Please note, although I wrote this article some time ago, it is being updated regularly. (Last update – April, 2016)
Hootsuite* is one of the most popular and comprehensive social media tools out there. Yes, there are others such as TweetDeck and SproutSocial, but Hootsuite is considered by many as the “crème de la crème” of the Social Media Tools World. I have used it for many years and I still occasionally recommend for my clients. HootSuite is a service referred to as a “Social Media Management Tool”. A Social Media Management System or Tool (SMMS/SMMT) can help you manage your many social channels by monitoring, posting and delegating tasks within a team.
The History of the Owl
HootSuite was launched back in 2008 by Ryan Holmes through his digital services agency, Invoke Media. Originally, HootSuite integrated with Twitter only and was called BrightKit . In the following year, HootSuite launched a competition to help decide on a new name and HootSuite was chosen from the short list. Since then, HootSuite has grown its success, now having over 8 million users and employing nearly 400 people from over 175 countries. The head office is in Vancouver, Canada.
If you manage your business’ social networks, it’s highly likely that you will have heard of HootSuite and may already be using it. Back in 2012, HootSuite came top in a list of social media management tools in a survey from monitoring tool Pingdom. According to the survey, over 20% of companies used HootSuite to manage their social media empires. TweetDeck was second and SocialEngage third.
Here are some of Hootsuite’s many features:
- Manage multiple Twitter, Facebook (profiles and pages), LinkedIn, WordPress, Foursquare and Google+ networks all from one place
- Schedule updates (including on a calendar and even upload from a spreadsheet (csv file)
- Collaborate as a team (delegate replies, tweets, mark as done, track messages etc)
- Mobile apps (iOS & Android)
- Customised analytics (including scheduled reports)
- RSS integration (post updates from an RSS feed)
- Helpful and comprehensive support pages and friendly customer support team
What is this article about?
There are lots of great things about Hootsuite, but this article aims to talk about the reasons why you might not want to use it! The title of this post may sound a little provocative, but aim to be constructive in my criticism. Hootsuite will be the right product for a lot of people- maybe even you. If so, please let me know why in the comments below.
As I said, I’ve used Hootsuite for many years but I use it very rarely, this is because of some big issues that I have encountered. These are deal breakers for me and they may be for some other people.
I’d be really interested in your thoughts, so please let me know in the comments. To get a more balanced view, you should also have a read of my more recent post entitled 7 Reasons why you SHOULD use Hootsuite.
The issues affect mainly small businesses and individuals and concern cost, reports, url shorteners and their team members option.
Although Hootsuite has a free option, and the pro option isn’t exactly expensive there are some very expensive parts to Hootsuite which you may need. When I originally wrote this article Hootsuite Pro cost $5.99 per month, then it increased to $9.99 (or effectively $8.99 per month if you pay yearly). It’s now $14.99 per month (or effectively $9.99 per month if you pay yearly). Also, from May 2013 Hootsuite started to offer prices in different currencies and discounts for paying yearly. If you are outside the US it will likely be more expensive for you.
Anyway, here are my top reasons for NOT using Hootsuite…
#1 Expensive Analytics Reports & the Point System
Hootsuite have gone out their way to produce some helpful analytics reports. These go into great detail how your social networks are doing. You get up to 2 free reports with the free version of Hootsuite.
This is where it gets complicated. You buy reports using points. Assuming you are on the Pro plan, you get 50 points to use every month. There are some free reports as I mentioned above, but most reports are 45 points which will cost you $50 each time (or $45 if you pay yearly). If you are serious about monitoring your social media performance then this is simply not going to be enough.
Yes, there are free reports like the ow.ly one (more on this later) but the others are $50 per report which is a lot for an individual or small business to swallow. The Google analytics integration is fairly helpful and the Facebook report is a massive improvement on what Facebook give you. The other consideration is that because Hootsuite uses its own url shortener (more on that in a bit) it will only track click-throughs on links made via Hootsuite. If you use another social media management tool such as Buffer or SproutSocial, Hootsuite won’t track links made from these tools.
#2 Forced to Use Owly
Of course, where would we be without url shorteners? They started as a result of people wanting to add links to their Tweets without using up as much space. Later on, url shortener providers offered tracking services, as they also had the advantage of tracking how many clicks were made on the link (and tracking information of the person who clicked the linked link like location and what browser they were using). Hootsuite have their own url shortners- ow.ly and ht.ly. That’s fair enough, but you are forced to use them (unless you add your own custom url shortener- more of that in a bit).
As well as broadcasting to everyone that you are using Hootsuite (which, to be fair, happens with any non-custom url shortener) you can only track any click throughs that have been added from within Hootsuite. As I mentioned above, this is a real problem, as if like many, you use other services such as Buffer, SocialOomph or even TweetDeck, then you can’t track the links you’ve added here. The Hootsuite reports that you’ve paid for won’t give you the whole story. If you use other analytics services such as SumAll, bit.ly or Buffer then they won’t show the click-throughs from the Hootsuite links. You could of course monitor reports from each, but that’s no easy task.
Perhaps, that’s what Hootsuite want. They want to lock you in- they don’t want you to use other services. For some, this isn’t a big issue. For the big companies out there, offering customer services via Twitter, Hootsuite will be the best option- they don’t need to use Buffer or Twit Pic. However, if you use multiple services on your Twitter account then you are out of luck. Finally, although only a temporary blip, there was an issue when Facebook blocked all ow.ly urls. Hopefully that won’t happen again.
#3 Expensive Custom URL Shorteners
This isn’t going to put everyone off, but if you’d like a vanity or custom url shortener with Hootsuite you are in for a shock.
I use a custom url shortener for the links I share on my social networks- to.iag.me for this blog and select.social for my business web site. This personalises my links and makes them more “clickable” and more professional. I use bit.ly for this, which allows me to add a custom url for free. Of course you have to pay for the domain, but domains cost very little these days. I’ve written a detailed article on why custom short domains are so useful- 8 Steps to Build Brand Awareness with Short Domains.
If you want to use a custom url shortener within Hootsuite (or an ow.ly custom vanity URL as Hootsuite call it) then it’s $49.99. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realise that this is the cost per month! That means using a custom url shortener will cost you $588.88 per year on top of the cost of the domain! You get a slight discount if you pay this in one big chunk per year- $539.88. This is madness, especially since when you consider you are still locked into only using Hootsuite’s reports.
According to Lauren Lawton Perfors in the comments below the vanity url shorteners can only be used in the browser version of Hootsuite- not the mobile apps. So although you are paying over $500 per year you can’t use them on mobile. Also you can only use this vanity url within Hootsuite- you won’t be able to use it on other apps such as Buffer, SproutSocial, OktoPost etc.
I’ve spoken to various people within Hootsuite and although bit.ly integration was discussed internally, it was abandoned. It obviously doesn’t make business sense for them to do so. It’s a big shame. If Hootsuite did integrate bit.ly, I would be one of their biggest advocates!
#4 Facebook Image Problem
(No Thumbnail & Summary previews in Facebook in Certain Situations)
If you are posting or sharing a link to your Facebook page, ones with photos and a summary are far more likely to be clicked than ones with just a short text status. When you post a single update or use the standard scheduler in Hootsuite, it does post the thumbnail and summary. It gets this from the open graph tags on the web page or tries to have a good guess. However, if you use the bulk scheduler (uploading from a csv file) or use the RSS feature (posting directly from an RSS feed) you are stuck. Facebook is only going to get the text in a Tweet-like status (see the screenshot on the left).
I did contact Hootsuite about this, and to be fair they were quick in responding “Yes that is correct, if you schedule a post you can choose the thumbnail and it will post. However this is not a feature yet with Rss feeds and Bulk schedule, we invite you to submit this idea to our feedback forum here: http://feedback.hootsuite.com“. Hootsuite Help also replied to a Tweet saying that it probably wouldn’t be added in the future due to “logistical reasons“.
#5 No Data in Facebook Insights
Barbara Karnes (in the comments) came up with a 5th reason:
When posting new content to Facebook via Hootsuite, those posts do not track the, likes, shares, and comments that you received in Facebook’s Insights analytical data for that post. The likes, comments and share do exist when viewing from the front end Wall and Feeds, but the “credit” for getting them is not recorded in any way by Insights.
#6 Lower Facebook Reach & Engagement?
Update (April 2016) – Facebook has never publicly announced that using a 3rd party tool affects the EgdeRank algorithm. Recently there has been quite a bit of research into this and I decided to update this section.
Over the years, some users have suspected that using a 3rd party app to post to Facebook has resulted in their post reaching fewer people. Facebook uses an algorithm to decide the order of posts in each user’s home stream. If you never engage with a friend or page’s posts, their EdgeRank score will drop and Facebook will stop displaying their posts to you. Facebook uses a number of factors in their algorithm, and it is possible that they take into account whether or not you have used a 3rd party app to post the post. However, it is a controversial topic!
Buzzsumo analysed over 500 million Facebook articles for an article by Mari Smith and the results were quite surprising. In particular, there was this “little” stat:
Posting with a 3rd party tool results in 89.5% less engagement than directly posting to Facebook.
That’s a substantial drop in engagement! Mari Smith’s article and infographic caused quite a storm, particularly from 3rd party tool vendors such as Buffer and Postplanner who were quick to disagree with the claims. Mari Smith then added some clarification to the bottom of her article which I agree with. The analysis from Buzzsumo found that there was 89.5 less engagement. That does not mean 3rd party apps were getting penalised. It could mean that the posts were getting less engagement because the posts looked automated.
If you use a 3rd party app to post to Facebook, you do need to make sure you are creating it specifically for your Facebook audience. It is easier to think about your audience when you post natively on Facebook, so this may account for lower than normal engagement scores when using 3rd party apps.
Buffer’s response to Buzzsumo’s analysis is worth reading. We’ll never know whether or not Facebvook devalues posts from 3rd party apps. However, make your own mind up after reading the above!
#7 Expensive for Teams
Team users is one of Hootsuite’s killer features. It allows multiple members of a social media team to access multiple social media channels without needing to know the password for each one. This is very important for a security point of view and is why so many big companies use Hootsuite. If you use Twitter for customer service, being able to delegate tasks between team members is going to be integral to your way of working. Hootsuite Pro and Enterprise should be affordable by the big businesses that work this way. For smaller businesses however, Hootsuite users are going to be expensive.
I was under the impression that extra team users (on the pro account) cost $9.99 per month but on close examination but it’s not quite as simple as that. You get 2 user free per month on the Pro account (and one of these users is you). The 3rd user costs $9.99 per month, and then each one up to 10 users is $14.99 per month. 10 users is going to cost $1,800 per year.
Update (September 2015). It seems Hootsuite have finally made the prices for each extra team member a little more simple to follow. In the pro plan you have yourself and one team member included for $119.88 per year (equivalent to $9.99 per month) or $14.99 per month (if paying monthly). Each subsequent team member costs an extra $119.88 per year or $14.99 per month extra. You can have up to 10 team members including yourself.
If you want 11 users, you’re going to have to sign up for Hootsuite Enterprise. As for the price of the Enterprise plan, I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. Actually, seriously, there is a lot of secrecy about the Enterprise plan. I’ve tried to find out over the past few years but no one is willing to tell. Over 4 years ago the price that was circulating the interwebs was an eye watering $18,000 per year. As for what it is these days, it will vary depending on your needs. It’s likely to be a different pricing structure depending on whether you are an agency or a company.
Here is a table that summaries the user cost (since it’s far from obvious from Hootsuite).
In 2013 Hootsuite started offering a discount if you pay yearly. Please note that Hootsuite offer prices in different currencies, so if you are outside the US you may be offered prices in your currency. This likely to be more expensive.
Prices updated September 2015
(If paying yrly)
(If paying mthly)
(If paying yrly)
|1||Included in Free Plan||$0||$0||$0|
|2||Included in Pro Plan||$9.99||$179.88||$119.88|
|3||2 are included in Pro Plan + 1 extra user at $9.99/mth||$19.98||$359.76||$239.64|
|4||2 are included in Pro Plan + 2 extra users at $9.99/mth||$29.97||$539.64||$359.64|
|5||2 are included in Pro Plan + 3 at $9.99/mth||$39.96||$719.52||$479.52|
|6||2 are included in Pro Plan + 4 at $9.99/mth||$49.95||$899.40||$599.40|
|7||2 are included in Pro Plan + 5 at $9.99/mth||$59.94||$1079.28||$719.28|
|8||2 are included in Pro Plan + 6 at $9.99/mth||$69.93||$1259.16||$839.16|
|9||2 are included in Pro Plan + 7 at $9.99/mth||$79.92||$1439.04||$959.04|
|10||2 are included in Pro Plan + 8 at $9.99/mth||$89.91||$1618.92||$1078.92|
|11+||The maximum number of users in Hoostuite Pro is 10, to add more users you will need a Hootsuite Enterprise account.
Hootsuite don’t publish the prices for Enterprises, so this is the last known price. Hopefully it should be cheaper than this.
|$1499 (?)||$17,988||$17,988 (?)|
Update (March 2013) UK Prices in dollars
Hootsuite now offer prices in a few other currencies . If you live in the UK for example you have to pay in pounds (since 8th March, 2013). This is determined by your IP address. Unfortunately the prices are quite a bit more expensive in other currencies.
Update (September 2015) – Prices less expensive
Hootsuite have listened and reduced the cost. In the UK the base price per month is £6.99 (if you pay yearly) or £9.99 per month (if you pay monthly). This is still a bit more expensive than the equivalent price in dollars, but certainly more reasonable.
You could try and dodge this by connecting to a VPN to get a United States IPN, delete your cookies and visit the sign up page, but that is trying to trick Hootsuite into thinking you are from the US which may be morally grey.
I still use Hootsuite for certain tasks such as displaying multiple streams from multiple accounts. This is something that Hootsuite does very well. Here are some alternatives depending on what you are trying to do…
Displaying Streams of Posts (and replying)
AgoraPulse* (Free Trial, then from $29/mth)
A powerful social media management tool for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ which aims to offer enterprise level features at a low monthly price. As well as integrath the social networks above, it also offers a variety of Facebook apps to increase engagement (such as sweepstakes, personality tests, coupons, quizzes and more). AgoraPulse has a built-in customer relationship management tool (CRM) allowing you to build up a list of your social contacts. The integrated reports and analytics are detailed and engaging and you can also export to a Powerpoint presentation (useful for agencies). There is a very handy “moderation rules” feature for Twitter which can filter spam out for you.
There is a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. Agora Pulse was recently rated top Social Media Management Tool of 2015.
For more information, visit AgoraPulse.
Jollor (Free Trial, then from $5/mth)
Jollor isn’t as well known as the likes of Hootsuite and SproutSocial, but it’s a really good looking social media management tool that integrates with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube as well as the Russian networks VK and Odnoklassniki. They don’t integrate yet with bit.ly, but they have some enterprise features such as team and role management and delegation. Analytics are currently in beta but look very impressive. There is a mobile app coming, but the website is fully responsive and can be used well on a mobile or tablet. They have a very transparent pricing scheme starting from $5. It basically costs $5 per network, and you can add extra team members for $5 per month as well as other features.
For more information, visit Jollor.
MavSocial (Free Plan & Enterprise plan)
MavSocial offers traditional features such as managing, posting and cross posting to multiple networks. However, it offers some very unique features. In addition to supporting Facebook (profiles, company pages and groups), Twitter, LinkedIn (profiles and pages) and Instagram, MavSocial also integrates with Tumblr and YouTube. The enterprise plan also integrates with the Chinese Youku and Weibo.
MavSocial has a digital assets manager which stores and manages all your images, videos and audio files where you can easily re-use them in future. Not only can you upload your own or user generated content, you can also licence stock images from within MavSocial from various stock libraries including free ones (there are over 50 million to choose from). You can repeat-publish your content to your social media networks ensuring your posts are always in front of your audience. Finally, MavSocial allows you to publish videos directly to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (with Instagram coming soon) and audio files to Twitter. This is particularly important when it comes to Facebook, as natively published videos tend to have more visibility and engagement than videos published through 3rd party video channels like YouTube. MavSocial has a very powerful free plan which gives you 1Gb file storage, access to the stock library, social inbox, up to 5 RSS feeds, management of up to 50 social networks, unlimited reports and bit.ly support. The Enterprise version has extensive team and brand management including team based user permissions
For more information, visit MavSocial.
Oktopost* (Free Trial, then from $200/mth)
An impressive social media management tool primarily built for Business to Business (B2B) marketing. Oktopost* supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (profiles, company pages and groups) and Google+. Oktopost really shines by allowing scheduling across multiple social networks including multiple LinkedIn groups and by using a scheduling calendar. Instead of offering the facility to cross post to multiple networks, Oktopost allows you to hand craft posts to different networks in the best way possible. There is a free trial and paid accounts range from $200/mth to $2,200/mth.
For more information, visit Oktopost.
Sprout Social* (from $59/mth)
A big competitor to Hootsuite with some awesome features (really snazzy reports, multiple bit.ly url shortener integration, Google+ pages etc) – it does have a hefty price tag though- prices start at $59/user/month (this is a recent update, as it used to be $39/mth). There is no free account but they offer a free trial. Do have a look at my related article 7 Reasons NOT to use Sprout Social.
For more information, visit SproutSocial.
Sendible* (from $9.99/mth)
Similar to Hootsuite and SproutSocial with an impressive array of features. Sendible* integrates with a huge number of social channels including Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages & groups), LinkedIn (profiles, pages & groups), Google+ pages, Foursquare, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and more. You can have as many team members as you like (although you will have to pay per user above your allocated amount) and it integrates with bit.ly and other url shorteners. The prices start very reasonably priced (from $9.99 per month). There is no free account but they offer a free trial. Also be aware, that you need to contact Sendible directly to apply for the $9.99/mth plan- it isn’t listed on the website. Be aware that Sendible include a certain number of “services” for each plan. For the basic “solo” plan you get 8 “services, and with the “startup” plan you get 40 services. This can get a little confusing, because a Twitter list stream, Twitter mention stream, Twitter Search stream, Facebook Group and Facebook Profile stream are all classed as separate services. You can find yourself running out of services very quickly.
For more information, visit Sendible
Update May 2013- Now Twitter Management Only. This used to be one of my top recommendations, but Twitter have done their best to make this less useful. TweetDeck used to be able to manage your Facebook profile but now it is just for Twitter. Also, as I mentioned in a recent Seriously Social News podcast, Twitter are pulling the plug on the Adobe Air version which had more features.
For more information, visit TweetDeck.
Although fairly basic, GrabInbox is free and allows you to manage multiple Facebook (profiles and pages), Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.
For more information, visit GrabInbox.
Meshfire* ($8/mth per social media account)
Social media management tool with team collaboration at its heart. Only supports Twitter. Integrates with both bit.ly and Feedly. Prices used to be based on number of followers, but they have recently simplified things and now have just one plan.
For more information, visit MeshFire.
Posting & scheduling
AgoraPulse* (Free Trial, then from $29/mth)
(As mentioned above)
Buffer App (free or $9.99/mth)
Allows you to post or cross post to Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages or groups), LinkedIn (profile, groups or company pages), Google+ business pages or app.net. You can either post straight away or create a schedule for each social network. Buffer is an amazing tool and one that I use every day. For more information see my post on 10 Must Have Social Media Tools for Small Businesses.
Friends+Me* (free or from $9/mth)
Friends+Me turns Google+ in to a fully fledged Social Media Management tool. It allows you to selectively cross post to Google+ pages, Twitter, LinkedIn (profiles, pages & groups), Facebook (profiles, pages & groups), Tumblr and even Appdotnet. It has a scheduling system similar to Buffer and cross-posts intelligently to other networks (including using full images, headings and descriptions). It’s something I use every day and couldn’t do without it.
AgoraPulse* (Free Trial, then from $29/mth)
(As mentioned above)
Oktopost* (from $200/mth)
(As mentioned above)
(As mentioned above)
MavSocial (Free Plan & Enterprise)
(As mentioned above)
Social Media Relationship Tools
Commun.it* (from $19.99/mth)
I’d also highly recommend Commun.it* which is a full Twitter community management tool or CRM. As well as being able to manage multiple Twitter accounts you can find out who is relevant in your Twitter community. Examples include your influencers or people who support you. You can also find out who is talking about you or your business or who is linking to your website and interact with them straight away.
I don’t have enough room to go into it here, but please see my Complete Guide on how to Manage your Twitter Community using Commun.it together with its walkthrough video.
Still not sure? Try SocialPiq!
If you’d like a little more help in finding the best social media tool for you then you could try this great service from SocialPiq. All you need to do is enter your requirements and SocialPiq comes back with the tools that could fit the bill for you. It’s free too!
There are plenty of other tools out there that offer similar services to Hootsuite. Have a look at some of the comments below and let me know if you know of ones that you’ve personally used and would recommend. In particular I recommend reading my latest article (May 2013) on my recommended social media tools for small businesses.
If you need any more help on getting started with Hootsuite or want more advice in whether or not Hootsuite is for you, check out these posts…
7 Reasons NOT to use Sprout Social!
I’ve recently (February 2015) written a follow up to this article, based on Sprout Social entitled 7 Reasons NOT to use Sprout Social.
So there you go, 7 valid reasons not to use Hootsuite. Of course, you may well feel these aren’t strong enough reasons, but they are annoyances that I have found with it. Despite all this, I would still recommend Hootsuite to businesses in many situations. If they have the resources to pay for the extra features and especially if they want to use it for customer service.
What do you think? Please do add your comments below.
Let me help Choose the best tools for you!
I hope this article has helped you, but perhaps you feel you need some expert help. As well as asking a question in the comments below, you might benefit from a one to one service. I offer a social media consultation service in which I can help find the best selection of tools and solutions for you or your business. If you are interested, get in touch!
What the * means above…
If a link has an asterisk by it, it means it is an affiliate link and generates a little income for the site. If you end up signing up for the service and paying it may result in a small proportion going towards the upkeep of this site. You shouldn’t notice any difference in the sign up process.
The editorial line is NEVER impacted by these links. I will only ever recommend a product or service if I think it is worth recommending! If a product or service does not have an affiliate scheme, then we will still include it in the same way.
In the interests of transparency, here are the non-affiliate links which will not help iag.me: