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HootSuite founder and CEO Ryan Holmes talks to Cantech Letter

Vancouver’s HootSuite, which was founded by Ryan Holmes in 2008, has paralleled the rise in use of social media tools such as Twitter by large businesses, and then some.

HootSuite, which now lists 79 of the Fortune 100 companies, including McDonalds, PepsiCO and FOX, as clients, now has close to five million users on six continents. Its users send more than 2.75 million messages through the dashboard each day, more than 1.2-billion since its launch.

How hot is HootSuite? Hot enough that when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was spotted at a hot dog stand in Vancouver earlier this year, the rumour mill exploded that he was in town to buy HootSuite. Holmes quickly quashed that notion by saying that he wanted to “build a billion-dollar company and take it to an IPO. The company has become the most recognizable brand in a thriving Vancouver technology sector.

Recently, Cantech Letter’s Nick Waddell talked to Holmes to fill in some detail on these plans.

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Ryan, we saw John Ruffolo from OMERS Ventures at the M Partners conference in Toronto in September. He said he believed the financing you did with them in March will allow you to not worry about money and really attack your business plan 100%. Do you agree?

The OMERS investment took decreased execution risk and allowed us to remain developing product vs focusing on exit, which is what is best for our team, and our users. We’ve been able to continue releasing new features, apps, and partnerships since.

For users of your free service, can you describe to our readers how HootSuite makes money?

HootSuite operates on a Freemium model. When we began, our free product was quickly latched onto by social media power users and signups have not stopped since. Once companies began to see the value of the product, we introduced two paid tiers which are our Pro and Enterprise versions of HootSuite. These are designed to respectively meet the needs of both small businesses and large enterprises and have features and pricing in accordance with those needs being met.

What is the value proposition of HootSuite for an enterprise client? What problem does it solve?

HootSuite Enterprise was built to simplify social media management for large teams, making the use and management of these tools far more efficient for clients. Corporate teams now average 23 members, and are often decentralized and share multiple social media accounts. Our HootSuite Enterprise product has multiple layers built in to provide teams with the peace of mind that comes with collaboration, measurement, global governance, and security when using social media within their organization.

Major features which are especially valuable for large brands that we introduced this year are:

1 HootSuite Teams: HootSuite Teams enables the scheduling, assigning and vetting of messages, an essential tool for social media managers.
2 HootSuite Conversations: HootSuite Conversations is an internal discussion tool that teams can use to analyze social media messages, share them with one another and generally discuss without leaving their HootSuite dashboard. It falls perfectly within our commitment to ensuring that users will not have to leave one window to perform any function they might require.
3 Custom Analytics: We offer clients multiple layers if analytic tools to monitor their efforts and truly understand the value of social media. These include Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Twitter Profile Stats, Ow.ly Click Stats, Google+ Page Analytics, and Organizational Analytics.
4 Security: Our partnership with Global Relay offers the governance and compliance organizations are looking for. This integration assists our existing security features including SSO, SSL, Secure Profiles and workflow/security level.

As for how we work with our top clients, we introduced dedicated Account Managers and a Professional Services offering to help customers form a successful starting point in their social strategy as well as provide ongoing support and guidance to ensure adoption and usage is on target with their investment.

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How much is HootSuite an information play? The analytics you are generating for enterprise clients are significant in a world where a half a percentage improvement in performance can mean millions?

HootSuite offers Enterprise clients powerful Custom Analytics features in their dashboard that allow them to closely track their social campaigns and give a complete and comprehensive picture of their participation in social spaces.

We also recently integrated with Webtrends, a service that provides auto-generated reports that can be customized to show connections between social media messages and website conversion statistics. These reports provide our clients a level of measurement consistent with SEM and display ad markets for accurate comparison across channels and gives businesses the actionable data they need to improve and perfect social media campaigns. This integration, as well as our Adobe Site Catalyst integration, offer our Enterprise clients concrete social media performance data they can use to evaluate the return on investment of social media. We are also continuously improving our own core analytics and this week we released a Twitter Mentions Module for Pro and Enterprise users. The Mentions module will allow users to chart who is mentioning them in response to date-specified campaigns and Klout.

HootSuite has an all-star client list. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Holmes: “Any company that more than triples in size in a short period of time is going to need to adjust and adapt to the challenges that come with a larger staff. But I think we’ve done exceptionally well in keeping to our core values, staying product driven, and listening closely to our users so that we can continue to deliver them what they want.”

We’re proud to say that 79 of the Fortune 100 companies use HootSuite to manage their social media activities. Each an important addition to our HootSuite family.

Where do you feel your enterprise penetration is? Do you have a lot of room to grow?

Our growing client list is probably the best indicator of our enterprise penetration. From McDonald’s Corporation, to PepsiCo, to Virgin – we’re the go-to social media management system for large enterprises. That said, continue to expand our Enterprise clientele and have successfully attracted new clients by adding the additional functionality they’re after – from HootSuite Teams to HootSuite Conversations.

As you grow what are your biggest challenges? Is it tough to find quality people here in Vancouver with the cost of living being so high?

Any company that more than triples in size in a short period of time is going to need to adjust and adapt to the challenges that come with a larger staff. But I think we’ve done exceptionally well in keeping to our core values, staying product driven, and listening closely to our users so that we can continue to deliver them what they want.

We’ve managed to attract the country’s top talent here in Vancouver. Over the last year, we’ve grown from a staff of 45 people to over 230. One of the main reasons I’ve committed to staying in Vancouver is due to the incredible talent pool that exists here.

Are the public markets anywhere in the popular imagination of a younger tech company? People my age can remember the years before the dot-com crash when everyone wanted to go public. Now it seems younger entrepreneurs are looking to be bought by a larger player or private equity firm. What about you?

I’ve made it very clear that I want to make HootSuite a billion dollar company. That’s my goal for the time being and we’re well on our way to achieving it. What happens after, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.

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One thought on “HootSuite founder and CEO Ryan Holmes talks to Cantech Letter

  1. Thanks for sharing HootSuite’s story and Ryan’s wisdom. From the inside, i can tell you we’re on a remarkable ride resultant from constant hustle, determination, creativity and an egoless attitude towards doing what’s best for the market as we hear it from our audience of smart owls.

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