After the recent update from Seesmic, it appears more and more of our ‘free’ platforms are opting for offering paid services for our social media management, and forgoing the idea of giving us much in the way of freebies at all. But is it really worth paying for such upgrades, what do you actually get out of it? Is the cost vs. return all that equal? We take a closer look at Hootsuite, the market leader with the options of the bargain-to-bashful payment options and see whether it really is worth it after all.
On the surface, there are similarities between the two options, but its only when you get down to the nitty gritty that the paid version really does begin to hold its own and stand out on its differences:
RSS/Atom Feeds: A pretty underused feature of Hootsuite – free or otherwise. This allows you to view your RSS feeds within the platform. You get 2 with the free version, and unlimited again for any upgrades you pay for. In industries such as marketing with countless blogs and updates here there and everywhere, it is a feature to really make use of, though this really will depend on your own industry and business sector as to whether this is a useful tool or not.
Social Accounts: The free version only allows the management for up to 5 social networks, whilst the upgrades offer unlimited. The advantage of this will differ between users and how ‘into’ social media you really are, but if you are a company with multiple pages and accounts (for example, Orange the mobile phone network have two twitter accounts, one for customer service/help and one more generic) it will make life much easier to have one area for all.
Google+: To us, this is one of the key areas that it flounces any competition. No other platform offers a Google+ integration. Although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of Google+ as a platform and whether anyone actually uses it – we firmly believe (especially with the launch of Google Local and Social Search) that is going to become more and more apparent and important here on in.
Account Users: If you are a sole trader or small business, and only one person is managing your social media account, the free version (analytics aside) is more than substantial. Though as business grows and you find yourself with multiple users – it can prove to be a logistical nightmare. With the upgraded account this nightmare is resolved, creating unique log ins for each user, and no plan for ‘scheduled log ins’ required.
Social Insights & Analytics.
Here is where the big differences lie, and the difference that makes all the difference to your business. This is the area that paid platforms really come into their own, and Hootsuite as a whole have learnt to excel in.
Within the main dashboard you can overlay items (such as number of tweets sent) over your website to look for trends. Google Analytics is also integrated, meaning you can cross manage campaigns and tag URLS for further tracking and results.
There are a whole host of stats available, and as we have mentioned a few times (at least!) there really is no point in any sort of social media presence without the use of monitoring and data to improve performance.
An array of graphs and charts are available, from click breakdowns (by area/region for example) or a list of popular messages/tweets and break down individual stats per update.
It really is a tough call and a double edged sword for those smaller businesses out there. On the one hand, Hootsuite (and other similar packages out there) could prove to save you time and money as well as making some along the way when fully utilising the package. Its proven that social media analytics is the way of all social strategy, and the only way of monitoring where and how your brand is making a difference online.
Of course, there are social analytic options available via Google now, but for ease of use (lik the best of us) sometimes its nice to have everything tucked away in one neat little place, to save darting from Facebook-to-Google-to-Twitter and losing an hour or so of your time before you’ve barely achieved anything at all.
If you are fully committed to your social media mediums, and an area that as a business you hold as a strength, then it is well worth the investment and investigating – Hootsuite in particular offer a free trial for those that are intrigued to know more. For those that patter about on the edges of social media, stick with the free options until you find your feet. Don’t jump in at the price-plan deep end only to neglect it like a virtual gym membership to be ignored until that ‘later date’ that never comes around.