Vancouver’s Hootsuite helping business harness social
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in
Vancouver April 26-May 2, 2011 issue #1122 High Tech
Last year, businesspeople were wondering about this social media thing
and whether it had any place at work. This year, the wondering is more
how to use social media effectively as a business tool.
Part of the answer is to make use of a social media dashboard –
software to allow users to work simultaneously with multiple networks,
to see what users on social media are saying about them, their
competitors and their products and to help analyze the results of
social media marketing campaigns.
Social media dashboard Hootsuite is produced near the north foot of
Main Street. I recently met with the company’s CEO, Ryan Holmes.
According to Holmes, Hootsuite began in 2008 as a tool used internally
by local social media marketing agency Invoke. The company spun off on
its own in January 2010. Hootsuite has grown to about 50 employees from
an initial seven. According to Holmes, its user base of 1.5 million,
which is up 50% in the last three months, has recently become “cash
Web-based, with iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry apps, Hootsuite can
be run within standard browsers. Users sign on for one of three
versions: free, pro and enterprise.
The free version – which Holmes said accounts for 97% of accounts –
allows a single user to manage up to five social media accounts. The
pro version can be used to manage an unlimited number of social
networks and includes more sophisticated reporting and analytic tools.
Pricing starts at $6 per month, which allows users to add one
additional team member; add $15 per month for each additional team
A big jump in price to $1,499 per month gets enterprise-level features.
After creating a Hootsuite account, you’ll be prompted to give
permission to add social networks; as you add each, a new tab opens up
showing that network. On the Twitter tab, for instance, you’ll see your
“home feed,” another column lists mentions of you by other Twitter
users – whether you follow them or not. You can add additional Twitter
features or searches as desired.
Users can also add new tabs, mixing and matching content from multiple
networks at once. Just being able to see multiple social networks at
the same time like this is worthwhile. You can post to your networks,
retweet, “like,” comment, etc., as usual. You can also schedule your
messages for future delivery and set them to be delivered
simultaneously to multiple networks. Long links are easily shortened.
Currently, Hootsuite allows only users to manage Twitter contacts –
people following you and people you follow. While useful, it would be
helpful to have the same information for other social networks.
Nicely, new users receive daily emails offering get-started tips.
A recent PC Magazine review noted “Hootsuite’s analytics are what
really set it apart from competitors … [those analytics] are very
innovative, very customizable, and can be very expensive.”
With my free account, for instance, a basic Twitter report was free;
most other report templates required upgrading to a paid account.
For individual active social media users, the free Hootsuite version is
useful for users of multiple networks. Business users wanting to add
analysis and reporting need to be prepared to pay for the privilege.
Hootsuite counts U.S. President Barack Obama (or his staff) and IBM
among its 1.5 million users; locally, users include Vancouver Mayor
Gregor Robertson, the Opus Hotel and Blenz Coffee. Blenz president
George Moen told me that he uses it personally and for Blenz to manage
its social media strategy. He believes his use of Hootsuite is one of
the reasons that he is one of the most-followed Canadian CEOs and feels
it has played a critical role in how Blenz manages its daily
communications and prize giveaways. He concluded, “To say I am a fan is