HootSuite (http://hootsuite.com/) is a social media management tool. Although it was developed with businesses in mind, it certainly can be adapted to fit the needs of churches as well. If you are one of the pioneers in social media in your church and you are finding it just a little bit daunting to keep track of the Tweets, posts, blogs, shared photos and YouTube videos associated with your parish or congregation, HootSuite can help. I noticed that many prolific social media contributors were inserting links to a URL shortener with “ow.ly” in it, or the post itself came from @HootSuite. Curious, I investigated and spent last summer playing around with HootSuite, just getting used to the features. I have to say, it seems to be a great tool for ministry. In a single window, a free HootSuite account allows you to display up to five social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc.). In addition, you can have twenty tabs (a tab sorts your streams by content), and each tab can have up to ten streams (a stream can be a mention or a direct message, for example) for content as it is updated. Hey, I just wrote this and I’m already confused, so let me make this simple. Instead of logging in and out of your various social networks, they are all organized in your HootSuite account in one window, sorted by tabs. The beauty is that you can create one post and tell it to go to all or some of your social networks! For example, I created tabs for my personal Facebook account, my parish Facebook account, my personal Twitter account and a Facebook group for technology in ministry that I belong to. I can send out one post to all of those sites at once. I can also click through my tabs to read the latest content for all those social networks as it arrives without the bother of having to sign in and out of those different accounts.
HootSuite is powerful and a bit complex, so give yourself time to learn the features and take advantage of its extensive help and tutorial menus. Some of the useful features I discovered include the ability to block or follow others, features for teams working in a HootSuite account, ow.ly, the built-in HootSuite URL shortener, and the Hootlet application, which allows you to post a link to any web site you happen to be visiting directly to your HootSuite network. The Hootlet applet can simply be dragged to your browser bookmark toolbar for easy access as you browse the web. HootSuite itself will save you time in your social networking ministry, and the Hootlet will amplify that savings!
I would be interested in hearing what you think about HootSuite and how you think it compares to other social networking management tools. Leave a comment if you wish to share!