Articles for July 2012

Battle of the Birdies: HootSuite vs. Tweetbot

HootSuite vs. TweetbotOnce upon a time, I wouldn’t have let anyone say a bad word about HootSuite. As someone who needed to manage multiple Twitter accounts and didn’t want to keep signing in and out of Twitter.com, it was perfect. I’d tried TweetDeck but found that I preferred HootSuite (incidentally, it seems to be a bit of a Marmite thing: I know some people who are the opposite and who love TweetDeck and hate HootSuite – each to their own, I suppose)!

The best thing about HootSuite? It’s free! Sure, there’s a PRO version available, but the free version is plenty handy. I recommended it to quite a few people I know, who also seemed to find it very useful.

(I also adore HootSuite’s branding. I LOVE that owl, and the fact that they have so many different versions of it, which they even use for Twitter. In doing a bit of research for this article, I discovered that there are even Plush Owly’s, which are OMGsoawesome, but I digress…)

However, recently their iOS updates (for the iPhone and iPad) have had a few issues: updates intended to fix various bugs would themselves have a few bugs in them. I have also come across an error message (I think it’s called the “NSURE” error or something?) that won’t allow you to send a tweet. It used to give you the option to retry, which would allow you to at least copy and paste the content of the tweet to repost elsewhere, but recently it won’t even let you do that, meaning that you risk losing the tweet’s content altogether and have to retype it again elsewhere!

Frustrated, my buddy @Nonentity of yourleft.net recommended Tweetbot. Given my frugal ways, my immediate scepticism kicked it: it’s a paid app. When I hear that something’s paid (when it has free alternatives), I react pretty much the same way Napoleon does in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (watch from the 1:05 mark).

“PAY?!”

However, I decided to give it a try for the iPhone (£1.99 or $2.99 as I type this) and do you know what? Worth. Every. Penny.

Here are my favourite things about Tweetbot:

(Note: I imagine most people reading this might be HootSuite users who are considering Tweetbot, so I’ll assume that you know how HootSuite works and therefore mostly focus on Tweetbot’s features.)

Layout changes for other people’s tweets vs. your tweets

Tweetbot iPhone screenshot 1(Click to see a larger version)

As you can see from the screenshot, when viewing your main Home Feed, your tweets are presented differently, with your image on the right instead of the left. I thought this was a nice touch, making it easier to differentiate between people’s tweets, especially when you’re trying to catch up and you have been a bit busy with the tweets and/or @mentions yourself.

HootSuite users will know that HS does something similar, by changing the tweet background colours (yellow for your tweets; green for @mentions), but I personally feel that Tweetbot’s solution looks neater while still making it obvious to the user whose tweets are whose.

Thumbnail previews for pictures and videos

Tweetbot iPhone screenshot 2

I also like the fact that pictures and videos show thumbnails alongside the tweets, so that you can glance at their content without having to see the tweets’ details. In HootSuite, one would have to click onto the tweet to see a preview and then the link again to see it fully, adding an additional click (or tap) for the user.

Note: So far I have noticed that HootSuite doesn’t necessarily preview pic.twitter.com images (Twitter.com’s uploaded images – probably a conspiracy)! However, unfortunately Tweetbot isn’t exactly perfect, as it doesn’t preview ow.ly images (HootSuite’s uploaded images – probably also a conspiracy)!

Receive notifications of new @mentions or DMs

Tweetbot iPhone screenshot 3

Although HootSuite is meant to do this (showing a number corresponding to the number of unread tweets next to each row on the main Streams page), it never seems to work for me.

Tweetbot highlights the bottom buttons blue if there are new tweets, which also applies if you’ve received new @mentions and DMs. Very handy, particularly if you’ve disabled email notifications and do not receive any other type of alert or notification when someone tweets you directly.

Customise the bottom buttons

I also like the fact that some of the buttons at the bottom can be customised. The last 2 (out of 5) can be changed if tapped and held, and then another feature can be shown instead.

For example, instead of my profile…

Tweetbot iPhone screenshot 4

…I could change it to my Favourites instead…

Tweetbot iPhone screenshot 5

Admittedly, you can do this in HootSuite as well, but you either have to navigate back to the Streams page or flick left or right, which I find to be a bit more clunky, if that makes sense.

Downsides?

Tweetbot’s downsides are few and far between. The only potential issue I’ve come across so far – which is probably a case of me being silly than anything wrong with the app – is that when I tried to upload an image, it didn’t then show the shortened URL for the image (like it does in HootSuite), so I was concerned that it might send the tweet without the image link. A bit confusing, but I’m sure it’s fine – I’ll have to give it a go sometimes and see what happens.

So I guess this post was more of a review of Tweetbot than a full-on comparison between the two, but as a long-time user and advocate HootSuite, I was pleasantly surprised with Tweetbot. So much so, that I recently purchased it for the iPad.

Now if you don’t mind, I have an iPad version of Tweetbot to play with…

[Image credits: HootSuite and Tweetbot logos courtesy of their respective Twitter profiles: @hootsuite and @tweetbot]

Rant: Guest Blogging is NOT Article Marketing 2.0

SEO Spinning TopGuest blogging is possibly one of my favourite offsite SEO strategies. There’s tons of benefits in doing it and it’s (mainly) good, honest, ethical work. It’s certainly not an easy link building strategy (but then again, these days, link building shouldn’t be), but in my opinion, it’s worth it.

It seems as though the SEO world has ‘woken up’ to guest blogging this past year or so. Obviously there are those who have being doing it for longer or who have always carried it out, but now it’s considered a typical and popular strategy. Unfortunately though, when something gains popularity, there will be those who taint it – they’ll try to be lazy, cheat the system and automate it if they can.

A few industry peers have shared some of their guest blogging nightmares, from the perspective of the blogger accepting content. Mike King of iPullRank has shared an example of some low-quality spun content he was offered, while more recently, Mike Essex of Koozai has shared examples of some of the terrible outreach he has received, claiming that “around 80% of the guest blog requests [he] received went straight in the bin.”

Of course, the authors are not the only ones to blame. While some of those wanting links will try to do it in the easiest way possible, some of those giving the links will take advantage of the opportunity – and attempt to profit from it.

At my previous job, we tried to do a lot of guest blogging, not only on behalf of our clients but on behalf of ourselves as well. I first started guest blogging over a year ago (early-ish 2011). Back then, with one client, I didn’t have a single blog come back to me and say “actually, we only accept posts if you pay us as well.” For a later client, a couple of weeks ago, the 80/20 rule kicked in: in one industry, about 80% of the people I approached asked for payment in addition to the post that they were receiving for free. As I said earlier, I do wonder if the difference between the two times was not because of the types of industries (although it could’ve been a factor), but because people are getting wise to guest blogging, especially recently. After all, why give away something for free (i.e. a link from your blog) if you could make money from it?

A few weeks ago, I resorted to Twitter (as always!) to let off some steam:

Perhaps an overreaction (hah)! Anyway, a friend of mine @replied to me, giving his thoughts:

While I do see his point, and guest bloggers should be grateful for the exposure (even at a cost beyond the time it has taken to write the content and conduct the outreach), my concern is that the overall quality of guest blog posts – and therefore guest blogging as a practice as a whole – could be affected.

I’d argue that if someone is not charging money to receive guest blogs then quality will be an extremely important factor. They’ll only want good quality content and dismiss poor content and poor outreach (similar to the two Mikes I mentioned above). However, if someone says “pay me £100 and I’ll publish it,” is quality really going to be that big a concern to them? After all, for people who are that way inclined, if they had to choose an excellent post for free or a mediocre post that also earns them a tidy £100, which one would they choose?

Spam Gift SetAnd this is the problem. Guest blogging will become tainted and ultimately lose its shine and its value. Similar to infographics, which are a current concern due to the abuse they’ve been receiving in an attempt to get links. In an ideal guest blogging utopia, guest blogging is about offering good content for free, which is hosted and published for free. Everyone wins – the blog owner gets good content for free and for his/her troubles, the link builder gets a link. But when a spammer approaches a blog that accepts payment and may or may not give a crap about the quality of the content it receives, then we have a problem.

Unfortunately, guest blogging is becoming Article Marketing 2.0. Lazier, spammier SEOs think they can just send someone a spun article, give them a few quid and happy days. Instead of an article directory or a ‘fake’ blog network, the content is going on a more ‘legit’ blog (even if it’s not really more legit, but just looks that way), so the spammer gets the added benefit of looking less spammy, too.

I know it’s not something anyone can do about it, and that unfortunately this stuff happens. It’s the way it is. When something gets abused, it devalues the process for everyone, even for those who were playing nice and doing things properly.

But sometimes it’s good just to let off some steam, even if it’s just a few hundred words in a blog post.

Rant over.

[Image credits: “SEO” spinning top: Todd Hall (note: it actually says “SEQ,” but that “Q” looks so much like an “O,” don’t you think?); spam gift set: Seoulful Adventures]

#SMsceptic: Companies, Stop Giving Away iPads!

Facebook Meh imageA month or so ago, I was at Hollywood Bowl in Cardiff Bay with the BNI Quinnell guys (back when I was still a member of the group) for a social event outside of our weekly morning meetings.

In addition to the screens above the lanes that were playing all sorts of music videos, there were a few screens with the occasional marketing message: food offers, game offers, etc. At one point, they flashed up information regarding their Facebook Page, with the following statement:

“Like us on Facebook and you could win an iPad!”

Bowling balls imageAck! I remember moaning to one of the other BNI Quinnell guys – also a marketer – about how it’s always, always, always a bloody iPad! Poor guy just wanted to bowl but there I was, ranting away…!

My issue isn’t with the strategy being implemented, but with the prize being offered. It’s not because I have anything against Apple (hell, I own an iPad and I love it)! I just find it frustrating that so many companies lean on giving away an iPad because – in my opinion – it’s a completely wasted opportunity!

Why not give away something relevant to your business instead? Hollywood Bowl could’ve given away a custom bowling ball or custom team bowling shirts. In addition to being a bit more original than giving away a product that every other company is currently giving away, a relevant product would complement your own products/services. For example, if someone won a bowling ball or bowling shirts, they might decide to then use them at Hollywood Bowl, encouraging return visits and increasing custom. The winner(s) could even share the photos of them using the ball/shirts on HB’s Facebook Page.

Granted, it’s not easy with some industries. I can’t remember who it was now, but I remember a car insurer that was also giving away an iPad. Having worked at an insurance company, I know first-hand that it’s not easy giving away free insurance as a prize, due to the trickiness surrounding the pricing (after all, what if the person who wins is expensive to insure?) and it’s also probably against FSA guidelines anyway. But even so… what about a car? If that’s too expensive (although the PR involved could be worth it!), then what about something that could go towards car maintenance (e.g. a Halfords or Kwik-Fit voucher), or a personalised number plate, or even go kart racing vouchers?!

There’s so much opportunity! Be original. Be relevant. Be fun. And stop giving away bloody iPads…!

[Image credits – Facebook Meh button: Sam Michel; bowling balls: Markus Zavalla]