One of the biggest challenges that comes with social media is time. For most companies, getting results requires the use of more than one tool, but it can be a hassle to bounce back and forth between multiple sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
That’s why I’m a big fan of social media “dashboards” like HootSuite and TweetDeck, which allow you to monitor and post to several social media sites at once. They don’t take all the work out of social media management, but they can save you hours a month—hours that you can put back into running your business or connecting with your customers. And there’s no cost to use the basic versions of most dashboards.
While I know many people who love TweetDeck, HootSuite is my dashboard of choice. Here’s an overview of some of HootSuite’s features, which you’ll also find on TweetDeck and other dashboards.
- Post to multiple social media sites simultaneously. HootSuite currently supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, WordPress, MySpace, and Mixi (a Japanese social network). That means you can enter a status, click on the icon for one or more of those sites, and that status will be posted to all the networks you indicated. It may not always be wise to do this—after all, people use different social networks in different ways—but when appropriate, it’s a significant time saver.
- View multiple social network news feeds. In addition to posting to multiple sites, you can also see what others have posted by viewing the main news feed for each social network you select and navigate among them with just a click. You can even add streams for multiple Facebook pages—a business page and a personal page, for example, or two different business pages.
- View multiple Twitter streams at once. For Twitter users, there are three critical streams to keep an eye on: your home feed (the posts from everyone you’re following), mentions (those who @reply you), and direct messages. On Twitter, getting each of these streams must be viewed separately. On HootSuite, however, you can view these three streams on a single screen.
- View search streams. In addition to viewing your news feed, you can set up search terms that HootSuite will fulfill automatically. For example, I have my company’s name set up as a search stream to see if anyone’s talking about us (without using an @reply) on Twitter. That’s much easier than manually conducting search after search for the same term—or never searching at all.
- Schedule posts ahead of time. This is one of my favorite things about HootSuite. If you know you’ll want to share something at a later date, but you won’t be available to share it as it happens, you can schedule a post for a given date and time in the future. Let’s say you’ll be visiting a customer named Jane, and you want to remind her that you’re coming. You don’t want to type the post while you’re driving to her office, so you schedule the post head of time and have it delivered while you’re en route. Just like that, it will appear as if you posted it that minute, even if you set it up weeks before. Proceed with caution, though: make sure you enter the right date and time, or change it if your meeting is rescheduled, or Jane will be a little confused. Also, it’s not wise to start a conversation you can’t continue, so use this feature judiciously. If you’re careful, it’s almost as if you’re in two places at once.
That’s just the beginning of what HootSuite has to offer. It’s important to note that you can’t do everything you need to do from HootSuite—you’ll have to visit your social media pages themselves at least occasionally—but if you want a quick glance at what’s happening, or to post on the fly, it’s a huge asset. Also, as you’d expect, you get what you pay for: the “Pro” version of HootSuite is even better, offering expanded functionality, analytics, collaboration opportunities for those who work as part of a social media team, and support for as little as $9.99 a month. Even if you only use the free version, however, you’ll find that investing a little time with HootSuite or another social media dashboard can pay off in something that’s hard to come by—a few more minutes in your day. To learn more, visit HootSuite.com, or check out TweetDeck.com for an alternative.