Are you trying to manage multiple Twitter a/cs? Then this first post in the Digital Working Tools series is for you.
Many of us are the “only geek in the Lodge” or worse the only geek in several Lodges, Chapters etc. as a result we end up trying to manage several Twitter accounts.
If, like me, you have multiple Twitter personas, this post is for you. For example, it is not unusual to have:
A personal account for keeping up with friends
A work account – my employer trains us to tweet as part of the sales and marketing effort
A Masonic account – we are all proud Masons but mixing Freemasonry and work can be a problem particularly in the public sector
A role to play in our Lodge or Chapter accounts
I have discovered Tweetdeck, a free tool from Twitter that allows you to handle multiple Twitter accounts on screen at the same time. Tweetdeck was originally a third party tool but Twitter liked it so much they bought the company. The beauty of the tool is that all of the features are included in the free version, there is no constant frustration of trying to use a feature only to find that it is part of the premium version.
The tool allows you to add multiple accounts all of which can be visible at the same time – no more switching between accounts.
For example you can set up universal columns – one column that can be set to collate all of the @Mentions or DMs (Direct Messages) coming in from all of your accounts. It becomes like your Twitter inbox saving you from trying to scan across all of the individual columns.
Columns can be easily reordered by dragging them around to adapt to the way you use the tool.
You can schedule tweets to be posted at a future point. Many of us have time to tweet late at night or in the early morning (my insomnia certainly helps with that) but few if any of our followers want to read the tweet then. As Twitter is an “in the moment” medium it is important to schedule tweets when the audience is listening. A future post will look at how to know when is the best time to tweet to get the maximum attention from your followers.
Here is how to schedule a Tweet:
Sign in to your TweetDeck account and click New Tweet.
Confirm that the Twitter account(s) you would like to tweet from is selected.
Compose your Tweet. You can include an image with the Tweet by clicking Add image.
Click Schedule Tweet and select the date and time you would like the Tweet posted.
Click Schedule Tweet at [date/time].
You can view and edit your scheduled Tweets by adding a Scheduled column.
In a future post I will look at the use of another tool, Buffer, to schedule posts across both Facebook and Twitter from the same tool. Tweetdeck lost the ability to work with Facebook when it was bought by Twitter.
There are a host of other useful features included such as:
Mute – carry on following an account but stop seeing their tweets. This can be less offensive than unfollowing.
List management – lists enable you to monitor subsets of the people that you follow. For example I have created a BerksMasonic list which allows me to keep a track of those accounts.
It is a cross-platform tool with versions available for both Mac and Windows as well as a web version that can be used where you cannot install software. It is fast and automatically refreshes – no need to press a reload button to keep the flow going.
I started using the PC version but then I discovered that one drawback of Tweetdeck is that it does not support the use of emoji or those smiley face icons. If you want this functionality, there is an extension to the Chrome browser called Better TweetDeck that adds this capability but only if you use the website via Chrome. I only hope that Twitter sees this post and buys the function and adds it to the core installable tool.
The amount of data that this tool brings is best viewed on a large screen monitor.
Tweetdeck is not available as an app for your smartphone but the Twitter app for iPhone will allow you to configure multiple independent accounts which you can switch between. You can use your web browser to go to Tweetdeck on the web but the screen is too small to use a tool like Tweetdeck.
Better Tweetdeck will not work on the iOS version of Chrome.
The larger screen size of a tablet means that accessing Tweetdeck via the browser is a more realistic option. However, for those with three or more accounts you will really need to use an external monitor.
As for the iPhone, there is no iOS version of Tweetdeck. You can use the Twitter application with each account set up separately and switch between them. You can also access Tweetdeck on the web.
Better Tweetdeck will not work on the iOS version of Chrome.
Windows 8.1 Tablet
As this is essentially the desktop operating system on a smaller device, Tweetdeck is usable but the screen size makes things more challenging.
Twitter and Facebook are like a rolling news service that never stops. They are sometimes likened to a river or waterfall, referring to the cascade of tweets/posts flowing down your screen. As a reader, it can sometimes feel like you are trying to drink from a fire hose, so few people try to read every tweet or post. As a result, anyone posting to achieve an outcome, needs to find ways to increase the likelihood of their tweet/post being read. This author has a clear intention to encourage more people (men and women) to better understand Freemasonry in the hope that others will wish to join.
As it is going to become tedious reading “tweet/post” every time let’s assume that the term “content” refers to either.
There are several challenges involved in getting the timing correct:
Finding a way to deliver content at the best time
Solving the problem that the best time to deliver content is probably not when you have time to create it
When do your “readers” want to see your content and does this vary?
Thankfully these problems are universally felt in the social media world and solutions are at hand. This blog will focus on addressing the delivery of content to a pre-set schedule. A future blog will address the analysis of your readership to understand when they are online.
Scheduling Content Delivery
We have already seen in a previous post that Tweetdeck enables you to schedule tweets and Facebook allows you to schedule posts when you create the post. What happens if you want to post the same content to both platforms? Or if you are looking to post it at several times during the day?
There are two main tools in this space, Buffer and HootSuite This author has tried both and chosen Buffer as his preferred option at this time, however, the pace of change in this space is incredible. The whole area of social media is booming as companies scramble to use it as a channel to engage with their customers. Inevitably there are other companies racing to develop the killer application that makes dealing with this easy. To illustrate this point, I have previously recommended Adam Gray‘s Brilliant Social Media as a good read but this text published in 2013 does not even mention Buffer.
Buffer is purely about scheduling content delivery and analysing the effectiveness of the post. It has a well-designed clean interface which is easy on the eye and is not intimidating to the new user. The free plan allows you to connect one account for each platform so that you can see how it works and test the features. However, as a Facebook page needs a Facebook profile you can either have your profile or the page that is attached to it but not both at the same time. Likewise, if you need to manage multiple Twitter accounts you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.
At the time of writing, the Awesome Plan is $102 or approximately £68 for a year or less than three fancy coffees a month.
Having upgraded you will see something similar to the interface below
As you can see you can connect social media accounts from the following platforms:
If you click in the box at the top of the last screen “What do you want to share?” you will move to this part of the interface
You type content into the box and then select the outlets by clicking the icons for each platform. In the example above, the content would only go the @HungerfordLodge Twitter account, but clicking on the Hungerford Lodge Facebook account as well, would see the content go to both platforms simultaneously. It is therefore possible to push the same message through multiple accounts and channels at the same time.
Having written your content you can then schedule it by clicking the blue button at the bottom of the screen
There are several options:
You can use Buffer to write all of your content and share it immediately using the Share Now option
You can simply elect to Share Next taking the next slot in your scheduling or
You can manually set a date and time.
Any web address links that you add are shortened using the Buffer link shortening service. This has two benefits:
The link is shorter and therefore leaves more characters in Twitter for the content
The use of the Buffer shortening service allows Buffer to track the number of people who clicked on that link thereby enabling its analytics capability.
You can use other link shortening services such as Bit.ly if you have an account with them but the Buffer service is included in all of the plans (including the free plan)
The Analytics part of the tool is where you find out how well your content was received. Shown below is a sample of content delivered recently showing how well different approaches work. If you post content that is only seen by your followers, its exposure is limited to the number of followers that your account has. However, if one of your followers values what you have written enough to Favourite it, their followers will potentially be notified of that, dependent on their notification settings. This is the equivalent to a Like in Facebook. If, however, they choose to Retweet or Share your post then it will be repeated to all of their followers, essentially amplifying your message. This will be reflected in the number listed as Potential. Clicks reflects the number of times people actually engaged with the content and clicked the link.
The post at the bottom received 2 Favourites but otherwise only reached the account’s followers. The tweets from 22nd December reached a wider audience due to the retweets and the tweet with the picture used an @Mention to someone who could use the information. They then responded (engaged) and this plus, the subject matter, caused a greater level of engagement with the audience. The tweet on 27th December was retweeted by accounts with a wide audience but did not achieve the same level of engagement.
This is the tricky bit. You could look at when you are most active on Social Media and assume that your audience follows the same patterns you do. If this route works for you, go to the Schedule tab and set those times up. However, Freemasonry is spread across the globe as will be your followers, so it does not necessarily follow that tweeting when you are online gives the best outcome.
Please Note: I have deliberately obscured the hours in my schedule to avoid people simply using the same timings in the hope that it will work for them.
A better approach would be to use one of the online tools such as Tweriod and Followerwonk to analyse your followers to understand when they are most active on social media and inject that schedule into Buffer. This will be the subject of a future post when I have had time to compare the two.
Both Buffer and Hootsuite offer extensions for the Chrome Browser which make it easy to share content you find on the Internet via your scheduling service to your preferred social media channels.
If you prefer to use Internet Explorer, and many of us do, it does not currently allow the use of extensions. There are rumours that revisions to the browser in Windows 10 will enable this but we will have to wait and see.
Both Buffer and HootSuite have mobile apps for iOS and Android. Neither currently supports Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform, however, this is not unusual due to the market coverage provided by the two main platforms.
There is no mechanism for reading your content and so you will still need to use TweetDeck and Facebook to consume other people’s content. However, I have had conversations with the Buffer team via Twitter (they were very responsive) that suggests that this may be addressed in the future. UPDATE: Buffer have recently acquired Respondly which they plan to re-brand as Respond as it becomes part of the Buffer family. I have yet to try this as an alternative to (Better) TweetDeck.
Posting links to PDF files to Facebook results in a very ugly post. Buffer looks at the content you are posting and attempts to create a summary box from it. This works very well for web pages with images or videos in them but not PDF files. I have raised this with Buffer and they recognise the issue. UPDATE: This issue has now been fixed.
Buffer have a system whereby users get an allocation of 10 votes to cast for a feature to be added, or a problem to be solved. If Buffer choose to address one of your choices then the votes you cast are returned for future use. You can also allocate up to 3 votes to an issue you think is particularly important. Needless to say, I have cast 3 votes for getting the PDF posting issue fixed.
Hootsuite addresses one of Buffer’s weaknesses by combining the ability to listen to your audience and compose and schedule posts in a single tool. This approach may suit other users better, particularly the more experienced social media practitioners. However, this author selected against Hootsuite for the following reasons:
The width of a column for Social Media monitoring is fixed and this constrained the viewable information. With three Twitter feeds and three Facebook feeds this was limiting. I even tried reducing the font size and spanning the window across two 24 inch monitors.
Emoji or emoticon (the smiley faces) support requires the installation of yet another Chrome extension. The HootSuite people responded very quickly to my questions on this and helped me a lot. However, the author preferred Better TweetDeck to handle listening.
The interface is packed full of features and as a result can be a bit off putting when you are new to this space. Maybe in a year’s time I may feel constrained by my current tool choice and change my mind.
Social media is a conversation. Unlike advertising, broadcast media and even a web site it offers the opportunity to engage people in a real-time two-way interaction. It is therefore important to talk when they are listening and respond in a timely fashion to their comments. It is a very powerful mechanism for reaching out to a wider audience but with great power comes great responsibility and it is incumbent on those engaging in social media to address the needs of their community.
This post, combined with others in the series, seeks to show how we can use the tools to better address the needs of our audience not only Freemasons but those who have yet to start their Masonic careers. After all, Freemasonry is perhaps the world’s oldest social network.
The author recognises that this post may seem like a product endorsement. The author chose the tool of his own free will and accord and has paid for the account he is using. Furthermore, neither Buffer nor HootSuite have had any input into this blog post beyond the help they gave when the author approached them as a user and not a blogger.
If you have a large following on Twitter, you already know that trying to read every tweet is a full time job. Inevitably there will be some people that you interact with more than others and you probably want to pull their tweets out of the flow more easily. The way to achieve this is to create a Twitter List.
Creating a List in Tweetdeck
As previously described, (Better) Tweetdeck is my preferred Twitter monitoring tool on a PC.
To create a new List
Click on the images below to expand them.
Click on the + icon on the left hand bar
Select Create List
If you have multiple Twitter accounts,select the account you wish to associate the List with
Give the List a name and Description
Choose whether you want the list to be
Public – people know that you have added them to the List and they can see who else is included
Private – for your eyes only!
Add accounts to your list
Once created you can set this as a column in Tweetdeck so that only Tweets from accounts in that list are shown in that column
As you can see, we maintain a list of Berkshire Masonic Twitter accounts. If you wish to subscribe to this list:
Tweets that are part of a conversation with your followers – they happen in the moment and then are gone.
Tweets where you are trying to start a conversation or promote content on your website.
Tweets in the first category are time sensitive because they are in the “now”, they are part of a real time conversation and so both reader and writer are online at the same time.
Tweets from the second category, however, are often scheduled and as such you need to predict the best time to find your audience online. This post discusses how you discover the best time to tweet and then how you optimise your tweeting schedule. After all, we cannot spend our lives on Social Media, there is a day job, right?
Tweriod is a web-based analysis tool that will allow you to analyse up to 1,000 followers for free. At the time of writing the @HungerfordLodge account had just over a thousand followers, this therefore is ideal. Should you have more than one thousand followers, you can either assume that analysing one thousand will give you a good guide, or you will need to purchase a premium plan based on the number of accounts you need to sample.
How does it work?
Tweriod accesses your account’s followers from Twitter and analyses their last 200 tweets. This data is then used to generate a report on when they tweet during the day.
How do you use it?
You authorise Tweriod to gain access to your Twitter account and select the analysis (free or paid) that you wish to receive. This analysis will take a period of time, after which Tweriod will notify you that your results are in. You then sign back into Tweriod and review the results.
So what next?
For me, the beauty of the Tweriod application is that it is integrated with Buffer and as regular readers of this blog will know, I am a big fan of Buffer. There is a button on the analysis page that lets you sync your BufferApp schedule with your Tweriod results.
The free plan allows you to analyse your followers once a month, which is probably enough for most of us. If you are in a big corporate with thousands of followers you will probably have the funds to pay for the premium analysis options anyway. Premium plans start from $3.99 per month for up to 4,999 followers. There does not appear to be an annual pricing strategy.
Followerwonk is a web-based social media analytics tool that will enable you to better understand your followers or indeed those of any Twitter account you nominate. It offers much more than activity analysis:
Word clouds based on the biographies of the account’s followers
and many more.
It also has an integration with Buffer to enable you to inject your new schedule in the same way as Tweriod.
Followerwonk is a tool within the Moz stable and is primarily targeted at the enterprise market with annual fees for the cheapest plan at $237.
Why do I do any of this?
The combination of Tweriod and Buffer allow me to:
Compose and schedule content – Tweets, Facebook and Google+ posts
Publish content when my audience is listening
Put the content together when I have the time rather than during my work day
Spread my content through the day rather than flooding it out in the fifteen minutes that I have to do it
Hopefully, by using the tools and writing blog posts about what I am doing, I can keep my audience engaged and broaden the reach of this site beyond the world’s oldest social network (Freemasonry) and into the mainstream.
When people first attempt to explain Twitter to the uninitiated, they use the analogy of text messaging but that leads to misunderstandings. The analogy is based on the fact that both SMS text messaging and tweets are limited to roughly the same number of characters and that Twitter was originally designed to allow tweets to be submitted by SMS. Using this analogy leads new users to assume that you can tweet people in the same way as they might text their family members.
Twitter is actually a lot closer to running a commercial radio station than text messaging. Bear with me and I will explain.
Tweeting is a broadcast medium
You put your tweets out there and hope somebody will listen to/read them. You can use Direct Messages (DM) but most people only use this to exchange email addresses before moving the private conversation to email.
To target a particular country, region or demographic using Twitter requires funded advertising – a promoted Tweet. Twitter will allow you to pay to have your tweet/advert placed into the user’s timeline – the Twitter name for the stream of tweets. You can then target on:
Device, Platform, Carrier
This targeting is made possible due to the amount of information we all give to Twitter in order to run our accounts. This means that Twitter knows a lot more about its users than a typical radio station does.
Your audience is based on your content
People tend to tweet on a given topic which brings them followers and in time they begin to exert “influence” over those users. This is much like a radio station playing classical or rock music which defines their target audience. You can go off topic occasionally but you need to carefully take your audience with you.
You need to be “on air”
If a radio station goes quiet, people assume that it has gone off air. Likewise you need to tweet frequently and regularly so that people know that if they want to listen to/engage with you they know you will be there. The rule of thumb is to tweet at least three times a week and ideally at least once a day.
Nobody wants all adverts
Imagine tuning to a new radio station and finding that all they play, twenty four hours a day, is an advert for themselves. Their audience retention figures would be near zero. Typically radio stations draw people in with the music (or chat) that they like and then refer to the adverts as “messages from our sponsors” i.e. a necessary evil.
If you constantly tweet “Buy my thing” or “Join my club” you will turn people off. You need to find a way to engage your audience before you attempt to sell them anything. This is especially true when you are trying to attract and retain new followers.
Running a Twitter account for your Lodge is a big commitment and it is best done as a team rather than individual effort. Up until now the only way to share a Twitter account was for all users to have the username (@AccountName) and password. This might not be the best way. Whilst we all trust each other as brethren in a Lodge, we might also want to adopt the best practice that we would see in our working lives. One reason for doing this would be so that you can turn on Login verification on your Twitter account which adds an additional layer of security helping to prevent your account being hijacked. After all we know that there are plenty of people who would like to take over a Lodge account and set it to send inappropriate Tweets.
There is now a better approach. As you will know from my previous posts, TweetDeck is my preferred tool for “listening” to Twitter feeds ( I currently run four feeds) for the following reasons:
It is FREE
It is owned and developed by Twitter, therefore it will not get broken when they change something
It does everything that the listening part of other tools does without hiding some bits behind a premium account
Integration with Better TweetDeck gives you access to emoji (emoticons) which other tools make more difficult
Did I mention it is FREE!
TweetDeck is now new and improved with a new feature called TweetDeck Teams.
This feature enables you to delegate access to other Twitter account holders without having to give them ownership of the account. The following example uses two of my accounts:
As the owner of @HungerfordLodge, log in to TweetDeck using the Twitter account credentials and from the navigation bar, select Accounts.
For a while now, there has been a debate raging on Twitter within the Masonic community as to whether people should always follow back or not. The truth is, it is a matter of choice and perspective. I should point out that my point of view has shifted through my management of the @HungerfordLodge account.
When you start out with a Twitter account, you start by following other accounts that you know of and value and gradually build a following for yourself. In this phase, you will follow almost everybody that follows you to see what they have to say.
However, after a while you will discover that you do not like what some accounts have to say or that they post too much for your liking. I have even encountered people that I followed, retweeting a lot of pornographic images which, for a man with a wife and young family who frequently see my Tweetdeck screen, is wholly inappropriate. I started by muting these accounts but then realised muting has to be done for each way you read your Twitter feed, so I decided to unfollow them completely.
This unfollowing became liberating because I realised that I no longer had to follow everybody that followed me. I then pruned a number of accounts that I had followed that had not tweeted in 12 months as to me that suggested that they were dormant and that there was little value following them.
Furthermore, I read a number of books by leading lights in social media (see Suggested Reading below) as well as looking at a number of successful accounts. I soon realised that the Twitter accounts that are valued by the Twittersphere are those with significantly more followers than following.
Twitter feeds (accounts) are considered influential when they have significantly more followers than following as what they say is shared with a huge number of fans. For example, people like Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) have over nine million followers and follows 50K. Rick Wakeman (@GrumpyOldRick) (Master of Chelsea Lodge 3098 and King Rat) has 30K followers and follows just 18. Ask yourself, if you follow a thousand accounts can you actually read every tweet they produce?
The reverse of this is that those accounts that follow many but are only followed by a few are usually identified as bot accounts. Bot, short for robotic, accounts are often spam spewing and in the worst cases used for trolling. Trolling is deliberately picking a fight with another user for the sport – much like the playground bully used to do. As in the real world, best avoided and not worth engaging with as you will rarely enjoy the experience.
To attempt to prevent bots following large numbers of accounts, Twitter sets limits on the number of accounts that you follow initially based on your follow back ratio. If you follow 2,000 accounts, you will need to have at least 1,981 followers to go beyond the 2K following mark. This is why bot accounts encourage you to follow back.
So should you follow every account that follows you? Well, it remains your choice but the weight of evidence suggest that you do not need to and that your Twitter account will be considered more influential if you do not. After all, not all Twitter accounts tweet. Many are set up and their owner will lurk in the shadows reading what others are saying until, like in real life, they get the confidence to speak out on a topic.
My advice is to follow those accounts that influence you or that have something to say that appeals to you and not worry too much about people not following you back. If they do not follow you back, they have simply not understood the value that you can bring to their lives yet. In that case, the loss is theirs, not yours.
Links are to Amazon in the UK – other booksellers are available. These links are only provided to assist you. The Lodge derives no financial benefit from them.
Running any form of online presence makes you a target for trolls but running accounts with links to Freemasonry does seem to attract a special kind of crazy. This post aims to help you deal with trolls whilst remaining in control.
Running any form of online presence makes you a target for trolls but running accounts with links to Freemasonry does seem to attract a special kind of crazy. I was recently tweeted a single word “Traitor” from an account I had been following for ages and I wondered what on earth I had done to deserve that slur. Then I thought back to a session I had recently attended at work and realised I was being goaded by a troll. (I work in the IT industry and part of my continuous personal development is regular sessions on social media usage.)
A troll is the Internet name for someone who deliberately says something provocative to get you to have a verbal spat with them. Trolls exist anywhere people gather on the Internet to discuss and have existed in every discussion forum since the earliest days of the Internet. They are the playground bully of the Internet. They make everyone’s life worse and serve only to feed their own ego.
So what does a troll look like?
Well they try to look normal for most of the time and you will find that some will set up accounts specifically for the purpose of trolling. Others are described as parody accounts. One of the nastiest of these is @SavileLodge which purports to be a Lodge of Freemasons built around the disgraced performer Jimmy Saville. It claims to be Lodge number 616, however whilst there was a Lodge registered as number 616 by the United Grand Lodge of England, it was deleted a long time ago. This Twitter account has nothing whatsoever to do with Freemasonry and exists purely to troll.
It suckers people in by retweeting “normal” tweets and then starts spouting its real message. I am not going to repeat it here because it will attract the wrong kind of attention to this site. If you want to see for yourself, simply follow the link above, but be warned you will need a strong stomach.
How do you deal with them?
There are several strategies that you can adopt depending on the platform that you are on. Twitter is one of the most popular platforms for troll activity, so I will concentrate on that here.
Stay calm and ignore them – trolls are looking for a reaction, they feed off your response so starve them. Internet forums have long had signs on them reminding users “Don’t feed the trolls”
Mute the account – Twitter allows you to mute the account which means that you no longer see the tweets and the troll does not know that you have silenced them. This works well if you only use one Twitter application, if however you use a number (and I have lost count of how many I use!) then you need to mute an account in every tool you use to see your tweet stream.
Unfollow – this means that you no longer follow the account and so do not routinely see their tweets, unless they @mention you. An @mention is where an account that you do not follow simply includes your Twitter name in their tweet to get your attention. This means that you can still be trolled even though you do not follow the troll.
Block – this is part of the ultimate sanction. As a user you can block an account to ensure you never see tweets from that account again. Additionally, if you report it to Twitter as an abusive account, you assist the rest of the community. If they get enough reports about an account or the behaviour contravenes their usage policy, they will close the account.
What role does Social Media play in the recruitment, retention and re-engagement of Freemasons?
Many people are struggling to understand the place for Social Media within a fraternity that has existed for nearly three hundred years and for the last eighty years has been largely hidden from public view. For most Freemasons alive today, being a Mason was something you only ever mentioned to those you really trusted.
For the general public, this fosters the conspiracy theories, but it can be easily explained by the fear felt by Freemason during the 1930s as a result of the political situation in central Europe. There are no definitive figures for the number of Freemasons killed as the records did not always record that a person was selected because they were a Freemason. However, estimates range from 80-250,000 killed in the Holocaust.
Slowly, Freemasonry is emerging from this self-imposed isolation, re-entering the public arena and seeking to redress the balance. This is proving difficult for those who have been raised to believe that being a Mason was something that one did not talk about and that the public viewed with derision.
Today Masonic organisations run websites and increasingly are turning to Social Media platforms to get their message out. Facebook and Twitter are popular platforms with LinkedIn being used where Lodges have an affinity with a school, university college or organisation.
The Provincial Executive for Berkshire has defined three priorities for the team currently which are:
This is essentially a cradle to grave plan framed as the 3 Rs. So how can Social Media play a role in these three areas?
Many Freemasons have an issue with the concept of recruitment as traditionally we did not recruit, we nurtured interest when it was shown but advertising and naked recruitment was and is generally frowned upon. To this end, a senior Mason suggested that the term “attraction” be adopted which this author prefers, but it does not scan as well.
This approach was widely described as “To Be One Ask One” which was fine when people were open about being a member but flawed when nobody knew who to ask. The challenge was also that only the brave would be prepared to join an organisation surrounded by all of the negative publicity that Freemasonry was suffering over the last 40 years.
Social Media allows us to address both of these issues. Having a presence on the popular platforms makes it easier for the curious to find someone to ask about joining. Our presence on the platforms also encourages us to publish stories about what we are really doing and thus become more open which promotes a generally more positive opinion of the institution. This should result in a positive feedback loop where more positive opinion results in more people being curious about joining.
In common with all clubs and societies, Freemasonry suffers with people losing interest in the organisation, perhaps as their family or work life makes it more difficult to attend the meetings. Strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that we keep these Masons interested and engaged even if they cannot attend formal meetings. We want to keep in contact with them, let them know that we are ready when they feel that they can come back and that there are ways to keep in contact.
Social Media enables them to follow the activities of their Lodge and, in cases where they have moved away from their Mother Lodge (the Lodge through which they joined Freemasonry), to more easily find a new Lodge that meets their needs.
Equally, Social Media is playing a role in increasing the enjoyment of those who are active Freemasons. Members connect across the globe with other Masons to get a better understanding of what Freemasonry means in other jurisdictions. Meetings are arranged when Masons go on holiday, allowing people to experience different ways of doing things.
Social Media is also being used like any other communications tool to exchange views, to support one another and to share jokes. All of this can be done via any other medium, but it is easier through these platforms. They are geared to bring together like minded individuals. All of the Social Media platforms encourage you to increase your network by adding people that your existing contacts interact with. This is no different than being introduced to someone new in your Lodge, the pub or at work, it just happens more quickly and as the result of a computer suggestion.
Inevitably, some Masons will drift away from the organisation, perhaps due to the aforementioned pressures but times change and they may be encouraged to return. Re-engaging “lapsed” masons is a great way to bring them back to the organisation.
Many people use Facebook to keep in touch with family, friends and former colleagues that they have moved away from. Families are probably more geographically dispersed today than they have been at any other point in history. As a result, one of the fastest growing demographics on Facebook is the so called Silver Surfer generation who are using the platform to keep up with their children and grandchildren. As the younger generations move to new platforms, the older generations will inevitably be encouraged to follow them.
With this in mind, it is worthwhile Provinces and Lodges engaging in Social Media to enable these lapsed Masons to re-engage more readily.
Is Social Media the magic bullet?
There is no magic bullet to address these issues, we need to adopt an omni-channel strategy encompassing in person, printed and online communications to reach our intended audience. As with all communications strategies, we need to talk to potential members (including the lapsed and disenchanted) in the medium and language that they are using.
Social media is not the be all and end all, but it is an underutilised part of our toolbox.
As I have said before running a Twitter account attracts crazy people, running a Masonic themed Twitter account attracts that special kind of crazy person. These people seem to have nothing more important to do with their lives than to set up so called parody accounts.
But why do they do it? There appear to be three primary motivations:
Building a massive network of followers that they “influence”
Spewing Pornographic material
The first group are best avoided as they typically set out to annoy or worse, antagonise or attack their target. These accounts typically spew misinformation, falsehoods or downright lies. A good example of this is the @savilelodge account which purports to be associated with Masonic Lodge 616 (it is fake, check the UGLE Directory of Lodges and Chapters), and the disgraced performer Jimmy Savile. Looking at its recent output shows a catalogue of tweets suggesting that a number of recently disgraced performers are/were Freemasons. I have covered handling trolls in a previous post.
The second group are less aggressive but no less annoying. They are typified by the host of accounts associated with James Grimaldi all of which encourage you to “follow back in 24 hours for a 10x shout out” and “include #NYG”. I have blocked 19 accounts which bear the hallmarks of this approach.
These accounts are a honey trap for the novice tweeter seeking to build their own network out. However, all you really achieve is a long list of fake followers. These accounts are used by their owners to build a network of thousands that they can then publish tweets to, for money. As their worth to anyone foolish enough to employ them for this purpose is based on the number of accounts that follow them, they only care that you follow them.
My advice to you with regard to this second group is that you avoid them or better yet block them. I am gradually building a list of these accounts as a Twitter list associated with the @HungerfordLodge Twitter account. I have imaginatively called it Blocked accounts and it is public so that anyone reading this article can subscribe to it and use it to protect themselves. In return, all I ask is that you Direct Message me with any accounts that you think should be added to that list so that in turn all subscribers benefit from the update. I will of course have to wade through these recommendations to check that they are genuine. This is my way of paying it forward – if you get chance, see this film, it impacted my philosophy for life.
Two things have occurred to me since I wrote this post:
My Twitter list idea only works for a very small number of blocked accounts because it is manual and time consuming
People will believe that simply by subscribing to my Twitter list that they will themselves be blocking the accounts – I am sorry to say that you will not. In order to block these accounts you will need to manually add them to your block list.
To automatically add accounts to your block list you need to use the Block Together service described below. You will need to follow this link and subscribe to my block list. Once you do this, every time I block an account it will automatically be added to your block list.
As to the pornographers, what motivates them? Well, it can only be website traffic. If you see an image that makes you want to visit their website for more then they increase their chances of either:
Getting you to pay to subscribe
Infecting your computer with malicious code so that it is no longer “your” computer.
How you view the subject of pornography is down to your own moral compass. I typically display my Twitter streams (multiple accounts) using TweetDeck on a 24″ monitor in my study where my pre-teen children come to see what Daddy is up to. Having a stream of pornography on screen would lead to awkward discussions both with them and my wife. To illustrate my point my 8 year old son came in whilst I was writing this post.
Dealing with the problem
As I have already suggested, the only real answer is to block these accounts as you become aware of them.
Blocked users cannot:
Send Direct Messages to you.
View your Tweets, following or followers lists, photos, videos, lists or favorites when logged in.
Add your Twitter account to their lists.
Tag you in a photo.
Tweets from blocked users will not appear in your timeline. However, note that Tweets from others that mention blocked users may appear in your timeline (for example, if you follow that user) or your notification timeline (if a Tweet mentions you).
On an individual account basis, you block an account by
in the iOS (iPhone and iPad) app, tap on a tweet from the offending account. If using the web client on a PC, click rather than tap.
Open their profile by tapping on their picture
Tap the gear icon and select Block
After this article was originally published, MASK NOIR made me aware of Block Together. Before I included it here, I did some background investigation. Block Together was written by Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and allows users to easily share their Twitter block lists. Jacob is not affiliated with Twitter in any way, he is a Senior Staff Technologist at the EFF and is involved in some pretty cool technologies. I, therefore, feel comfortable in using this tool. If you do not, I have provided a more manual approach below but the block list will not be as up to date as using Block Together.
I have created my share which will automatically update here If you subscribe to my block list, you will block every account currently on that list. Later, if I as the author of that block list block more accounts, you will automatically block those as well. If I unblock an account, you will automatically unblock it too, but only if you originally blocked it through the shared list. If you blocked the account independently, it will not be unblocked.
However, please note Block Together will never block an account you follow so if you have already chosen to follow one of the accounts I have blocked you will continue to follow them.
Twitter Bulk Import
It is possible to add accounts in bulk using a .csv file. Download my Blocklist (Updated 29/12/15). The most up to date list will always be the the one hosted by Block Together as it is automatically generated.
First save the file to your computer. Due to restrictions on file types I can share via this website you need to rename the file type from xls to csv before you can upload it to Twitter.
In the pop-up, click on the paperclip icon and find the .csv file. Click Open to import the list.
The file name will be displayed when the file has been successfully imported.
Click Preview. The list of the accounts will be displayed. You can deselect any accounts you do not wish to block (accounts that you currently follow will be automatically unchecked).
Click Block to confirm.
The imported accounts will be added to your block list.
Twitter is a wonderful conduit for communicating with like-minded people across the globe. However, as with any of the social media platforms and indeed any group of people in the physical world, it has its miscreants. I am not setting out to police the Internet, far from it, I am simply trying to give people the tools to handle other people’s behaviour.
If my work helps you, share it with your friends and follow the Lodge on Twitter and Facebook. You might also consider leaving me a comment – due to the special kind of crazy people we attract, I moderate all comments, so it might not appear immediately.
If you are not a Freemason and found your way here by the magic of Google, please read the rest of the site and consider whether what you thought you knew about Freemasonry is valid.
If you are a Freemason, why not visit us one day or invite me to your Lodge.