The owl has done it.
HootSuite is now a paid service—for some at least. At first glance, this will give fits to many users: "I refuse to pay!" Which is fine. HootSuite is determined to keep its services free for 95% of users, targeting only social media professionals and enterprises for its paid services, which will feature additional tools and features.
What to know right now
Starting today, all new customers will be required to select a plan when signing up. Then, next week, all current HootSuite users will be asked to choose a package. HootSuite created a migration wizard to assist you in choosing the best plan for your needs. All customers (aside from Enterprise accounts) will enjoy a 30-day free trial to experiment and discover the benefits and features of the tiered plans. Again, you can still choose a free plan if you don't require advanced options.
So, about these plans...
What's the deal with all this, anyway?
HootSuite is following business models such as Salesforce and Flickr, where regular users deserve free, basic choices, but professional users also deserve advanced options—and charging small, periodical fees secures and stabilizes the company, ensuring users get what they want.
In the case of HootSuite, it's a young company and this is its first real attempt to spread its wings. From here, HootSuite can establish itself a real competitor in the social media tool market, and use its revenue streams to develop considerably more superior tools down the line than if it were to always remain free.
It's become a rule of the internet that online-only tools, especially apps, need to be free. But if software developers don't generate income, they can't progress or innovate. A dollar will get you access to advanced tools today, but it will also pave the way for even better tools tomorrow.
And if you really don't agree with any of the above, then remember—HootSuite is still free!
Editors Note: At the time of this writing, HootSuite has not yet publicly launched the webpages which detail the specifics of the paid plans. Check back here or on their site for updates.