If you are serious about social media marketing, you must find ways to maximise your efficiency on the various social networks, whether that be posting to them or reading what others have published online. Logging into each of your social networks in turn to post and to interact with others is a very wasteful exercise, and this is the issue social media tools such as Hootsuite address.
What is Hootsuite?
Hootsuite is a third-party online application that allows you to post to all of your social media channels from one dashboard, and from which you can view and interact with what others have posted.
Hootsuite can be accessed via a web browser on any device connected to the internet. It can also be accessed through dedicated apps for the various mobile operating systems, although the functionality of the apps is more limited and restricted to certain social networks (see below).
One of the major selling points of Hootsuite for me is its user interface or UI, which is based around a one-page dashboard within your web browser or Hootsuite app. Within this dashboard, the user can set up a variety of tabs which are fully customisable and can pull information from a variety of streams from the social networks that you attach to a Hootsuite account.
In other words, a Hootsuite user can display information from their social media channels in whatever way they choose. Some may want to have a Hootsuite tab for each social network they’re on. By doing so, you can see all the streams (Home Feed/ News Feed, Mentions, Direct Messages etc.) associated with that social media channel at a glance.
Please see the following example below. This is a tab I have set up for Nick Lewis Communication’s Twitter Account (@NLCuk). To view all this information normally, one would have to navigate around Twitter quite extensively (whether that would be through the web or an app); with Hootsuite, all this information is on the one screen:
And it doesn’t just let you view the information; you can also interact with the information being displayed. From this dashboard, I can reply to people who have mentioned me on Twitter or retweet posts visible in my Home Feed. I don’t have to navigate away from HootSuite to do this on Twitter; it cuts out a lot of wasted time navigating from network to network:
Once I am done with Twitter, I can just click on another tab within my Hootsuite dashboard to view the activity on one of my other social networks. It’s all incredibly quick and easy.
To get the most out of Hootsuite, you should not think too linearly about which streams appear in which tabs. For example, I have a tab in my own Hootsuite account that displays all my posts on my various social networks. At a single glance, I can review everything that has been posted under the Nick Lewis Communications brand across all of its social network channels:
Hootsuite & Twitter Lists
Even though Hootsuite can be integrated with a variety of social networks channels, I would argue that it is with Twitter that it is at its most powerful. This is because you can pull in your Twitter Lists as Hootsuite streams with your Hootsuite tabs, and this magnifies greatly the information on display and your ability to interact with it.
For those of you who are not familiar with Twitter Lists, I have blogged extensively elsewhere about what they are and how you should use them, so I won’t repeat all that information here. However, in short, Twitter Lists enable you to categorise and filter the posts of other Twitter users (even of those Twitter users you do not follow) for quick retrieval and review.
For me, the Twitter experience would be a confusing and overwhelming one if it were not for Twitter Lists, and it is telling that Hootsuite makes such great use of them. Please see below an example of one of my own Hootsuite tabs that is built around my Twitter List streams:
From the above dashboard, I can reply to or retweet to my own Twitter account any of the posts I see here.
I think it is true to say that every single aspect of Twitter’s functionality is fully incorporated into the Hootsuite UI, whether that be ‘following’ or ‘unfollowing’ other Twitter users, adding Twitter users to your lists or even managing your Twitter direct messages. Unfortunately, this breadth of functionality is not fully extended to the other social networks that are compatible with Hootsuite, as we will see below.
Dedicated Search Streams on Hootsuite
The Hootsuite search functionality with Twitter is incredibly powerful and useful for internet marketing, as you can set up permanent streams within your Hootsuite tabs for certain search terms.
These search terms can either be hashtags, individual words or a series of words. See the example dashboard below, where I have a stream to display all tweets that mention ‘Nick Lewis Communications’, a stream that shows every mention of ‘@NLCuk’ and a stream that shows all tweets that use the hashtag #Digital2014:
You can also customise Hootsuite so that it only searches for certain search terms on Twitter within a certain radius of geographical location. See below for a dedicated dashboard I have set up to find mentions of ‘social media’ within a 25-mile radius of Bridgend, Swansea and Cardiff:
Broadcasting & Scheduling Posts With Hootsuite
Viewing social media feeds is one thing, but what most users want to do is broadcast to their own social media channels, and Hootsuite gives them this functionality in spades.
In the top left-hand corner of the web-browser version, you have an open field into which you can type your post, attach images and shrink URLs (which are unique to your post via Hootsuite and can be used with Hootsuite’s analytical functions). In the box to the left, you will see a series of avatars that reflect which social networks your post will be sent to, and you can toggle these as required:
Hootsuite gives the user the option to post either immediately or at whatever pre-determined time is require. This can range from five minutes into the future to the middle of next year.
Being able to schedule your posts in advance is a huge selling point of Hootsuite and comparable products. Unless you have a dedicated marketing resource posting in real time, who can honestly afford the time to break away from their work to post at an ideal time on a social network? Scheduling is key to a vital yet sane social marketing campaign.
On top of this, Hootsuite has an autoscheduling function that chooses the ideal time for your post to appear on your various social networks, based upon the success of past posts and the online activity and habits of your connections on those social networks. I use autoscheduling a lot in my social media campaigns, and I’ve noticed that engagement with my posts is greater when I activate it than when I don’t, so this feature comes highly recommended.
If Hootsuite hadn’t already streamlined our social posting habits enough for us, they have also released a superb browser plugin called Hootlet, which allows you to share the webpage you are reading to your social media channels via HootSuite.
Hootlet features all the broadcasting options that you associate with HootSuite itself, and it has increased my efficiency no end when it comes to managing social media accounts. By removing several steps in the posting process, a combination of HootSuite and Hootlet means that what could have been a five-minute job becomes something you can do in under a minute.
This all sounds too good to be true; is it?
Given the breadth of its functionality and ease of use, Hootsuite is pretty hard to fault. It does, however, have some limitations, although this may be the fault of certain social networks being overly possessive of their APIs rather than Hootsuite itself. In other words, Hootsuite is only as good on certain social networks as those social networks will allow.
LinkedIn is well supported, as you can publish to a personal profile as well as a LinkedIn Company Page, and you can even post directly into LinkedIn Groups via HootSuite. Google+, on the other hand, is straightjacketed, as you can only post to a Google+ Company Page and the G+ functionality on HootSuite is dire (but this is due to Google themselves).
Also, to get the most out of Hootsuite, you have to pay a monthly subscription. There is a free version, but if you manage a lot of channels and want greater access to HootSuite’s analytics, you will need to subscribe. Given what you get, I think the cost/benefit justify it, although a corporate subscription to HootSuite for multiple users can be expensive for some middle-sized enterprises.
Very occasionally, Hootsuite (and Hootlet in particular) can be subject to some annoying glitches that do get quickly resolved but are still highly annoying. However, you show me an online platform that doesn’t occasionally suffer from such issues, and I’ll send you a bunch of flowers!
Also, the Hootsuite Android App only supports Twitter and Facebook channels, which does limit the mobile experience and the comprehensive nature of Hootsuite significantly.
Hootsuite is a powerful tool that is essential for a sensible, structured and efficient social media marketing campaign. There are rival products on the market such as TweetDeck and Buffer, and they have their advocates and offer similar functionality, but for me Hootsuite has been a reliable and core resource.
Also, Hootsuite has much more to offer than the space available to me in this article allows me to describe. You can get various plugins and upgrades that give you added Hootsuite functionality with channels such YouTube and Pinterest, and other social media tools such as SocialBro.
Once you are familiar with the platform, Hootsuite is remarkably quick and easy to use, but I advise getting training on how to get the most out of it. Hootsuite itself offers online courses and there are certified Hootsuite ambassadors around the UK who offer extremely thorough training sessions. I was trained by Allan Blair Beaton, whom I cannot recommend highly enough when it comes to all things Hootsuite.