The Hootsuite Problem. We Should Talk About It.

It pains me to write this blog post. Truly.

I desperately want to be able to recommend Hootsuite. They’re based in my city and I have friends who work there. And when they first came out, I used them. I liked them. Because they were really the only game in town.

But despite growing revenues, it’s become clear that Hootsuite has become a terribly out-of-date platform with no apparent intention on improving.

People keep using it, but — as it stands today — they shouldn’t.

We should talk about it.

1. Hootsuite Is Dangerously Out of Date

In its early days — in the absence of any other tool and amid only a few social media channels — Hootsuite’s user interface was groundbreaking. You could create a different stream for each channel.

Then, the Internet evolved. More channels appeared. More incoming message types were introduced.

But Hootsuite didn’t evolve with the Internet. In fact, its interface really hasn’t changed significantly since the day they released it. The last update was more than two years ago. And it was to change the colours.

So we’re stuck with the same complicated array of streams and tabs — one for each thing you want to monitor — no way to see anything new in one glance, no way to clear the stream so your team doesn’t have to keep re-reviewing the same material, and no phone number to call if you need help.

In fact, many of the most basic things that its competitors do, Hootsuite can’t manage.

Let’s take the most basic functionality — scheduling content. Once you schedule a post, all you get is an abbreviated view of it in the queue. If you’ve used an image, you can’t see it. If you’ve got a link preview, you can’t see it. This especially makes no sense on Instagram which are 100% images. If you want to see the full post, you can click in — but then you’re looking at a “group” and not a single channel. It’s confusing.

hootsuite-this

Notice the broken images on the channel icons. Happens any time there’s a profile image change. You have to manually reconnect the page and start your stream setup from scratch to fix it.

Once you click in, this is what a post scheduled in Hootsuite looks like — cluttered and no link preview.

hootsuite-post

And this is what the same post scheduled in Agorapulse looks like — pretty much identical to how it’ll appear online:

agorapulse-post

Did you schedule a post for approval and the approval expired? You’ll never know unless you manually go in and look each time.

Want to queue your posts on a set schedule, like Buffer? You can’t. You can either manually schedule each single post, or use their “autoschedule” that selects the “best” time as measured across all Facebook pages (?!), not the best time for your particular page’s audience.

But it gets worse. Because some of the features which are lacking in Hootsuite can be an actual danger to your brand.

  • Someone post something libelous to your Facebook Page as a Page Post? You can’t delete or even hide it from Hootsuite. All you can do is email the post to someone, make an internal comment, add a tag, or assign it to someone on your team. (Oh — you can Like the libelous post if you want, so, you know, there’s that.)
  • Hootsuite also can’t hide Facebook comments, which is the industry-wide practice for negative, but not libelous or hateful, comments.

Looking for the “Incoming Comments” stream? It’s not there. You’ll have to make do with the Activity Stream — an unfilterable amalgamation of everything happening on your page. I would show you what one looks like, but when I went to mine (on an Enterprise account) this is what it showed me:

hootsuite-broken

I checked a day later. Same error.
I added the Activity Stream again. Same error.

You can’t make this shit up.

And, to add insult to injury, instead of listening to their customers and fixing it, they made fun of the feedback they got in a cute little video:

 

This video was uploaded more than two years ago. The UI hasn’t changed in that time (unless you count the colour change).

But hey, funny video, right?

2. Hootsuite’s Instagram Monitoring Simply Doesn’t Work

When Hootsuite added Instagram support, it breathlessly bragged about how easy it is to use in Hootsuite and how you’ll stay up to date on your Instagram channel, and all that.

Except it’s not true.

Despite what Hootsuite’s marketing materials might imply, there is no way to easily determine when a new comment is posted to your Instagram channel. Instead, all you can do is create a stream that shows all of your posts. Every single one. If you want to check to see if there’s new content to review (which, of course, you do), you have to click each and every photo’s comments links to see all the comments.

Want to make sure you’re checking for new Instagram comments hourly, like any decent community manager should? You’ll have to click “View Comments”. On every photo you’ve posted. Every hour.

Can’t tell if one is new? You’re right! Hootsuite won’t tell you. You’ll just have to remember which ones you’ve seen before. Or write them all down on a piece of paper. Or something.

There is no “New Comments” Instagram stream on Hootsuite. The one thing a social media management platform should support.

Someone posts something libelous on an Instagram photo from your brand? You’ll probably never know. This, in itself, should rule Hootsuite out of any responsible social media manager’s review list.

This is in sharp contrast to platforms like Sprout Social or Agorapulse, which pops new comments right at the top of your page for review and action. No digging around needed.

3. Hootsuite’s Top-Priced Plan Provides Bottom-Quality Support

Like most social media platforms, Hootsuite has a series of pricing tiers to support varying budgets. The more you pay, the better access to support you get.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Hootsuite doesn’t reveal its Enterprise pricing on its web site, but a few years back a Hootsuite sales person quoted me each seat “starts around $800 USD monthly and goes from there.” That’s a minimum of CDN$1000 per month, per user.

My agency has a client which has probably 75 Enterprise seats or more. I’m not privy to the deal they cut with Hootsuite, but assuming Hootsuite gave them a 50% discount for that volume, Hootsuite is probably making a half million dollars a year from their account.

So with that pricing plan, you’d think you’d be able to call a support line?

Nope. Not at Hootsuite.

There’s no support phone line — even if you’re paying millions per year.

(Once I mentioned I was working on this blog post — SURPRISE! — a very nice senior Enterprise-level tech person called me minutes later. She told me none of them even have phones at their desks. Literally. She had to book a conference room to talk to me. This is a senior Enterprise-level tech support person. No phones.)

Even though we’re a provider to one of their top-tier clients, I’m not able to get phone support for them. Instead, they use our client as the go-between with resolving technical questions. If you run an agency, the last thing you want to do is pester your client with details like “How can I add a text field to a form?” (see below for the baffling answer — spoiler: you can’t).

Hootsuite told me that they wouldn’t help because I “hadn’t been added to our client’s account.” Which is odd, considering this email I got a year ago from a Hootsuite rep:

hootsuite-support

So either they lost the records of an Enterprise client or they quietly removed my record.

I’m not sure which is better.

To be fair, they do provide email support. But that’s hardly comforting when you’ve got a big company, you’re paying Hootsuite a million or two, and you need to reach someone — right now. And you’ll be routed through Zendesk — an equally archaic ticketing system, of which nobody likes to be on the receiving end.

4. Hootsuite Campaigns Is Terrible

Two years ago, Hootsuite acquired Brightkit — a decent contesting app platform. Brightkit got merged into their platform as Hootsuite Campaigns. And if you want to do a basic email draw or contest, you can. Emphasis on “basic.”

I tried setting up a very simple entry form contest for an Enterprise client using Hootsuite Campaigns. To say that the experience was lacking would be generous.

There wasn’t a field for confirming permission to email (a legal requirement in most countries). Sure, you could hack one by using a Multiple Choice field, but then you’re out of Multiple Choice fields. (Yes, you only get one type of each field per form. Huh?)

Oh — and there’s no Text Field. So you want someone to type something in? Like a contest guess? Tough luck.

These are the only fields you get in Hootsuite Campaigns. And you only get one.

These are the only fields you get in Hootsuite Pro Campaigns. And you only get one per form.

I tried to get a straight answer about where the Text Field was, and I got varying answers between “We can’t help you because you’re only the agency not the client” and “We don’t have Text Fields unless it’s an Enterprise account.” (This is the reason we stick with Tradable Bits or Woobox for contesting. They just work.)

But wait, you say — wasn’t this for an Enterprise client? Indeed it was! But apparently being a top-tier Enterprise client — paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — won’t get you text fields. You’ve got to be… wait for it… a Campaigns Enterprise client as well.

The lower level, ironically named “Pro” Campaigns Level, which costs $35 extra per month, also doesn’t include text fields.

Text fields on a form, for Christ’s sake.

5. Hootsuite Doesn’t Play Well With Teams

Hootsuite likes to talk about how strong they are with big teams — that you can add hundreds or thousands of users across multiple organizations. And you can.

The problem comes when you want to work together as a team on Hootsuite.

Let’s say you have a stream set up of incoming @mentions to your brand’s Twitter account. And you have three people who regularly check the stream for new comments. Hootsuite has no way to “clear” the stream to indicate to your teammates that you’ve reviewed the tweets.

Instead, here is the workaround they suggest to customers:

  • At each “high water mark,” create an assignment to yourself.
  • Pull down assignment menu again and click Resolve.
  • Label it “I reviewed everything below here” (or whatever).
  • Save.
  • Repeat this process this every time there’s a new comment. In every stream. Dozens of times a day.

In some cases, like Instagram and their Facebook Activity Feed, this workaround isn’t even possible.

God, even Tweetdeck — which is free and supports teams — has a “Clear Column” button which simply removes the tweets you’ve already seen. Sprout Social surfaces all comments, and a single click clears it from the user’s screen and all team members’ screens. Simple. One time. No workarounds.

I want to be a fan.

Like I said at the beginning, I want to like Hootsuite. I really, really do. They’re a big employer in my city, have beautiful offices, do lots of community events, and I have friends who work there. Their new Analytics tool, in beta, does seem to be quite solid (though it still doesn’t provide any cross-channel analysis). They’ve added YouTube natively. And that mascot — so cute.

I want to be a fan.

I’ve been asked to “send feedback” to their development teams so they can improve it. I’ve sent this feedback. For years. Privately, and in detail. Multiple times.

Nothing has changed. And here’s why.

Hootsuite’s business model is obvious: Sell very high-priced packages to senior head-office executives — executives who are impressed by the organizational abilities but don’t really understand the miserable day-to-day experience of using the product.

Hootsuite makes a lot of money off these accounts. There’s no incentive to change.

In the meantime, people feel locked in, like it’s too much effort to change platforms.

And that’s a shame. Because Buffer‘s content scheduling platform, Sprout Social‘s engagement and moderation platform, and Tradable Bits‘ contesting platforms run circles around Hootsuite.

Until Hootsuite fixes the most basic of these problems, you should re-consider why you’re still there.


NOTE: I twice offered Hootsuite the opportunity to fact-check statements in this blog post. As of the date of this post, they have not taken me up on this. I’ll be happy to correct any factual inaccuracies.


Key Facts to Share


  • Has @Hootsuite become dangerously out of date? @TodMaffin thinks so. #socialmedia  Buffer