HootSuite Pro Release Kicks Off Free Users

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I was a big fan of HootSuite.

HootSuite is a web-based service that you can use to manage multiple Twitter user streams. It also works on several other services as well, although I really only use it for my numerous Twitter accounts.

HootSuite was a free service that allowed users to manage several streams at a time. It allowed a user to setup columns on a dashboard, allowing one to peruse several Twitter feeds from different users at the same time. Then, each individual user could be clicked on an those columns turned into a customizable view of a particular account where one could monitor not only their stream of incoming tweets, but also their sent tweets, mentions, replies, and re-tweets.

The feature of Hootsuite that I used most often was the ability to schedule tweets for a future time. That coupled with being able to manage multiple Twitter user accounts at the same time meant that I could create a useful, consistent Twitter stream for followers in such a way that there were three tweets per day spread over that day’s time, rather than three tweets back to back.

Paring up HootSuite with automatic tweets from WordPress made me a consistent enough presence on Twitter to build up a small but worthwhile group of Twitter followers.

We interrupt this post for a gratuitous link about Citibank reward catalog point redemptions.

(As a freelance writer I not only have to work on paying projects, but I also have to make and receive calls, take occasional meetings, and the like. I don’t have the ability to sit around tweeting all day just to ensure maximum social networking value. I can only imagine that people with more structured jobs and lives have even less ability to do the same.)

Today, when I went to HootSuite, it offered a HootSuite Pro upgrade.

I’ve seen this before. An online service moves from free to a free plus a premium offering so that they can make money without eviscerating their user base, which by and large, exists almost solely because the offering is free. I certainly do not care about Twitter enough to pay for a service to manage it.

Unfortunately, when I clicked on the link to stay free, I was informed that free accounts cannot be used to manage as many "social streams" as I am currently setup to use on HootSuite. We aren’t talking about 50 users or streams or anything, it’s only eight or nine. Nonetheless, the maximum social networks you can manage in the free version is five.

The Pro version costs $5.99 per month, or almost $72 per year. There are mission critical services and products I use that don’t charge that much.

In reality, I don’t use most of what HootSuite offers. I don’t have any "team members" and other than the convenience of being able to schedule tweets for Twitter accounts for multiple websites, I don’t even need HootSuite.

What makes me bummed about the whole thing is that I really like how HootSuite started, grew its features, and upgraded. When there were some users who wished that re-tweeting could be done the old way after an upgrade was released, the company responded quickly with a way to do just that. I like that kind of user focus.

Unfortunately, there is no way I can justify that kind of monthly expense for what I use HootSuite for, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. Chances are that HootSuite has set the bar between free and pro a little too low here and may be killing off a big chunk of its following. The one thing the company may have not taken into account fully when coming up with this new business strategy is the number of other services and applications, which while not exactly the same, do enough of what HootSuite does to be considered comparable by most users.

I’ll be heading over to MakeUseOf.com or LifeHacker.com later today to find out which Twitter management platforms to test out next and be migrating to the winner in the near future.

Good luck HootSuite. I hope you get bought out soon, because I’m not sure what the other long-term viable business strategy is after this move.

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