HootSuite and www.21to21.com  Profit ConsultantsThis is an interview I just did with Dave Olson at HootSuite.  I interviewed Dave last April when HootSuite was still a little owl, but growing fast. Now they have over 1.4 million users.

Listen to what has happened at what I consider the best Social Media management tool and learn how you can use HootSuite to help you make more money, stay engaged with your customer base, and learn from the Secret Sauce that HootSuite is using that has lead them to dominate their market in less than a year.


Andrew Anderson

Here is a link to sign up for HootSuite and get a free account or you can click on the image above or below. If you are a business, you really should look at signing up for the pro service at only $5.99 per month! It is the only way I use to manage my social media for myself and clients. I am also an affiliate too. Which as you know if you are a regular reader of mine, just how rare this is as I always drink my own Kool Aid.

Click the play button to listen to the interview or download the mp3.


HootSuite - Social Media Dashboard

Interview With Dave Olson Of HootSuite

Andrew: (Laughter) Yeah, okay. Hello, this is Andrew Anderson and I’ve got Dave with HootSuite on the interview here, and we haven’t spoken in, gosh I think it’s been 8 or 9 months or so. And quite a bit has changed. Um, the one thing that hasn’t changed is I’m still a big fan of HootSuite. I still think it’s the best social media tool that any business can use out there. And, point in fact, I became an affiliate, so I think I’ve sold a couple of subscriptions for you guys and I’m also a paying user of them and as everyone knows, if I don’t like something I won’t talk about it and I will not use it. So, that will set the stage for Dave Olson here and we’ll let you rip. Um, so you guys since we last spoke, um, you’ve surpassed a million users I believe. Is that correct?

Dave: Yeah. You know, it’s been a wild year since we spoke last, and it feels like every week we’re pushing out some exciting announcement and even as equally exciting, we’re finding ourselves in the middle of world affairs and business successes and all sort of stuff. So, it’s a real wild ride. We’re up to about 1.3 million users now and adding at a great pace every day. And it’s also really exciting that these users are coming from all around the world.

Andrew: Wow. Yeah, I hadn’t even thought of that. Um, one of the big things that has gone on, and I mentioned it previously is that you’ve gone to the paid model for your business customers. You still offer the free service, right?

Dave: Yeah. We sure do. In the basic plan which is free is, is really what’s used by 95% or more of our user base. Before we switched over to those premium plans, we looked real carefully at how people use HootSuite, the feature sets, the amount of networks. And we found that people either have a few, you know, maybe their personal Twitter or Facebook maybe LinkedIn. Or else, they have a ton where they’re clearly using it for business use. So, we kind of designed the packages to fit into those buckets. We first made some announcements about it at the end of last summer. Did a little bit of a very slow roll-out so we could really get some feedback from the market. Made some adjustments and finally migrated everyone with a month-long grace period and so on to make that decision and, ah, you know we had–of course, when you first roll out something like that, there’s going to be a few people who have some, maybe have a little bit of frustration‚Ķ

Andrew: (Laughter) Get bent out of shape.

Dave: Yes, indeed. But for the most part, people were really excited. And the work that we had done building the community was folks like yourself, really paid off ’cause folks were coming out and saying, “Hey, you know, it’s $5.99 a month and look what you get.” And it allows them, I mean, you know, we’ve got to make a living, too, right? So.

Andrew: Yeah. No, it’s a deal. It definitely is. Of all of the roll-out models to the–what did you call it? Freemium or Premium levels?

Dave: Yeah, it’s Premium, yep.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s the best one that I’ve been involved with, you know, as a customer. And it was fairly painless and it wasn’t a mega amount of money. If you can’t afford $5.99, you probably shouldn’t be in business anyway. But if, you know, it was $19.99 though or $29.99, I would have had to think about it a little bit, you know? So.

Dave: Yeah, and there’s certainly some upgrades and we really tried to put into that a-la-carte model so if you wanted to build a team out, well, there’s an additional charge for that. You can opt into some elevated support times if that’s something that’s really important to you. But at the same time, um, you know, that 95% of the people are using our free basic tool and finding everything that they need within that. Um, and even the basic matches up great against any other tool out there by any measure. Um, you know, obviously we take really good care of our entire community–both with adding new features, adding new networks and providing that really top tier customer support. All of those things are so important to us.

Andrew: It is. And I think Gary Vaynerchuk, you know, has talked about it and about the thank you economy about keeping your customers happy. Which you would think it’s common sense. But you guys do a particularly good job of it which is, you know, amazing because I think the norm is really service these days in so many areas.

Dave: Well, it’s interesting because we have this weird role of using HootSuite to promote HootSuite. So it feels a little recursive sometimes. But the same things that I tell people about, you know, you’re out selling widgets, this is what you should do with HootSuite, we do the exact same things in here in-house. We send out hundreds and hundreds of twitters a day, personally following up with people. You know, anyone who follows our Hootwatch account which is kind of our media and backchannel announcement list or else my personal account can see that throughout the day, we’re always finding people who are doing neat things, turn their friends onto the products, writing great blog posts. You know, we really try to amplify the success of our users as, you know, as reflective on the good work that we’re doing.

Andrew: Right, and do you want more followers on your personal thing? Or do you want to keep that quiet?

Dave: No, that’s fine. I, ah, DaveOHoots, and we also have a number of different Twitter handles. Of course, there’s the @HootSuite but another neat thing that we’ve done since we spoke last is we’ve really gone big on this internationalizing–for lack of a better word–where we’ve built out Twitter accounts and we’re providing support and monitoring, at least community building, in several different languages now. Particularly in Japanese and Spanish. We have everything that we’re releasing as far as our case studies and info sheets and marketing materials is going out in Japanese and Spanish as well as English and usually on the same day.

Andrew: Wow, that’s cool. Very cool.

Dave: Yeah, it’s pretty neat. You know I did–I’m sorry to interrupt there–but ah just before the holidays, we did a big announcement in Japan and I was there, skyped in through Skype video chat to a media briefing room back in Tokyo, and I’m there coming in from ah my house with the video cam because we had to coordinate hours and seeing, looking back at all these Japanese reports, they’re in this media briefing room and the next day, seeing us written up in Japanese in these major newspapers in Japan. Ah, we certainly get, we have a lot of fun with that and really savor the opportunity to go there and build. And Japan, in particular, is an under-realized Twitter market. If you ask people what was Twitter’s high watermark of most tweets per second, um, we’ll say, you know, it must have been the Super Bowl or maybe the Oscars the other night. Or even the World Cup football, you know the soccer tournament? None of those are the high watermark. The high watermark of Twitter ever is 4 seconds after midnight on New Year’s Eve in Japan.

Andrew: Really. Wow.

Dave: 6,000 tweets per second. Now, to put that in a relative sense, the high watermark of the Super Bowl was 3,000-4,000 tweets per second. So, you know, at 4,000 tweets per second, Japan crushed that and this is like a whole other tech economy that a lot of folks don’t even realize really exists. And 140 characters in Japanese. That’s like a small novel sometimes.

Andrew: Really. Wow. Um, the–and I’d also heard, and I think this is relative to Facebook, that they have fewer friends but they communicate more with them. Have you guys seen that to be the case? Or is that just something I heard?

Dave: We don’t see near as much activity on Facebook in Japan as we do with Twitter. But we’ve also noted that the big social network in Japan is one called “Mixi”.

Andrew: Really.

Dave: And that has Facebook-like domination. You know where Facebook dominates most markets, Mixi is absolutely the dominant social network in Japan and, as such, we added it to the, we added it to the dashboard so now besides Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Myspace, Ping, etc., now we’ve got a Mixi which is big in Japan and we’ve also added Ning recently, too, which is a little experiment that we’ve been doing with the Ning community. So, we’re really now, we’re trying to branch out and find where those passionate groups of communities where we can tap in and give them something that they really need to help them do their work.

Andrew: Cool. Yeah, so you got Mixi in the mix now. That’s interesting. What’s their user base? Do you happen to know? Or rough estimate off hand?

Dave: Oh, it’s tens of millions.

Andrew: Oh, it is. Wow.

Dave: Yeah, and when we launched that–the blog post–I got a lot of reference linked into some stuff so you can learn more about how social media is developed in Japan. And actually this year at South by Southwest, ah, we’re hosting a panel called “Big in Japan” that kind of, we brought together a few different cross-cultural business people from Japan and North America to talk about how do you localize for Japan? How do you outreach to that market? When do you know it’s the right time to go in there? What are the expectations in the market? ’cause it’s been a fascinating experience for us, for sure.

Andrew: Um-hmm. Well, I wish I was going to be out there this year, but not going to be able to make it. The most–I’m going to go back here. How does it feel to have, you know, as many customers as you do now? Did you guys project this? Was this in your realm of possibility? What was the viewpoint back in April of last year?

Dave: Well, we certainly put a lot of, um, importance on listening to our users and building the tool that we know we can build. And we here have, you know, we have an outstanding team of people who come in with ideas, and we go from idea to execution very rapidly. So, it’s more driven by that if we build the best thing, the thing that we know we can build, then people will come and come on board with it. You know, we’re here using it that too so we know what the people out there want. We listen voraciously to customer feedback. And our development team just doesn’t know the meaning of the word, “Oh, no, I don’t think we can do that.” And they rock stuff out in record time. So, really, we’re so focussed on getting that next integration getting that next release out that that’s kind of our focus. You know, that one-game-at-a-time kind of thing rather than looking at the broad breaststrokes. That said, you know, we’re lead by a real visionary thinker who’s always coming in with some other way to, ah, you know push something amazing out and, you know, that’s some of the examples you mentioned with the affiliate program. The Crowdsource translation program which now Twitter and a few other companies have hopped on board and released very similar programs. Our Hoots with University program. You know, we, we’re always launching something. And it’s really based on that user feedback and where we see a need in the market.

Andrew: Oh, cool. So your focus is on the product and the customers take care of themselves basically. I mean the growth.

Dave: Ah, yeah. I certainly would do things to encourage that along. But, it’s, you know, we don’t do traditional advertising, per se, or now we have a business sales department here that helps that along but did the users kind of take care of themselves? We really put a lot of effort into once people sign up for their account to make sure that they get onboard and really engaged. You know, it can be a little intimidating if you’ve gone right from Twitter web and all of a sudden, you’re looking at HootSuite because there’s a lot of power in there. And it can be like sitting down in a jet plane cockpit of you’ve never seen it before. So, we’ve added a lot of resource to kind of help people get over that learning curve and get up to speed quickly.

Andrew: Gotcha. And then, I guess from a little bit different standpoint having been involved in the startup, you got any advice for other startups out there that are, you know, growing fast or they’ve got a great product and, you know, what you’ve learned with the growth thing that looks like a real hockey stick.

Dave: It does. And it’s not just because we’re Canadian.

Andrew: Yeah, although that doesn’t hurt, huh?

Dave: Really, kind of from a personal standpoint in making sure that, you know, remember why it is that you got into this game and, you know, write down those things and kind of leave messages for yourself to look at six months later so you kind of remember where you came from. Because, you know, it’s not an easy life doing a startup. It’s a lot of late nights and it’s a lot of hustling. There’s a lot of change to get stuff out and get stuff pushed out. So you have to kind of take care of yourself in the sense that remember why you’re doing it. But, from a business standpoint, absolutely take fantastic care of your customers. Make them into your stars. Listen to everything that they have to say. You know, we try to reply back to most everyone and, ah, but we certainly listen in to everyone.

Andrew: So, you guys are in the catbird seat as far as social media goes. Where do you see social media heading? I mean it’s, it’s got a major impact these days on a lot of things, and I’m not sure that people realize just how big it is. But I want to get your take on that.

Dave: Well, I think that very soon, we’re to the point that people stop calling it social media and it’s just media. It’s just–everyone has this, this ability to amplify. So I think that the power of these web tools is just starting to be felt because regular folks, you know, folks who aren’t geeky or early adopters, or whatever, as they’re coming on board and they don’t have preset notions about what these tools can do, I think that’s where you see the really exciting things. I think you’ll see companies engaging with their audiences in a more authentic manner with creative kind of advertising.

Andrew: Right.

Dave: You know, we’ve seen with the Twitter promoted tweets, I think you’ll see a lot of creativity in that space where there’ll be kind of special offers, geo located offers and that kind of thing. With what we saw recently in Egypt, which was a stunning story for us when we came in one day and we saw 7,000% growth in Egyptian signups and traffic in one day.

Andrew: Wow.

Dave: Basically what happened is when Twitter and Facebook were first shut down, word quickly got around that you could still get out to those networks through HootSuite and so for 36 hours, we were the outlet for a lot of this conversation which was amazing for us to watch and something that you could have never possibly predicted.

Andrew: Right.

Dave: So I think the one thing that I can say for the future is that it’s going to be very different than what we’ve seen the last couple years where it’s more, um, people who have the ability to speak to one another in all sorts of different ways. I mean, you know, you and I, we have Twitter and Skype and phones and emails and that kind of thing. But there’s a lot of people who are going skip a lot of those steps and go right to the social media, and they’re going to be able to do amazing things from a business, political, social realm that we can’t even think of.

Andrew: Right. Huh. Yeah, I hadn’t realized that you guys were the outlet for that. You know, imagine that they didn’t report that on the news. Go figure.

Dave: Well, we actually got quite a bit of coverage about it in itself and part of that was, you know, we were so fascinated with what had happened that we released an infographic. We also did an infographic for our million-user threshold where we kind of broke down for social media geeks to see what percentage of messages go out through Twitter versus Facebook versus the other networks in what media and kind of our growth patterns. But we did the same thing for Egypt where we kind of tried to articulate in some way our impact. And it wasn’t to put ourselves in the story but it was, I mean, we couldn’t help but feel an affinity with these people when the tweets started to turn to, “They’re using flags as bandages now.” You know, that’s–and they’re sending these messages out through our tool that’s made by this group of developers and marketers here in a little office in Vancouver and we’re having impact in world affairs. It was a pretty incredible feeling, and we just wanted to share that with the world in the form of this infographic.

Andrew: Gotcha. And then, well I’ll have to put that on the site, too. But you gotta remember, I live under a rock when it comes to news, and I’m also involved in a startup, too. So, I don’t have a lot of free time. (Laughter)

Dave: Yeah, if it hadn’t impacted us so directly, I definitely wouldn’t have been as well informed. And now we’re seeing the same thing in Libya. And so we start seeing the internet as this, ah, as a very heavily wielded political tool in a lot of ways. So, it’s fascinating to watch and I think the next year or two, it’s just going to be wild as the tools evolve and the understanding of what these tools can do moves away from the cynicism or the self-referentialness and becomes more and more mainstream.

Andrew: Right. Um, I guess in, I’d like to get one or two of the newer tools or techniques, you know, that HootSuite can give a business the ability to use now that, and I know it’s come a long way since the interface, you know, 8-9 months ago, um, do you have any high points there that you might, someone that’s new to HootSuite from a business standpoint that might be relevant to them?

Dave: Sure. From a business standpoint, there’s two that jump out at me right away that I think business users would really love. In the last 6 months, there’s been a lot of conversation about influence. I mean, of course, you love all your followers equally. But, from a business standpoint, you want to reach out to the people who have a big reach first and foremost to help amplify your message. So, we’ve integrated Klout into the dashboard. Klout, that’s with a K. They have an algorithm that measures people’s reach and influence based on who follows them, how many times they get re-tweeted, you know, what kind of clicks they get. Basically, their realm of social influence. And then they assign a score to each person. Now, I don’t want the social web to turn into a popularity contest, but it’s a great way that within your HootSuite streams, you set a search stream for, you know, profit coaching or something like that, right? And then you start looking down and you can move a little slider bar across and it’ll drop off all the people who are under that certain level of Klout so you might find the ten people in your network that have high Klout scores that you want to outreach first to with some kind of special offer or to put an advance notice of some message or something like that. Also, on each person’s little popup profile card, you’ll see their Klout score.

Andrew: Okay, yes. Go ahead.

Dave: The second thing that I think is really handy is Retweets. Retweets are obviously a really powerful way to build your network, amplify messages and kind of do a favor back for the people who are in your network. And now we’ve added a way where you can choose which Retweet style you want to use on the fly. So on each tweet, you can choose the old school RT style where you can put in some more notes and add, “Wow, I thought this was a great article” and Retweet, etc. or you can do the new web native style that’s similar to Twitter web and you can choose that on the fly. So whichever one you like, you can choose them, and you don’t have to be stuck with one choice. So, it’s the best of both worlds.

Andrew: Gotcha. And then, one of the other features I like, and I don’t know how long it’s been there–it’s seems like it’s been there forever, but–is the ability to manage conversations you have with individuals and they stack up so you don’t have to go searching for them.

Dave: Yeah. That’s super handy, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of volume and managing like, you know, monitoring brand sentiment for example. You can see well, like why is this person saying this? And at first, it can, you know, be a little disorienting but as you start to expand the conversation and go back to find out where that comment came from, it really puts it in context, and context is everything in understanding what people are feeling.

Andrew: It indeed is. So, I know you’re a busy guy there and I don’t want to take up too much more of your time but anything else you want to throw into the mix?

Dave: Ah, well a couple things that we love to see people doing is if you write a blog post or have some tips about HootSuite that you’re sharing with your audience, let us know, and we’ll include your blog post in our user-created tutorials, give you a nice link back, and share your news and share your site with our audience. Ditto with any kind of media articles. We round those up and put them in news roundups. WE also tweet them out over a HootWatch. So, there’s a couple fun things if you want to engage with us a little bit more. And if we see you doing neat stuff and helping other people out–learn about HootSuite–we might even send you a HootKit which is a little envelope of stickers and pins and tattoos and other cool treats.

Andrew: Okay. Well, that’s cool. And then what’s the best way to just go to the–is there any particular Twitter name that they should follow to do this? How do they get in touch with you guys?

Dave: Well, just check out the blog, and it will give you all of the hints and clues and stuff. But if anyone has any questions, DaveOHoots is a great way to get started. If you have Help questions specifically though, go right to HootSuite_Help and we’ve got some fantastic technicians always all day long that just answer any questions via Twitter. So we’re definitely eating our own dog food and I tell you what, it’s pretty tasty.

Andrew: (Laughter) That’s pretty good. Yeah, you know, and any of the business owners out there that aren’t using HootSuite, I can’t recommend enough and for all the reasons that you just said, Dave. Plus, there’s tons more that once you get used to it–which won’t take very long, you know, within 5 minutes–you should be up and running on most of the, you know, some of the really good features on there and then, you know, you can always dive into it. But, you know, it’s the only way that I could even imagine managing, you know, all of the Twitter accounts we have and keep sane at the same time.

Dave: Well, all these folks out there who are going to sign up for your business account, I encourage you to do it through Andrew’s affiliate link.

Andrew: Well there you go. Thanks for the plug!

Dave: Let’s get this guy some beer money. Right?

Andrew: There you go. So, I’ll have to check and see what the sales are. But, yeah, maybe I could go buy a beer here soon and if not, maybe I’ll buy you one next time up in Vancouver. So, alright, well Dave, thank you very much. Thanks. This is an interview with Dave Olson at HootSuite–the best social media product out there for business that I can think of for sure. So, thanks a bunch for chatting with me, and we’ll get this up on the blog here and hopefully a couple people will read it and start using HootSuite and make their life a lot easier.

Dave: Sounds great, Andrew. It’s a pleasure to chat with you again.

Andrew: Okay, take care. Bye-bye. And that’s it.

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