Hootsuite for iPhone

With the proliferation of social services one feels almost compelled to update on an ongoing basis, there’s still not one effective and efficient way to update them all from one place.

There’s 3 categories of stuff I want to do, and I want to be able to do it from anywhere. Several apps come close. Nobody’s quite nailed it yet, but I figure it’s a matter of time. The categories:

  • Geo – Appending geo specific info and/or checking in w/Geo services like Foursquare, Facebook Places, etc..
  • Media – Appending photos, videos, links, etc. to posts, along w/uploading to social services
  • Content – Simple enough… the text of the updates themselves needs to be authored. Each network may have its unique way of doing it, and a good client should assist in this authoring across networks.

It’s not like this is an exhaustive survey of tools and services. As well, I think some of the limitations I’m experiencing are a result of the limitations of the services themselves. But a use case or two might be instructive. Like I said, I’m sure these features are actively being built, but I just want them now :-).

Use Case – Mobile App
I’m out and about and I stop in at one of the ridiculously decadent cafes in my neighbourhood. At 8 bucks, these pastries are more works of art than food. I pull out my phone. I want to open one app and:

  • Snap a Photo
  • Write Something witty
  • Identify my location
  • Identify anyone with me
  • Upload photo to selected social services, have it appended to an update
  • Check in to decadent cafe on multiple check in services

In my case, I’d want to take the picture, write a caption or activity summary and include links or @names of people with me. Then I’d want to check in at the cafe on Foursquare and Facebook places, upload the photo to twitpic/yfrog or some other photo link service. Then there would be a tweet with a link, something in my Facebook stream and a check-in. Foursquare recently launched a feature allowing picture attachments with checkins. Facebook does not do this yet.

Hootsuite‘s iPhone app is pretty solid for this case. Start by authoring your message, and attach or take a photo. Your photo is then uploaded to the service you’ve set in your settings. You can look up @names of people you follow on twitter to add to the post. Identify your location and the app will check you in on Foursquare and geotag your post on twitter. No photos on Foursquare, but I’m sure they are playing catch up there. It falls down a bit on the Facebook integration. I would figure the default behaviour would be to upload the photo to facebook. But it doesn’t. It just pops the tweet into your stream. There’s no integration of Facebook Places yet either, and since there’s a link in my post, I’d expect the facebook update to contain a thumbnail, but no such luck. I imagine they are trading off not only supplying a quick and easy UX and having to identify too many options, but also dealing with the limitations of Facebook’s platform.

Instagram is a fairly solid app as well as being kind of fun in that it includes some filters to frame and include effects with your photo. It will upload your photo to: Facebook, Posterous, Tumblr and Flickr, update Twitter and Foursquare with your location, and put a link in your tweet to your photo. All this and it updates your photo stream at their own sharing service at Instagram. The downside is only that it you don’t have media to share, you can’t use it to update all your services with the rest of its great functionality.

If you just want to check in to multiple services, you can use check-in aggregator apps such as Gowalla and Footfeed. Given the relative novelty of photo attachments along with posts, neither of these apps integrate with Foursquare’s photo attachments yet, but otherwise do a good job of checking you in at Gowalla, Foursquare, Facebook Places and updating Twitter. If you don’t want to check in, Posterous does a great job of posting media to a pile of services, as well as your own blog.

If this isn’t confusing enough, there’s a bunch of desktop and web clients you can use as well. A great feature of Hootsuite’s web client is customizing how a link is posted to Facebook. You can choose the thumbnail as well as adjust titles and descriptions.


Facebook preview in Hootsuite

Web clients tend to ignore the geolocation info, so on Hootsuite, tweets aren’t geotagged and an update to Foursquare has no location, which is kind of pointless. Demos I have seen of HTML5 geolocation can be frighteningly accurate, so I’d think this would be a feature that should be added on. Especially for home office types who may work in public spaces as well as at client sites and want to check in via laptop, not just their phones.

So, there’s no one app to rule them all, but I think the product guys at these companies would argue that’s by design, and overall a good thing. Hootsuite probably comes the closest to trying to be all things to all people. The other apps are trying to do something specific, and so don’t hit all the points on my use case, because they are trying to be the best they can be at their niche. Instagram is all about pictures and posting them in a fun way to a pile of sites. Posterous aims to be the easiest way to post anything to anywhere. This doesn’t include check-in sites, and that’s OK. The check-in aggregators aim to be the easiest way to check in across multiple networks and are so concerned about media posting, and that’s OK too.

Maybe I’ll just build it myself… :-)