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Why You Don’t Need Hootsuite (Or Any Other Social Media Tool)

By Colin Ryan

Industry News, Guides & Tips

HootSuite is a great tool, but not every small business needs itWhile tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck can be a major asset for companies looking to expand their social media marketing efforts, you shouldn’t feel obligated to use them. At best, they’re unnecessary for small businesses; at worst, they can cost you more time and money than they save.

Here are a few reasons to think twice before signing up for that “pro” social media suite account.

You don’t have to be everywhere at once.

Social media tools are useful when it comes to managing accounts on multiple networks. But if you’re a small business, you should be more pragmatic about what you hope to achieve with your marketing efforts. Is that Foursquare or Pinterest account really paying off? No? Then you should probably scale back and focus on the big guys instead.

Furthermore, by syndicating the same content in the same format to five different places, you’ll be neglecting the unique requirements and language of each. Personally, I hate it when people use #hashtags on Facebook. They serve no purpose other than to tell me that you couldn’t be bothered to focus specifically on your Facebook audience.

Compatibility issues are a hassle.

Sure, there are bound to be some hiccups when using a third-party app with a major social network. In some cases, those hiccups aren’t the app’s fault. But compatibility issues can cause serious headaches. If, for instance, you want to use HootSuite to post a link to Facebook directly from Google Reader, you’ll end up with a title and a link, but no thumbnail or summary. This is just fine for a tweet, but on Facebook, no one is going to click a link without a picture or description.

Compatibility issues also have consequences when it comes to your data. Facebook Insights, for instance, doesn’t play well with HootSuite, making it hard to get an accurate read on your Facebook performance. More on analytics later.

The free version is inconvenient.

Free versions of social media suites can be more trouble than they’re worth. Take Buffer, for instance, which publishes your social media posts automatically at the “best times” throughout the day. Unfortunately, it’s entirely up to Buffer when those “best times” are. Plus, one post will go out at different times on different networks. I’ve often had the same Buffer post publish to Twitter at 5pm one day, then Facebook at 10am the next.

The paid version can be expensive.

You have enough costs to worry about as a small business marketer. If you’re hiring more employees, you’re already investing precious dollars in your social media efforts. Unfortunately, you’re going to pay even more to give those employees access to your social media tools. HootSuite, for instance, charges $10/month for a third user and $15/month for each additional.

More importantly, social media suites will hold your data hostage. If you’re on HootSuite’s Pro plan, you get one monthly analytics report for free—but each additional report costs $50. HootSuite also requires you to use its own URL shorteners, which can’t be customized or integrated with other social media tools. If you want to use something else for link shortening and analytics, you’ll pay another $49/month for the privilege.

Which brings me to my last point …

You already have access to the tools you need.

If you have a Google account, you already have all the tools you need to monitor your social media efforts. Google Analytics has a lot of terrific features, and it;s free of charge for sites with fewer than five million page views per month. That’s well above what most small businesses are getting.

Beyond Google Analytics, you can use bit.ly to shorten and track your links, and you can further refine your analytics data by adding URL tags for each social network. Yes, you’ll have to create these links and post them individually, but if you’ve limited your efforts to the most important social networks, this shouldn’t be an issue.

What do you think? Are social media tools like HootSuite worth it for your business? Give us your opinion in the comments.

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