Last year my dear husband felt a great desire to make some of his Christmas presents by hand. Being a lover of board games, with a special fondness for a handmade game he owned, I wasn’t surprised when he decided to make a few cribbage boards. Having made some fairly intricate woodworking projects previously, I was fairly confident the boards would make lovely presents for a few special people in his life. The first cuts were easy, of course. He simply had to make the maple boards the right size and shape. It was after the shaping and sanding was done that things got interesting. There are a LOT of tiny holes in lines on a cribbage board. This was not something that could be eyeballed. Drawing the series of holes, with carbon paper, proved futile as the paper moved and the holes were clearly not lining up perfectly. He even tried to create a “jig” of sorts out of a thin, but stiff plastic. In the end it was a good ol’ paper pattern that one drills through and tosses that gave the best results.
The trial and error of creating a repeatable process is not unknown to small business owners. In any business there are certain tasks that are repeated so frequently the business owner must develop processes and operating standards to streamline them and improve efficiencies. Consider the woodworker who fashions a jig to drill holes in exactly the same spot on every piece of wood for a project.
And so it is with social media. Having a social media strategy in place helps you to systematize your marketing and keep things in line. Finding the right tools streamlines the process and keeps things consistent.
But, just like my husband had to try several “jigs” before he found the right one, you, too, may have to try several programs before you land on the social media scheduling tool that comes with the angels on high, singing in the background. Over the years I’ve tried just about every social media scheduling tool that’s out there, but I was pretty loyal to Hootsuite for a long time. I even loved Hootsuite so much I became a volunteer brand Ambassador for the last few years. Recently I gave up the Ambassadorship, reduced my Hootsuite account to the free version and started working with a new program.
Why I Loved Hootsuite
For me, the best thing about Hootsuite was the ability to see everything I needed in Twitter all in one screen. It was the original dashboard and it made Twitter so much easier to follow. I had columns (streams in Hootsuite) for each of my lists and saved searches, I had a column for my @ mentions and a column for incoming private messages. I could log in and look at Twitter in mere seconds if I was really rushed for a check in. And every client was set up and organized in their own tab full of columns. Time to work on client A? Click on their tab and I had a whole screen of Twitter for just that client. So efficient.
Of course, Hootsuite had many other features I loved, too.
- The ability to schedule posts for later. It was the first social media scheduling tool I ever used;
- The ability to cross post the same content to multiple networks if it was appropriate;
- Basic reporting;
- Team functions for when I had people sharing accounts;
- Built in link shortening with a UTM builder.
It also didn’t hurt that Hootsuite is Canadian founded and based. I liked knowing I was supporting a Canadian company.
Why I Stopped Loving Hootsuite
Despite all the things I love about Hootsuite, they started to change features and remove features in ways that didn’t work for me. The most notable change was when they moved Twitter private messages off my main screen dashboard and into a separate area of the program where I now had to remember to go check for messages several times a day. The messages were also not sorted by account, they were all mixed up together, which would be fine for someone managing only one brand but Hootsuite is built for companies with multiple brands, and agencies with multiple clients, so I don’t see how this was supposed to be better. I complained in writing EVERY TIME I remembered to go check for messages in there. And this drove me to start interacting on the native Twitter app instead of looking at Hootsuite. At least in the Twitter app I had a notification when there was a new private message.
There were also several price increases over the years, most of which were not well communicated to existing users, let alone Ambassadors. And then there were the multiple pricing schemes depending on your history with the program. I’d be in a class, teaching them to use Hootsuite, and there would be two or three different pricing schemes. I realize that as a current user, I would get a different price perhaps, but this wasn’t always what I would see. It became difficult to encourage new users to sign up when another person in the class was getting a better price offer. Talking to Hootsuite Help never really gave me an answer on this that I found sufficient.
When I finally downgraded to free, Hootsuite had become too expensive for most small, startup businesses to justify, at $40 US a month if you weren’t willing to pay for a year up front. I started recommending Buffer more and more, again, depending on the situation.
While I’m sure I could learn to live with the new location of private messages, and the price was still reasonable for my own business, there were features offered by competing programs that I needed. In the end, this is what ended my long term love affair with Hootsuite: lack of features.
What Features is Hootsuite Missing?
As a content creator I firmly believe in recycling content. Posting something once is simply not enough. How often you repeat a post and how you do it, is up to you. Hootsuite only offered one option for this: copy and paste and choose the next time slot. To me, this was kind of like my husband using carbon paper to redraw his cribbage board each time. It is time-consuming and imperfect.
A whole new crop of social media scheduling tools have cropped up in the last couple of years. Meet Edgar was the first one I found that would allow you to set up never-ending, recycling queues of content. You add your content, tag it with a category, and set a schedule for that category. Edgar fills your schedule with your content for a short time, or forever. At the time when I discovered Edgar I didn’t have enough repeatable content to make it worth the money, so I kept looking and discovered Social JukeBox, which I am still using today (but probably only until my subscription runs out).
Social JukeBox has categories you can schedule, like Edgar, but the price is significantly lower. The user interface isn’t as pretty, and it’s not always intuitive, but once you get to know the program it’s quite efficient. However, the recent changes to the Twitter api have hit some of these programs hard. Social JukeBox had to change it’s systems to comply with Twitter’s changes (although there is debate over whether or not all of these changes are actually required). Scheduled posts can no longer include a Twitter handle or more than two hashtags. Now I don’t want to be Hashtag Henry and fill up my tweets with 20 hashtags, but often I do like to include up to five hashtags. And I had a whole queue of articles written by other people that quote me that when posted would no longer include the author’s Twitter handle, which meant they likely wouldn’t see I mentioned their article.
So I went on the hunt again for programs to help me responsibly schedule evergreen content. I met with the SmarterQueue team at Social Media Marketing World in 2018 and was very excited by the possibilities and the fact that it was a Canadian company! I gave the program a really good three month trial earlier this year. I moved a lot of content into it for myself and clients. And I was really liking it. Except for one thing I simply cannot get past. For some people this would not be an issue at all, but for me it is. When SmarterQueue hits the end of a queue of content slated for Twitter, and goes back to the first piece of content again, it will send out on Twitter as a Retweet of the original post. If the original post was a month, or maybe two months ago, I could probably live with that interpretation of the new Twitter rules. But with evergreen content collected for eight years, I didn’t want to be retweeting tweets from a year or more ago, which is what would happen eventually. And since you can only retweet something once without doing a comment retweet, what would happen at the top of the cycle next time? I really, REALLY like SmarterQueue. I’ve convinced a few people to use it and it works great for them, but they don’t have years of evergreen content they want to be posting for a really long time.
Currently I’m split between two social media scheduling tools: Social Pilot and Cloud Campaign. These programs are pricey at $100 and $199 a month for the number of pages I have, but when I took on a franchise client with 100 Facebook Pages to manage, I needed to find a system that worked with that many pages for a reasonable price. Hootsuite was way out of my pricing league as I would need an Enterprise level system it seemed, which would have been $1000 or more a month. I looked at AgoraPulse on the recommendation of many experts I admire, but it does not have the repeating content functions I want.
The Tools I’m Using Instead of Hootsuite
Social Pilot won me over with two features. First, I was able to load up all 100 Facebook Pages and group them together by franchise section. With the click of one button I could schedule a post to all the English accounts, and a second click send the translation to all the French accounts. Not having to click 100 times for each post would save me hours of time and frustration…and perhaps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome! The second feature was the ability to easily schedule a post to repeat a few times over a specific number of days. For example, I might choose to share an article three times over a month. There was no copy paste for this, just picking three dates and times. They also have some decent reporting features and can schedule posts to Google My Business, which is something most programs aren’t offering yet!
This year at Social Media Marketing World I met with the Cloud Campaign team and thought their product might be a good fit. Last week I got set up and had a tour with one of the team members. Cloud Campaign also allows me to schedule content to all 100 pages in just a couple of clicks, but it has the added feature of setting up content queues for repeatable, evergreen content. In this franchise, for example, the monthly promotions go out on a fairly set schedule. There is also a regular weekly deal each week. And there are several other pieces of content to put out regularly. It took me HOURS to set it up from scratch, but this program is going to save me many hours in the long run. As a new program, Cloud Campaign doesn’t have everything I’m looking for, but it does have more checked boxes than any other program I’ve found so far and they’re very willing to hear feedback and take suggestions, so I’m hopeful some of my wishes will be added soon.
As of right now I have content in multiple systems only because I’ve not had the time to move everything for all my clients yet. When changing systems you have to rethink how you’re scheduling things, so it’s more than simply copy and paste.
Yes, I’m a little spread all over the place right now, but consolidating everything takes time. I’m currently using a combo of Cloud Campaign, Social Pilot and Social JukeBox, but will switch all content over to Cloud Campaign as long as it keeps working well.
Free Social Media Scheduling Tools
I’m also using two free programs: Hootsuite and TweetDeck. I keep a free Hootsuite account for Instagram scheduling for the accounts not yet moved into Cloud Campaign. And TweetDeck gives me most of the dashboard features I miss by not having Hootsuite hooked up to all my client Twitter accounts. Technically I’m also using Buffer for Hootsuite scheduling because Cloud Campaign uses the Buffer api to work with Instagram.
No, what I’m doing right now is not ideal. If any company out there thinks they can streamline this better for about what I’m paying now, I’d love to talk to you.
For now, I’m creating my own repeatable processes and systematizing my social media just like my hubby did when he made his cribbage boards. Every little bit helps and I hope reading the reasoning behind my decision to leave Hootsuite is helpful to you in deciding which scheduling program is the best fit for you.
I’d love to know what programs you’re using and why. Please let me know in the comments.