Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hooray for HootSuite!

You may remember that a while back I took HootSuite to task for what I considered to be a confusing and uninformative video announcing some new feature.  But, despite that, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that HootSuite is the best social media management system around.

I've tried out a few recently because, with its free version, HootSuite allows you only five social profiles.  I now have six streams I want to follow and thought I'd check out some others to see how they compare.

I Googled "social media management tools" and came up with a number of systems - although fewer than I thought there would be.  First I found UberVU which describes itself as a "social intelligence platform" and whose basic version offers five streams - and costs $499 a month!  OK, I'm sure it has all sorts of bells and whistles that HootSuite doesn't (well, it'd have to for that money!) but I was looking for something simple to keep track of my various Twitter and Facebook accounts and to post to them as and when I want to.

After UberVU I looked at PageLever.  But this, I discovered, only covered Facebook and cost $99 a month.  SproutSocial, at $39 a month for up to twenty profiles was the cheapest I'd found so far.  It promises to "deliver relevant messages from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs & Articles, competitor insights and more directly to your dashboard" and declares that you will no longer be "hunting across multiple sites/tools for important messages–everything you need in one, perfect inbox".  Now, I haven't tried SproutSocial and it may well be that it lives up to its promises.  But who decides which messages are relevant and important?  Microsoft Outlook (of which I have complained before on this blog) promises to put spam into my junk mail folder and deliver all genuine messages into my inbox - and singularly fails to do so even after I have told it that a particular sender should be whitelisted.  Perhaps SproutSocial has better software . . . but I would always be worrying that I had missed something.  Also, I have a suspicion that I would find having all my profiles in one inbox or stream somewhat confusing.

Then I came to Gremln.  This wasn't bad, although I found the green typeface in its streams hard to read.  I signed up for the free version (maximum 5 profiles) to try it out.  It was fairly easy to schedule tweets but I discovered that, unlike HootSuite, a link-shortening facility wasn't built in unless you invested in the $19 a month version.  On the free version you had to hop back and forth between the page and the message page which, if you're trying to schedule a number of tweets, is irritating and time consuming.

There was a similar problem with TweetDeck.  In addition, I found the scheduling screen fiddly to use.  Perhaps what annoyed me most about TweetDeck was that you don't see the whole message in the 'messages' column but have to click on each in turn and then click once more to return to the main column.

And finally there was Ezeesocial.  I got a free subscription to this as part of a training package I bought a while back.  It seems to be trying to be all things to all people and includes an autoresponder as well as a wide range of social media tools.  But it's so confusing that I found it worse than useless.  In addition, its design - or lack of it - is such that boxes overlap each other and the message box for the autoresponder is so small that it's well nigh impossible to work with.  So you have to trust to luck that you've got it right - because there doesn't seem to be a facility to send yourself a preview.  When my free subscription expires, I shall not be paying $320 a month to renew!

And so we come back to HootSuite - which, unlike TweetDeck, covers not just Twitter and Facebook but also Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare, MySpace, WordPress and mixi.  The streams are clear and readable and easily customised.  Scheduling is easy and a link-shortener is built in to the message box.  And for $9.99 a month, it gives you unlimited social profiles.  While I was searching on Google, I came across an article on social media management systems in which the author said "My favorite aspect of HootSuite is how long it’s been around. Any social media tool with the longevity of HootSuite has to be taken very seriously because there has to be a reason it is still around with all the competition out there."  Having browsed the competition - and seen their prices - I can see why Hootsuite is still going strong.  It's easy to use, it does everything that I require, and it saves me time.  So I have signed up for the Pro version and would recommend it to anyone else who wants to keep track of their social media profiles cheaply and effectively.

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