Posted on 18 November 2010
I am a big fan of Hootsuite. Alongside xmarks and Instapaper, it’s one of those tools that I was so happy with that I was willing to recommend it, and recommend it enthusiastically. It’s even in my about page.
What Hootsuite does it takes all your social networks and puts them in one place. You can post to and read the streams of multiple accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Facebook fan pages, Foursquare and MySpace. You can post the same status to all, one, or just a few accounts at once. So if I’m hosting the CFUR Top 30, I can say so via my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as the official CFUR ones, all in one go. I use it for my personal accounts, the not-for-profit Coldsnap Music Festival accounts, the not-for-profit CFUR Radio accounts, the Mr. PG Facebook page, and the PG Transit alerts tool that I created in my free time. It has made managing those so much easier that when other organizations were setting up or fine-tuning their social networking, I strongly, strongly recommended Hootsuite. The City of Prince George, CBC Daybreak North, and the University of Northern British Columbia are among those who now use it. It’s such a great tool that I wouldn’t recommend anything else.
That’s what I would have said yesterday. But now I’m actively looking for alternatives.
Why? Because yesterday, Hootsuite told me I had to choose a pricing plan. They still offer a free service, but for certain other services you have to pay. Fair enough. I’ve been willing to do this for Instapaper and xMarks, plus other subscription based services. But their pricing model is completely askew.
$15 per team member means I can’t recommend it to new users
I’m completely on board with the $5.99 rate for unlimited social networks, analytics, ad free, etc. A completely reasonable price for what it offers. In fact, I would pay $5.99 and still deal with ads, limited analytics, and limited social media accounts if it gave me one more thing: extra team members.
Seriously, two team members and then you’re looking at an extra $15 per person/per month? I shared the CFUR account with three other people, and the CBC account with one other, and that put me to over $60 a month. That is no longer the price of a good cup of coffee. That’s a utilities bill.
I’ve been slowly converting people in these other organizations to Hootsuite by having them share these accounts. These are potential Hootsuite customers that may be willing to pay that $6 a month for their own unlimited social networks. But now I can’t recommend it to them, because if I do, I have to a) pay $15 a month to give them access to one of my accounts, b) ask them to pay all or part of the $15, or c) give up ownership of the account so they can do it. None of these are good options.
Let’s take an actual scenario. I have a volunteer at CFUR who is starting their own show and would like to promote it using Facebook and Twitter show pages, and they would also like to cross-promote it using the official CFUR accounts, plus their personal networks. That’s six accounts. What do I recommend to them in order to make that task easier?
In the past when this happened, the answer was easy: Hootsuite. But now I can’t– not without putting someone out $15 a month in order to give them access to the CFUR account. Bear in mind, this person might be very willing to pay $5.99 a month to have access to six social networks, no ads, and all the other options. But now I’m going to be showing them Tweetdeck, Seesmic desktop, or Ping.fm. I don’t like any of these as much as Hootsuite, but at least more than one person can use them.
I’m currently paying the $5.99 for unlimited social networks. But I’m no longer going to be bringing new users to Hootsuite, simply because I can’t. DJs at CFUR– no dice, because I’m not paying $15/person out of pocket and we don’t have that budget– we’re a volunteer-run, not-for-profit radio station. Other Coldsnap volunteers– again, no. I was working on getting others involved via Hootsuite, but now I can’t.
It’s likely a reasonable cost if you’re an advertising firm that has multiple corporate clients paying you to manage their online presence. But it prices out small business and non-profits altogether. I guess this might not matter to Hootsuite much. After all, every $5.99 customer they lose is gained back two-fold with every new team member some large corporation adds.
But it might matter. A lot of this stuff is word-of-mouth. I started using Hootsuite after I saw another not-for-profit using it in order to have multiple team members posting to both Facebook and Twitter. They probably wouldn’t have been using it if they were having to pay the $60 a month it now costs to have them. Then I wouldn’t be using it. Then the city might not be using, and the university might not be using it, and I know at least three other people who wouldn’t be using it. That’s at least twelve new users they might never have received. It’s probably similar throughout the web. Twelve users who may be willing to pay $6 a month, but aren’t able to afford the $15+ for extra team members. So they’ll use something else. And then other people will see that something else– including corporations– and check it out instead.
And like I said, I’m paying the $6– for now. But I’m looking at alternatives, when I wasn’t before. And as soon as I find something else that lets me share these accounts for less than $20 a month, I’ll probably be switching.
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