Last year we published a list of 20 Social Media Monitoring Tools. One of the more popular tools on that list is Hootsuite. Today we give you a deep dive into Hootsuite: what it is and how it can make you more productive with social media.
If you are looking for a tool that lets you manage all of your social media accounts and presence in a single place, and collaborate as a team on them, then Hootsuite should be at the top of your list to investigate.
Hootsuite is a Web-based tool (although it also can be used on popular mobile devices- see screenshot above).
You take a few minutes to set up a Hootsuite account; then connect your various social media profiles. After this one-time setup, you will be able to use it. Here are 4 essential functions that Hootsuite performs:
1. Manage Your Social Accounts in One Place
You do this from the Hootsuite dashboard, without visiting each site separately or using a multitude of different mobile apps. This includes replying to others, retweeting, “liking,” sharing and responding to private messages, and otherwise carrying out activity on your social accounts.
The activities that you can perform vary by social media platform. You won’t be able to do every single thing for your Facebook Page, for instance. But we’ve found that we can do 90% of our day-to-day social activities from within Hootsuite.
You can manage Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Google Plus, MySpace, WordPress and Mixi — individual profiles and business pages.
2. Schedule Updates
The built-in calendar is one of the most important features. Use it to schedule posts to your social accounts. In other words, you can keep your accounts active. More importantly, you can be efficient by scheduling all your social updates at one time for, say scheduling once a day or once a week. In other words, you can “batch” your work. Then you aren’t constantly interrupting other activities to update social accounts throughout the day or week.
There’s also an auto-schedule feature that will automatically schedule your tweets and updates to go out at optimal times.
Running a marketing campaign and have a lot of updates to make over a period of say, two weeks? You can actually upload a CSV spreadsheet for all the messages.
If you prefer “set it and forget it” automation, you can add RSS feeds to automatically update social accounts every time a new article goes out from your company blog, for example. You can set it to post one item at a time (recommended) or more. You can direct it to check for new items in the feed and post them, once per hour or up to once per day.
3. Communicate and Collaborate as a Team
You can assign tasks, such as responding to a tweet or a private direct message, to a team member, as seen above. No emails or separate instant message instructions needed. Assignments are right there within the Hootsuite dashboard.
Also, because multiple users can use Hootsuite, everyone can “see” what activity is completed or hasn’t been done yet. Again, no communicating via email or messaging programs to find out if someone followed up on that Twitter customer complaint yet, or not. How many users you can have depends on which product level and upgrades you have purchased.
4. Get Analytics and Reports
Fragmented results here and there don’t do much to help you analyze and understand how well social media is working — or not. For that, you really need to see a bird’s eye view of activity over a period of time, and be able to compare it.
Many social media platforms now offer analytics. But who has time to run and grab those analytics from Facebook Insights, or a multitude of other social sites? Hootsuite’s built-in analytics and reports give this kind ability to track your progress and understand what’s working best, in one place.
Best of all, you can get weekly reports emailed to you. These are extremely helpful. For instance, here at Small Business Trends we review the analytics reports in staff meetings from time to time.
What I Like About Hootsuite
The company keeps investing in enhancements to its platform. Hootsuite just keeps getting better. And that’s not always true with products.
Here are two aspects that are particularly impressive:
Integration / Interoperability With Other Marketing Applications
You’re not limited to managing just the 8 social media platforms Hootsuite currently covers. You can extend capabilities to other social media sites and even other programs, by adding “apps” from the Hootsuite Apps Directory.
For instance, you’ll find apps for social sites such as Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Scoop.it, YouTube and several more (see screenshot below).
Then there are apps that offer some level of integration or interoperability with popular marketing and CRM programs that businesses use. There are apps for ConstantContact, Nimble, HubSpot, Salesforce, ZenDesk and more. What exactly the apps allow you to do with Hootsuite varies by app. For a description of one such app, see our write-up about the Batchbook and Hootsuite integration.
Most apps are free. Some, like the app for Salesforce, require an additional monthly fee. But even the paid premium apps are relatively inexpensive. Apps usually cost less than $5 per month per premium app.
I like the fact that Hoosuite has been open to allowing these kinds of apps, through its developer program. It makes Hootsuite more useful as a central dashboard and management tool.
Different Pricing Levels to Meet Different Needs
Another positive aspect of Hoosuite is that it offers different pricing and feature levels.
There’s a free level, for a single user to update 5 social profiles. This is good for a really small startup or sole proprietor. It’s also a risk-free way to try out Hootsuite.
The Pro version, currently $8.99 a month – the price recently went up — can be used with a small team of two users. Additional users can be added for a fee. The added users can vary — anywhere from $10 to $15 for the third user, and $15 to $30 each additional after that. It all depends on whether you are under the “new” pricing or old.
Note that some of the features in this review may only be available at the Pro level.
With Pro you can manage an unlimited number of social profiles. You receive an enhanced analytics report, and can choose an unlimited number of apps. There’s a 30-day free trial of this version, too. The Pro version is what most small businesses likely will use.
The Enterprise version is for, well, large enterprises. Pricing is not even available on the site for Enterprise. The Enterprise version adds advanced features, such as advanced security, geo-targeting, advanced customer support. It also adds Hootsuite University, an online training program for social media and learning to use Hootsuite.
There’s a discount of 10% for annual billing instead of monthly, for some savings.
What I’d Like to See Hootsuite Do Differently
While I like the different levels of Hootsuite, some small businesses may consider it expensive to purchase certain add-ons ala carte. The cost can really add up.
Hootsuite University is one such add-on I’ve heard people kvetch about. Ala carte it’s $21 per month. Small business teams really could benefit from training. But the pricing model poses a challenge. Small business owners I’ve heard from are concerned that once you sign up for a monthly fee, if team members don’t use it, you could find your organization a year later paying for a service that’s rarely been used – just because somebody forgot to cancel it. A one-time fee per user would solve that issue.
Another pricing issue is the limitations and expense of using vanity URL shorteners for brand enhancement of your links shared. For instance, at Small Business Trends we’ve started using our own URL shortener of http://SBT.me. Hootsuite allows custom URLs — but only if you sign up for Owly Pro. That costs $49.99 per month.
Small businesses will be very cost sensitive about social media tools. Just 39% of small businesses say they get ROI from social media. Of those the majority isolate the dollar value to under $1,000 per year.
Still, at the base price of under ten bucks a month, Hootsuite Pro delivers excellent value. The base price should be affordable by most small businesses. Just be careful about those add-ons!
At Small Business Trends we are paying customers of Hootsuite. We did not get any special consideration for this review.
More About Hootsuite
As mentioned, Hootsuite is a Web-based based app, and can be used from most modern browsers. There are extensions (“hootlets” or “hootbars”) for Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Hootsuite offers mobile apps so that you can manage your social presence from an iPhone, Android devices and the iPad.
HootSuite Media, Inc. was founded in 2008 by Ryan Holmes, who is also the company CEO. Its headquarters is located in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It has over 6 million users, who send 3 million messages a day through the dashboard.
Overall, Hootsuite is the gold standard today for managing your social media accounts. It offers a strong affordable mix for small business users.