I learned about a few new features within HootSuite, and I also realised that regardless of how frustrated the tool makes me at times (and by at times I mean oftentimes), there’s just so much that I haven’t tackled yet – while I’m familiar with the analytics that HootSuite provides, I haven’t reviewed that side yet. I’m sure I’ll cover it in the next how ever many days left in my 10 day trial.

I admit, using HootSuite is proving to be a frustration for me. I’ve stopped and told myself “maybe if I use Tweetdeck just this time…“, but I’m determined to stick through for the 10-day trial. I had to take part in a Twitter chat on Friday, but I couldn’t do it properly or at least with the same level of enthusiasm I used to have with other tools like TweetDeck. That’s when I noticed that I’ve been tweeting less with Hootsuite – while I love tweeting, I noticed that the thought of having to open Hootsuite and bump into some annoying bugs just deterred me from tweeting sometimes. Even more so when I thought of tweeting people I do not follow (e.g. brands, customer service handles that I do not necessarily follow but I still want/need to contact): that would involve me writing a tweet, then remembering mid-tweet that I have to go out of the current screen just to do a search, save the current tweet as a draft (or template, using Hootsuite terms), looking for the person I’m trying to tweet, go back into the saved draft and pick up from there. I guess this is a workflow that Hootsuite users are used to, but it’s not one that I am used to. In the end, I guess this conflict comes from the fact that I come from using engagement-focused tools to management-focused tool like Hootsuite, but more on this theory later…

By the way, I was able to replicate the bug that I mentioned a few days, whereby using a hashtag in certain circumstances would turn all the punctuation in the tweet blue. Why that happens, however, is not clear to me.

HootSuite Notifications

If you’ve been following this ‘trial’ then you know that I’ve been struggling with notifications. Suddenly, I started receiving them. While I rejoiced at first, I realised that the notifications weren’t useful, since the only thing that the notification said in the text was “TM”. At first I thought that stood for “Twitter mention”, but I started receiving them when I had direct messages too, as well as new followers (sometimes I’d receive a notification for that, and in other occasions I didn’t – even though the free plan I’m on doesn’t allow me to be notified of new followers, or any other interaction besides mentions and direct messages). Suddenly, I started receiving random notifications even when nothing was happening on my profile. All I’d get was an unhelpful “Hootsuite: TM” – imagine me going into my emails, refreshing every 5 seconds to see if Twitter’s going to send me an email saying that something did in fact happen. I then contacted Hootsuite on Twitter, and they advised me to delete the app and reinstall it. I did so, for the umpth time, and when I redownloaded the app – lo and behold – I received two notifications. That’s strange, especially since I received those notifications BEFORE I logged in.

Well, long story short, the notification issue has stopped, as I’ve blocked Hootsuite from giving me any more notifications – I’ve had to block it from within my iPhone settings, as disabling them on Hootsuite didn’t seem to work, strangely.

I later received an email to tell me that this bug was caused by something that, in all honesty, I already suspected. Here’s the cause of this notifications issue: it’s because my iPhone’s language is set to Italian. Yup.

While I do appreciate the email and the time taken to explain the issue to me, there’s one paragraph that struck me a bit. Here’s the fix that the Hootsuite Customer Advocate sent me:

“In the meantime, since you’re clearly quite comfortable using English, I suggest you adjust your device’s language settings to English, as that will fix the issue.”

Er, no. My phone is set to Italian not because I’m trying to be fancy, or because I’m trying to learn Italian – see, I am Italian, born and bred, and as such Italian just so happens to be my mothertongue. Technically, English is only my 3rd language. Yes, I am quite comfortable using English, as I have been my whole life, as I have been in the past 7 years living in dear ol’ London. However, I’m not changing my phone’s language to suit a bug that isn’t going to be resolved any time soon due to developers and the usual time it takes Apple to approve apps.

Most of the apps I use are in Italian, and I’m very reasonable when it comes to developers not adding an Italian localisation to their app – I’ve worked on a project where I had to translate a whole app into Italian, so trust me I know how difficult it can be accommodating other languages other than the main one you want to target. However, I love it when I open a newly downloaded app and I see that (A) the app detected my iPhone’s language and it’s switched to Italian to accommodate that, or (B) the app has a list of supported languages, and it so happens to have ‘Italian’ as one of the options. Sweet! However, if an app is English-only it’s no big deal – like the Hootsuite Customer Advocate said, I’m ‘clearly quite comfortable using English‘. However, I do not understand how an app that is marketed as “international-ready with translation to/from over 50 languages” can fail at showing notifications if you don’t use English, and the fix fort that switching your device language to English if you’re ‘clearly quite comfortable using English‘.

Post-Twitter chat I spent some time looking through my timeline and interacting with people, as I usually do. In doing so I noticed a couple more things within Hootsuite:

– why, when I look at someone’s profile, I get the option to follow AND unfollow that person at the same time? I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it still intrigues me… There must be a reason, but I can’t seem to find it; [engagement: -1]

– meanwhile, it’s quite clever of Hootsuite to show you the relationship between the profile you’re viewing and all the accounts you’ve added on your Hootsuite profile, whether you have the free, pro or enterprise plan; [management: +1]

Pictures and other Media in HootSuite

I’m going to focus on media for a while. Twitter  introduced inline media previews not so long ago, meaning that while you scroll your timeline, you’ll also see the previews of pictures and other embedded media (e.g. videos, Vines etc.) as part of the tweets. Interestingly, some apps, like Tweetbot, were already doing so before Twitter implemented this, and most apps out there have adopted this function as well. Hootsuite, on the other hand, doesn’t allow inline previews. Besides that, from my current experience with the tool, I don’t think Hootsuite manages pictures very well.

Now, I will mention one thing – after Facebook bought Instagram and Twitter stopped showing previews of Instagram pictures on the app as well as on the web client, it’s nice to see that Hootsuite didn’t yank the ability to view Instagram pictures on timelines. However, if you want to see any sort of media, you’ll have to tap on the tweet and be taken to the tweet’s view. That’s fine, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem though is how media is being shown.

Take, for example, a tweet that contains geo-location information and a picture. When you open the tweet, Hootsuite seems to think that you’re more interested in the location of the tweet than on the picture, so it puts the picture at the bottom, right after showing you a prominent map indicating where that tweet came from. From an engagement point of view, I’m asking myself “am I more interested in the picture attached or the location of the tweet?”, especially considering the low number of tweets that do have any geo-location data attached anyway, according to Twitter statistics.

Here’s another example: besides the fact that you cannot attach a picture to a draft if you do not have reception (so no chance of saving local drafts that then get uploaded as soon as you reconnect to the network, and no chance of planning posts to publish later on while you’re sitting on the Underground train), viewing your own uploaded pictures is, dare I say, dreadful – for some reason, the pictures you upload through Hootsuite’s own ow.ly service show up as somewhat blurry in the tweet preview. Why?!

Other Apps: Evernote and Pocket

I thought I’d do something else, something new, such as adding new applications to HootSuite. As I use Evernote extensively, especially during NaNoWriMo, I thought it would be great to integrate HootSuite and Evernote. This integration enables you to add  threads of tweets as notes in Evernote with just one click. The great thing is that you also get the whole conversation instead of only tweet, so you have some context behind it. (Having said that, I’d rather have the option to attach only the tweet as opposed to the whole conversation, especially if it’s a lengthy conversation and I really do not want to add all of it to my notes). The whole conversation is saved as a low-size screenshot, and there you have it. You can also add your own tags, although I found some limitations: unfortunately, there is no two-way synchronisation between HootSuite and Evernote, so when adding a new note within Hootsuite, you can’t see the list of existing tags you already have. While this might not be a big deal for buddying Evernote users, it is a big deal for me since I use quite a few notebooks Evernote, and I’m what you’d call an Evernote power-user.

When I went to add a tweet to Evernote I was asked, to my surprise, to connect to Evernote, even though I had already done that. I did it anyway and when I clicked on the option to add a tweet to Evernote, well, I kept getting a message saying “processing”, yet nothing seemed to process. I checked Evernote later on, and no tweets appeared.

Another application that I use very, very, very often is Pocket. Pocket is a Read-it-Later (RIL) service that I use quite heavily especially since is tightly integrated with Tweetbot and other apps I use, as well as browsers, so I can quickly cache an article from within Chrome or Safari/Firefox. While I did find integration with Pocket from within the Hootsuite app (although the integration page is poorly implemented – showing a webpage as fullscreen without covering the top bar where you can see time, network reception etc., is bad UI practice), I couldn’t find that same integration on Hootsuite web.


Final Thoughts

Lastly I’ll end with this: while you have the option to expand Twitter conversations, you can’t interact with those tweets in the conversation, only the one you have right in front of you. Here’s one example: when live-tweeting you get so many tweets and conversations being pulled through, and suddenly you find a tweet that catches your attention. You click on the tweet to reply, yet when you expand the conversation you also see that other people have commented and given their opinion on a subject. Say you want to interact with those previous tweets – you can’t do that from within the expanded conversation. You’re forced to go to the profile of the person in question, find the tweet in question and reply to it.

Now here’s what I think: if HootSuite is targeting organisations, big and small, they’re also targeting people who work as community managers, social media managers, as well as analysts. Now, from an analyst perspective I can’t say much at this point as I’ve used the app mainly from an engagement point of view. Despite the frustrating reviews I’ve written since Monday, I do not dislike HootSuite. Yes, it’s been frustrating me and more with some faults so basic that they look like sloppy oversights to me, especially from a company like HootSuite. While I wouldn’t use it as my default app, I wouldn’t delete it from my phone, because I’m waiting for that update that turns HootSuite into the Twitter client that marketers are waiting for.

I can see HootSuite becoming not just the most talked about application, but the most used application in social media, the application that people will mention by default in conventions, not just because of the number of features that the app has, but because of the strength of those features, because of the usability, because of the user-friendliness, because of its usefulness. I like HootSuite’s business model, I appreciate HootSuite aim, and I really do admire HootSuite’s dream.

However I personally believe that the tool that HootSuite is promoting right now is not strong enough to reflect what HootSuite is actually about. You cannot tell me that the people behind the Hootlet, the Hootups, the Hootsuite University and Social Academy,  are the same people behind the web and app interface of the company’s flagship application in its current conditions.

I’m not saying that I want HootSuite to have all the bells and whistles – I’d rather not have a Pocket integration but a better user experience; I’d rather not have an integration with App.net but a refined experience when it comes to using the essentials, such as interacting with people, dealing with conversations. While I know that it’s not all about the fancy looks but rather what drives an application and what it does offer (as opposed to what it can offer – and there’s a difference), I feel that Hootsuite has a lot of features for quantity sake, yet not all of them have been implemented with quality, while the actual basic framework that holds the application together is, indeed, flawed when it comes to engagement. Basically – how can you make an application to manage social engagement just about managing instead of engaging? How can you allow an application intended to manage social engagement, to lose the social aspects of “social management”?

I love HootSuite as a brand, Hootsuite as a company, but it saddens me to see their flagship product in its current conditions. However, I’m still going to keep Hootsuite, because I know for a fact that it can be a lot better, and I’m hopeful that it will get there. I guess you can call this tough love.