HootSuite Manages Your Social Networks Like a Business

The average, everyday Twitter or Facebook user likely won't have much need for HootSuite, a Web-based social media management application. But power users--especially those who rely on and manage multiple Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for their business--may find this tool indispensible. HootSuite is available in two versions: a free (but ad-supported) plan that allows access to five social networks and two RSS/Atom feeds, or a $6-per-month unlimited plan that allows access for one extra team member. (Additional team members can be added starting at $15 per month.) The cloud-based service runs on any Web browser, and the company offers mobile apps for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry platforms.

Users will appreciate how easy HootSuite makes it to schedule tweets for future posting.
Getting started is simple: You sign up for an account, the site directs you right to your own personal HootSuite dashboard. Here you can add social network feeds from Twitter, Facebook (either an account or a page), LinkedIn, Ping.fm, WordPress, MySpace, FourSquare, or mixi. HootSuite uses a tabbed interface that neatly organizes all of your accounts into easily viewed streams, but is a bit text-heavy, lacking the visual appeal of Facebook's own news feed.

If you're using social media for more than fun and games, you'll appreciate HootSuite's business-like approach. Its handling of Twitter, in particular, will appeal to professionals looking to get the most out of the micro-blogging site. HootSuite's tabbed interface makes switching between different Twitter profiles a snap, and once you delve into a particular profile, you can view direct messages and @replies at a glance. HootSuite also lets you schedule tweets for future posting, a nice touch for users who want to make it look like they are updating their feed more frequently than they actually are.

HootSuite also offers detailed statistics on your Twitter accounts. (The free HootSuite plan comes with 30 days of stats, while the paid version offers unlimited stats.) You can see the number of clicks per day on your various Twitter accounts, referring Web sites, stats on individual tweets, and more, all laid out in an appealing, graphical interface.

Desktop-based TweetDeck offers many of the same features, as does Web-based SocialOomph. HootSuite's cloud-based approach offers a freedom that a desktop app cannot, though, and its paid version is much cheaper than SocialOomph's $30-per-month professional version.

HootSuite's free version offers a good mix of features for users who want to test out the app. Business users will likely find the paid version a worthwhile upgrade though, as the ads--which suggest sending out messages touting HootSuite to your social media contacts--are a bit much.

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