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How to get the most out of Hootsuite

8 min read

Brands & Campaigns

One of the most common challenges I see my clients coming up against in social media marketing is a lack of time and focus. Hootsuite can make the management of Twitter more efficient and more effective; here, I’ll explain how you can get more out of it through the use of streams and custom searches. Everything I’ll describe is in the free version of Hootsuite.

Set up streams for easier, more efficient Twitter monitoring

Hootsuite’s streams are your secret weapon for more effective Twitter monitoring. By setting up streams within your Hootsuite dashboard, you can filter through the mass of information on Twitter and get to what you need, quickly.

There are a selection of streams that should be standard, these being the home stream (pulls the Twitter home feed), mentions stream (every time someone mentions your Twitter handle), messages inbox stream (to show DMs) and the retweets stream (shows your tweets retweeted).

There are a number of custom streams I also recommend setting up to supercharge your Twitter monitoring. These streams will enable you to monitor what people are saying about your brand when not using your Twitter handle, to spot potential customers and engage in relevant conversations, and to use Twitter as a PR tool too.

Custom brand search stream. The first custom stream I recommend you set up is to show you every time someone mentions your brand name, without using your Twitter handle. So people might talk about Impression, but without writing @impressiontalk.

To set this up, select “add stream” and choose “search” in the tabs at the top:

Here, select the profile you want to set up the stream for, and enter your search query into the box.

Your search query can (and should) include search modifiers, which you may be familiar with from advanced searches on Google. These modifiers allow you to specify things such as when the search should display results which must include multiple phrases, or which could include a number of different phrases. For example, I’ve set up a custom brand search stream to show me instances of people mentioning Impression, and I’ve asked the stream to show me variations on our brand name. Here’s what I’ve entered into the search query box:

“Impression” OR “Impression Digital” OR “Impression Digital Limited” OR “Impression Digital Ltd” OR “Impression Agency” OR “Aaron Dicks”

You’ll notice here that I’ve included “Impression Agency,” which was our URL when the agency first launched, and also the name of our MD Aaron. You too can set up a custom search for people mentioning your brand name and its variations, as well as key names within your team.

This stream lets me see what people are saying about us and about Aaron, all in one easy to access place. Now I can respond, retweet and follow those users straight from my Hootsuite dashboard.

Custom product or service search stream. You can use the same method to set up a stream which searches for people mentioning your products or services. This will enable you to identify people who are seeking to buy your product or service, sharing opinions about it, looking for advice on it and so on. Your job is then to respond to them in the most appropriate way, be it to answer their question or contact them with a view to quoting for their custom.

I work for a digital marketing agency, so I’ve set up a custom search which looks like this: “Digital marketing” OR “SEO” OR “PPC” OR “online marketing” OR “ecommerce” OR “content marketing” OR “digital PR”

You can see that I’ve included a number of our services in this search, but I could easily set up a different search for each service if I preferred.

Often, these searches will bring up a lot of results. If you’d like to refine it further, you might add a location caveat into the search – particularly useful if you only provide your services in a certain area. For example: “Plumber” OR “plumbing service” OR “plumbers” AND “Nottingham” OR “Notts”

In this example, I’ve used the modifier AND to specify that the results must include the terms “plumber,” “plumbing service” or “plumbers” as well as either “Nottingham” or “Notts.”

One example of this done really well was a coffee shop that set up a search for “coffee” and their local area. In one particularly successful PR stunt, they were able to identify a woman who had tweeted about her nightmare day and need for a good coffee, and respond to her offering her a reserved seat and a free coffee to help her relax. The story of their generosity generated far more in PR value than the free coffee cost them, and they exemplified great ‘social listening’ at the same time.

And that’s what these streams are all about — social listening. It’s about being really tuned in to what your target audience and customers are saying, so you can appeal to them in the most appropriate and valuable ways. It’s about generating new custom and revenue by working more efficiently on Twitter.

Hootsuite as a PR tool

Hootsuite isn’t only great for social listening. You can also use it as a PR tool, thanks to the array of hashtags used by PR professionals and the availability of their Twitter handles.

Finding new PR opportunities with a hashtag search. There are likely to be various hashtags used by journalists in your industry as they seek to identify commenters and contributors via this real-time, constantly updates platform. Have a look around and see if you can find any hashtags specific to you.

There are also more general hashtags used by journalists across all industries. Two common hashtags are:

  • #journorequest
  • #prrequest

If you conducted a search for these hashtags now, you’ll see lots of tweets coming through all through the day from journalists and PR professionals seeking stories and contributions.

Using the technique described above, you can set up a custom search stream to search for: #journorequest OR #prrequest

This will now deliver a stream of journalist requests straight to your dashboard. You can also modify this further to refine the stream some more. I have a client who rents out holiday cottages in the New Forest, so I have set up a hashtag search for them which looks like this:

#journorequest OR #prrequest AND “new forest” OR “holiday cottage” OR “holiday cottages” OR “travel”

This will deliver me opportunities to contribute to relevant journalist requests.

Follow local and industry specific journalists. You can also set up a stream where you search for journalists’ Twitter handles, if you know them. You’ll find that journalists are quite willing to share their Twitter details these days, so have a look on most newspaper sites where the journalists’ Twitter profiles are shown, or in Twitter lists.

You can then set up a stream to show you the tweets from those journalists, by setting up a search for their handles. This gives you the opportunity to see what they’re talking about, which can help you gauge the stories they’ll be interested in from you. You can also see when they request contributors or stories, and even tweet them directly if you have a story you think they’ll be interested in.


As well as streams, another huge benefit to using Hootsuite is the ability to schedule tweets to run throughout the day/week, so you don’t have to be there every time you want to tweet.

Hootsuite’s simple scheduling tool allows you to schedule a tweet for a specific day and time, or to use their “auto schedule” feature which learns over time when your audience is active and thus when the best times to tweet are. The scheduling tool is within the tweet area and looks like this:

Of course, scheduling should be done with caution.

The key to Twitter success lies in conversation, whereby you listen to what your audience are saying and respond accordingly. The danger with scheduling is that you become a broadcaster rather than a conversationalist, simply putting out messages about yourself without ever engaging with the people who follow you. For this reason, be sure to check in to Twitter a couple of times a day to respond to people when they contact you or mention something relevant to you. Your new streams will make this much easier.

In its most extreme, scheduling can even be detrimental to your brand. I had a client once who scheduled a tweet to say what a lovely day it was and encourage people to visit her tourist attraction; when it turned out to be a very rainy and wet day, the tweet was much less effective and inaccurate. That wasn’t the end of the world for the brand – in fact, my client realised her mistake and cancelled the tweet before it ever went out. But Google the phrase “tesco hit the hay” and you’ll see an example of a PR nightmare that came from a mis-timed scheduled tweet…

So there we have it; there are various ways to use Hootsuite to make Twitter management more efficient and more effective, the majority of which are available absolutely free. Give it a try, and if you’d like to ask me any questions or share your experiences, you can do so in the comments below or tweet me @lauralhampton or @impressiontalk.

Laura Hampton is the marketing manager at digital marketing agency Impression.