Here’s an interesting little game you can play. Look up any variation of “social media management tools” on Google. Try to find top 10 lists or highly recommended suites, that sort of thing. I challenge you to find a list that doesn’t include Hootsuite, isn’t “alternatives to Hootsuite” or doesn’t begin with “well, I used Hootsuite and such and such an issue happened, so I had to change.” They’re hard to find, just because Hootsuite is such a dominant force in the industry. So, let’s add our voices to the pile; what are the pros and cons of using Hootsuite to manage your social media accounts?
Hootsuite advertises connections with “over 25 social networks,” though they don’t list specifically which networks. You can assume, however, anything with a sizable population will be available. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. should all be available. If you want something new or lacking in an API, like Ello, you might have to contact their support, suggest the feature, and wait to see if they ever implement it.
Hootsuite tries to be an all-in-one system to manage your entire online presence. You probably don’t want to replace your website dashboard with it, but it can manage your mailing list easily enough.
Pro: It has long been one of the best tools to use for post scheduling.
Heck, one of the first major uses for Hootsuite was scheduling posts for times when you weren’t around to post them yourself. Now there are a whole host of scheduling tools, including automatic schedule so your posts go out at the same time every day regardless of when you make them, no need to plug in the details every time.
Professionals will tell you that analytics and insights make or break a social media campaign. The insights that Hootsuite provides are second to none. They compile data from Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics, and any other analytics suite on any other social network you use. On top of that, they have their own analytics tools filtering the data, so you have pretty much every piece of information you could want for any post you make. It’s not without drawbacks, though, which we’ll talk about later.
Pro: The apps are available everywhere including their little Hootlet.
Want to use Hootsuite on an iOS device? It has an app that works perfectly on both smaller iPhones and the largest, newest iPads. Want to use it on Android? Go right ahead. It supports most Android devices easily enough. Want to use it on a PC running Bluestacks to emulate a smartphone environment? I don’t know why you would, but you can! You can also use it from the web from anywhere using the Hootlet, a specialized social sharing applet that works in any web browser.
Pro: The interface displays everything you want and nothing you don’t, and you can customize it for your needs.
Hootsuite has a ton of information to display, and to keep it all under control, it’s displayed in tabbed formats. You can customize what shows in a given tab, and you have complete control over your feeds. Prioritize messages from influencers, set aside a tab specifically for customer service messages, you name it.
Pro: It has a lot of apps you can use to further customize it.
In the Hootsuite app directory, you can find a huge number of apps that add to the functionality of the base program. At last count, there are 127 apps available, 105 of which are free. They range from Glassdoor integration to RSS to security auditing to integration with Magento for e-commerce.
There are some seriously rules to follow for social media automation, with some serious hazards attached. If you’re automating posts and something happens in the world at large, you may need to change up those posts or cancel them, or you end up with instances like the NRA’s “good morning, shooters” tweet posted hours after the Aurora shooting.
Con: The basic plan is unfortunately limited. You’ll have to pay if you want advanced features.
Hootsuite’s basic plan includes up to three social profiles, with basic analytics and scheduling, no team members, basic apps and optional training. Once you start paying $10 monthly, you can get up to 100 social networks, better reports, team members, additional security, custom URLs and message archiving. To get the best analytics, unlimited apps and RSS integration, an account rep, geo-targeting and other features, you need to shell out for the enterprise version.
Con: It uses its own URL shortener, ow.ly. Use of URL shorteners is growing less valuable over time.
Some studies have shown recently that Facebook posts tend to get a bit less reach when they use a shortened URL compared to a full URL. On the other hand, Twitter requires short URLs, so much so that they apply their own service to non-short URLs. Hootsuite uses their own service as well, and they charge you as much as $50 to use your own custom short domain for your posts. Per month.
Con: It’s complex, requiring a steep learning curve if you need a tool immediately.
This might go without saying, but Hootsuite is a very robust tool with a lot going on. That means if you need a tool right now, it’s not a great choice. You need to have the luxury of time to teach yourself how to use the platform. You also don’t get all of the advanced special support unless you’re paying for the enterprise version of the software.
Con: As with any paid tool, costs add up over time.
At first blush, $10 doesn’t sound too bad for a monthly fee for a really good program. The problem is the extra costs. Want some deep analytics reports? They cost extra. Want a custom short URL? More fees. Want some of the premium apps? You’re paying for them. Before you know it, you can be spending over $100 per month.
Con: Some of the analytics reports aren’t free, even if you’re already paying for the tool.
I mention this a bit in the previous point, but here’s more detail. With the free version of Hootsuite, you get two analytics reports for free. Beyond that, you’re paying for it. They use a points system, where the pro version of the software gets you 50 points per month. Reports tend to costs about 45 points, or $50 each. Some reports are free, but many are not, and you have to pay for the best reports.