Hootsuite caused a bit of a stir last week by dropping out for an hour or two and coming back ‘bigger and better’ with Hootsuite 5. Using HTML5 and integrating geo-tweets, additional themes, improved Facebook options and Google Analytics they’re making a strong play to be the top Twitter aggregator in the market, but how do they compare to old favourite TweetDeck who are also soon to upgrade to HTML5?
Disclaimer: The below review is an initial user review – if I haven’t yet found out how to do something in the platform that it actually does then it’s probably too hard and counts as a negative towards the product, not me and my lack of investigative skills! ;-)
Hootsuite’s main new bits
Themes: I’ll talk about this a little more below.
Geo-searching: Tweetdeck have been doing this and it’s a potentially useful way of finding people close to you, although most office IPs seem to identify you as somewhere on the other side of the UK!
HTML5: This won’t really change too much that you’ll see but should improve performance, and it’s a nice step-up into an exciting technology.
Improved Facebook: Set your thumbnail pic and description for posted Facebook links.
Retweets: You can now send RTs through Twitter’s integrated retweet function.
Google Analytics: In-application Analytics integration.
I must admit to much preferring the sleek, stylish look of Tweetdeck compared to the old Hootsuite, and it’s one of the things that kept me from experimenting with it. However with Hootsuite’s new themes it certainly matches and even exceeds Tweetdeck. Although you don’t get to fully customise the appearance they have a couple of pretty swanky looking new designs with Zoolander-inspired names: Blue Steel and Magnum. Magnum is basically a copy of Tweetdeck’s dark default style designed to attract new users, and probably will help, while Blue Steel is a rather nice looking Facebook-style effort that is my preference. Tweetdeck’s and Hootsuite’s ‘columns’ are very similar, but Hootsuite has a slightly nice tabbed appearance and they can be moved through drag-and-drop, which is far nicer.
I’ve given this its own section as it’s surprisingly important. Hootsuite has just introduced the ability to retweet using Twitter’s integrated function; this just RTs without the ability to add or comment to a tweet. Tweetdeck has always used this very well, with a option to ‘retweet now’ for the Twitter retweet or ‘edit then retweet’ for an old-school manual retweet with comment (see image above). Perfect. Hootsuite have decided to give you one option or the other, forcibly moving everyone across to Twitter integrated retweets with no option to change according to the tweet. They’ve also hidden away the option to change retweet type back to manual, old-school retweets, and in fact have had to edit their launch blog post and post another to specially address how to access this old option. It seems as I’m not the only one who’s a bit miffed about the slightly slapdash integration of this feature.
A further annoyance could come from setting up your search columns to track retweets or your activity. It seems to class Twitter retweets and manual retweets differently, so I’ve had trouble tracking them and have had to play around with my search columns somewhat.
A real love/hate aspect of Hootsuite is its browser-based nature. I know of at least a few people who use Tweetdeck purely because it’s a separate program in a different window, and doesn’t clutter their browser. Of course anyone with a decent knowledge of Google Chrome options or Firefox add-ons knows that you can create a new browser application or Prism application that loads in a completely separate window as effectively a new program, so this potential downfall then becomes a major strength. In-browser construction means you can access your account and settings quickly and easily from anywhere without downloading anything, whereas if you’re out-and-about on a borrowed computer you’ll need to download Tweetdeck then login to your saved account preferences and searches, which don’t normally carry across all networks – potentially a real hinderance.
Depth of features
In many ways Hootsuite’s additions are playing catch-up to Tweetdeck. It’s had geo capabilities for a little while now, the retweet / retweet with edit options have been around for ages, and the range of options available for tweets and users are pretty extensive. Even with the update Hootsuite doesn’t have the quite the same capabilities, with fewer things you can do with each tweet and user. So far the one major gripe resulting from this is that I can’t seem to block a user’s tweets from appearing in your stream like in Tweetdeck; you can report them as spam, but not remove them yourself. Once you start going into the deeper options of Hootsuite there are a large amount of things you could do but it’s often awkward to do simple things like finding out how many followers you have. Some work on this would certainly be beneficial.
Ease of use
Hootsuite is the real winner here – it just seems easier to me. It’s quicker to follow people, easier to see new peoples’ tweets, quicker to search and find people or tweets, quicker to change theme… On the downside the options menu has recently moved to within the ‘Owl’, and despite some amendments to improve the layout it still feels overly complicated and not particularly user friendly. But despite this, for simple account addition (across Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) and general account usage Hootsuite seems to make it easier.
It’s one of Hootsuite’s enhanced new features, and it must be said it’s rather useful. Now when doing a Facebook post you can select the thumbnail image, the ‘meta’ title and description just like if you were posting directly through Facebook. Hallelujah! The Facebook integration on Tweetdeck and the previous Hootsuite has always to my mind been a little bit pointless; if you can’t do it properly and have to go through Facebook anyway there’s not really much point in having the functionality. But now Hootsuite really is a viable cross-network posting tool.
The problem is finding out how to do it however…it took me a little while to realise that you have to ‘shrink’ the link through the Ow.ly/Ht.ly ULR shortener – surely a clearer button or instructions would’ve been possible?
Tracking and Analytics
Tweetdeck do allow integration with Bit.ly for pretty extensive tweet analysis, but now Hootsuite have raised the bar with full Analytics integration. Wow. You can access per-post statistics measuring clicks across Twitter, Facebook etc, plus summary tweet statistics overlaid on your site’s Analytics data for trend and visitor analysis. It’s certainly a convincing reason for moving across an entire workforce to Hootsuite, and you can even fully tag up your links for Google Analytics within the actual system per post. Pretty impressive no doubt, and a really useful feature for tracking.
The final judgement
In essence the platforms really aren’t that different. They provide similar data and functionality, both use the same columns layout, and now can even both look pretty similar. In essence any preference comes from the little things: does not being able to easily change your retweet type (e.g. retweet and edit) in Hootsuite turn you off it? Or is that made up by it’s in-browser functionality that makes it easier to access anywhere you are? Hootsuite’s Google Analytics integration probably outdoes any Tweetdeck effort, but are you already using Bit.ly tracking as integrated in Tweetdeck? Maybe you prefer the Hootsuite themes over Tweetdeck’s standard dark appearance?
A lot of these things you just won’t know until you try both. Yes, it’s a cop-out review!
I’ve found that I’ve moved onto Hootsuite, and although the lack of a decent retweet type option is pretty annoying I find it’s just easier and smoother to use, and I don’t get nearly so much hassle from it as Tweetdeck used to give me. But Tweetdeck is soon to upgrade to a HTML5 interface, so the battle is bound to rage for many months to come.