Hootsuite: Effortlessly Managing Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

Written by James GunterFebruary 21, 2011

Social media marketing is a growing industry right now, and many marketing companies are branching out to offer social media marketing packages to their clients. As well, companies are turning their attention to social media marketing by steering their focus toward online engagement with their customers and hiring social media managers to handle the ebb and flow of information that passes through these networks. But with so many channels, profiles, and accounts, social media managers can have a hard time juggling all their personas, brands, and messages.

Luckily, there are a number of desktop social media management tools like Tweetdeck and Seesmic to fill the gap. But beyond two of the most popular desktop social media management apps, there is a fairly popular web-based equivalent, called Hootsuite.

Hootsuite

The main difference between Hootsuite and other social media management tools is that it is web-based, which means you need to access it through your web browser, as well as create an account. The basic package is free, but you can upgrade to a more robust, pro package for about $6/month. The free version gives you management of up to 5 social media profiles and 2 RSS feeds plus a 30-day stat history. However, the free version is ad supported.

The upgraded version gives you unlimited accounts, feeds, stats, etc. And it also offers you the ability to add team members to your account. You get the first one free, and each additional team member is $15. With the paid version you also get access to some advanced features like Google analytics integration and Facebook insights integration. These are all really cool features that go above and beyond most free desktop social media management tools, but are probably reserved for more advanced users. Small businesses that are managing their social media on their own, probably don’t need these types of tools to engage with their social networks.

Tools and Functions

The free version of Hootsuite doesn’t offer many tools that you can’t get from other social media management tools for free. You have the ability to load multiple profiles (although only up to 5 in the free version—a serious limitation when compared to other apps), and create multiple columns for searching keywords and trends on Twitter. Plus it includes all the standard integration with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, with the addition of Ping.fm. Hootsuite also gives users the ability to schedule tweets and broadcast the same message on multiple profiles simultaneously.

One area where it stands out is the ability it gives you to auto-send blog updates from your Wordpress blog to your social networks. You just have to enter your blog information and, whenever a new post is published, Hootsuite will send it out on the social networks and profiles you specify, along with a customizable message. Although you can find Wordpress plugins that will do this same thing for you, it is nice to have that function housed with all your other social media management tools.

Track Traffic

One of the ways that Hootsuite really stands out from the other desktop apps, is that it will track click-throughs for the links you have published. Hootsuite uses Ow.ly as a URL shortener (the only URL shortening option). When your followers click Ow.ly URLs, Hootsuite tracks the click-throughs.

Although getting click-through stats is good, the way Hootsuite does it is controversial. When your followers click an Ow.ly URL, they are taken to the target site, but only under a Hootsuite toolbar, so the actual URL isn’t shown in the address bar. That means that the site you are linking to does not get any traffic benefit from the link you published. This can be a problem if you are linking back to your own site or blog on a regular basis. You’ll see the stats in Hootsuite, but your website or blog will not register the traffic, which can be bad for your SEO.

Overview

When going head-to-head with other desktop apps, the free Hootsuite package of tools is not very impressive. You can get many of the same tools for free elsewhere with less limitations and more freedom to customize the app itself according to your needs. The paid version offers some nice tools and integration but is not overly impressive to justify the extra cost. And the Ow.ly constraint can be a make or break issue for many website owners who are trying to boost their search engine ranking.

If you have a modest social media strategy and don’t link to your own content very often, the free version of Hootsuite might be a good option. But it still may not be as easy to use or access as other free social media desktop apps. If you really want control, flexibility, and ease-of-use in your social media management tool, go with Tweetdeck or Seesmic instead of Hootsuite.

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