Game Over Hootsuite

It was a great relationship while it lasted. Sure, we had our ups and downs. Sometimes they couldn’t be relied upon to do what they were supposed to do, but on the whole, they were there when I needed them.

Not anymore!

Yep, my love affair with Hootsuite has come to a screeching halt. Last week, with no warning at all, they changed their free plan, subsequently screwing over a lot of people, me included.

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For the uninitiated, Hootsuite’s free plan allowed you to auto-schedule up to 10 posts per profile per day. More if you manually scheduled them. But now they’ve well and truly throttled their scheduling ability, again, without warning, to a maximum of 10 posts total, across all profiles. Meaning if I schedule 10 Twitter posts, I can’t then schedule anything for Facebook. Personally, I think this is an underhanded and somewhat dumb move.

Of course, the reasoning behind this will be money money money. By limiting the number of posts, they’ll be looking to force people’s hands into signing up for their paid accounts. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will go quite the way they plan. Sure, some less social media savvy people might cave because it’s the only platform they know, but for others, like me (small businesses, charities, low/unwaged) this will probably get us looking for better options/deals elsewhere, even perhaps a paid one. And guess what? we’ll find them!

I use Buffer for free as well. I am limited to 10 posts at any one time, but this is per profile (as Hootsuite used to be). I can schedule 10 post on Twitter and 10 posts on Facebook. Any surplus can then be added to Facebook’s inbuilt scheduler, or to Tweetdeck. Sidenote: Yes Tweetdeck is crap functionality wise, but it’s free (and likely to remain so), so hey! For some, this bit of extra faffing around with multiple schedulers may not even be an issue if they only post a couple of times a day.

And what if I suddenly decide, “Hmm, maybe I should get a paid account for some extra functionality,”? Well, even then Hootsuite won’t be (shouldn’t be) the go-to account. At pretty much half the price of Hootsuite’s basic ‘Professional’ plan, Buffer’s basic ‘Awesome’ plan would be the way to go (Buffer = $10 per month (with a 15% saving if you pay annually!), Hootsuite = $19 per month).

Okay, so Hootsuite’s paid plan gives you 500 posts per month, whereas Buffer only gives you 100, but as far as I can tell, with Buffer that’s 100 posts per profile, whereas Hootsuite’s 500 will be divided across profiles. So if you use just Twitter and Facebook, that’ll be 250 each per month. If you throw in Linkedin say. With Buffer, you’ll still get 100 posts for that too, but with Hootsuite, you’ll be reduced to 166 posts per profile. As you can see, the more profiles you have, the better deal Buffer becomes compared to Hootsuite. And let’s face it, chances are, both plans probably provide way more slots than actually needed with their basic plans, especially for small organisations, or independent users like me.

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Sorry Hootsuite, you’re now nothing more than a turkey!

Media-Rich Tweets = Engagement?

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So I’ve been doing a bit of an experiment on Twitter recently. People talk readily about how using media-rich tweets improves engagement, there are blog posts and infographics devoted to the topic, and as someone who dwells in social media, I’m all for upping engagement. However, I wouldn’t be a scientist if I didn’t test the theory myself before adopting the practice. After all, if it doesn’t work for me, what would be the point in devoting time to doing it? Therefore, in the middle of April, I decided to up my posting of media-rich tweets and see what, if anything, would happen.

To do this I used Hootsuite and my marine science-based Twitter account. I mentioned a while back that I’d only just realised you could attach images through Hootsuite, and it seemed the appropriate time to make use of the feature. Usually, I would use Buffer for media tweets, but as I’m limited to just 10 posts with the free account, I opted to use Hootsuite. I’m still limited to 10 tweets a day (if I just autoschedule posts), but not in total, so any extra tweets rolled simply over to the next day. That meant I had Buffer free to retweet other people’s media tweets. So, overall, my number of tweets per day didn’t increase much, the tweet types just switched platforms.

As for images, well, I’d usually included an image with a tweet if the article in question had a nice image of a marine mammal, but for my test, any news article I came across that had a nice looking image included, or was one that I could attach a CC00 image to, I made into a media tweet. So queue pictures of fish, coral reefs, and journal diagrams. I didn’t use any icky pictures, such as stranded dead dolphins. Those articles I just scheduled as is, and if a thumbnail popped up in my feed with the image, then so be it. Then I just tweeted away….

Come the end of April, I downloaded the analytics from Twitter, picking the date range so the 12th was in the middle, and had a butchers at the figures. And what did they tell me?

Well, first off, Twitter gives you a load of graphs on its Analytics page, but as someone who’s a bit knew to the whole analytics game, I have no idea if I’m reading them correctly. The first is the big impressions graph….

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Here, like the other graphs, I’ve marked the 12th in red. Now I’m assuming ‘impressions’ just means ‘people who’ve seen the tweet’. So the more something’s been retweeted, the more people who will have seen it. From a glance, it does seem that after the 12th my impression level went up, but this could also be due to the fact that I had a couple of tweets retweeted by people who had big followings themselves, thereby bumping up my figures. But then there’s the question: if they hadn’t been media tweets, would they have still been retweeted? Either way, as they were media tweets, I’ll take it.

Twitter also provides a number of smaller graphs….

For the most part, they don’t really help prove the hypothesis that media-rich equals more engagement, with the possible exception of the ‘Likes’ and ‘Retweets’ graphs, which do seem to show a slight increase in interactions with my posts. ‘Link clicks’ and ‘Replies’ don’t really show an increase in interactions. ‘Engagement rate’ is just all over the shop, and I can’t figure out if it shows an improvement or not.

However, Twitter analytics also allows you to download the data so you can export it into Excel (or your spreadsheet program of choice). The data was a bit tiresome to trawl through, but for the sake of science, I persevered. I did some averaging out, and this is what I got (see table below). Again, I’m making an assumption as to what ‘Impressions’ and ‘Engagements’ mean, and I have no idea how ‘Engagement Rate’ is calculated, but that being said, there does appear to be a noticeable increase across the board after I upped my media tweets. Now, whether that increase is statistically significant is something I can’t be bothered to work out.

Impressions How many people see tweet?
Mean 25th March-11th April 112.230320699708
Mean 12th April-30th April 146.84487534626
Engagements Likes, retweets, link clicks per tweet?
Mean 25th March-11th April 1.57725947521866
Mean 12th April-30th April 2.29362880886427
Engagement Rate ?
Mean 25th March-11th April 0.011296937684149
Mean 12th April-30th April 0.013246888306627
Overall average 0.012296841341414

I even did a graph for daily Engagement Rate….

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 Overall average engagement rate = blue line. Average engagement rate for 25th March – 11th April = purple line. Average engagement rate for 12 April – 30th April = green line

Now, I’m not sure why my engagement rate graph came out different to twitter’s, but it does help show that there was an increase after I upped my media tweets.

So, what can we surmise from all this? My little experiment may have lasted only 18 days, but even so, it does seem the general consensus was correct; more media-rich tweets leads to increased engagement.

Therefore, I shall continue doing what I’m doing. And if you were in two minds as to whether to do the same to improve your own Twitter account, hopefully my results have helped you make a decision.

Info Overload

First came power cuts, then came more power cuts, the came internet outages. How I managed to get anything done is beyond me, yet I did. Did two weeks worth of uni work in one week, got my first TMA back (mark much better than expected; phew!), did a couple of job applications, and finished my initial grammar and spell check of my 3rd novel’s manuscript. Living in rural Wales ain’t gonna slow this brain down!

Mind you, my brain’s got a lot to attend to. Remember how I was so excited at rediscovering RSS feeds and Feedly? Well, I still like them, but jeeze, talk about info overload. The 20 per day slots (10 per day (when auto-scheduling) in Hootsuite, 10 max in Buffer) I usually struggle to fill have been filled and then some, thanks to the wealth of articles I’m collating. My posts now stretch several days ahead. Great if I have a day off, but it’s going to get to a point where I’m so ahead of myself, the posts will be scheduling when they’re old news. Either I need to pray for a slow news day, or failing that, at some point I’ll have to do a purge, and double up my Hootsuite schedule to clear the backlog. The internet giveth, and the internet bloweth away.

Thanks Doris!

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Boy, has it been a fun week weather-wise. Storm Doris hit North Wales, bringing with her rain, gale-force winds, and power cuts. The day of the actual storm wasn’t too bad, with the power going off for only a couple of hours during the day. Admittedly, it cocked my schedule up a bit, as it went off before I had accessed my online university material. As soon as the power came back on, I opened up EVERYTHING in new tabs, just to be on the safe side. Yeah, I get that as it is a section on the internet, it stands to reason to do some of the work online, but having ALL the reading material online ONLY is a bit short-sighted IMHO. Storm Doris a case in point.

The next day was another power cut, this time courtesy of the electricity company. I had literally just finished my OU material, when bam, no power. Time ticked on. I couldn’t do anything with the MARINElife newsletter, as the resources I needed were online. I couldn’t do my social media stuff, cause again, no wifi. Time dragged on. The temperature started to dip. I wrapped myself up in bed and read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on a thankfully recently charged Kindle. I couldn’t do all my fitness training, as the fly-wheel on my cross-trainer needs electricity. It eventually got too dark to read.

My housemate got home to find a distinctly pissed-off me. He was in the process of going and asking the engineers what the hell was going on, when he bumped into a neighbour. Turns out, storm Doris had wrapped a couple of trees round various power poles, and things were being in the process of being repaired. Anyway, long story short, I was without power for four and a half hours, and spent the last few of those hibernating under two duvets. Eventually the power came on, I did my training, late, had dinner, even later, and did my social media stuff, even later still. I was not impressed, specifically because the engineers hadn’t bothered to warn people they were going to cut the power. Extremely thoughtless, but that’s Scottish Power for you. My mate was on hold with them the other day, waiting to speak to them about a cock-up with his account transfer. He was on hold for them for two and a half hours. Eventually their machine just hung up on him. Good times.

A few days later came the annual, try and make flat fried dough things and fail, aka, Pancake Day. Making pancakes is hard enough. Making vegan pancakes is even more of a set up for failure. I chose to make them savoury, to prevent me from eating too much, so I cut out the sugar, and added some fresh and dried herbs to the mix. The mix itself was simple; 1/2 a cup of soya milk, 1/2 a cup of flour, a 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder, and a dash of water to thin it out. The mix made two, largish, pancakes, and they actually came out quite well, if a little bit anaemic.

I topped them off with sautéed mushrooms and onions, a dollop of Tesco’s roast caramelised hummus, and a sprinkling of good ol’ nooch. And you know what? They tasted pretty nice. It’s times like these I wonder why I don’t make pancakes more often, after all, they’re simple to throw together, an cheap to make. I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and make some sweet ones later. Though knowing me, later = a year’s time.

Hootsuite Hiccup

When you’ve been using an app regularly, and for a long time, you don’t so much get complacent with using it, rather, you get used to its quirks, finding a way around these quirks to a point that it becomes part of your day-to-day routine. You get so used to doing this that you never question whether these quirks are, in fact, still quirks. This was me and Hootsuite.

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I’ve been using Hootsuite for donkey’s years to schedule social media posts, and overall, it’s a good app to use. Sure, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Sometimes it doesn’t pick up the text and imagery from a link, meaning I have to add them by hand. Sometimes it tells me it failed to post a scheduled tweet, when in fact it has. But I can deal with these minor irritations.

The problem I had is that when I started using it way back when, it couldn’t do media tweets. You had the option of adding a picture to the tweet, but these images didn’t appear in Twitter’s news feed, rather, another url was added to your tweet, and for someone to see the image, they had to click through to another site. This was not ideal. However, a fellow twitter user suggested I use buffer for media tweets. It turned out that was a good option, and so whenever I needed to add pictures to a tweet, I used buffer instead. It was a bit more time consuming, but not by much, and so I spent the years separating out my post stream through the two apps.

That was until I had an epiphany the other day. I was creating a plain text tweet, then I second guessed myself, and wondered if I should add a picture to it. This meant having to create the tweet again in buffer. Then a dim bulb went off in my head. Do Hootsuite use media tweets in their feed? They certainly seemed the kind of brand that would. I headed over to their stream, and yes, every tweet I looked at had a picture attached to it. It seemed to me rather a daft notion that Hootsuite would be using a third-party app to add pictures to their tweets. Which begged the question: did images added to tweets in Hootsuite show in the twitter feed now? I did a test tweet, and the answer was a resounding yes. Media tweets now work in Hootsuite! How long ago that function was added is beyond me, but it goes to show there’s plenty still to learn when it comes to social media.

However, it’s still lacking a bit in functionality. If you put, say, a news article link in buffer, the different pictures within that article show up, allowing you to pick the image you want to add. Not so with Hootsuite. You have to save the picture to your computer first, then upload it. A bit more of a laborious process. Therefore, I don’t think Hootsuite will surpass buffer as my go to app for media tweets, but it’s good to know if I run out of slots on my free buffer account, I can turn to Hootsuite to create more.

Speaking of ICT, my Open University work is still heading on full steam. I handed in my first TMA assessment, and promptly had a nightmare about failing it. Great, education anxiety-filled dreams again! It’s bad enough I still get nightmares about having not done my end of year coursework for my MSc that I completed, ohhhh, nearly 14 years ago. Still, I had some good OU news this past week. My pencil case that I won has finally arrived. And about frigging time too!

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Malfoy is going to tell his father about this

RSS Romance

So this week was another below average hours study week for my university course, and I did just over 10 hours. However, this week was an introduction week to HTML, CSS, and RSS. HTML and CSS I’ve done before, via Codecademy (a site with free programming courses), so although the introductory theory was new to me in places, using it was not, and marking up text was not a new and scary undertaking.

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It was the RSS section that came as a bit of a revelation. Now, I have dabbled in RSS before; MANY years ago. I forget the program I used for it, but I have a feeling it’s now defunct. For those who don’t know, many online news sources provide RSS feeds of their articles. They tend to be found via the orange wi-fi-like symbol above. Whenever a news article is added, the RSS feed gets updated through the use of XML (a kind of organisation-specific html). Then, using a News Reader, you can gather theses different feeds together in one place, sort them into different topics, and use them to keep track of recent news and articles. Back when I was using RSS feeds for the first time, not many outlets used them. it took a lot of Googling to find relevant RSS feeds, and in the end, I gave up using them. These days, most respected outlets provide RSS feeds, or so I found out via this weeks study, and with that revelation, I’ve fallen back in love with RSS feeds.

For part of the in-module assessment, I had to use a News Reader, and add the BBC’s technology RSS feed to it. I went with Feedly, as this seems to be the top Reader out there. It was a short and simple task, but raised the question: What other RSS feeds are there out there, and would they be useful to me? Turns out, it’s a lot, and yes.

So why are RSS feeds important to me? As someone who maintains several social media sites for herself (both for her marine biologist persona, and her sci-fi novelist persona) as well as one for the marine charity MARINElife, and sources articles for the Aquarium Welfare Association, being able to hunt for suitable news stories effectively is important. Up to now, I’d basically been using Google’s personalised news sections, and searching which articles had been added within the past 24 hours. This, of course, was a bit limited, as well as laborious. Now, using Feedly, I can grab the RSS feeds from appropriate sites, including several scientific journal sites, and quickly run my eye over them for any new posts. I can even add my personalised news sections from Google. Once done, I can mark the articles off as read, and they won’t show up again in my feed. A total time saver!

This, along with the prevalence of RSS feeds from sites, makes for many more post options. Some sites break their feeds down into topics. Some sites even allow you to create an advanced search, and then save the results as an RSS feed. Both of which making for a more relevant feed in News Reader. I spent a fun few days scouring websites for their feeds, and plugging them into Feedly….

So now I have a new quiver in my bow with regards to social media strategy and content curation. See, the Open University teaches you stuff.

This week I do my first proper assessment; a dreaded TMA. Fingers crossed that I get a good mark.

I put a call in about my OU pencil case. It hasn’t even been sent yet *frowny face*.