I called Day 1 “Frustration”. If I could define Day 2 of my Hootsuite challenge in one word, it would be “Seriously?”. (Question mark included.) Let me explain.

I started the day still frustrated from the previous day – no notifications? I got some more followers, some mentions, but I didn’t realise until I checked my emails when I first woke up (and that is always the first thing I do when I wake up).

I posted a tweet later in the day and I added a link to the tweet. As links take off 22 characters regardless of their length, I went over the 140-character limit. I started deleting characters, rewording sentences and choosing shorter synonyms, and I don’t mind that – once you’re used to Twitter you know what to replace in most cases. However, I found something bizarre with the Hootsuite app – when deleting some characters from the main text, the character count wouldn’t update. The number of times I had to delete characters, be within 140 characters and have HootSuite tell me “sorry but it’s too long lolz” is quite frustrating. Even more bizarre, when I tagged something with a hashtag, that’s when the hashtagged word turned blue (great!) along with every punctuation in the tweet (huh?). The same happened when I added a picture and your tweet goes over the character limit – then try adding a hashtag and admire the blue punctuation. (Now, I’ve only been able to replicate it twice, once I find how that happened I shall let you know.)

Out of curiosity I tapped on Places, the icon right next to “Compose new tweet”. This is one way to see all tweets around you or in a specific location. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t work when I tried it in the morning. I’d only get an error message saying “Error loading“. Now keep that in mind, because I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Then comes the turn for trends – you can easily see Twitter trends both on the app and on the web tool. However, trends seem to be set to “worldwide trends” by default, with no (apparent) way to change the location. Most trends in the “worldwide trends” section are either in Turkish, Spanish, or Portuguese, with a few English hashtags that are mostly music-related. Thankfully Hootsuite gives an explanation on each trend – just tap on the “?” Icon next to a trend and you’ll see its definition. Having said that, the non-English trends do not have the explanation in English, perhaps because those definitions are provided by another site, most probably WhatTheTrend. In the same app scree there are two other tabs – one to see nearby tweets, and the third one just says “Recent”. I imagine these are the most recent tweets from the whole Twitterverse, which would explain why the page has never loaded for me.

Anyway, to avoid any further frustrations I thought I’d add something new, so I added a new social network to my HootSuite account – I went for Foursquare. When you add Foursquare to your account you get a list of your friends checking in. I’m yet to see how this will be of use to me – maybe it won’t, but I shall play around with it. Right after that, I tapped back into Places and instead of seeing an error message saying “Error loading”, a list of nearby (Foursquare) places appeared.

I took HootSuite to another level when I used it to engage with #SMXChat, a weekly Twitter chat that revolves around social media (definitely recommended). I often take part in Twitter chats, and if you’re at all familiar with them, you know how fast-paced they can be. When it comes to my live-tweeting and my Twitter chats, I always go for a tool I can rely on completely, and the main 3 features I need for that are:

  • Streaming: very important, -I want to see the tweets appear as and when they’re posted, instead of having to refresh manually every 5 seconds. Ironically, Hootsuite’s streams don’t support streaming. You can have your streams update every 2, 5 minutes etc, but the minimum time you can set is 2 minutes. Either that or you can set it to manual update.
  • Easy engagement: the perfect tool for me is one that puts the user in control, one that puts the user experience (UX) as a focus. I want to be able to reply easily, and change from a single reply to a “reply to all”; I want to choose whether to quote a tweet (old style retweet) or do a “normal” retweet.
  • Notifications: I need to see who’s interacting with me, my profile and my tweets without having to check my emails for that. Some applications, like Twitterrific, have a notification pane, where you can see all interactions in real time, including new followers and any engagement. I guess this is one thing that Hootsuite could be better at – showing notifications. Right now, if you want to see who retweeted you or who mentioned you etc., you’ll have to create a separate “column” (stream) for each and every interaction. Meanwhile, other applications, such as Tweetdeck, offer the ability to create an “Interaction” column, showing in real-time who interacts with you and how. All under one column.

During the Twitter chat, I was getting mentions, new followers and retweets. However, I had no notification of that from Hootsuite. That’s when I then opened my mail application, kept it on standby just to be notified of any engagement going on with my tweets and profile. I did report this to Hootsuite – they replied with the following:

“Our mobile team are working on a fix for this which should be available via the App Store very shortly.”

Now, I’m familiar with the Apple process to approve apps that have been submitted to the AppStore, even if it’s for small bug fix. It can sometimes take 1-2 weeks from submission date before your app/update shows up for the public to download – and in the meantime, there’s nothing stopping Apple from rejecting your app, in which case you’ll have to go through the process all over again. That is, of course, when you’ve fixed the bugs, implemented them in an update and submitted such update to Apple. However, according to HootSuite’s tweet, “the mobile team are working on a fix”. It’s safe to say that I’ll be notification-less for the entire “Hootsuite challenge” I’m doing.

As for workarounds, here’s HootSuite feedback:

“Currently there is no workaround while we await an update from our Dev Team.”

Damn skippy.

Am I being too hard on HootSuite?

Hootsuite could take a leaf from its competitors and make features like notifications better, positioning themselves above its competitors. This made me think – maybe Hootsuite doesn’t want to position itself as a standalone Twitter app. Maybe Hootsuite wants to position itself solely as a marketing tool, a tool to enhance the way you manage Twitter and other social platforms, not a tool to enhance your experience in using those platforms. Take, for example, Direct Messages: most tools for Twitter will show you the DMs you’ve sent and received as a thread, a layout that we’re now used to in other applications such as Messaging, Chat, Email etc. Even Twitter itself uses the threaded layout when it comes to DMs. However, Hootsuite separates DMs sent from DMs received. This is not smart if you want to communicate with people (isn’t this why Twitter was created in the first place?), and you’ll eventually find yourself going back to Twitter.com to read the full thread to make sense of some of the DMs.

I went back to see how these tools I have in mind define themselves. For instance, Twitter describes Tweetedeck as “the most powerful Twitter tool for real-time tracking, organizing and engagement“, while Hootsuite describes its tool as a “the social media management tool which helps teams to securely engage audiences & measure results“. Perhaps I’m being a bit tough on Hootsuite because the tools and applications I use day in and day out are tools that enhance my social experience more than my “social managing” experience – fine, I can see what’s going on with my feeds in real time with Tweetdeck, but I can’t see the analytics for the links I publish – unless I use Hootsuite; fine, I can schedule tweets with Tweetdeck and with the inbuilt scheduling functionality in Twitter, but I can auto schedule my tweets – unless I use Hootsuite. (Technically you could use Buffer, but this is in the context of using one tool that does both the managing of a social account as well as scheduling content.)

So, my question is – would I use one powerhouse tool that does more than one thing under one roof and integrates with so many applications, yet it doesn’t enhance or facilitate the user experience, OR would I use multiple tools that can enhance my user experience, with the cost of switching from tool to tool based on my needs? You be the judge.