hootsuite

I took HootSuite through the hardest test on Tuesday – the Social Media London test. Now, I blog and live-tweet for Social Media London, the biggest Social Media meetup in London. The main tools I use when live-tweeting during this event are Tweetdeck and Tweetbot (although I later ditched Tweetbot for Tweetdeck, as it’s more light-weight in terms of memory it consumes. Because environment.). So, I picked up HootSuite as my weapon of choice, putting it under heavy use. As expected, I struggled a bit to begin with – detaching yourself, even momentarily, from a workflow you’re used to isn’t always easy and often takes time.

I missed a few things from Tweetdeck – automatic streaming is the main one. While I did set the streams to refresh automatically every 2 minutes, the conversation at #smlondon was so fast-paced last night that there was so much being shared every minute, let alone two minutes.

Another main feature I missed was “simultaneous tweeting”. See, I think in clusters – I can craft a tweet in my head while tweeting something else, and Tweetbot for Mac has helped me with that – I jot down the thoughts, and if the speaker says something tweet-worthy, I’ll just press CMD+N to create a new draft, jot my thoughts there, and then craft the tweet. Then, post. Technically, I could do the same with HootSuite, creating drafts as I go along… However, that takes me longer: instead of having multiple “tweet windows” open, I have to concentrate on the tweet at hand before going to the next one, as there isn’t (to my knowledge) a shortcut to save a draft and create a new tweet. (Ok, perhaps that was a poor way of describing how my cluster thinking works, but trust me, it’s wonderful.)

With HootSuite I have to focus on one thing and one thing when it comes to composing (although you can view more than one stream at the same time). True, I can save tweets as drafts, but the process of saving, writing a new tweet, going back to the previous tweet which is saved as a ‘template’…just, no.

Later that evening I tried using the iPhone app a bit more. I tried tweeting from the iPhone bookmarklet – it’s great, it’s a nice way of sharing interesting links to Twitter without copying the URL from Safari and pasting it in HootSuite, so I definitely recommend it. (Having said that, the page that HootSuite uses to advertise the iOS bookmarklet needs some series updating, as it’s still showing an older iPhone with an older iOS, possibly iOS 4 or 5; yes, I’m that pedantic.) However, there’s something wrong when you copy a hashtag from a tweet – try pasting it and it pastes as “search://(hashtag)”. So, when copying the “#AskGaryBarlow” hashtag, it pasted as “search://#AskGaryBarlow”.

Another oddity I found (besides the fact that I couldn’t create a draft with a picture when my phone was offline for 5 minutes, as it returned a “NSURLErrorDomain” error when I tried to do so), was the refreshing. Go to a stream that you haven’t updated in more than 24 hours, and HootSuite tells you that the last time the stream was updated was “never”; then, when you finally update the stream, it says you have “10 new tweets” (depending on the default number of tweets you’ve chosen to load at every refresh), even if you have more than 10 tweets. I’m used to Tweetbot which changes the new tweet count as you scroll up to read those new tweets; so, if I scroll up one tweet, from 10 it says “9 new tweets”, accurately telling me how many tweets I’ve missed since the last time I’ve updated my streams. With the new background refresh function available on iOS 7, I’d really love to see HootSuite bring better updating to streams, so when I reopen the app I won’t have to pull the stream down to see how many new tweets I’ve missed.

The next day it was back to using the Pro version at work. Having to post several articles between Twitter and Google+ with a shortened link, I found HootSuite to be a lifesaver – managing all of my content in one screen, instead of having to switch between Twitter, Google+ and bit.ly. You’ll find this extremely useful if you want to schedule content on Google+, as Google doesn’t support native content scheduling from within its platform (which is odd – you can schedule content on Facebook from within Facebook, and you can now schedule tweets from within Twitter, yet you can’t do that with Google+). And, as if that wasn’t enough, HootSuite also showed me stats for all the links I’ve shortened in HootSuite. Nice way to see how many clickthroughs you’ve had since you’ve posted the links on whatever social network you’ve chosen. Back to the scheduling, though, I wonder why HootSuite gives the option to schedule DMs, even though when you confirm that you want to schedule it, HootSuite then tells you that you can’t do that. Odd. Another oddity is the fact that, within the iOS app, you can’t save pictures – try opening a tweet that contains a picture, and now try saving that. I tried tapping, double-tapping, pressing, checking in the options – nothing.

Oh, and as for a recent question I had – the “recent” tab in Search isn’t for recent tweets, but it shows a list of recent searches.

The pedantic in me noticed a few more things that I wish I never did, mainly inconsistencies though (HootSuite doesn’t support posting to Google+ profiles, only pages, even though this is wrongly referred to as “Google+ profiles” in a few instances within the app). Having said that, I’ve had a reasonably good time, despite annoying bugs (not being able to receive notifications on a device that’s not running a language other than English, with the current version of the HootSuite app), and fancy bugs (hashtags that turn punctuation blue – I sometimes look forward to that happening, it’s like an Easter egg, it’s probably not even a bug, just an enhancement).

Back to #smlondon

At the end of the #smlondon event, I was still sat there, going through my streams, making sure I haven’t missed any tweets. Suddenly I feel someone tapping on my shoulder, I turn around and I see this lady smiling and she kindly asked me what ‘that’ was. She said she was standing behind throughout the event and she couldn’t help but notice that I was using a tool that not only let me compose tweets, but it also let me check new tweets that contain #smlondon, as well as tweets from my own followers. She was genuinely curious and asked me what that tool was, and I proudly said HootSuite, so proudly you would’ve thought I was working for HootSuite.

I explained to her:

  • why I was using HootSuite (as I’m tweeting about the event, I need to see what other people are saying about the event, whether people agree with what the speaker is saying, whether there are any problems etc., and I also need to be able to compose tweets and shorten links easily and fast)
  • what each column I had was for (the first stream with tweets from the @socialmedialond profile, the middle stream with my mentions, and the third stream with tweets that contain the #smlondon hashtag).
  • the extra functions within HootSuite that I didn’t use that night (being able to post to several accounts and several social networks, being able to see streams for all of those social accounts, seeing the analytics for links shorteners as well as other social metrics, being able to see and post RSS feeds with the RSS syndicator, scheduling posts, setting streams with ‘complex boolean language’ that contain sentiment, to show positive and negative mentions of a keyword), and so much more – and that’s just HootSuite web!)

She seemed impressed, and so was I. After I was done praising HootSuite, she revealed to me that she heads up social media for Shell and that her team has been looking for a better way to handle their social media profiles and resources, since logging in and out of accounts can be quite tedious. That’s when I praised HootSuite even more and gave her even more reasons to go for it. Now, I was honest with her – I told her that if she wants it for her personal use then she can go for the free plan; however, I also told there that if she was thinking of using HootSuite for the team, she shouldn’t bother with the free plan, as the Pro plan is a lot better: not only does it unlock many more features that aren’t available to Free users, but it will also allow her team to have their own individual logins to manage one account, and the advantages are plenty (managing a content calendar without the need of creating a separate one elsewhere, being able to see scheduled tweets regardless of who has scheduled them etc.). The one advantage that I mentioned (one advantage I knew would hit the spot) was being able to share templates and manage a ‘content storage’ that all her team members could access from anywhere.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I recommended HootSuite to this lady despite my gripes with using HootSuite for 10 days. Here’s why…

HootSuite is great at Social Media Management – there’s just so much I haven’t covered around its social media management capabilities (and trust me, it’s a lot). However, when it comes to Social Media Engagement, it’s not well designed and it hasn’t been properly thought through. Their recent iOS update was a great update that seemed to have changed more about its layout than its functionality. While the current iOS layout is much better than it was before (and you can catch a glimpse of what it was before if you open the Android app, which still has a resemblance of the old layout), it just feels like they’ve put a nice, shiny tiara on an average app – it looks good, it looks fancy, but when it comes down to it (and by ‘it’ I mean engagement), it’s still average. It could be a lot better – as I’ve written before, I’m not giving up on HootSuite as I really do believe in them – it still has a place in my home screen, although I won’t rely on it for engaging with my followers.

Having said that, HootSuite still remains the strongest social media management I’ve ever used, and I can’t take that away from them – I’m ready to be proven wrong, but point me to a Social Media Management application that not only spans across various platforms (web, mobile and tablet), but also integrates with other social networks and other software, while providing analytics to gauge how well your content and profiles are performing; I’m ready to be proven wrong, but point me to a Social Media Management application that lets your social media team work as a team in the very sense of the word – collaborating with content, sharing that content and being able to access that whether they’re at work, home, or commuting to their next meeting, while being able to schedule that content to a time that suits them or to an optimised time that suits audience and social engagement, as suggested by HootSuite.

I’m ready to be proven wrong, but until then HootSuite remains the #1 app for managing content, managing profiles, and, ultimately, managing social.