Awhile back, HootSuite released updates to their social media management software of the same name. One major addition was the addition of HootSuite AutoSchedule.
This module, they describe as “a link share tool that determines the optimal* time to schedule social media messaging.”
The tool would “automatically* queue messages throughout the day to maintain a consistent* social media presence.”
While these features sound useful at face value, they leave us with questions.
“Optimal” by what timing standards?
What is Hootsuite’s definition of a “consistent” presence?
How does it work?
We don’t know. And we can’t find out.
For the initial release of AutoSchedule, all HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes said about its operation was:
“It’s as if we’ve added a little helper owl to our Hootlet.”
While the premise is great, the lack of any discoverable information about exactly what algorithms power the scheduling of the Hootsuite campaign is alarming, only because there’s no way to change the social media posting times this automated app finds “optimal” for your business.
While the HootSuite team obviously knows a lot about social media marketing, we find it risky to base our business’s entire social media marketing timing around their secret and proprietary “knowledge.”
Smart Entrepreneurs Need Details on How Their Social Media is Managed.
You’re not the only one who’s wondering. Many of Hootsuite’s users (and would-be users) want to know the science behind this technology, but the company keeps that data on lock.
Here are several notable questions asked by users, along with answers—if there are any.
Hmm. If before 10:30AM has been Matt’s optimal posting time… doesn’t it seem that Hootsuite’s algorithm is quite flawed?
If they won’t tell users how their “optimal” time is found, it would be nice to at least let them create exceptions.
Hootsuite Autoschedule: How Does it Work?
There is still no answer to these sorts of questions.
Later in their announcement thread, Hootsuite’s only response (from Andy Au) was that they “can’t give away [their] algorithm” as to how it calculates optimal post timing:
Hootsuite Adds Scheduling Flexibility. (A Little.)
Fortunately, now their users do—finally—have a bit more control over their social media posting times. Two years after its release, Hootsuite released another update on Autoschedule’s new flexibility:
The ability to set specific timeframes for posting (i.e., 8AM to 7PM).
Users were still NOT able to adjust any of the specific times posts go out. It also appears that users are still NOT given the option to set a frequency limit (for instance, no more than one post in a 45-minute period).
Unapproved Comments from the Hootsuite Release Page
As an early commenter, I’d subscribed to the Autoschedule announcement thread, and had received (by email) every comment left after mine. Some of those weren’t approved, in what seems a logical attempt at eliminating redundancy and maintaining uniqueness in the thread. (There are already 133 comments as of November 2015!)
For instance, here are two that didn’t make it in:
Other Social Media Schedulers to Consider?
We have direct experience with several other social media scheduling options. Two are below:
1. SocialBro for Twitter: From $40/mo This Twitter analytics tool offers, among many other things, a “Best Times to Tweet” report. This report calculates the optimal posting time from: the number of followers online at a certain hour the number of followers online at a particular day potential tweet exposure during those times/days
Sadly, SocialBro is no longer. A few years back, they abruptly and unapologetically limited this tool, nixed the free plan, then just as abruptly took it away and started charging big(ger) bucks for it. Now, it’s something called “Audiense” that seems to be for medium to large sized businesses, and is out of the price range of the typical small business.
2. SmarterQueue: From $19.95/mo. (Get a free 30-day trial — instead of the typical 14-day — using our link.)
This is another social media app with an auto scheduling feature that works a bit differently.
- You can schedule posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- The queue can publish posts in random order, or from the top to bottom of your post list—your choice.
- It can also recycle your posts, meaning after it publishes one, to put it back into the queue.
- As well, any new posts you add to the queue can go either at the queue bottom, OR it can be added to a random spot in the queue.
SmarterQueue has most of the features a small business needs already built in. (The most well-known social media tools I tried and had to compare it to were Hootsuite, Commun.it, Manage Flitter, and Social Oomph.)
The analytics it offers are extensive, allowing you to sort your post results by clicks, retweets, likes, average RTs, average likes, etc… and several more. This makes it great for the strategic marketer like us, or just an entrepreneur who really wants to dig into creating a responsive following.
Every time I log in (which is every few months), there’s an update or new feature. They’re definitely on top of development.
It lets you search for (free) images and content to put in your social posts, which we personally don’t use much, but it’s good to have when needed.
Where it really shines though is in the ability to repost your content.
You can set any post to post a single time, or over and over again. A recent new feature that blows my mind is the ability to vary the media (imagery) AND text for ANY post you add to the queue!
Why am I excited about this?
Well for instance, Twitter prevents you from posting the same thing twice. They’ll flag you as a bot / an automated poster and limit your account. But some posts just shouldn’t “expire” — like links to your services or product on your website.
SmarterQueue now allows you to set MULTIPLE text variations of a single post, and associate different images for each if you want, to keep your content fresh and avoid annoying your followers.
Anyway, after trying several major social media apps, SmarterQueue is the one we settled on and still use.
Learn more about SmarterQueue here (and get a DOUBLED free trial for visiting through our link).
Is Hootsuite AutoSchedule a Smart Choice for My Business?
We can’t recommend it.
If you’re set on Hootsuite, I suggest either using their manual scheduler in conjunction with another tool to get optimal post timing, or simply going with another scheduling app altogether.
While SmarterQueue doesn’t deal in post timing at all, the extensive analytics allow you to figure your own optimal timing out soon after you start your social accounts. (And remember, figuring out your own optimal timing is what you should be shooting for anyway!)
Your business is too important to leave this much up to chance.
As there are obvious challenges with AutoSchedule in its current state— i.e., users clearly stating that social media updates are sent when their audience is not online, or sent too soon after others—it’s best to take a pass on this Hootsuite feature.
More importantly, the best option of all for auto-scheduling your social media posts is to research the “standard” best times to post to social media. But that’s only if your accounts are new.
If you’ve got a few hundred followers, analyze those to configure your own posting schedule. (You can always contact us if you need help with this.) Don’t rely on Hootsuite Autoschedule to make important decisions for your business.
These are all really great points I’d never really thought much about. My business is just starting to grow a lot more and so I’ve looked briefly into using Hootsuite since it seems to be what people seem to be using for their social media strategies, but I didn’t know much about it and how it works and whether it was worth it. Thanks so much for suggesting some other options as well so I can make an informed decision.
Hi again, congrats on your business’ growth. :} Yes, Hootsuite seems to be one of the most chosen tools in terms of SM management and scheduling. But just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s the best for your unique needs, as we know.
I’m glad the other options are helpful. Honestly, they took some digging (especially Mass Planner — we’d been searching for hours for something that met our exact social media needs). But once we found them, it was a great relief.
Take care, and continued success.