Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TweetDeck vs. HootSuite

There is no doubt that social media is now ingrained in our lives, much in the same way that email has become as common as the telephone. The one thing that has not become common is how we interact with the various social media platforms.  

With email, there are common apps that allow us to manage different email providers all through a single portal. Social media has yet to come up with a solid, single portal. Most social media providers want you to use their website or their own specific app to access their social media platform. There is little collaboration to make it easy for their end users.

I know I’m not the only one who uses both Twitter and Facebook. I enjoy using both since each provides a different way to communicate but I don’t want to have to visit multiple website or use multiple applications between multiple devices in order to manage these services. This gets more complicated when you add additional social network like Google+, Foursquare, etc. 

In an attempt to be more efficient I have tried many program and for many years I settled on using TweetDeck, a free app that works with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and more. However, TweetDeck was lacking in features that other programs were providing and making available on multiple platforms. In addition, the acquisition of TweetDeck by Twitter, which has publicly said it is trying to limit the ecosystem, meant the multi social network support in TweetDeck probably wasn’t going to continue.

As a result, I started checking around for another platform. After all, how hard should it be for a software provider to be able to create software that will allow me to reliably post to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and any other social network that comes along and also provides the latest features so that I don’t have to bounce from one app to another and post the same things multiple times?

Surprisingly enough, it is much harder than you think. I’ve found many feature comparison posts helpful so here is my feature comparison post between TweetDeck and HootSuite. As additional points of comparisons come up, I’ll do my best to update this post. These are in no particular order.

Platform Support
TweetDeck
  • They have an Adobe Air app for Windows desktops and a Chrome app.
  • An android app.
  • Earlier this year they released v2.0 of their iPhone app calling it a completely new app. I believe that it is a new app however; they left out a lot of features from the old app.
  • They also used to have an iPad app however, it wasn’t very good, and recently TweetDeck removed any references to it from their website. Their site used to say coming soon but even that has been pulled.
  • One of my biggest reasons for needing a new platform was the lack of iPad support. Running the iPhone app in 2x mode stinks and in an attempt to use my laptop less and my iPad more I needed a Twitter/Facebook app built for the iPad.
  • TweetDeck has also had other browser-based apps in “coming soon” mode for many months. TweetDeck seems long on promises and short on delivery.
  • I don’t see that trend improving now that they are owned by Twitter. TweetDeck feature and upgrades have also been very slow since they were purchased by Twitter, which makes me wonder what they are doing to the program, like removing Facebook support.
HootSuite
  • They have a full blown browser app
  • An Android app
  • A Chrome app
  • A native iPhone app
  • A native iPad app
  • Updates are also fairly regular.
Sync Between Apps and Platforms
TweetDeck
  • Provides central account on their servers that store columns and searches. You access this by logging into the app. Changes made on one are not updated on the other.
  • Does not sync anything else.
  • You can sync read/unread tweets, application settings, etc. if you use a program like DropBox or Windows Live to copy the application settings folder between computers but it does not sync any of this on its own. It only stores columns.
HootSuite
  • Syncing isn’t great here either. They provide a central account that syncs columns and searches as well but it also does not update between apps. If you add a social network on your iPhone, it won’t appear on your iPad unless you add it manually.
  • Does not sync anything else.
  • Program settings do sync between some apps. For example, the Chrome app to Chrome app will sync settings between computers but changes are not replicated between an iPhone and an iPad.
  • Read/unread tweets do not sync and there is no ability to copy settings using DropBox, as the data folders are not stored like TweetDeck.
  • There is a radical way to make update changes from one device to another. If you add your Foursquare account to your desktop, you can add it to your iPhone by logging out of your iPhone and then logging back in again. This resets all your feeds by pulling them down again from the HootSuite server. Why they can’t do this live I don’t know but this does work provided you do it in the right sequence.
It is a bit baffling to me that both these programs provide the ability to replicate and store some of your settings on their servers but they don’t provide any replication of your full account. Email has evolved to the point where settings and changes, folders, read/unread all replicate between clients and platforms. I wonder how long it will be before social media apps evolve to the same point.

URL Shorteners
TweetDeck
  • Provides many different choices however, these choices may be narrowed down to only using the new Twitter shortener.
HootSuite
  • You can only use their built in shorteners.
Pictures
TweetDeck
  • Allows you to use many different image services including YFrog and TwitPic. This may change now that they are a part of Twitter and Twitter has recently rolled out their own image service.
  • Posts pictures to Facebook gallery as opposed to wall called Mobile TweetDeck uploads. This is also better than just posting the text of the shortened link which forces Facebook users to click on it to see it.
  • One benefit is TweetDeck can do both at the same time, which is very helpful from a mobile phone. You upload the image and select Twitter and Facebook and it does the rest however, this only works on the old version of TweetDeck for iPhone. The new version removed this feature and only posts the text of the shortened URL to the Facebook page.
HootSuite
  • Only allows you to post images via the HootSuite system, there are no other options available.
  • Post pictures to Facebook as wall images so the image is visible on your wall as part of your wall album as opposed to being in another album. Very nice for your users as they can preview the images without going away from your wall provided you post with previews turned on. If you turn them off then it only posts the text of the shortened link.
  • This feature works very well on all the apps and platforms.
The problem I have with this is that I have been using TwitPic for years so I have a lot of pictures there. Switching to HootSuite for pictures would mean starting over. In addition, I use the TwitPic gadget on my blog so thumbnails of my pictures appear on my website. HootSuite has no such gadget.

Downloading Tweets
TweetDeck
  • Desktop runs off Twitter’s live mode, which provides updates as they happen in the live stream. You can customize the settings to slow it down if you want on the desktop app.
  • The iPhone app updates live as well so you are always current.
HootSuite
  • None of the apps run in live mode. The desktop app will only update at preset intervals with the fastest being 2 minutes. You can manually force updates but it does not run live.
  • The iPhone app only updates manually, you have to pull down each stream to get them to update.
  • The iPad app updates similar to the desktop app.
  • Regardless of what app or platform you use HootSuite does not update automatically or provide real-time access like TweetDeck does.
Scheduling
TweetDeck
  • Provides the ability to schedule posts but only through the desktop apps – they keep promising it will be expanded but as of yet that is just another promise.
HootSuite
  • Provides the ability to schedule posts on all apps and all platforms.
Twitter Lists
TweetDeck
  • Provides a great integration and use of Twitter lists however, when too many lists are in use the apps all become unstable.
  • Only limitation is you can’t add those you follow to lists from the apps.
HootSuite
  • Provides a great integration and use of Twitter lists and is stable regardless of how many you use.
  • The organization also is better in terms of how the lists of access.
  • You also have the ability to add and remove people from your lists.
  • The only drawback, which only affects the desktop apps, is that you can’t add someone to a list unless you have the list in a stream. The iPhone and iPad apps don’t have this problem.
Cost
TweetDeck
  • Free, however they have stated ads are coming soon.
HootSuite
  • Free for up to 5 accounts. They state you will get ads but I haven’t seen any.
  • There is a $5.99 monthly fee if you need more than 5 accounts.
  • The downside is they charge you monthly; you can’t pay for a year at a time, which adds to the old paperwork.
Misc. Items
TweetDeck
  • Stays open all the time, never goes to sleep.
  • Uses more system resources.
  • Can delete any tweet you post.
  • Easy to report spam and block users.
HootSuite
  • Goes to sleep and has to be woke up so there aren’t any notifications when the apps goes to sleep.
  • Uses less system resources.
  • Can only delete your DM’s, can’t delete anything else from within the app.
  • Harder to report spam and block users.
For me and how I function, I ended up going primarily with HootSuite. I needed an app that worked well on my laptop, my desktop, my iPhone, and my iPad and provided similar features between them all. HootSuite also seems to be more forward thinking. They have already said they will incorporate Google+ while TweetDeck has said they have no plans to build in Google+.

However, I still end up using TweetDeck from time-to-time. I have an open ticket with HootSuite now regarding some issues posting to Facebook, as it appears there is a limit to how many times you can post to Facebook in a specific time period. I’ve also had some issues with the iDevice apps not working when I switch between wireless networks.

I also continue to use TweetDeck to post pictures from my iPhone so I can continue using TwitPic as I haven’t decided if I want to leave TwitPic and start over using HootSuite’s image system.

As you can see, there is no perfect solution here. I think HootSuite is better and is going to try to stay there while TweetDeck’s future will be determined by Twitter.

I look forward to the day when social media clients are as robust and universal as email clients do. For now, we have to make do.

This list was compiled over several months and parts of it may be outdated before this post can be updated.