Tag Archives: startup

Community + Freemium = Start up Magic, Hootsuite Community

Recently, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes posted an article in his LinkedIn influencer column “Two Lean Startup Hacks to Get Millions of New Customers | Ryan Holmes | LinkedIn” to discuss some key tactics we used to build Hootsuite in the early days: freemium + community.

I am especially proud of the community focused narrative of which I’ll share a bit here:

Investing in Community-Building Programs  

But it’s important to note that freemium was just one part of our formula for user growth. Another big piece of the puzzle was investing in a fully functional community department at Hootsuite. In many startups, the community team – if there’s one at all – is treated as an extension of marketing or customer support. While their ostensible role may be “building a community” of users, they spend a lot of their time pitching products and fielding help calls.

Our community department, by contrast, didn’t have direct sales or support responsibilities. Instead, their primary mandate was to help people who already knew and loved our product connect with one another. They built out social media channels in a half-dozen key languages, enabling users around the world to share updates and learn about Hootsuite news and events. And they organized crowd-sourced translation efforts, recruiting international users to adapt our interface into local languages, everything from German and Italian to Thai and Chinese. (Amazingly, translations were volunteer-driven – motivated by love of the technology and a liberal helping of swag, i.e. stickers, t-shirts and cuddly stuffed animals inspired by our owl logo.)

Online efforts were supplemented by old-fashioned face-to-face events. In emerging markets, the community team helped users organize hundreds of free meetups (branded as “HootUps”), where people could get together and trade Hootsuite tips. Ultimately, a network of hundreds of volunteer “ambassadors” around the world took shape, enthusiastic users who spread the word about Hootsuite in their countries. Many of these ambassadors, not surprisingly, were bloggers, consultants and marketers who just so happened to have large online audiences of their own.

Cumulatively, these projects gave us entree into new markets, initiating the viral chain of adoption in other countries and spreading Hootsuite far beyond its original North American user base.

via Two Lean Startup Hacks to Get Millions of New Customers | Ryan Holmes | LinkedIn.

How to Successfully Implement a Brand Ambassador Program

How to Successfully Implement a Brand Ambassador Program

Host events like HootSuite

According to a recent survey, branded live events are the No. 1 driver of brand recommendations. These events clock in at 65 percent, beating out even a friend’s recommendation (63 percent) in importance when it comes to brand experience.

Knowing this, many campus ambassador programs make events an integral part of marketing efforts in order to attract new consumers. For instance, social media metric company HootSuite empowers users and brand ambassadors to host “HootUps.” These gatherings are put together by campus ambassadors and fans of the company, and involve discussions of social media best practices and networking.

The events are branded with HootSuite swag, yet they offer students real-world value and the ability to make great contacts. If your events offer consumers and customers something useful, they’ll be likely to equate your brand with providing concrete value to their lives.

“How to Win the Networking Game at SXSW” Ryan (and Dave) in Wall Street Journal

How to Win the Networking Game at SXSW
Mar 5, 2014, The Accelerators, Wall Street Journal

After eight SXSW conferences, I’ve learned that the hard way. When my company was first getting off the ground, we were completely lost in the shuffle, despite our best efforts. In 2012, however, we had a 28-foot-long, 15,000-pound secret weapon. To stand out amid the gala parties and blow-out bashes hosted by much bigger tech companies, HootSuite decided to take to the streets. We transformed a Ford E-450 shuttle bus into possibly the world’s biggest owl, in honor of our mascot – mounting a pair of giant eyes above the windshield and affixing enormous plastic wings on the sides.

HootSuite’s former VP of community, Dave Olson, inspects the HootBus.

ANDREW LAVIGNE

Cheesy? Yes. Effective, absolutely. By the end of the conference, our logo had been splashed across the pages of USA Today, Mashable and Inc. The conference’s highest profile attendees were clamoring to get on board and party with us. And investors whom I didn’t even know were inquiring about thecompany. In the end, it cost us around $30,000 to buy and outfit the vehicle. Considering that hosting just a single party at SXSW can cost as much, if not more, that’s an absolute steal. This year, in fact, we’re bringing HootBus back for its third ride.

CMTY Building: Encouraging Passionate Users to Host HootUps

In a spontaneous spiel to colleagues, Dave shares the motivations and practical logistics for organizing Hootups – including sending swag packages and promotional support – and articulates the benefits for the organizer (notoriety and being part of something interesting) as well as resultant perks for the company including signups and culture artifacts like photos, tweets and happy users.

Pirates with Keyboards ~ (Dev)eloping HootSuite Company Culture

Company Culture at HootSuite

Originally published in Vancouver is Awesome’s yearly print edition, this article is now shared in original form for posterity and your enjoyment.

Pirates with Keyboards ~ (Dev)eloping Hoot Company Culture by Dave Olson

Inside of HootSuite, we often hear about what people think our internal company culture is like. From typing cats, to crazy rumours, all we can say is that it’s different and possibly weirder than you might expect. 

My point of view is a bit unique as I joined HootSuite as the first non-technical employee from the outside. At that time it was me, the CEO, and a core group of developers (devs). From my time here in the nest, I have a few observations to share about what makes our largest department unique.

A Culture of Camaraderie

Dev culture is dev culture. Throughout the company, we have programs and activities to connect different departments together in social settings. This is critically important when companies scale by bringing in different disciplines like sales teams, partner and affiliate programs, and marketing. These all have their own distinct cultures and the devs consistently show off their pieces of flair. 

Dev camaraderie is forged during late night coding sessions and time sensitive problem solving, leading to a mutual professional respect. Of course this respect also manifests itself in foosball duels, nerf gun battles, stacks of pizza boxes on release night, and even arts and crafts. 

We don’t have to manufacture culture… it grows organically.

#FunFact: One of our front-end devs, Eric, routinely sketches pictures of his colleagues on the back of cardboard or notebook paper… he’s even been known to make shrines to colleagues who are celebrating a birthday.

No Dev left behind

Developing HootSuite Culture at Crab Park in VancouverDevs helping devs!

Devs want to produce code which gets used. In some big companies, programmers will digitally write poetic code which never sees light of day due to company direction changes, internal bickering, or lack of coordinated execution. 

At HootSuite, my dev colleagues seem to thrive on developing code which is both deployed quickly and will be used widely. This isn’t just for senior devs, the egalitarian approach means all worthy code is used no matter who wrote it. 

Devs own their projects and are thus responsible for figuring them out. It’s a collaborative atmosphere where small task forces develop to address specific problems, and they’re given an opportunity to choose their tools in order to fulfill their mandate. This stands in opposition to being pushed into a dogmatic technical solution from someone outside the team.

Front Row View of Rapid Growth

There’s a big difference between managing services and writing code to serve a 100,000 user market, compared to a 5 or 50 million user market. At HootSuite, we have a unique view of the challenges around scaling rapidly – and globally.

Faced the challenges of ensuring services are up around the clock, everywhere, in many languages, while also coexisting with major social network service providers, our devs flourish. This situation offers incredibly valuable skills and experience which can only be gained in this kind of rare  environment.

Keep in mind, HootSuite isn’t just for helping people sell more widgets or sharing what they had for lunch… HootSuite plays a role in major world events including the Egyptian Revolution, where Twitter and Facebook were blocked by the Egyptian Government, but HootSuite remained functional. So for 36 hours, we facilitated the voice for the revolution, the counter-revolution, major media, and even the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

Fortunately, one dev added right-to-left scripting for the iPhone, which allowed people to use HootSuite in Arabic in the midst of the struggle. Luckily for us, the systems were able to sustain 7000% growth overnight from Egypt.

Nimble & Agile

HootSuite company cultureRyan and Simon in their whites gearing up for the HootSuite summer retreat.

Each morning, the devs gather around a cardboard sign that reads “what i’m doing.” While circled around a screen with columns of cryptic tickets, much like medieval monks contemplating the gospels, they massage every idea and distil each into a domino-like line of micro tasks. These tasks are then dutifully moved from column to column until released into the wild. 

Keep in mind, projects will go from idea to completion and release in a matter of days. As was the case in the Secure Profiles Tool which came on the heels of noteworthy social media PR conundrums from Red Cross and Chrysler.

From idea on Thursday, to product release and announcement on Tuesday, this is more than just agile – this is yoga-like flexibility!

Oldschool is still school

When I first arrived with small group of devs, I noticed how they relentlessly worked to ensure quality. Three years later, the core founding devs still work hardest and continually lead by example.

They’re doing it because they love doing it, and the passion and tenacity is contagious to the juniors. While HootSuite enjoys attention from the outside, at our core, the devs are guardians of their culture and work to bring the newbs to rarefied air rapidly. No room for b-lists skills in this tribe.

#FunFact: Our “QA Dude” has documented HootSuite’s good times with a seemingly endless stream of wigglies. These fun snaps capture the bits of our growth and culture that the major media will never see including our semi-secret shotgun ritual at each million milestone.

Passion Fueled

Epic melon slingshot in the back alley of HootSuite HQMelon slingshot in the back alley of HootSuite HQ during the dev olympics!

While some companies can get away with displaying ‘fail whales’ and stock outage messages when things go awry, we take a different approach at HootSuite. With a global audience doing remarkable things from managing social at heavy hitting brands or sharing mom’s clam chowder recipe, we take our system seriously.

I recall the morning when the Amazon Web Services Cloud went offline, and i noticed our normally serene CTO’s brow slightly furrowed(!) This let me know that we were in for the long haul on this problem. I headed for a large coffee.

Without missing a beat, our systems admin (who is constantly on the ready for the zombie apocalypse with a CB/HAM enabled transformer jeep) headed out the door to Army and Navy saying: “i’m gonna need a toothbrush, a towel, and two packs of smokes.”

Fifteen hours later, we were back online (the first such company of the downed companies), and through some resourceful and ingenious solutions, we had data in store back up and running. We also managed to spin the Amazon outage chaos into a positive story and a case study.

Hero-worthy

While HootSuite’s brand is often manifested via our Owly mascot, lists of the notable brands using the tool, and our noble CEO’s face seemingly *everywhere*, within the company we all know that without the devs rocking the keyboards with precision and dedication, we’d be nowhere. Further, what they are doing is far from vanilla – there’s some heavy duty, wild tech going on under the hood and a crew which is encouraged to actually innovate, not just talk about it.

Whether through arduous nights of coding, wearing pirates outfits, or staging their very own watermelon Olympics, the devs at HootSuite have forged a contagious culture of innovation and perfection, delicately balanced with skullduggery.

To them, i say, “Thanks for letting this liberal arts community guy hang out with ya.”

The post Pirates with Keyboards ~ (Dev)eloping HootSuite Company Culture appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management.

Get in the Nest: Tips for Applying to HootSuite

The post Get in the Nest: Tips for Applying to HootSuite appeared first on Hootsuite Social Media Management in March 2013. As of Sept. 2017, I no longer work for Hootsuite (retired) and this article is simply saved here for posterity and as a writing sample. Do not ask me questions nor assume this is valid advice whatsoever. 

With ongoing excitement about working at HootSuite (especially in light of the Best Place to Work in BC win), I’m often asked for referrals, recommendations, advice, and informational coffee chats about how to get interviewed – and hopefully hired – at HootSuite.Dave-O

These tips are simply from my experience, having helped hire dozens of employees and recommending many more. While some of these points are specific to HootSuite, most will apply to anyone seeking a job either in social tech or using social media to find a new gig.

 Tip 1: Get to Know Us

There’s lots of news about HootSuite in the media, and you might know a few things about our products, but it’s in your best interest to really get to know us as a company.

Start by following @HootHR and @HootClub and read the recent news about HootSuite. I recommend looking at culture pieces, videos, and anything featuring our HR department. Basically, find everything you can get your hands on so you know who we really are. Your most important resource is the HootSource blog – dig in and start reading.

Be especially thorough about learning about the department to which you are applying. Whichever it is, make sure you take your time to see if it’s really the right fit for your skills. When/if you come onboard, you’re going to immediately be working on ongoing projects and you’ll want to add something to the table straightaway.

For example: If you hope to  work for Solutions Partners department, learn everything you can about our existing Partner Programs: who they’re for, what’s included, what are the targets, who is successfully onboard, etc.

Owl Applicant Tip 2: Be Thorough to Get In

Make sure you read all the requirements of the job postings carefully and don’t let anything slip past you. We wouldn’t want some minor detail to derail you from coming on and being a valuable contributor at HootSuite. Double check. Triple check and adjust your cover letter and resume so that they are an exact fit for the job you seek.

Also, prep your references and include them right from the beginning. We will contact these people, so choose carefully – peer co-workers, college party buddies, and bosses from 8 years ago are poor choices. People to whom you directly reported or collaborated are great, as are professional mentors.

Tip 3: Tell Your Story, Creatively

Many people have applied with fantastically creative resumes and we really enjoy receiving these treats – In fact my office is filled with a little museum of great resume applications – but make sure the creativity is backed up with information about your skills and how you can help HootSuite grow.

One favorite was a personalized, home-made, tea-bag set. Each tiny paper tag had a small owl on one side, and quotes from some of my speeches on the back. It proved the candidate had done her research, ergo: she watched videos to get to know my department and how she might be able to help us with what we do. In the tea box, she listed her different skills and experiences from her resume –  only instead of a sheet of paper, she chartered it out in mini infographics and bite-size pieces. She included illustrations of her in a HootSuite T-Shirt, along with an owl magnet-clip and a handwritten note. It is a real treasure and even ended up on the news a few times.

Other notable applications include: a USB key loaded with a resume and supporting materials hidden inside a HootSuite logo made out of LEGO; a longboard/skateboard painted with a HootSuite Owl flying across the deck; a video blog in which the candidate uploaded a daily video explaining the various reasons why she would be great for HootSuite. Plus she conducted an entire social media campaign to promote the series which was a great way to demonstrate her communication skills.

cake resume

So while all kinds of unique ideas can help you stand out, make sure that you’re using creativity to back up your professional story. The video series is a really good example of a creative application because the candidate was able to show how she can present herself while at the same time conducting a multi-faceted campaign.

Ultimately, while we *want* you to be creative, we really *need* to hear your professional backstory.

Tip 4: Tidy Up Online

It’s really important to us that you have a thorough LinkedIn profile. Be sure to include links to other online presences, too.

We’re a very social and online company so I’d say that your LinkedIn profile is more important to us than your traditional resume. Add links to things that you’ve done online, communities that you’ve contributed to, code you’ve written, successes you’ve generated for a company, media articles, and your blog. These kinds of things are super valuable so be sure to include them in your application.

In other words, if we see that you just signed up for Twitter yesterday or you’re using a competing tool, it’s probably not a good sign ;) Ditto if your LinkedIn profile isn’t up to date or well taken care of  – that’s going to be a big “X.”

Tip 5: Get Into the System

You’ll give us all kinds of ways to make yourself known later on, but first you need to get into the system. The delightful Human Resource team use a web-based tool called The Resumator, which lives at: HootSuite.com/Careers. Check it out, and see how you can use that tool to wow us.

If you don’t see a job that looks exactly right for you, apply under “I’m Awesome, Hire Me.” But be sure to make a great case for yourself. This is where everything will start. We want to see your super power, and how you’ll add value to the HootSuite brand.

Keep in mind that all the jobs posted aren’t the only ones that will ever exist, so come back often. Also, our HR team is particularly good at matching up people’s skills with an unexpected  department or job. They know the needs and personalities and culture of each team so trust them to help you find a fit.

Tip 6: Patience and Time are your Allies

HootSuite receives hundreds of emails and resumes per week and the HR team fields loads of inquiries from many different channels. We put a lot of resources into finding the right fit for each role, and the process takes time. Be patient, and know that we are going over your dossier with careful attention. Sometimes it takes time for the right role to pop up. If we think you’re great but not a good fit for the role, know that we will keep you on our radar for when we find just the right spot. Remember: we want awesome folks like you.

It is worth noting that some of our highest performing employees interviewed with several different departments before finding the right fit and coming onboard.

We think we’re worth the wait so don’t give up on us and use the time while you’re waiting to learn more about the company and your potential within.

And no, please don’t ever call to ask about the status of your application.

Dave O and HootSuite Community TeamDave O and the HootSuite Community team

Tip 7: Know The HootStory

If you’re a successful candidate, you’re going to come into an incredible company that’s on a remarkable journey.

Take the time to get to know the backstory of where we came from, not just as a business, but the way that we evolved our role in the social media world. What I mean by this is to look at some of the stories we found ourselves included in, i.e.: our role in the Egyptian revolution, the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami relief efforts, and our role in major political campaigns. Of course we’re a neutral party in all of this but it’s very powerful to understand the change and the power that our tool has effectuated around the world.

Tip 8: Enjoy the Possibilities

Most importantly: Once you get a job and pass probation, you’re in, you’re one of us forever. We’re a unique company, we work hard, and manage to have a lot of fun so remember these tips so you don’t miss out on a great opportunity.

Now that you’re ready, head on over to HootSuite.com/Careers and let us know about you.

 

SXSW: Checking in while Gearing Up in Austin

Dave checks in while preparing swag and other gear piled high on a lawn in Austin, Texas awaiting the HootBus while SXSW 2013 gets underway.

Curated tours app Urbandig in Vancouver Sun – Featuring me and beer

I made a tour for a startup app called Urbandig which shares “locals” tours of special interests in various cities. This article by Gillian Shaw at Vancouver Sun shares the story with some blurbage on my Gastown Beer Tour contribution.

##

Vancouver startup firm puts a new twist on travel apps

Urbandig is like having a best friend who can show you all the cool spots

By GILLIAN SHAW, Vancouver Sun October 19, 2011

VANCOUVER – What do the digerati do when they’re sitting around wondering how they can discover the really cool spots in town that only the locals know about?

Why, they make an app for it, of course.

That’s just what happened last spring in Los Angeles, when a group of Vancouver new-media types were chatting with friends there about the difficulty of finding those out-of-the-way places that may not even rate a mention in the travel guides.

{snip}

Dave Olson, marketing director for Vancouver’s HootSuite, was the first curator in Vancouver, where he writes under the name of his personal blog, uncleweed.

Olson is “incredibly busy” with the fast-growing HootSuite, creator of the popular social-media dashboard, said Rodgers, but like others involved in the project, he made time to share his passion for a subject dear to his heart — or his tastebuds — craft beer.

“He is a good friend of mine and I know he’s constantly logging the beers he tries on a site called Untappd,” said Rodgers. “We wanted it to be content from subject-matter experts. When you open up the app and Dave Olson tells you to go to Six Acres and try the Raven Cream Ale, you know that you can trust Dave is going to guide you to the right place.”

{more about my pal Mikala}

Mikala Taylor, creator of the popular music website Backstage Rider, is another Urbandig curator. “I cranked out a tour based on some of the places I seem to live in, which are really all the music venues in Vancouver,” she said. “Rather than just say ‘Here are some great music venues,’ I flipped it on its head and aligned it with the stuff I like to do, which is hang out with bands.”

And so you’ll find Taylor’s tour includes tips on the best places to stand if you want to meet the band, where the tour buses are parked, the backstage area and other insider tidbits.

“I remember when I first moved here there was a book, eat.shop vancouver, which had really interesting takes on some of the cooler places in the city,” said Taylor. “Not so much like a Lonely Planet or Time Out guide; it seemed to be more in the trenches.

“To me, Urbandig seems like an app version of that book. If you really drill in there are some really cool tips from the experts, people who really know something about what they’re writing about.”

Source: Vancouver startup Urbandig wanders off the beaten path with its new travel app

HootSuite Takes A Little Cash Off The Table To ‘De-Risk,’ Aims For Bigger Game via Venture Capital Dispatch, WSJ

Early investors and employees of the social media management company have sold $20 million worth of shares.

Social media management company HootSuite Media has ballooned since it started a little over three years ago, winning business from global brands and growing to nearly four million users, with $75 million in revenue expected this year.

Now HootSuite’s founder, Ryan Holmes, and some of his fellow shareholders are taking money off the table–they sold $20 million worth of shares to OMERS Ventures, an investment arm of one of Canada’s largest pension plans, in one of the biggest venture capital deals in Canada in the last decade.

Source: HootSuite Takes A Little Cash Off The Table To ‘De-Risk,’ Aims For Bigger Game – Venture Capital Dispatch – WSJ

Notes about Building a Posse – Social Marketing Kung Fu

3 buckets

– diff motivations that they care about

– don’t identify them and put them in the right bucket – you’ll lose them or they’ll go rogue 

1) rockstars – want to be affiliated with the brand and have it’s fame shine onto themselves (what can they get out of their relationship with you) – respect amongst peers

2) gardeners – diligently test your system for bugs (kind quiet emails that notify us of our mistakes)

3) interns – gain practical knowledge to advance their careers – loan yourself out – you give me skills, I give you labor 

clearly identify what they want to do and need constraints

they’ll feel that they’re authorized to speak on the company’s behalf – they’re not

– be clear that they are here to accomplish very specific goals and tasks

– make the objective the objective 

specific goal:

– translation project – see int’l growth and diff languages

– starting with japanese – people out there answering questions full-time in their free time

– listen and pay attention to them

– brought on japanese intern

      – get market research from japanese

      – keep asking what your market is doing

      – keep pinging people

– create strings to be translated

– pitting countries against each other (in a friendly way)

– recognize contributors publicly and amplify it

– build assets through recognizing people

– fb, content goes to die

– hootups

– don’t start support in other languages until you have “critical mass”/enough momentum

– customer support can be an endless black hole for time/money -> not necessarily the key to success in tech

– next belt – unpleasant situations

– figure out what makes your helper click – credit internally, public pats on the back,

– comment obsessively

– reinforce and build their confidence by giving them inspiring and rewarding tasks

– have them participate and put their name on it

– use visual assets