In the modern world of Web 2.0, it is generally agreed upon that social media is a vital part of any marketing strategy. With so many social media platforms and so little time, HootSuite is the ultimate tool for any CMO or Marketing Manager. Whether you’re part of a small or large business, it’s the best way to keep up with all of your accounts, collaborate, implement social listening techniques, analyze engagement, and ultimately meet your social media goals. If you’re just starting out on HootSuite, you’ll want to bookmark this post for reference.

Note that a * next to any point denotes that it is only available through HootSuite Pro or Enterprise (paid accounts).


1. Multiple Social Platforms

The greatest thing about HootSuite is the option to push out content to one, some, or all of your social media sites at the same time. Currently, HootSuite supports Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, WordPress, and Mixi. The free version of HootSuite allows you to add up to nine social accounts (to add more you’ll need to upgrade).

When you compose a message at the top of your dashboard, select the networks you wish to publish to. “Favorite” social networks (star icon) to move them to the top of the list, and “pin” them (push pin icon) to have them automatically selected each time you compose a post.

Although this is one of the main draws to Hootsuite, it is important to remember that there are different audiences on each social network, and a message or article might not be appropriate for all of your sites. Because of this, you should always act with diligence when using this feature.

2. Organizations + Teams

Create teams to organize HootSuite users within your business by department or project. To begin organizing teams, you’ll need to create your organization, which is usually just your business. To do so, click on your profile in the left-hand menu. Within that organization, you can create teams with different members and social networks. If your company manages several social media platforms or even profiles for clients, teams are the best way to ensure security of sensitive account information. You can then grant team members access to different accounts without sharing account passwords, and grant them varying levels of permissions as well. Administrators have the power to control, change, and merge teams as necessary.

Using Hootsuite Conversations, an in-app chat program, teams and team members can organize campaigns and discuss strategy. Keeping these conversations in HootSuite helps to keep everyone on board in the loop and engaged.

3. Tabs

The ability to create tabs for different feeds is very useful indeed. This feature organizes your dashboard as if it consists of file folders. There are many way to organize tabs, although I recommend considering these:

  • Branded: set up a search for your own brand name, including mentions, hashtags, and variations of common keywords used to describe your company.
  • Industry: set up a tab to watch what happens in your industry, including top influencers.
  • Competitors: set up a search for your largest competitors, including mentions, hashtags, and keywords that are relevant to their brands. Setting up different tabs for local and global is this best way to monitor competitors on different scales.
  • Social Networks: If you have more than one social network connected to HootSuite, it is useful to put each social network in their own tab. This way, you don’t get confused between streams.
  • Community: This is most common with brick-and-mortar-type stores, but setting up a community tab will allow you to view local happenings. Show you are connected with your community by joining in online conversations and helping to spread the word about local events through social media!

Of course, tabs are based on your preferences, your industry, and your social listening preferences. To add a new tab, simply click the “+” button to the right of the Home icon.

4. Streams

Streams, which fall under tabs, are a way to further segment your social feeds. These are where advanced search queries come in handy, which you’ll learn about next. With the ability to add up to ten streams in each tab, there’s a lot ofopportunities to get creative with the way you set up each stream.

To add a new stream, click the prompt that automatically appears when you create a new tab. Then choose your preferred social network and either select a pre-generated stream, enter a search query, choose keywords to track, or insert an app.

5. Advanced Search Queries

Streams help you to organize different realms of social media by type, but you can also use search terms to create a stream. Search terms can be composed of combinations of keywords, hashtags, dates, and connotations. Below are some examples of potential search queries if you were to, say, work in the medical industry.

  • medical technology containing both “medical” and “technology”
  • “medical advances”containing the exact phrase “medical advances”
  • psychologist OR doctorcontaining either “psychologist” OR “doctor” (or both)
  • cancer -diagnosiscontaining “cancer” but not “diagnosis”
  • #medicalnewscontaining the hashtag “medicalnews”
  • from:WebMDsent from person “webmd”
  • to:Healthsent to person “health”
  • @MedicalNewsreferencing person “medicalnews”
  • dentist since:2013-05-15containing “dentist” sent since “2013-05-15”
  • injury until: 2013-10-09containing “injury” sent up to “2013-10-09”
  • doctors :)containing “doctors” with a positive attitude
  • pediatrician :(containing “pediatrician” with a negative attitude
  • emergency care ?containing both “emergency” and “care” and asking a question
  • Seattle hospital:links containing both “Seattle” and “hospital” and linking to URLS

6. Geocoding

What’s even better than filtering streams by search queries? Filtering streams by search queries and location, of course! This is an incredibly helpful tool if you are monitoring trends or looking for specific information within a certain area.

For example, say you wanted to do some social listening on SEO trends in your town. To do so, you would type in search terms such as SEO trends and hit the geocode button. In return, this query gives you a stream of everyone within 25 km that is talking about both SEO and trends on Twitter! To set up advanced streams, go to the tab you want, select “Add Stream” (located beneath your tabs), and click the “Search” tab. Once you have decided on the search terms you would like to use in your stream, clicking the geocode icon at the bottom of the window query appends your location and allows you to find results within a 25km radius (HootSuite’s default). To change the radius of your search, change the “25km” and the end of your query to the distance you desire. Note that the geocoding option is only available on Twitter.

location, location, location

If you want to change your geocode location (if, for example, you were doing work for a client overseas), itouchmap.com provides an easy way to find the latitude and longitude to plug into your search query.


7. Assignment

Assignments are a great collaboration tool for teams and team members, and helps to document the content creation process from the initial post to the resolved (final) post. This feature can be especially useful for cross-departmental social media interactions. For example, if your company receives a tweet aimed at HR, you could easily “assign” that tweet to the HR manager so that they can respond appropriately.

To assign a tweet or post to someone, click the dropdown button on the message itself and click “Assign to…”. From there, you will have options to select your desired team, member, and to compose a short message. If you do not have teams established, you can click “Send to Conversation…” and choose which organization to send the message to. If you have neither organizations nor teams set up, you may not have this option.

For example, someone mentioned @ethoseo in a tweet below. However, he was referring to a presentation that the ethoseo founder, Damien Wright gave earlier that day. In this instance, I would assign this tweet to Damien so that he could respond with a more personal message and auto-initial it with ^DW.

8. Approval of Posts*

If you’re working with staff-in-training or content that requires a once-over before getting pushed out, the approval feature within HootSuite is a great one to utilize. Note that this feature can only be used with Enterprise accounts (paid version of HootSuite). The “require approval” feature is under the “Publisher” tab on the dashboard. This is an especially great way to manage tone and voice within each post.

This feature is currently only available with an Enterprise Hootsuite account. Alternatively, you can give these users limited permission and ask them to submit all posts in a .csv file for you to review before bulk uploading them.

9. Auto-Initial

Regardless of whether you work in a small business or a large corporation, it may be beneficial to track who is posting what content from your company’s social networks. The best way to do this is by adding the auto-initial feature, which adds a ^[author’s initials] when composing a tweet. Not only does this allow you to keep track of who is creating what, but it also gives a sense of personalization for the reader.

To use this feature, simply have the user go into their individual Settings, click Account, and check the box that reads “Auto-initial when composing messages” (make sure they have inputted their initials as well). To access your profile, click the top icon (your Gravatar picture, if you’ve uploaded one) on the left-hand side menu.

check the box that says “Auto initial when composing messages”

10. Link Shortening

Measuring the amount of interaction on the links you post is important. HootSuite provides a built-in link shortener, owl.ly, which tracks the number of clicks, the regions they come from, and their source of referral, amongst other metrics.

When creating a post, copy and paste your URL of choice into the “Add Link” bar, and click “Shrink”. Your shortened owl.ly link will be added to the end of the content you have written. With Owl.ly Pro or Enterprise, there is also the option of adding your existing vanity URL into HootSuite (take, for example, Google’s shortener: goo.gl).

11. Bulk Scheduling

What?! You have other things to do besides sit on Facebook and Twitter all day? The bulk scheduling uploader was created for this reason exactly. Using this tool allows you to draft multiple messages at once and send them out on specified times through the day, week, or even month. When using bulk scheduling you must be aware of the guidelines provided by HootSuite, or risk the chance that your message may not be sent at all.

  • All fields must have double quotation marks around them and be separated by commas
  • The accepted date format is: mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm or dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm
  • Please set times in the future (at least 10 minutes from upload time)
  • Posting times must end in either a 5 or 0, i.e. 10:45 or 10:50
  • All other times will be rounded up to the next 5 minute slot
  • Define only one message per time slot
  • Duplicate messages are not allowed
  • There is a maximum of 350 scheduled messages across all social networks

Once you have a grasp on the formatting a rules, creating your scheduled messages is fairly straightforward. Begin by clicking the “Compose message…” textbox on the top of your dashboard, then hit the scheduling icon. At the bottom of the scheduling box click “Try the bulk message uploader” and from there you can upload a file (.csv) containing your scheduled messages. If you’ve never worked with .csv files before, HootSuite supplies a downloadable sample that you can download at the bottom of the bulk scheduler window.

12. Suggested Posts*

Although this feature is still in Beta, HootSuite recently unleashed their suggested content feature. Not only does this find and recommend industry-relevant articles, but it allows you to edit and schedule them with ease. It should, however, be noted that this option is only available to HootSuite Pro and Enterprise users.

Open Publisher in the left-hand menu, and select “Suggested” to utilize this tool. To change account or topics (up to three), click Settings in the upper-righthand corner. When you hover over a suggested post, you can schedule at the pre-assigned time (calendar icon), or edit (pencil icon) the post’s content and send time.

Beware not to rely too heavily on this tool, though. HootSuite only pulls so much content over a certain period, and eventually you will be left with limited resources. Also be sure to read articles before you decide to post them to your own feeds (every good social media marketer knows not to judge a blog post by it’s title).

13. RSS Feed Integration

Your business has a blog, right? (If not, it should!) HootSuite makes it easy to automate posts whenever your company’s blog is updated with a new post. With multiple authors, this makes it easy to ensure that each post gets the proper social media attention it deserves!

Simply go to Settings, RSS/Atom Feed, and add the URL of your blog to link it with HootSuite. You can select network(s) to send new blog posts to, prepend a message, amongst other options.


14. Social Listening

As you may have guessed, HootSuite is more than a social content management system; it’s a wonderful way to implement social listening techniques. By using advanced search queries and geocoding within strategically organized streams and tabs, it’s much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. This is especially helpful when monitoring competitors, or when trying to find relevant content from influencers (see the section on Klout to learn more).

15. Social Analytics

For free users, HootSuite provides basic analytics that allow you to gain better insights into your social media performance. The reports offered free of charge are profile overviews, Owl.ly Click Summaries, and URL Click Stats – Owl.ly. More advanced analytics are offered through the Pro and Enterprise account options. These reports are helpful in measuring your growth, interaction, and other important metrics. If you would like to only view certain metrics from the analytics templates, there is an option to create a custom report.

To create a report, click the Analytics icon (bar graph) on the sidebar and select from the templates provided. Once you create a report, it will appear under “All Reports” and will re-generate for the appropriate time period.

16. Klout

As much as we love it, social media is filled with heaps of irrelevant information. It can be hard to weed through the idiocy to find content and people that matter. Search queries, as I mentioned earlier, is one way of doing this – Klout is another. Klout is a free online program that uses social media analytics to rank users according to influence on a scale from 1-100. As you may have guessed, a higher Klout score is better and helps others recognize you as an “influencer” on social media. By sorting your feeds by Klout, you can get a better idea of whom to interact with in order to gain social traction.

To sort your feeds by users’ Klout score, click the down arrow on the top of any of your Twitter streams. Next, click “Filter by…” and change the option in the drop-down menu to “Klout”. From here, you can use the slide-bar to determine the minimum level of Klout you want shown on the stream (40 is considered “average”). In the following example, I did a Search on Twitter for #InboundMarketing, and filtered the stream so that all users shown would have a Klout score of 40 or higher.

do you even tweet, bro?

Klout can also give you a better idea of where your company stands in the social media world. Because Klout is an external application that links with HootSuite, it will not show on native social networks. However, anyone who uses HootSuite can see where you rank in Klout. To get an accurate score, visit Klout.com to set up your profile and connect ALL of your social media accounts.


17. HootSuite App

Social media success relies heavily on real-time interaction. We’re not saying you should bring work with you everywhere you go, but you should have the option to. HootSuite offers a free smartphone app so that you can connect on-the-go. Enable push notifications to receive real-time updates on social media interactions with your business.

18. HootSuite Extension

Hootlet is an in-browser extension that allows you to quickly share anything to HootSuite without actually opening the program. It allows you allows you to share, re-share, schedule, and find targeted content from anywhere on the web. Currently, Hootlet is supported by Chrome and Firefox, and an Assignments extension for HootSuite is available on Chrome as well.

19. HootSuite Help

I get by with a little help from my friends (and these convenient HootSuite resources):

HootSuite University is a great tool for businesses who are looking to utilize Hootsuite in the most-efficient way possible. Whether you’re just beginning or have used HootSuite in the past, it walks users through the most-valuable tools and features and has the option of certification at the end. Certification, however, is just the tip of the iceberg; they also offer HootSuite Enterprise training, social media courseware, and a lecture series on specific dynamics of social media education. At $21 a month, HootSuite University is a great resource in helping you to hone in on and improve your business’ social media tactics.

The HootSuite Blog is updated multiple times a day with social media news, strategy, and skills beneficial to any and every social media marketer. If you’re looking to take your online marketing to the next level, I recommended taking a look at their posts.

HootSuite Help Desk is designed to provide answers to frequently asked questions about their services. This resource is especially helpful if you run into a problem or have a question while setting up your dashboard initially.

Do you use HootSuite? What are your favorite features and tricks? Let us know whether or not you see value in HootSuite in the comments below.