Quotes

“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.

HootSuite Talks China Plans: #video via TechinAsia

HootSuite Talks China Plans: Simplified Character Support, Chinese Branding Coming Soon via Tech in Asia

October 25, 2012

Social media in China is huge. So huge that nobody wants to ignore it. And while lots of people think “Twitter” when they hear HootSuite, the folks at HootSuite are taking China seriously. We already know the company has recently added traditional characters and Sina Weibo support, but what else is in the cards? I got a chance to talk with Dave Olson, HootSuite’s community VP, who gave me the lowdown on the company’s China plans.

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Mr. Olson also shared some cool extras with us, like this Chinese pronunciation guidean enthusiastic employee made and an introduction video in Chinese (embedded below). I’m sure not everyone at the company is learning Chinese, but this is still a nice, friendly touch that shows the folks at HootSuite are really working to communicate with Chinese users on their terms. Here’s hoping that HootSuite can move even further into the Chinese market (and that that pronunciation video will stop people from pronouncing weibo like “way-bow”)!

Source: HootSuite Talks China Plans: Simplified Character Support, Chinese Branding Coming Soon

HootSuite Talks China Plans: Simplified Character Support, Chinese Branding via TechinAsia

HootSuite Talks China Plans: Simplified Character Support, Chinese Branding Coming Soon

Social media in China is huge. So huge that nobody wants to ignore it. And while lots of people think “Twitter” when they hear HootSuite, the folks at HootSuite are taking China seriously. We already know the company has recently added traditional characters and Sina Weibo support, but what else is in the cards? I got a chance to talk with Dave Olson, HootSuite’s community VP, who gave me the lowdown on the company’s China plans.

Why is HootSuite interested in China?

Since launching almost 4 years years ago, HootSuite’s goal was to make our social media management system available to as many people as possible.

With this in mind, we monitor conversations about HootSuite and reach out to markets in which we see rapid organic growth. Afterwards we work to localize these unique markets. We started with Japan, then Spanish speaking countries, around Europe and then onwards into other Asian markets like Indonesia.

We knew the Chinese market was important but wanted to make sure we avoided missteps that we observed from other companies. We also knew that HootSuite is blocked by association in China because our core product includes access to Twitter and Facebook.

HootSuite is very cognizant that Chinese social media users have different networks, different needs, habits and culture along with different language. In addition we know there is more than one Chinese market with different expectations around China’s provinces including communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan/Taipei, Singapore and the huge ex-pat community such as in our home city of Vancouver.

We also learned that despite the difference, people using Chinese social networks share some of the same needs as users in the West, which are: sharing content across networks, managing multiple online profiles, and help listening, responding to, and analyzing their online interactions.

We’ve learned a lot from localizing elsewhere, and are hoping to use these lessons in bringing HootSuite to Chinese users. We want to tread lightly, and listen attentively.

As such, we are taking a diplomatic and educational approach to build community, share knowledge and deliver on expectations. Eventually we can build a business case as well.

What are you doing to get into the China market already?

Along with adding Sina Weibo support, we translated HootSuite’s web and mobile social media dashboard into Traditional Chinese and released it on October 8th in order to start the conversation with social media enthusiasts in Hong Kong, Taiwan/Taipei, etc.

However, before starting the translation project, we held a Chinese Localization Symposium in which we invited a cross section of Chinese social media users to discuss the linguistic, cultural and logistical challenges. The event was a success and we followed it up with a fun translathon with Chinese themed decorations, music, food, tea and more!

We also built a company presence on Sina Weibo, created a Twitter account, published a variety of videos to say hello and discussed our vision of collaborating with Chinese social media users.

Now, with the Traditional Chinese version launched, we’re underway with working on the Simplified Chinese version. We’ve also started developing a Chinese specific branding as well, to share our name and culture in Chinese characters.

We aim to keep things pretty grassroots, talking with people through our @HootSuite_CN and Sina Weibo accounts to see what is working, what isn’t, and what they want to see in the future.

Building relationships with users is our biggest priority.

What comes next and what are your long term plans?

Next up is getting our Simplified Chinese translation released by the end of the year. We will also increase Sina Weibo integration features, and are exploring integrations with other Chinese social networks like Renren and other Tencent properties. A lot of our next steps will be based on what we hear from conversations with our Chinese users.

We also hope to find quality social media industry events for our CEO Ryan Holmes to speak at and share our culture and story.

Long term plans are based on the feedback and reaction from these initial steps. Obviously, there are challenges facing foreign companies wanting to operate in Mainland China – especially technology companies like HootSuite – so we’ll stay focused on finding ways to get HootSuite in the hands of as many users as possible, perhaps with a China-specific version.

What are you finding the differences are between your Chinese and international users? Between weibo and twitter users?

First off, Chinese users can say a lot more in 140 characters!

Social media has broad appeal, regardless of which network you are using. The desire to connect with people, to broadcast, listen, and share, spans cultures.

Social media usage patterns and attitudes for Chinese specifically – and international in general – is a topic we spend lots of time researching. Getting a finger on the pulse of those differences is something we hope conversations with our users will produce.

For example: Weibo has a focus on media-rich content like photos and videos, as well as things like emoji. Comments and ‘likes’ on posts also helps keep the conversation going.

Overall, feature differences between networks reflect and/or inform usage patterns, so there are definitely some differences between Sina Weibo and Twitter users. We’ve embraced the differences in Twitter usage between North America and countries like Japan and Indonesia, so we’ll continue listening to the Chinese users for guidance.

Mr. Olson also shared some cool extras with us, like this Chinese pronunciation guide an enthusiastic employee made and an introduction video in Chinese (embedded below). I’m sure not everyone at the company is learning Chinese, but this is still a nice, friendly touch that shows the folks at HootSuite are really working to communicate with Chinese users on their terms. Here’s hoping that HootSuite can move even further into the Chinese market (and that that pronunciation video will stop people from pronouncing weibo like “way-bow”)!

Source: HootSuite Talks China Plans: Simplified Character Support, Chinese Branding Coming Soon

Radian6 Layoffs Prove Social is Not All About Technology – Techvibes

Techvibes broke some big news yesterday (Oct. 24, 2012)

But it wasn’t the page views, retweets, and Likes that blew us away. It was the comments on our article.

Shortly after publishing our piece confirming a slew of layoffs at New Brunswick’s Radian6 readers started weighing in with their two cents, job offers, and best wishes. Surprisingly most of the best wishes were from competitors in the social marketing and analytics space.

As Ian Gertler so eloquently said, “the incredible level of respect and professional admiration in these comments is refreshing.” Here’s a sample:

HootSuite’s Dave Olson: “As VP Community at HootSuite, i am rather sad to see this. Radian 6 – from the other coast of Canada than us – we’re a noble competitor and industry light. Regardless of Salesforce’s plans with R6 (and yes they are a competitor to us), it’s simply sad to see diligent community builders cut loose. In my (biased) opinion, cultivating community and sparking internal culture are critical roles which simply can not be outsourced, ignored or underestimated. Best wishes to all who received the dreaded news today.”

Sysomos Community Manager Sheldon Levine: “While these guys have been and are a competitor to my company, Sysomos, I got to know a lot of the R6 team over the past few years and I was a bit upset to hear this news. Just because our companies are competitors doesn’t mean that I couldn’t be friends with some of these people, and it’s tough to see great people lose their jobs. I won’t say anymore about this, other than I wish all of these former employees the best of luck in the future and that any of them can feel free to reach out to me to talk any time.”

Source: Radian6 Layoffs Prove Social is Not All About Technology – Techvibes

The High-Risk Jobs Behind Your Digital Conveniences via The Next Web

The High-Risk Jobs Behind Your Digital Conveniences: The Next Web By Mike Vardy, Oct. 14, 2012

One software-as-a-service that does its best to prevent workers from getting adversely affected by monitoring the goings-on revolving the company is HootSuite.

Dave Olson, HootSuite’s Vice President of Community explains that “the workload is distributed and everyone supports one another – practically and emotionally”. But there are times when the users get under the skin of those trying to bring the best service possible to them. That’s when Olson steps in.

“As a long-time practitioner, I provide mentoring to ensure workers don’t take snotty replies personally and don’t reply in haste or anger,” Olson says. “When in doubt: breathe, remember these tools didn’t exist 5 years ago, and go get a coffee and relax before replying.”

Source: The High-Risk Jobs Behind Your Digital Conveniences

Meet our Board of Advisors for 2012-2013! via VIAwesome

They are, from left to right:
Katie Jeanes – Founder, ALittleMoreGood.com
Mark Brand – CEO, Save On Meats / Mark Brand Inc
Maggie Langrick – Arts and Life Editor, Vancouver Sun
Michael Christie – 2011 Vancouver Book Award-winning author, MichaelChristie.net
Lesli Boldt – President, Boldt Communications
Peter Ladner – Author / Former Vancouver City Councillor, PeterLadner.ca
Jason Donaldson – Director, Gulf Islands School of Performing Arts
Amanda Gibbs – Principal, Public Assembly
Justin Young – Creative Director, Village & Company
Rebecca Bollwitt – Owner, Miss604.com and sixty4media
Michael Eckford – TV and Radio personality, Urban Rush and Rock 101
Roberta LaQuaglia – Operations Manager, Vancouver Farmers Markets
Margot White – Former Vice President, Weber Shandwick
Steven Cox – Principal, Cause and Affect
Meriko Kubota – Grants/Community Initiatives Manager, Vancouver Foundation
Graeme Berglund – Founder/Creative Director, The Cheaper Show
Rachel Thexton – Partner, Dunn PR
Josh Dunford – Founder, Burnkit Creative
Michael Green – Principal, Michael Green Architecture
Anthony Nicalo – President, Foodtree
Dave Olson – VP Community, Hootsuite
Jesse Keefer – Owner, Bodega Ridge Resort
Steve Rio – President, Briteweb
Erin Ireland – Founder, To Die For Banana Bread
Todd Falkowsky – Founder, The Canadian Design Resource
Leanna Crawford – Co-creative Director, Company Policy
Mark Busse – Partner, Industrial Brand
Yuriko Iga – Founder, Blim
Brian Riddell – CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation
Michael Tippett – CEO & Co-Founder, Ayoudo.com
Karen Pinchin – Co-founder, Rain City Chronicles
Scott Hawthorn – Co-owner, Salt Tasting Room & Native Shoes
Lana Gay – Host and Journalist, CBC Music
Gregory Hegger – Director of Communications and Partnerships, brandLIVE
Amanda McCuaig – Marketing Officer, Museum Of Vancouver
Steve Pratt – Director of Digital Music & CBC Radio 3, CBC Music

Why Social Media Will Reshape the 2012 Olympics – Mashable

Why Social Media Will Reshape the 2012 Olympics – Mashable

Cool Under Pressure: How HootSuite Responded to Embarrassing Tweets, Crashing Servers, and the Japanese Earthquake, via Tech.co

Tech.co, by Kira M. Newman, May 30, 2012

Cool Under Pressure: How HootSuite Responded to Embarrassing Tweets, Crashing Servers, and the Japanese Earthquake

On February 15, 2011, a Red Cross employee – obviously having a lot of fun – accidentally broadcasted this tweet from @RedCross rather than her personal account. (See the full story on CNN.) But what VP Community Dave Olson was most alarmed about was the little HootSuite marker: the rogue tweet had been sent using his startup’s social media dashboard.

So HootSuite flew into action: they donated to the Red Cross, encouraged others to donate, and sent a care package with a beer koozie to the mistweeter. Soon, with support from Dogfish Head, breweries were offering a free pint of beer for customers who donated a pint of blood to the Red Cross, rallying around the hashtag #gettngslizzerd. And HootSuite quickly launched tools for secure profiles – an extra step to confirm that you want to tweet to a protected account. What could have been a fiasco turned into a PR boon for 3 companies.

Time and time again, HootSuite has adroitly avoided missteps and faux pas while capitalizing on pivotal moments. That same February, while the Arab Spring ignited in Egypt and Facebook and Twitter seemed blocked, protesters and media signed up for HootSuite to get the message out. As press coverage soared, HootSuite released a timely infographic on popular hashtags and tweets about the Arab Spring. They were soon getting calls about it from the US Department of State, National Geographic, and Voice of America.

The following month, HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes was scheduled to present on a SXSW panel called Big in Japan. Less than 3 days before the panel, Japan was struck by the record-breaking earthquake and tsunami.

“The show must go on, in some way or another. We couldn’t just go there and say, ‘Let’s all cuddle up and cry,’” recalls Olson. So HootSuite set up a breakfast with the panelists to make sure everyone’s family was safe, and started the panel with a moment of silence. Afterward, they held a discussion for those concerned about Japan. HootSuite tweeted to urge attendees to donate, and SXSWers ended up contributing over $125,000. Meanwhile, HootSuite employees in Japan – the first market they had localized for – used their language skills to help stranded locals and connect them with embassies.

I met with VP Community Dave Olson at HootSuite’s Vancouver headquarters

And HootSuite was still a small team. Though they’ve now grown to 180, they only had around 20 employees when Amazon Web Services crashed one month later, bringing HootSuite (and many other sites) along with it. But the HootSuite blog was still up, and they used it to alert customers of the situation and share news coverage from around the web. Throughout, says Olson, they refrained from “throwing Amazon under the bus.” Once service was restored, HootSuite wrote a blog post about how they’d prevent a similar problem in the future, and issued a $50 credit available to their 1.6 million customers.

From humiliating tweets to chaotic revolutions to tragedies big and small, HootSuite has kept its cool and remained genuine. But how?

“I want to build this company one hug at a time, one relationship at a time – of course it’s not quite possible anymore but we still take that same ethos and same attitude,” says Olson.

“We really try to be egoless. We’re all in it together. We’re all just owls. … Having this egoless, hustle, underdog culture – there’s something really ingrained in our DNA about we don’t take anything for granted. We don’t compete against people; we compete against ourselves – we’re always raising the bar for ourselves.”

It’s a tough lesson to implement, but this is what it looks like in the trenches.

Source: Cool Under Pressure: How HootSuite Responded to Embarrassing Tweets, Crashing Servers, and the Japanese Earthquake

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