Sunday, January 22, 2012

The popular social media management application CoTweet will no longer exist after Feb. 15, but we’ve found 7 free or low-cost alternatives that’ll take its place.

What happened to the free Co-Tweet? The service’s parent company, ExactTarget, announced in a blog post this week that it will soon re-christen CoTweet as SocialEngage  a premium-only service the company says will feature enhanced integration and marketing powers. The free version will be gone forever.

CoTweet was a hit with Twitter users, and many consumers of the free option are unhappy. A long string of comments following that ExactTarget blog post showed displeasure at the company for the abrupt move and its opaque pricing information. ExactTarget has not publicly said what it will charge to use SocialEngage, instead inviting former CoTweet users to make direct contact for more details. Existing CoTweet users can also test drive a free trial of SocialEngage until the end of February.

Margaret Francis, ExactTarget’s vice president of social products, declined to elaborate on pricing information in a recent interview with Mashable, beyond that there will varying costs for different levels of service. She said the free CoTweet was scrapped so that ExactTarget could “put all of our resources” behind SocialEngage, and that many of the company’s larger clients are happy about the switch.

Fans and users of the free CoTweet, meanwhile, are left weighing whether to open their wallets for SocialEngage or look elsewhere for other free alternatives. Managers of social media campaigns for tiny companies or non-business clients likely won’t be willing or able to afford an upgrade. User David Beronja captured the mood of many when he posted this comment in response to the ExactTarget blog entry: “Been using cotweet for a long time. Good bye it was nice while it lasted. Time to find something else.”
But what might that something else be?

Here, Mashable offers seven free or low-cost alternatives to SocialEngage. Some offer the full range of scheduling, monitoring and engagement capabilities while others specialize in one or two. (Existing CoTweet users can also test drive a free trial of SocialEngage until the end of February.)

 1. HootSuite

The popular HootSuite dashboard allows teams to monitor conversations and track the success of campaigns. Its free ad-supported option can be used for up to five social profiles and Pro version costs just $6 per month.

2. TweetDeck

This free app was bought by Twitter last year and is another favorite of social media managers and enthusiasts. Its organized columns, scheduling features and filtering capabilities give users a wealth of options.

3. Seesmic

Seesmic is free with ads and offers web, desktop and Android applications providing a range of capabilities. Options for iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone 7 are on the way too.

4. Involver

Monthly pricing for Involver reaches into the four figures but the service offers a capable and free basic version as well. The company claims more than 700,000 brands as clients and is particularly useful for people seeking to manage their Facebook presence.

5. Sprout Social

SproutSocial integrates with a number of networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare. It doesn't have a free option, but does offer a Pro version that supports up to 10 profiles for $9 per month.

6. Buffer

Buffer doesn't offer CoTweet's full range of capabilities, but it does allow users to schedule tweets and supports both Twitter and Facebook accounts. For $10 per month, users can upgrade to support an additional team member and up to five social accounts.

7. GroupTweet

Like Buffer, GroupTweet doesn't tackle the entire range of capabilities covered by the now-departing free version of CoTweet, but it does allow an unlimited number of team members to tweet from one account for free. Its premium version adds a few more features including custom filters for just $5 per month.