We first discussed Hootsuite’s new account models and forced advertisement here and updated the post here. Since then, Hootsuite users who hadn’t been yet rolled over to the new model, reported some confusion about what they can and cannot do with their current (free) account.
Yesterday, Dave from Hoosuite provided an official and thoughtful explanation in the comments to our previous post.
“Basic (free) plan holders cannot disable the Promoted Tweets, however Pro plan holders are able to opt-out using the process you described above.
The confusion likely came from the HootSuite users who were onboard before the Freemium plans went into effect in August. While we were migrating these customers to the freemium plans, this subset of users were temporarily able to opt-out.”
So. What does this mean to users? We’re basically back to square one. Basic plan users will see a stripped down version of what they’ve become accustomed to: no statistics, no added users, and—no ability to opt out of spam rolling into their feed by random users. Only pro account users (at $5.95/month, or roughly $72/year) will be able to keep the features they’ve been using until now and have the option to opt out of getting those pesky promoted tweets popping up.
This is a risky step for Hootsuite.
1. Hootsuite’s strategy is akin to forcing people to take off their clothes and charging them to put them back on. No one wants to stand in their underwear. This change may be just annoying enough that if another service (Seesmic, Twitter, Co-Tweet, other) offers similar features, we’re likely to see a migration. To use a business term: the cost of switching is just low enough that there’s no real barrier.
2. There are many other ways for Hootsuite to make money—some of which I discussed in my earlier post. They include charging for the iPhone and iPad apps, strategic partnerships, etc.
3. We’ve all become used to ads and commercials. Hulu, for example, has become the king of fine-commercial-experience by deeply focusing on the user experience. Forcing users to see those pesky promoted tweets in their feed (read: in perceived personal space), by random people (read: can’t filter my feed even if I try to)—is far from being user focused and, as we’ve said before, demonstrate Hootsuite doesn’t understand today’s user psychology. Far from it.
On the upside, Hootsuite should be commanded for its bold move. It has agreed to experiment with sponsored ads on its users and has challenged the perception of social media being free. This could be a market shifting step.
It remains to be seen what Hootsuite users will do if and when a substitute solution that offers the same ease of use and same features, gets sufficient buzz. I, for one, am planning to test out different options once my 7 days “pay or strip down” period runs out.