Recently, HootSuite, a prominent social media dashboard, introduced a new “Freemium” pricing structure, which offers basic Web services at different price points. Their once entirely free service is now being offered in distinct bundled packages - the basic features will stay free, but more advanced features will require a monthly fee. Sometime this month, they will be asking you to select a plan.
Here at Forum One, we often reccommend Hootsuite as the prefered social media client of choice because it is easy to use and offers the most complete set of features, including team collaboration and performance reporting.
To help sort through your options, here are the most important changes:
The "Basic" package is still free, but there are now four paid packages ranging from $5 to $100/month. Nonprofits registered as 501(c)(3) corporations are eligible for a 20 percent discount. View them here.
HootSuite claims that the majority of their users, about 95 percent, will get what they need from the free option. However, we tend to disagree, as there are a number of key features missing from the free "Basic" plan.
Most notable: having more than five social networks, using more than one RSS feed, adding team members, being ad-free, and using branding URLs.
Here are some of the reasons you might want to buy into one of HootSuite's paid plans:
- Stats: The cheapest plans only offer seven days of statistics.
- Team collaboration: The cheapest plans do not enable you to share columns (or "streams") with other people in your organization. Previously, for example, you could see a team member’s pending tweets.
- More Social Networks: HootSuite enables you to manage multiple accounts from popular social networks including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn in a single dashboard. However, if you wish to have more than five social networks in your view, you'll need to pay for a plan.
In addition to HootSuite, here are other free tools out there that might work for you:
TweetDeck: Known for its sleek design and ease of use. Unlike HootSuite, you must download and install this program. Tweetdeck has also released a mobile version and most recently an iPad version. This tool has the ability to monitor and tweet from multiple accounts, check in on Foursquare, and schedule future tweets. It also synchronizes with its mobile versions. However, there is no team collaboration available.
Seesmic: With three different versions available — web, mobile, and desktop — Seesmic is becoming popular quickly. Like Tweetdeck, you must install this program. Seesmic has the ability to support multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook, and Google Buzz simultaneously. Team collaboration is not currently available.
CoTweet: Like HootSuite, it faciliates collaboration between multiple users who are updating the same Twitter account. You can even assign specific posts to an individual for a response. CoTweet is great for collaboration. However, currently, you can only have up to five Twitter accounts. The service is browser-based, like HootSuite, so there is nothing to install. In our trials, we did find it a worthwhile alternative, but ultimately stuck with Hootsuite because it is not as full-featured or easy to use.
Tweetie for Mac: If you don't need collaboration, and you are on a Mac, Tweetie is one of the most elegant solutions out there. It boasts the ability to manage multiple accounts, and has an ad-supported free version. There is no team collaboration, however.
Twitbin: A Firefox extension that allows you to view your Twitter accounts in a sidebar of your browser. This allows for easy viewing for people who can't be more than a second away from the latest happenings. However, Twitter is the only supported social network, there is no mobile alternative, and there is no team collaboration.
For additional information, check out Hootsuite's original announcements of the new plans and the clarifications.