

With the social media tool known as Hootsuite.

Like BoardBooster, a Pinterest tool, which I blogged about here, I pre-schedule my Facebook and Twitter posts days, sometimes months in advance. Realize Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday is May 22nd, but it’s now September? Pre-schedule a Happy Birthday message eight months ahead. Want a certain Tweet to be seen at a certain time to have the maximum impact on your audience? Use Hootsuite.

You can use Hootsuite to post to the following social media platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

The caveat is, you will have to pay for a monthly plan if you want to manage more than three social media profiles. Plans start at $9.99 a month. But if you’re looking to save time on two or three platforms, choose the one that’s free. No brainer, right?

Three options to send posts

After signing up, from your dashboard, go to publisher (paper airplane icon) and compose your message. Set up and choose which profiles you want to use (Hootsuite will keep track of your character count, so you won’t go over Twitter’s 140 character limit). Use the add a link box to truncate any URLs (they will have an ow.ly prefix like this:  http://ow.ly/szBo309XaUu), and attach media if wanted.

From the calendar icon, you can choose to send now, autoschedule or schedule manually schedule. With autoscheduling, Hootsuite will determine the best times to send out the message for optimal impact. I like to manually schedule my messages, spreading them evenly throughout the day.

What else can Hootsuite do?

  • Reports. The free version offers limited reports, but from Hootsuite’s analytics I can get a profile of my followers and what they’re clicking on. This information helps me tailor future messages.
  • Campaigns. From Hootsuite, I can run:
    • Sweepstakes
    • Photo contests
    • Video contests
    • Instagram contests
    • Twitter contests
    • Create a signup sheet
    • Capture images from Instagram to create a new message
    • Use text, images and video from Twitter to create new messages
  • See who’s following me on each of the profiles I’ve selected as well as who I follow. This is great information if you want to follow the influencers, cull your list, or narrow it to your ideal audience.
  • Set up a social media stream. If you want to follow who’s posting/Tweeting about a certain subject, say, writing, you can set up a stream, using keywords. Hootsuite will scour your platforms and display a constantly updated stream of posts and tweets about the subject. See who’s retweeting you, or who has a question in your field you can answer.

How I use Hootsuite

I love efficiency when it comes to staying on top of social media. I’m a writer. It follows that my time should be spent on writing. The internet is a time-sucking vampire.

The internet is a time-sucking vampire. Save time by using Hootsuite to schedule social media posts. www.cherylsterlingbooks.com

The internet is a time-sucking vampire.

How can I most efficiently do both?

(Listen up, I’m about to give away the social media bank) When I find a link I want to share, I first post it to a Pinterest secret board. Once or twice a week, in batches, I’ll reopen the link and:

  • Stumble the page on StumbleUpon (more about this in my post of the 23rd)
  • Pre-schedule a message on Hootsuite to my social media platforms, Twitter more than Facebook. Often, I’ll create a second or third message, scheduled several weeks out and at a different time than the original message.
  • Pin the link to a secret Pinterest board (more on Pinterest on the 19th), checking the Twitter box so Twitter is hit again when BoardBooster schedules the pin.

By going through these steps, my post will be seen on social media 10-12 times. Not bad for a one time deal, eh? I usually batch the posts at night, while watching television (like the Detroit Red Wings not make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in twenty-five years. Who’s bitter? There’s always the playoffs, which last until June.)

Similar programs like Buffer and CoSchedule, will perform the same tricks, but this is my AtoZChallenge*, and I’m reporting on what works for me.

Tuesday’s #AtoZChallenge* will focus on the letter “I”.

Blessings until then,


If you’d like to continue reading my entries in the AtoZChallenge* and to receive my blog posts, please use the entry form to the right. Also sign up for my newsletter, and you’ll receive a FREE copy of my short story, Mr. Right, Mr. Wrong, Mr. Alien.

If you know of someone who would enjoy learning more about Hootsuite, use the buttons on the left to share this post. Thank you.

*#AtoZChallenge is a blogging challenge that takes place in April (except on Sundays). Participants blog every day around a theme of their choosing, in alphabetical order. Throughout the month of April, I’ll share tips, links, and insights I’ve learned in my writing career.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
Read more

This is the last of a three part series on Motivation, Goals and Conflict, as told from the view of the characters from the book and movie, “The Princess Bride.”  I hope you’ve enjoyed a different twist on the three major components of character development and plot.

Conflict is the “why not” of your story

It is the dragon (external), the physical force preventing your character from reaching his goal.  It is the demon (internal), emotions your character must face, the force within, his Achilles heel.  (Thanks to Julie Garwood for the dragon/demon comparison.)

Conflict has to be internal and external in order for your character to grow.

Internal conflict brings the character’s biggest fears into the light.  His strongest defense, the thing he thinks is his greatest strength, may be his fatal flaw.

  • Inigo is the highest ranked swordsman in the world, but is downed by a Florinese blade.
  • Westley’s greatest strength is his love for Buttercup, but when he thinks of her to block the pain from the Machine, it isn’t enough.

Conflict must escalate throughout the story and make things progressively worse.

  • Westley must persuade the Dread Pirate Roberts not to kill him every day.
  • The Man in Black climbs the Cliffs of Insanity in pursuit of Buttercup.
  • The Man in Black fights Inigo and Fizzik and outsmarts Vizzini.
  • Westley is turned over to Count Rugen and is tortured.
  • Westley dies.

There are five points of major conflict in a story

  1. The inciting incident, the major hook that forces the characters into action.
  2. The first turning point, where a deeper motivation is revealed.
  3. The midpoint, or point of no return.
  4. The second turning point, where the character’s core motivation is revealed.
  5. The climax, the biggest conflict of all, the darkest moment.  a) Westley dies b) Inigo is stabbed and realizes he might not avenge his father’s death c) Buttercup realizes Westley is not coming to rescue her.

The Climax is the point when the protagonist and antagonist inevitably meet for their final confrontation, when only one emerges as the winner.

  • Westley and Prince Humperdinck have a battle of wits in Buttercup’s bedchamber.
  • Inigo and Count Rugen have a battle of blades in the billiard room.

The Resolution is the conclusion of all conflicts.  It’s the return to a new ordinary world and gives the reader his ultimate payoff.

  • Buttercup, Westley, Fezzik and Inigo ride toward the Florin Channel.  (Ignore the book’s false ending of Buttercup’s Baby.)

Conflict is necessary for your character.  Without it, your reader doesn’t become engaged, loses interest in the characters and wanders away, never to return.  And isn’t that a shame?

Make awful things happen to your characters.  Make them realize their biggest fears.  Then do it again and again until you don’t know how to get them out of trouble.  If you don’t know (you’ll figure it out in time) your reader won’t, and they’ll be there until the last page.

Last pages sell the next book.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
Read more

On an earlier post, I talked about the importance of your characters having a strong motivation for what they do.  The fantastic book and movie, “The Princess Bride” provided a rich history of its characters’ motivation.

All characters need a goal, and “The Princess Bride” is no exception.  Let’s explore further:

The importance of character goals

The goal is the “what” of your character’s journey through the story.  It’s a need, an object or desired outcome.  Goals can be anything, no matter how unbelievable to the reader, as long as the reader buys into the concept that the character believes in it.  The reader must be convinced the protagonist and antagonist will lose everything if they don’t obtain it.

External goals are concrete and simple

  • Kill the six-fingered man
  • Rescue Buttercup from Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo

Internal goals are needed for emotional satisfaction

  • Inigo is blindly loyal to Vizzini because the hunchback saved him from giving up.  If he could not avenge his father, he would stay loyal to Vizzini
  • Humperdinck is a noted hunter and kills without remorse, yet he elaborately plans the war with Guilder so he does not appear as a heartless invader but as a mourning husband seeking revenge

Goals can change.  The character might not be aware of what he needs at the beginning of the story.  As an author, it’s your job to peel back the different layers until his true goal is revealed.  Is Inigo’s goal to revenge his father’s death or to make up for not defending him?

Goals must be strong enough to motivate your character to withstand unrelenting conflict.  He can’t throw up his hands and walk away.  Whatever is driving him pushes him further and further into the abyss of hopelessness.  All soon may be lost, but he carries on.

Review the goals of your characters and strengthen them if they seem weak.  Be your own Inigo, seeking revenge even though you’ve been stabbed.  Pursue your goal to the very end until it’s resolved or you’ve met defeat.  There shouldn’t be a half-hearted attempt.

I’ll explore conflict in my next post.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
Read more