AKRON — Through this social media blog series, we have discussed a wide array of social media sites and how to utilize them for a business. I acknowledge that social media is a time commitment, but with anything, there are ways to make it a little simpler. Today's topic will be about simplifying social media using HootSuite.
HootSuite is a social media management system that allows users to access various social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and FourSquare, all in one screen. There are a variety of benefits to the site; however, some of them do cost money.
One of the greatest advantages of HootSuite is the site's scheduling posts capability. One reason I hear tire dealers are hesitant to grasp what social media has to offer is because of the time commitment. It is difficult to take time out in the day to post. This is true. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the more "traditional" aspects of the business that it is hard to find the time.
However, with HootSuite or other social media management systems, you can get into the habit of blocking out 30 minutes of your morning to schedule posts. This does not mean that it is the only time you want to check in, but you can do the bulk of your posting then. Someone in the business should be checking back at least twice a day for any responses or questions.
For instance, if you post that you are running a deal on oil changes, but you do not sign back on until the next day, then you may lose potential business. What if you have people asking you questions or trying to schedule an oil change on that day? Even if you want to be the person who posts the information on the sites, you still want someone to be monitoring it throughout the day.
Using social media is about building your brand and creating relationships with your customers. It's a conversation. It's just like when we get around that one relative that always seems to go on and on and on about his or her life, but when it's your turn to talk—they are nowhere to be found. You do not want to get that reputation when using social media.
Secondly, HootSuite will be a great time saver for tire dealers with accounts for each of its locations. If a dealer has three locations, all with a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ account, that is nine pages to manage.
That can be overwhelming for anyone. However, with HootSuite, all your pages can be displayed in one screen. You can see what people are saying and comment back, etc. You can schedule posts to go to all sites, or schedule special deals or information for just one location. It makes the process simpler, which can help it seem less scary.
HootSuite has three different pricing plans: Free, Pro and Enterprise. The free plan can have up to five social profiles and has basic functionalities. Pro, is what we here at Tire Business use, and starts from $8.99 a month and opens up a lot more opportunity.
For most independent tire dealers, Pro would probably suit your needs as well. For instance, one team member is included, but you can have up to nine. For the Enterprise option, you can have up to 500,000.
It should be noted that the Pro plan comes with a 30-day free trial, so you can always test it out and see what you like. Or you can start with the free plan and if you want to enhance, then check it out at a later time.
Posting from a third party site
I would be remiss not to mention that there have been data collected stating that Facebook "penalizes" posting from third-party sites, like HootSuite. An article on WebMarketingToday.com stated that although Facebook denies it, "A website called EdgeRank Checker studied the issue in 2011 and 2012 and found that Facebook did penalize posts scheduled from third-party tools such as HootSuite."
There are some benefits to posting from a third-party site, especially for social media beginners. Sometimes social media sites can seem complicated, especially when you are trying to learn a few at once. You can sign up for the sites and then link them into your HootSuite account and then schedule posts through there.
For instance, Google+ is a good social media site to have for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, but some people think it is complicated to use. If you feel this way, you can always post through HootSuite so you are at least getting content up on the site.
This is about finding the balance. If you find that posting through HootSuite does not help with your Facebook, but grows your Google+, then adjust your social media strategy.
Tracking and Analytics
One other feature of HootSuite that I enjoy is that it creates "owlys," which are shortened links that help you track which posts your followers are reading. For instance, if I post this story on Tire Business' Facebook page, I usually would go to www.bitly.com or http://ow.ly/url/shorten-url to get a shortened tracking link so that I can see how many clicks are occurring on that link.
In HootSuite, when scheduling a post, a shortened link button appears so you do not have to click back to any other site. It's a definite time saver when you still want to be able to track what people are reading, but do not have time to click through different sites. This can help your overall social media presence by seeing which types of links are more popular with your fans.
HootSuite does offer analytics for these links, along with other posts and information. You can order these "a la carte." Many of the social media sites offer analytics, so it's a good rule of thumb to check those out first before spending any money on ones in HootSuite or any other site. If you do choose to access any reports, HootSuite will walk you through the information.
One of the most distinct tools that HootSuite offers is its education. With its HootSuite University, the company offers courses and educational resources for members. This is an optional feature for Pro members and is included in the Enterprise package.
HootSuite University is $21 a month for HootSuite Pro Plan members. Other sites that offer instruction include Lynda.com, whose membership starts at $25 a month.
The pros outweigh the cons
All in all, adding a HootSuite account can be a great benefit to any business. Even if you just have a Facebook page, the ability to schedule posts can come in handy. A lot of feedback I get from dealers is that they have been on Facebook or other social media sites for months and are just not getting the Likes they want.
A big problem may be that they are not posting enough. It can open up doors. With the potential backlash of posting from third-party sites onto Facebook, a business can try to find that balance of posting directly to the site and using HootSuite. There are definite advantages to both.
As with everything in social media, it is best to try different ideas until you find out what works best for you!