A while back – we’re talking months at the very least – a friend of mine (Podcast Answerman extraordinaire – Cliff Ravenscraft) introduced me to a wonderful social media tool: HootSuite.  It changed my life, really.  I had been on Twitter for a while and had just started to understand how to use Twitter as a social media connection & relationship building tool.  Because I am engaged in various ventures, that meant more than one Twitter account.  “HootSuite,” says my friend, “is the BEST way to handle all of these accounts.  PLUS, you can do it on your computer or your iPhone.”  I tried it out and I was INSTANTLY hooked.

I’ve been using it now, as I said, several months and couldn’t be happier.  I have columns for all of the various bits of  information that I might want.  I have my different accounts all easily accessible in a tab at the top.  It’s been really the best tool!  To top it all of, it was FREE!!!

Until now…

HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes announced today that HootSuite was instituting something called “Freemium” plans. (Catchy name, if I do say so myself.)  The basic idea is this:  HootSuite has instituted several tiers of plans, four paid and one free.  They break down like this:

  • Platinum – $99.99/month.  Unlimited social networks, unlimited RSS feeds with up to 8 team members.  This tier is ad-free, with priority support, enhanced stats and the option (for an additional $45/month) for brand URL’s.
  • Gold – $49.99/month.  Same as the Platinum tier, but with no Brand URL option and an allowance for only 4 team members.
  • Silver – $19.99/month.  Same as the Platinum & Gold tiers, but no enhanced stats or Brand URL’s, and an allowance for only 1 additional team member.
  • Bronze – (Here’s where things get significantly different)  $4.99/month.  HootSuite still allows for unlimited social networks on this tier, but only 10 RSS feeds.  Additionally, on this tier, no team members are allowed, there is no priority support, no enhanced stats and no Brand URL’s.
  • Free – This tier allows up to five (5) social media networks, and 1 RSS feed.  That’s it.

Here’s the thing: Currently I moderate six (6) different networks.  Only one of those is my “personal” Twitter account.  Every other network is teamed by at least 1 other person.  It’s remarkably frustrating to me that:

Starting today, Wednesday, Aug. 11th, all new customers will be required to select a plan when signing-up. Then, the following week, all current HootSuite users will be asked to choose a package. We’ve created a migration wizard to assist you in choosing the best plan for your needs. – Ryan Holmes email announcement

So, even though I and untold thousands of others have been using HootSuite for months a certain way, now things are going to change.  We can’t even get grandfathered in; and that’s probably what really bugs me.

Back in 2005, I signed on for cellular service with AT&T. (Notice how I don’t hyperlink to them)  I was very happy with them until just a few months ago.  With the advent of the new iPhone 4, AT&T decided they were going to change the rules just a bit too.  Gone were the days of the”mandatory” unlimited data plan.  They were going to institute two new data plans, one of which was HALF THE PRICE of the unlimited data plan!  Upon checking, I realized that I rarely use even half of that data allowance in a given month.  I also found out that AT&T was going to (FINALLY) offer tethering (like every other nation on the planet that sells iPhones).  Here’s the catch: the “Tethering Option” is only available on the $25 data plan (sounds ok so far; after all it’s still less than what I was paying), but it costs and additional $20 dollars.  So what AT&T wants me to do, in order to be able what I should be able to do with my phone in the first place, is pay$15 more than I am paying now while at the same time switching me to a plan that will easily put me over the alloted data allowance that plan offers.

“James, you make no sense!!!”

Let me connect the dots.

I feel like I have been the victim of the old “Bait-and-Switch.”  I loved AT&T and never had a bad thing to say about them until June when they decided – in my opinion, it was because they have the market on iPhones (thank GOD for the recent DMCA ruling) – to totally change the rules in the middle of the game.  And I feel like the guys at HootSuite are doing the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a question of wanting to get something for free (even though that’s the way the tool was introduced).  HootSuite is introducing ads.  I can live with that (I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m guessing I can).  And I absolutely believe that they should be financially compensated for offering something different to new users.  I’ll go even further and say that I absolutely endorse and recommend HootSuite to people and companies who are managing multiple social media strategies.  Moreover, if your work garners you $150.00 extra a month to pay for the Platinum tier and you think it will effectively accomplish your goals, GET IT!!!

But, Ryan, seriously, my networks aren’t garnering even the $5 extra (read: EXTRA) a month that allows me to justify paying this.  In our current economy and in my family’s current financial situation we have to make every dollar count. (And, honestly, even if I made thousands upon thousands of dollars a week, I believe the responsibility is that same; I just don’t want to be misunderstood).  I probably wouldn’t be as upset about this (I’d still be upset, just not AS upset) if I hadn’t had to deal with AT&T earlier this summer.

You know, when I was a kid it was not uncommon to have a game that lasted all summer and we changed the rules every time somebody turned around and we had a blast doing it.

We’re not kids anymore.

Disclaimer: It was not my intention to misrepresent HootSuite, AT&T, Twitter or the forces of good & evil in the universe.  Please double check my claims with regards to cost with AT&T and/or HootsSuite.  Also, Ryan Holmes, you have created a great and wonderful product.

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