With the recent announcement of Google+, it looks like the number of social networks businesses have to deal with is going to continue to grow. In light of this, I’m going to review Hootsuite, a web & mobile app that makes social media account management easier.
Hootsuite provides a dashboard for managing social accounts. It’s features make it ideal for use in a business environment. The program is available on the web, or on iPhone/iPad/Blackberry/Android apps.
Both free and paid plans are available – most small businesses can probably get by with the free version. Read on for a review of what Hootsuite can do.
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Managing Multiple Accounts
One of Hootsuite’s specialties is managing many social media profiles. This is helpful, because logging into each social media site becomes time consuming – and is a complete waste if you’re posting the same content everywhere. Hootsuite solves this problem by working with:
- Facebook (personal accounts & pages)
- Ping.fm (which can further send out updates to even more services)
I would guess Google+ will be on the way as it rolls out to a wider audience.
Updates from all of these accounts can appear on your dashboard, which looks like this:
You can organize which streams you want to see, and create entire new tabs to better manage all the updates you’re receiving.When you want to make a new post, you do this from right in Hootsuite. Click in the message box in the top left part of the screen, and it expands to provide more options:
The box counts number of characters for Twitter, provides an integrated link shortener, the ability to attach an image, schedule the message (more on this below), and save as a draft. To the right is a list of your social networks, and you simply click the icon for each network you would like to send your message to.
For some networks, there may be the option to add more info – for instance, if you have a link in the message and choose Facebook, a box will popup and allow you to choose the icon to be used (you can see this in the picture below).
If you blog, or want to import posts from somewhere else, Hootsuite provides another convenience, as it is also possible to connect an RSS feed (which all blogging platforms create) and have posts automatically created from this feed and sent to the social networks of your choice.
One frustration for some businesses is that people are on social media 24/7 – yet most people don’t work all day and all night (thankfully). Hootsuite provides a bit of help in this area, by making it easy to schedule social media posts. When writing a message in the post box, one can click the calendar icon to popup a post scheduling dialogue:
You can choose a date and time in the future to have your post automatically go out. There is even a separate screen that lets you view scheduled messages.
Scheduling messages can be helpful to keep accounts somewhat active in the evening or when you go on vacation. I suggest, however, that you use it judiciously, as an account that is mostly scheduled messages doesn’t get the interactivity that social media really needs.
Working With a Team
For companies that have multiple people managing social media accounts, it can be a challenge to keep track of who is updating when and responding to what. Hootsuite boasts a number of features to make this easier.
- Team Members - With pro accounts, you can have multiple team members as part of an organization, who all receive access to the company’s social accounts – without having to know all the passwords.
- Assignments - Incoming messages can be assigned to different team members, with an added note if desired, to make sure each message gets a response.
- Scheduled Messages & Approvals - As discussed previously, messages can be scheduled. The system can also be set to require approvals on messages. For instance, if you have an intern helping with social media for the summer, allow them to write responses but wait for your approval before being sent.
Monitoring & Reporting
Hootsuite is great for monitoring your brand on Twitter, and also provides some nice reporting options.
For monitoring, you can create Twitter searches and have them continually run. With the ability to create tabs and organize streams on your dashboard, you can easily arrange things so that you can watch the results. Some companies also watch for particular terms or questions, in hopes of finding potential clients they can contact.
When it comes to monitoring your social media activity, Hootsuite provides free reports regarding click activity on your shortened links. Pro accounts have access to a much more complete report builder, allowing you to pull in stats from Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics and more. You can create reports and then have them automatically created and emailed out.
I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but the report builder seems to create very nice looking reports. It would be useful for social media management agencies reporting to clients, or employees at a large organization that need something that looks professional to give to their boss.
As I mentioned, Hootsuite’s basic plan is free. The main limitations are that you can only manage 5 social media accounts, there is no support for team members, and access to reports is limited. A $5.99/month Pro plan allows unlimited social media accounts, the full report builder, and includes one team member. Additional team members are $15/month.
Hootsuite’s pricing seems pretty reasonable. The basic plan will be plenty for many companies, and the inexpensive Pro plan works if someone helps manage your accounts. The price starts to go up quickly when more team members are added – but if you have a dozen people managing your social media accounts, you can probably afford the extra cost.
Hootsuite is a great convenience for companies looking to streamline their social media account management. Its ability to manage multiple accounts, schedule messages, and work with team members are all very helpful in a business environment.
Hootsuite’s free plan is more than enough for many businesses – to give it a try, visit Hootsuite’s signup page.
Full Disclosure – Links in this article are affiliate links. If you signup through one of them, I’ll be compensated. You can probably tell I really like the program and would recommend it either way. I’d ask that you help support the site by using these links. Thanks!