Hi folks! Last week I wrote about how to escape from social media overload, and one of things I mentioned was the social media management (SMM) platform Hootsuite. This week I’d like to dial in a little more on what Hootsuite is capable of and why you should be using it, even if you love swimming in the social media ocean.
Hootsuite has been around for a long time now (in internet time measurement), originally coming onto the scene in 2008 under the name BrightKit, and then changing its name the year after that via a competition. Since it’s been around that long, it’s likely you have heard of or even used Hootsuite in the past. Personally, I’ve been checking in on the growth of its feature-set every year or so since it launched, and though up until recently I’ve found it lacking in a few key areas that made it difficult to recommend broadly, in the past year a few things have updated or been included to eliminate most of my concerns.
To be clear, there are still reasons to engage with social media networks directly, but when it comes to managing the multiple profiles a business needs to stay competitive, and to interface with the growing community of social media users who choose to seek support via your networks, Hootsuite is now one of the best tools available. So let’s dig in, and talk about why that is.
Hey, It’s Free!
At least, the base platform is free, but that base is incredibly feature rich, and a perfectly good way to get started. If you find yourself needing even further functionality, their paid plans increase the scope of what you can control and monitor, the size of the team you can manage via the platform, and the depth of the analytics they offer. However, the free plan, which is limited to 3 networks, 1 team member and basic analytics, is a good jumping off point, and if you are a solo entrepreneur or small business with a limited team, can be enough to handle everything you need.
Keeping It Together
One of the primary functions of Hootsuite is to gather all of the streams from across your various networks and display them in a single dashboard, allowing you to view and manage them without having to keep millions of browser tabs open. It also allows you to post to multiple networks at the same time, though you need to be careful when and how you choose to do that. The culture and limitations of individual networks can vary, and if a message is particularly important, you may still want to tailor individual messages to each network. But for quick one-off announcements, you can save a lot of time by broadcasting to all of your networks simultaneously.
I should also mention here that Hootsuite is one of the few ways it is possible to easily post to Google+ from outside of the search giant’s walled garden. The list of networks that Hootsuite is capable of interfacing with is an ever-growing pile, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress, Tumblr and many, many more, including…
Just this month, Hootsuite finally added full-on Instagram integration, including scheduling of Instagram posts. Up until now, us social media managers have had to use a dizzying array of third-party tools to allow us to schedule Instagram posts, which isn’t a feature Instagram offers itself, and those tools have been shoddily executed at best. Also, they often come in and out of existence quickly, meaning we’ve had to keep finding and switching tools in order to keep up with our needs. Now, we have that functionality built into one of the best management tools out there, and it works perfectly. The scheduling service still relies on automatically bringing up your Instagram app so you can hit send yourself, rather than sending it automatically the way other networks can, but the implementation is much smoother than services I’ve used previously, with a number of checks along the way to make sure that you aren’t accidentally posting to the wrong account.
With this addition, Hootsuite is now capable of managing what I think of as “the big three” social networks — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — and that is honestly the main reason I am now comfortable suggesting it to anyone who needs SMM in their life.
This is another biggy. If you manage your networks by yourself you won’t need this, but if you have ever tried to coordinate social media strategy and management across a number of team members, then you’ve probably run into some of the logistical issues that can create. Giving your network passwords to others is a security risk, and getting an overview of who has responded to what and when can be incredibly difficult. Hootsuite’s team-management system allows you to decide which team members should respond to what, eliminating the concern that multiple team members will respond to the same thing. It also allows you to easily share the load of managing your networks with others, further cutting down on potential overload. Though the free plan only allows one other team member, that can often be enough for a small team to divide and conquer.
Schedule and Move On
Another huge reason to use Hootsuite is that it allows you to schedule your posts for later. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. If you’ve worked up an extensive social media marketing campaign, executing that campaign can be a real headache, especially if it involves multiple posts to multiple networks over an extended period of time. Making sure all of those posts get out exactly when they are supposed to can be nearly impossible, and will disrupt any other work you are trying to do, unless you schedule them ahead of time. When you frontload your entire campaign into Hootsuite using scheduled posts, you can fire and forget, allowing you to move on to other work secure in the knowledge that your plan is being executed automatically exactly as you intended. This. Is. Awesome.
There are plenty of other really cool things that Hootsuite does, including in-depth analytics, built in url shortening and more, but I think this is enough to make my point. If you spend any time interfacing with social media for business, than you owe it to yourself to give Hootsuite a spin. It won’t cost you anything, and you might find that it makes your life better in a number of measurable ways.
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