Trust Is Fragile…Wherein Hootsuite Tests Mine

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Hootsuite Hijacks Web Browser

Trust is something that most businesses strive to develop with their customers/users/audience. Readers of  Chris Brogan will know it’s one of his cornerstones and something he’s written extensively about. Trust has to be nurtured and maintained as a value that guides everything you do.When companies gain the trust of their client base it makes for much easier marketing and communication, because you no longer have to prove how awesome you are – your customer already knows. However, this trust shouldn’t be leveraged in questionable ways that take advantage of the customer, nor should it be treated like a bank account from which you can make withdrawals.

For those that don’t know, Hootsuite is a service, with free and paid levels,  that allows you to manage multiple social profiles from one place. It’s a pretty great service that I’ve been using and advocating for several years.

So what has got me all riled up? Well the other evening while browsing the web, I noticed that when I was on a website, I would click on what looked like a link to a Twitter profile, but instead of taking me to Twitter, my Hootsuite dashboard kept opening up . WTF?? I thought perhaps it was just one particular website, but found it happened on other websites too. Not only was it becoming really annoying (I love Hootsuite, but sometimes I want to use Twitter.com) but I began wondering if I might have somehow downloaded some malware that was hijacking my web browser.

Around the same time, I noticed a posting in one of the LinkedIn groups I’m in from Rob Cubbon,a WordPress designer, expressing confusion about the exact same thing. And let me say, both of us are very tech-savvy people, but this had us both confused and a little concerned. I can only imagine how someone not-so-tech-savvy would feel about this.

I eventually realized that the Hootlet Chrome browser extension I use (which lets me quickly Tweet out links while I’m browsing), must have been updated and in doing so, activated WITHOUT MY PERMISSION a secret option that will automatically scan text on a webpage and wherever it sees words prefixed with @ or # (symbols commonly used on Twitter), it would turn them into links that looked like they would take you to Twitter, but that actually took you to Hootsuite. The screenshots below show this in action on Rob’s site (click for full size images).

I’m sure Hootsuite thinks they were being helpful, but it was a really not-smart move and very un-helpful for several reasons:

1) Secretly changing the behaviour of a person’s browser is a no-no because guess what else secretly changes browser behaviour by redirecting links to unexpected places – MALWARE and website HACKS, that’s what! Why would you want your application to act like a spammer or a hacker? Way to seriously freak people out!

2) The way that Hootsuite displays Twitter profiles is not as good as Twitter itself – so why would you change a normal behaviour that is perfectly fine, to something that is worse?

3) If there’s one thing companies can learn from Facebook, it’s that users do not like unnanounced change and sneaky default options. So why would you mimic the behaviour of a company that has no integrity?!?

4) Not ALL text on a website that has a @ or a # is referring to Twitter. In fact, as the screenshots above demonstrate, Rob was seeing it happen on a post he had written in which he is demonstrating code (which also contains @’s and #’s written as plain text, not links) so the behaviour made no sense whatsoever. By the way, check out Rob’s post – it’s a good read on how to make a responsive child theme for WordPress

Eventually I found the option to turn it off this behaviour, but now my opinion of Hootsuite is seriously dinged. Generally I like their product, but this makes me seriously question their judgement and integrity – in fact I’m giving them the side eye as I write this.

If you are having this same problem, you can turn off this option one of two ways. Either right-click on the Hootlet icon itself and click Options, or go to Chrome > Preferences > Extensions and find Hootsuite Hootlet and click Options. Then you will see the ‘off’ switch for the option “Link Twitter status and user profile handles into the HootSuite dashboard.” Phew.

So the moral of the story is that as a business or brand, it can take a while to develop trust, but it may take only one incident to destroy it, so tread carefully. It helps if you are clear on your values as a company (even if your company is you, yourself and you) and you take those into consideration before making any changes or decisions.

So what do you think – would this type of shenanigans give you cause for concern as well?

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This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. @yeshen

    Many thanks for this! Very annoying, nothing worse than apps second-guessing you.

  2. @Kris_Neidecker

    Thanks for this. I was really getting annoyed by the constant redirecting to HootSuite all of the sudden.

    #1 rule of software design, folks, never do stuff that changes user experience without asking. I am willing to assume this is an oversight, but it does make me wonder.

  3. Jennifer

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting this. I installed the Hootlet extension not long ago and the constant opening in Hootsuite has been driving me nuts.

  4. Doug Lehman

    Thank you for sharing this tip.

  5. @TerraMediaMark

    Thank you for this information. I thought it was in my Hootsuite settings. Just came out of HS without finding a solution. Followed your instructions – and now I hope the next time I click a Twitter icon – I'll be brought to Twitter! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Eydie :)

  6. Laurie

    Thank you SO MUCH! Between this… and Hootsuite "helpfully" automatically following itself (without asking first) on all the Twitter accounts I manage… and the proprietary URLs… and the outrageous fees that make the Hootsuite analytics options completely useless for small businesses… I've had enough. I don't where I'm going instead, but I can't wait to make a decision and move on.

  7. Ed Luvables

    Jeez, thank you! This was very helpful, it was getting me pretty damned mad, you're a lifesaver, or at least a fist saver as I've been pounding my desk every time it happened.

  8. Tara

    I just started using Hoot Suite and I love it so far.

    Then I noticed the same problem you did and yuck… I really didn't like it. Thanks for the info on how to turn it off. I totally understand your concerns and distaste with Hoot Suite. I feel the same for the most part, but I don't think I'm going to take my bsiness elsewhere. I think it's the norm now to change settings with updates. I see this happening with all sorts of products I use. I don't like it, but it seems to be the norm. Augh. At least it's fixable.

    Thanks for the info!

  9. Robyn Bryant

    Thank you, I just started to get this action today. You're like that DJ from last night on the dance floor… a life saver.

  10. Elsbeth

    Huge thanks for this. I hate moves like this, and am now contemplating giving up hootsuite entirely because they've done this. I just wasted a good half hour of my time to fix this – who knows how long it would have taken had I not found your post. Seriously irresponsible behaviour by hootsuite.

  11. SarahH

    Perfect- this has been a major major annoyance. I love it when a google search brings me an answer to a problem- and the solution worked!!
    Thank you
    Like you and others- how dare they make a decision on my behalf….

    1. mrnocomment

      Exactly "Exactly" same here :D

  12. @ForkKnifeSpoon

    Thanks for posting this! I recently decided hootsuite was not for me and the brands I managed after making the switch to tweetbot but I was still annoyingly being pushed to hootsuite. FINALLY my pain is over

  13. Juliet

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been right-clicking everything and manually selecting it to open in a new tab to avoid opening in HootSuite. It's been months of annoyance and I finally decided to do a Google search!

  14. Carlie Hamilton

    I hadn't noticed this because I don't have the plugin, but ironically I saw a link to this post from my hootsuite dash.

    If it had happened to me I believe I would be highly annoyed by it. But I am yet to find something that is comparable to Hootsuite in features and price.

  15. ashley b.

    Thank you for the article. That "handy" feature has been frustrating me to no end. Especially since I constantly get logged out of hootsuite making the whole transaction very frustrating. Boo to this sneaky feature. It is definitely more distracting to have links open in hootsuite than the convenience of having the hootsuite button on my toolbar.

  16. Danny

    Been thinking about trying Hootsuite but now having second thoughts.

    1. swbratcher

      They have a good product. Trying it is worth it. I don't blame them for activating it by default, it's a cool feature IF it is the user's expected application behavior. They just should have had a pop-up offering an explanation and the ability to disable it at first use.

  17. DWest

    Thanks for the tip. I've always praised Hootsuite until now – love the scheduling Tweet Later feature, but this sneaky backdoor re-direct has been a pain!1 I could not get either of these options to work — Either right-click on the Hootlet icon itself and click Options, or go to Chrome > Preferences > Extensions and find Hootsuite Hootlet and click Options. Then you will see the ‘off’ switch for the option “Link Twitter status and user profile handles into the HootSuite dashboard

    I have a Mac, and this worked for me. Went to Chrome / Preferences / Extensions. 'Disabled' the HootSuite Hootlet 2.2.4.

    Thanks for the help.

  18. Todd Ariss

    yes I completely agree. Hootsuite has lost a lot credibility IMHO and my respect for them has gone down big time. Talk about a major blunder on their part.

  19. johan

    I have cancelled my subscription to Hootsuite and now use Bufferapp. It's not the same but I get done what I need do in a great way.

    1. @SociallySorted

      Hey Johan – I use Sprout Social and Buffer – try it, it is a good alternative to Hootsuite and I like it being linear – I don't have to constantly scan across columns – I am totally annoyed about Hootsuite doing this – I have been frustrated by it for ages and finally googled "twitter flicking to hootsuite" today and found this article ha ha.

  20. @daveohoots

    Thanks for the feedback. At HootSuite, we're users too and want the social media tools to work efficiently and to our unique preference.

    Keep in mind, this is a configurable option within Chrome. Simply go to your Chrome Options, choose Settings, choose Hootlet and Options. You can adjust to open in HootSuite or Twitter.com.

    Keep in mind, opening in HootSuite provides more info and options which is why the Chrome app sets that as default. You can also choose to have the scheduling pane displayed as well.

    1. LucyBeer

      Thanks for the response, but you can tell from the comments here that the automatic activation of this feature was not popular. Hopefully this will be taken into consideration in future updates.

  21. Janine

    Thank you! Now I need alternatives to HootSuite. Not planning on using it anymore.

    1. LucyBeer

      hey Janine – I still use it because their core product is good, but definitely turned off the option in their extension. Also, I haven't found anything better…..

  22. Philippa Willitts

    I found this post after searching for an explanation – and solution – for this very issue. I agree with all your concerns about why this was a bad move on Hootsuite's part, and I am really less than impressed with them.

    Thanks for the information, I've switched it off now.

  23. Todd Dewell

    If the URL has twitter.com in it, that is where I want to go. I can't believe HootSuite did this. Thanks for posting how to disable that awful HootSuite feature.

  24. Ted

    Well, that explains it. And adds to my distrust of Hootsuite

  25. Ian

    Great article, glad to find the solution, thanks for sharing, like hootsuite also but seriously annoyed by this.

  26. scentsciences

    Exactly what I was looking for, thanks!

  27. Tamara

    Thanks, I was having the same problem and was totally confused about why I kept landing on Hootsuite when I thought I was clicking through to an individual Twitter user. And I agree, it's a kind of sneaky and strange behavior for Hootsuite to introduce!

  28. James Strock

    Thanks for this information. Had same experience and only from your post could I diagnose it and correct it rapidly.

  29. Rob Cubbon

    Great article, Lucy, this certainly was a baffling issue. The usual culprit is the last thing you've done and I have only recently installed the Hootsuite Hootlet on my Chrome. You're right that trust can take ages to develop but can be destroyed in an instant!

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