HootSuite has carved out a position as a popular way for businesses to manage their social media profiles on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but in its quest to become more of a one-stop “dashboard” for all social media interactions, it is adding a new feature: Conversations, an integrated, real-time messaging service, which goes live today and is available in a beta version for all three tiers of HootSuite’s 5-million user customer base — free, Pro and Enterprise.
HootSuite says that it is the first social media management system to offer an integrated, real-time instant messaging service — although companies like Salesforce, with its Chatter messaging service — may have some issues with that claim.
Conversations, HootSuite says, is built on top of its Teams product, which lets businesses divide up their HootSuite account holders into different product/operational groups to better respond to interactions. This makes sense — building it to allow for interactions within and between teams will make the product far more useful than if it was an unrestricted river of information, a la Twitter.
“Conversations is built on top of HootSuite Teams which helps visualize the organizational structure of work groups in your business. Conversations will increase efficiency between teams or departments and ultimately improve ROI,” said Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite in a statement.
Conversations will not let HootSuite users bring in outside consumers into its chat forum (yet?) but it will mean that those who do use HootSuite will be able to quickly confer with colleagues, within the dashboard and not needing to resort to another app, to get answers on how to, say, respond to a customer’s tweet, or work on “approved messaging.”
(I write “yet” because from what I understand Holmes and HootSuite have big ambitions to keep growing the product and expanding the whole dashboard functionality even more. That includes integrating more social media platforms to engage in and monitor (recent additions include Instagram, for example) but also more functionality. The recent purchase of Seesmic will add new users to the platform to help build up the scale of that operation.)
Because HootSuite realizes that there are already probably a number of other IM solutions being used by HootSuiters already, it will need to make it easy for people to adopt this: from today users can import contacts from Google and Yahoo address books. But integration with Skype and MSN — two other popular IM tools — are not available at launch.
And this is how it looks. As you can see, those who monitor HootSuite for interactions with users/consumers can instantly select particular tweets/posts/status updates and send them directly to a real-time conversation.
And from the Conversations app, users can discuss that content, or something completely different. Then, users can create a piece of content within Conversations and then directly post it to a social network.