For some of us, it’s easy to forget that there were a few attempts at social media before Mark Zuckerberg stole the ball and ran with it. Friendster and MySpace were the two biggest attempts at digitizing friendship, which is why they are currently the two biggest punchlines to jokes about old school social media. But Facebook is really what got the world onto this new trajectory, and its early success is what caused the brands of the world to take notice.
Here, they thought, is a popular website where we can also run banner ads that people will ignore.
It took more savvy digital advertisers to show brands that their time on social media was better spent being—gasp!—social, to actually cultivate an audience with whom they could communicate directly. One such advertising firm that saw a better way for brands to connect with their customers was called Invoke. As they began managing more of their clients’ social media presences, it became clear that they needed a way to better manage all these different accounts. Having the login credentials for each gave them the access they needed, but there was no central way to manage anything. One only needed to direct a passing glance at a web browser with dozens of tabs open to different social accounts to understand that disaster was one click in the wrong tab away.
When it became clear that no readymade solution was available, Invoke CEO Ryan Holmes put together a team to build their own. It took time and effort to get it right, but when they started using the tool internally, they realized they had really gotten it right. In December, 2008, they released the product out into the wild, calling it BrightKit. Interest was immediate, BrightKit was renamed to Hootsuite, and by December, 2009, Holmes and company spun the product off into its own company.
Now’s the point where we’re supposed to say, “And the rest is history,” but that implies Hootsuite is something from the past. There’s nothing historical about it, though, as the company continues to grow and thrive. There are many statistics we could point to demonstrating Hootsuite’s strong presence in the social media management landscape, which you can imagine is an exceedingly competitive space. But here’s the one that tells you all you need to know: more than 800 of the companies in the Fortune 1000 rely on Hootsuite to power their social media efforts. These kinds of companies often have to manage multiple brands under their umbrella, each brand with an account on multiple social channels—pretty much the exact kind of situation Hootsuite was designed to address. And when 80% of the world’s biggest companies all rely on the same marketing software, that tells you the software’s developers really nailed it.
Though Hootsuite is ideal for larger companies managing multiple brands, they offer plans to meet the budget of companies of any size—from those Fortune 1000 companies all the way down to one-person operations. There’s a free plan, as well, but it’s fairly limited and mostly only of use to people who are super into social media but not looking to market a business with it. For most companies, it’s better to do a free trial of one of their paid plans to really get a feel for what you can do.
Note that all prices here are based on annual billing, and they don’t seem to offer any plans that bill monthly.
- Professional, $49/mo — 1 user can manage 10 social media accounts. Unlimited post scheduling, plus a centralized inbox for incoming and outgoing direct messages through all channels. Includes basic analytics, and ability to boost posts (up to $500/mo in ad spend).
- Team, $129/mo — 3 users; 20 social media accounts; unlimited post scheduling; centralized inbox; 1 custom branded and trackable URL; up to $2k/mo boosted ad spend; customizable reports; team assignments.
- Business, $739/mo — All of the above for 5 users and 35 social media accounts, plus: 5 custom branded and trackable URLs; content library; campaign planning, tagging and reporting; unlimited boosted ad spend; messaging tagging (for analytics); 24/7 priority support; 60 minute, 1-on-1 training session. Add-on options: Unlimited users, paid and organic ROI reporting, social listening
- Enterprise, $Custom/mo — All of the above for 5 or more users and 50 or more social media accounts, plus: 5 or more custom URLs, paid ad campaign management; team productivity reporting; automated team assignments and messaging tagging; live training for entire team; quarterly business review. Add-on options: same as above, plus single sign on function, employee advocacy; social selling.
Hootsuite was designed with the goal of maintaining order and organization with multiple social media accounts, and the bulk of this organizing gets done during setup. It’s best to at least sit through a video tutorial before trying to set it up on your own. That’s not because you won’t understand how to use it; it’s intuitive enough that you’ll have your social accounts set up and your first posts scheduled in no time. But if you’re only focused on learning how the software functions, you could end up with a mess on your hands.
Hootsuite’s main dashboard operates in a manner similar to a project management tool like Trello. You can set up different “boards”—maybe a separate one for each social account—and within each board there are multiple streams. Let’s say you’ve created a board for your Twitter account: you could then set up one stream that shows only your own posts, another for when you’re tagged in someone else’s post, and maybe another that shows posts using your branded hashtags. You could also set up streams following specific accounts (like competitors) or even just topics you’d specify by keyword (more general than a hashtag). Organizing this way makes it simple to stay on top of everything that’s important to you without having to scroll through your timeline and notifications.
Having organized all your feeds and timelines into something that’s easy to digest, Hootsuite can instill order into the lives of social media managers everywhere with its content scheduler. With the ability to create posts for multiple channels at once, the scheduler saves those responsible for having to endure endless copy-and-paste drudgery. Select your channels, create your post, and you’re done. A live preview shows you what your post will look like on each social platform, and the character count is updated in real time, especially helpful for posts going to Twitter. If you go over the limit on one (but others), it’s an easy fix as you tweak only that which needs it.
The composing and scheduling tool don’t just save time, but they can help you make sure the posts look their best, as well. In addition to the preview that shows you how they’ll be laid out on each channel, there’s an included link-shortening tool. Even if it doesn’t count against your character count, a long and unwieldy link can look sloppy. At the click of a button, Hootsuite creates a short link using its own owl.ly service to provide better looking and—more importantly—trackable links. These URLs can be custom branded on the higher level subscription plans. All scheduled posts can be viewed in the built-in content calendar, but you can also create a stream to see what’s on deck along with everything else on your boards. And in the calendar view, it’s simple to see what post is happening and when, and to edit these posts if they need it. You can also drag and drop posts on the calendar to quickly reschedule them. There’s also a way to bulk schedule up to 350 posts at a time, for larger brands whose needs make scheduling one at a time untenable.
With your post sent out for the world to see, you can monitor its engagement from your streams. You’ll see likes and comments, and will be able to reply right from the platform, too. Your ability to engage isn’t limited to your own posts; you can like, comment, share, and retweet any post that shows up in your streams. The truth is, interacting on social media via Hootsuite’s platform is often an entirely more pleasurable experience than working directly within the channels themselves. You have far more control over what you see using Hootsuite, and there’s one feature that ensures you never miss a conversation you should be part of.
If Hootsuite’s Inbox did nothing more than centralize all the direct/private messages you receive onto its own platform, it would be a game changer. But it also collects all comments and mentions you get, too—there’s really no excuse for missing any kind of communication directed at you. Everything flows into your Hootsuite Inbox, and the platform provides ways to filter down to only the messages you want to see, which is helpful in not getting confused between which conversations are public and which are private. The inbox also provides a way for you to assign messages out to someone who’s better suited to respond. Although sometimes you won’t need to do that: replies to frequently asked questions can be saved for everyone to use in the future. You just give the reply a relevant name and it can be selected from a list the next time someone asks the same question. After a time, Hootsuite’s AI will learn to recognize these common questions and will suggest the correct saved reply.
Of course, all this utility can only get you so far. If you’re looking to grow your accounts—and of course you are—then you’ll need insights into how your overall social media efforts are impacting you. Hootsuite’s analytics give you a solid foundation, analyzing your posting history, follower trends, engagement, and even revealing what times are best for you to post. You’re given quite a bit of information to help you understand what kinds of content resonate and which ones fall flat. Notably missing, however, is any sort of insight into your audience. Hootsuite’s own lead generating download explaining how to get this information is essentially a list of instructions for learning how to find this information on the social platforms themselves. It would be a tremendous improvement if Hootsuite could ingest this data itself and include it in the analytics.
It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of a full time job for managing brand social media accounts fell in the category of “I Can’t Believe People Get Paid For This.” This was maybe 10 years ago, which is still after Hootsuite was created. Today, of course, social media is an indispensable part of marketing, the people who manage the accounts are integral members of these marketing teams—and Hootsuite is a vital part of their toolkits.
Because of this timing, there’s an argument to be made that Hootsuite itself is responsible for the ways in which social media management has evolved. This couldn’t be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, but the logic is certainly there. Even without that argument, it’s clear that Hootsuite was and continues to be a game changer for the users it was designed for. You probably didn’t need this review to inform you that the platform exists, and you also probably didn’t need this review to convince you to try it out, such is its reputation. Still, it should be helpful to know that the company that innovated the management of brand social media accounts shows no signs of slowing down. Hootsuite is as popular as it ever was, and that’s because it’s also as effective as ever.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can Hootsuite do?
Hootsuite is a market-leading social media management app with robust capabilities. It can connect with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pintrest. You can use it for a wide range of services such as: analytics, automated publishing, contact management, content management, conversion tracking, customer targeting, keyword filtering, multi-account management, post scheduling, brand tracking, customer engagement, multi-user collaboration, reporting and social media monitoring. If you are interested in social listening, you will need to buy a separate app – Hootsuite Insights.
Is Hootsuite expensive?
If you have relatively basic requirements, Hootsuite is reasonably priced compared to most social media management apps. However, its pricing is considerably more expensive for bigger businesses and teams. While the free plan is basic, it can still satisfy the requirements of freelancers and smaller businesses as it allows you to post once per day to your preferred social account. Though, if you want to use Hootsuite to its full potential, you have to sign up for one of its paid plans.
How does Hootsuite’s pricing work?
Hootsuite offers five pricing plans: one free plan and four paid plans. If you opt for annual payment, the pricing works as follows: Professional ($29 per month), Team ($129 per month), Business ($599 per month) and Enterprise (price available upon inquiry). The paid plans can also be paid per month, but then it is more expensive. Users can also sign up for the Hootsuite Insights app at a custom price per month.
Can only small businesses use Hootsuite?
Hootsuite is sufficiently established to satisfy the requirements of any business, irrespective of its size. The Professional plan is suitable for medium-sized businesses that do not need detailed analytics or team access. Though, if you are a bigger business, get ready to pay significantly more. While its cheaper plan is reasonably priced, the other plans that are more geared toward bigger businesses are expensive. Hootsuite primarily focuses on social publishing. If you need social listening, you will need to buy an extra app - Hootsuite Insights.
Is Hootsuite easy to use?
When it comes to ease of use, Hootsuite gets five out of five. Its interface is clear and easy to use. If you do get stuck, Hootsuite offers fantastic educational resources. There are the Hootsuite Academy, webinars, guides, white papers and other types of helpful resources.