How To Get Started on Hootsuite – A Guide For Non-Profits & Social Entrepreneurs

A key part of ensuring that your organization’s message and mission reaches as many people as possible, is to make sure you’re active on multiple social networks.

But with so many out there, how do you, the busy changemaker with limited resources, manage all your accounts easily enough to stay sane?

One of the best tools out there to help streamline your social media updating efforts is Hootsuite. You’ll be able to manage your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, WordPress, Instagram and MailChimp accounts (and more!) all in one place. It’ll even allow you to schedule posts ahead of time, and it comes with great tools to help you find your target audience amongst millions of users.

Here’s a guide to help you get started on Hootsuite:

1. Get Your Free Account.

Sign up on the right.

Hootsuite Home Page at

Hootsuite Home Page at

2. Connect Your Social Networks.

You can start by linking your Twitter and Facebook accounts first.

Connect your existing social media accounts to Hootsuite

Connect your existing social media accounts to Hootsuite

3. Begin setting up your Hootsuite dashboard.

You’ll see the welcome message below. Let’s click on “get started”.

Hootsuite's welcome message

Hootsuite’s welcome message

4. Add your first few streams.

Streams allow you to filter different types of social media activity into neat rows, so you stay organized. Hootsuite gives you several choices for what kind of activity you might want to see in a stream. Here’s a quick explanation for each option for Twitter and Facebook Pages:

Twitter Options

  • Home – See tweets from every Twitter account that you follow.
  • Mentions – See tweets that have your Twitter handle mentioned. This usually happens when someone wants to get your attention to see their tweet.
  • Retweets – If someone enjoys your tweet, he/she can choose to share or “Retweet” it to his or her followers. This expands the reach for your original tweet. This stream will show you all of your tweets that have been re-tweeted by others.
  • DM inbox – See private messages that other twitter users have sent you. These messages will not be seen by anybody else.
  • Lists – Twitter allows you to create a list of twitter users (or Tweeps) so you can easily monitor all their activity. For example, you may want to create a list of all your volunteers, or of journalists who write about topics related to your organization, or of notable experts in your field. Choosing a stream for your list will let you see all tweets by users you’ve added to your twitter list.
  • Favorites – See all tweets that you have marked as a “favorite”. You can mark tweets as favorites by clicking on the “star icon” next to the tweet.
  • DM outbox – See private messages that you have sent to other Tweeps.
  • Sent – See all your previously sent tweets. Great way to monitor the date, time and content of your previous tweets.
  • Search – See the search results of a particular word you want to track on Twitter. For example, if you are attending the Awesome Conference 2013, where their publicized hashtag is #ACon2013, and you want to connect with other participants and keep up with all tweets related to the conference, you can search for “#ACon2013” and have all the results appear in that stream.
  • Scheduled – See all your pending tweets that you’ve set exact future dates/times for publishing. Great way to double-check content before they go live.
Choices for Twitter Activities to Show in your Hootsuite Stream

Choices for Twitter Activities to Show in your Hootsuite Stream

Facebook Page Options

  • Wall Posts – See all posts by you or others on your Facebook Page Timeline
  • Events – See all Facebook Events related to your Facebook Page
  • Messages – See all messages sent through your Facebook Page
  • Search – See the search results of a particular word you want to track on Facebook. For example, if your organization is interested in Animal Rights, you may want to track all mentions of “Dog Shelter” anywhere on Facebook.
  • Scheduled – See all your pending posts that you’ve set exact future dates/times for publishing onto your Facebook Page.
Stream Options for Facebook Pages

Choices for Facebook Page Activities to Show in your Hootsuite Stream


5. Add More Tabs (optional)

Streams can be grouped and organized into tabs. By default, your first streams will appear in a tab called “my first tab” (you can re-name this later).

If you have many streams that you want to group together into different tabs, Hootsuite lets you do so easily. For example, you could have one tab for “volunteers & staff”, one tab for “fundraising & development”, and one tab for “media and press”. Click on the “plus sign icon” next to your existing tab to create a new one.

6. Set up Keyword Tracking streams.

One of the beautiful functions of Hootsuite is the ability to track keyword mentions in the Twitterspehere. For example, if your organization is all about education issues, you can have a Hootsuite stream track every mention of the keyword “education reform” in any tweet by anyone, regardless of whether or not you follow the person who tweeted it.

First, click on the “Add Stream” button on the top left, just under your tab. Then click on “keyword”, choose your Twitter profile, and enter up to 3 keywords to track in that stream. Click “add” after entering each keyword or phrase. Then when you’re done adding keywords, click “Add Stream”.

Setting up keyword tracking streams on Hootsuite

Setting up keyword tracking streams on Hootsuite

Once you’ve added the stream, it’ll look like this:

Keyword Tracking for Education Reform on Hootsuite

Keyword Tracking for Education Reform on Hootsuite

7. Compose Your First Tweet/Post.

It’s your time to shine! Offer a useful resource, or helpful information. Add a link for further engagement, and a hashtag to help other Tweeps find your tweet more easily. Choose which social network you want to post from. If you’d like to post to more than one platform at a time, just select each of them from the list.

screenshot of hootsuite, choosing social network

Compose your tweet, and pick the social media networks you want to post it to.

What are those icons just above the “send now button”?

  • Paperclip – Allows you to attach an image or a file to your post. Once uploaded, hootsuite automatically adds a link to your post, so others can click to view.
  • Calendar – Allows you to schedule messages ahead of time. More on this next.
  • Pointer Icon – Allow Hootsuite to include the city from where you are posting.
  • Lock – If one of your selected networks is Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn, you may tweak your post’s privacy settings here. For example, Facebook allows you to decide if you’d like to make your post public, viewable only to friends, or viewable to friends of friends as well.

Four Options in Hootsuite


8. Plan Out a Few More Posts and Schedule Them Ahead of Time.

One of the ways to be more efficient on social media is to plan some of your posts in advance, and schedule them all at once. To schedule a post in advance, click on the calendar icon to reveal more options. Here, you can choose to let Hootsuite automatically schedule your post for you, or choose to customize it manually yourself if you want greater control. Based on the calendar, pick a date and a time. When you’re done, click “Schedule”.

Message Scheduler in Hootsuite

Schedule a few posts in advance to save you time.

Go Forth and Engage Your Audience!

I hope you found this guide useful in helping you get started on Hootsuite, and streamlining your efforts in managing multiple social media networks!

What other strategies do you have for managing multiple accounts? I’d love to hear your response in the comments section below!

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5 Responses to “How To Get Started on Hootsuite – A Guide For Non-Profits & Social Entrepreneurs”

  1. Connor from HootSuite November 8, 2013 at 12:19 am // Reply

    Wow such a great and in-depth article on getting started with HootSuite! There’s certainly a ton of opportunity for non-profits to leverage social to reach communities and better tell their story.

    I’ll be bookmarking this and sharing it with non-profits I come across in the future!

    Thanks for the kind words about HootSuite!

    -Connor from HootSuite


    • Shuling Yong November 8, 2013 at 1:26 am // Reply

      Thanks, Connor! It’s so great to see folks from HootSuite really engaging with the community. I appreciate the excellent work you guys do, and am so glad I was introduced to HootSuite years ago by the good people at Kartemquin Films.

      Crazy idea. I’m working on getting the Media For Social Change podcast off the ground and would love to really dig deeper into how non-profits and social entrepreneurs can use HootSuite, and discuss in detail any particularly remarkable results you’ve seen so far. Think someone from HootSuite would be open for a chat? 🙂



      • Connor from HootSuite November 8, 2013 at 4:53 pm // Reply

        Ya I would love to chat some more about how social good and non-profits can leverage HootSuite and Social. Shoot me an email:


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