Preamble: I shared stories about growing Hootsuite on a grassroots level and break down tools and tactics in this “Conversations with Community Managers” audio pod interview from May 27, 2010.
Details: Conversations with Community Managers – Dave Olson (Hootsuite) Episode #9 features Dave Olson, Marketing Director for HootSuite, which helps people and companies track, monitor and manage their Twitter communities.
Note: this transcription was performed by Jimmy M. in Kenya with best efforts. Any feedback + errors or omissions are welcome. Also, i do not work for Hootsuite as of Sept 2017 and views are not the company’s etc.
Welcome to conversations with Community Managers, a podcast series with actual Community Managers from a variety of Industries. On this podcast, we peel back the hype and get into ‘how to’ discussions that uncover community and social media management best practices. Conversations with Community Managers is a co-production of Voce Communications and the Community Roundtable.
Doug Haslam: This is Doug Haslam from Voce Communications.
Jim Storer: And Jim Storer from the Community Roundtable.
Doug: And with us is Dave Olson, the Marketing Director for Hootsuite joining us from Vancouver…North Vancouver I guess, right?
Dave: Well the office is in right here in downtown Vancouver but I live up in the hills of North Vancouver right on the side of the mountain so I get to sort of descend from the upper reaches into the city each day.
Doug: About your title, so Marketing Director which is pretty traditional and old school but you say you like to call yourself Community Wrangler. Can you explain what that means?
Dave: Oh really underneath what I do at marketing and it really includes everything from the messaging and the PR and the public relations, media relations as well as support, all those things tie back into telling our story and building a community culture around all that. So I prefer Community Wrangler just because it sounds a little less corporate but really things like support is the new marketing and community building is the new marketing. So a lot of the things that traditionally would be done by a marketing director, I do them clearly differently, to say the least. Doug: Just explain to us a little bit for people who might not know what Hootsuite is.
Dave: Oh, Hootsuite it’s a social media dashboard. It really started as a tool to manage multiple Twitter accounts particularly for agencies and it kind of developed in an agency setting with the need to manage multiple accounts for multiple clients and have multiple editors having access to those accounts without sharing passwords.
Since then it’s really evolved into a full-service social media dashboard, which means that you can update multiple networks all from one dashboard, so Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress.com, Foursquare even Myspace as well as all sorts of other networks through Ping.fm but you can update them all from one dashboard, but more importantly than that I think is the ability to Monitor and track conversations, to be able to do real-time searches and to be able to get almost real-time analytics about what people are clicking through on the updates that you send out.
Doug: Okay, so you’re helping. Your product, your service is helping companies and agencies manage community. So who’s the community for you then?
Dave: The Community are those people who are managing community. So really-
Doug: That’s totally meta.
Dave: Yeah, it’s a little bit meta what I’m doing for sure, but I spend a lot of time outreaching to…at agencies doing kind of power tuning sessions and listening to feedback from agencies as well as a lot of book publishers and newspaper publishers record labels, which is a lot of fun like…yeah, a lot of small to medium businesses, you know, we have a lot of kind of glamorous big high-profile brands that use our service from world governments to well-known brands, but you know, the bread and butter is really a lot of these small to medium businesses and organizations who need to kind of get up to speed quickly without spending a lot of money and then be able to then report on what’s working to the higher-ups.
I realize from doing this for years that the reporting and checking what’s working so you can rapidly adjust tactics is tremendously important. So that’s a key piece to it.
Jim: If I’m a social media manager for a brand and I still haven’t got a platform like this. How do you approach that? I mean if you were to give them advice, what would you say?
Dave: I’d say don’t get hung up on the numbers of followers, get very hung up on what people are saying about you online. A lot of people who you know who aren’t familiar with the social media stuff and haven’t really noticed the magic of it yet, if they see reports as all we had 300 mentions about our brand name. That’s not really a huge impact for me and I was like, oh, I know 300 people personally. What’s the big deal of that? But once they actually see that streaming by in a column so you see what…you know, and start to put real personalities behind these comments, so they’re not just numbers. They’re not just metrics, there’re people who have a definite opinion and so anyone even if they don’t know, you know, Twitter from a golf club can really start to understand and engage with these people who are expressing very real opinions, whether positive or negative. And of course, you know, whether or not you’re paying attention, they’re going to be saying them anyway, so you’re better off engaging with those conversations.
Jim: So Dave you’ve been doing community and social media for quite some time. I want to switch gears a little bit and have you talk about looking inside a company and how do you affect a more community-centric culture within an Enterprise or within a company? I’m sure you’ve got tips. I mean you’ve been in a couple of different companies over the last five, six years. Can you give some tips for folks that are listening?
Dave: Well, I think the first thing comes from acknowledging and making people feel included and feel like their opinions matter and that they have a place to express themselves. And then from there, you start reacting very specifically to what those needs are, you know, a lot of people gather feedback, and I mean you’re inundated by surveys. [For example] Since after South by Southwest. I had so many people send me surveys about stuff and it’s like there’s no enthusiasm for doing a survey because I don’t get to participate in the results of that and I don’t necessarily see what comes out of that survey to use an example so by very specifically responding and reacting to what people want and acknowledging that when we release something, you know based on our conversation with so and so we decided to put this together.
We like input up from that…oh, these people gave us input so thank to Bob and Jane for providing input on this, you know, people learn about alpaca llamas for Twitter or something and so acknowledging that and treating everyone with a sense of importance you know, I keep a real thorough media kit on our blog which gives people access to our descriptions logos and all these things to help them go out there and better tell our story.
You know, a lot of times people are very protective about their brands, but you have to open that up a little bit loud and people to feel a little sense of ownership about the brands, we were lucky in the sense that people really responded to our brand. So we take that and run with it by just doing little things like making little treats for the community like different variations of our owl logo and you know, different outfits. It’s almost like a Barbie doll. It sounds a little weird to say this but people really get excited about having a little something special that we’re giving to them as a gift for acknowledging their support of our product and our community and their participation in the community rather than mis-spewing marketing…one-way marketing stuff to them.
You’ll also notice on their blog that I do news roundups which again kind of seems a little meta like that information is already out there on the internet, but by putting it on our blog…put in a little comment say about it and acknowledging that, these people taking the time to make an instructional video to write a review of the product or just to chime in with their pain and what they like next by putting down our blog and reflecting that glory back on them, I think it’s a really important step for building a community.
Doug: What platforms do you find the most engagement on when your community whether it’s on domain or off other domains?
Dave: […] We maintain multiple Twitter channels, (but) that’s definitely where the most of the conversation happens and there’s more and more on the blog and that’s kind of my love of a little bit of more long-form discourse. But really it’s the Twitter because it’s the instantaneousness of it, even when we go out to events because we spend a lot of time on the road because people almost instant access to find out where we are and where we’re hanging out and how you can participate and engage with us.
Dave: Well, just give…really what I think is… and it kind of goes off about this kind of community building and how you build a community, for me the way we build communities with the social media context. And again, I’m sort of doing a meta thing cause I use my own tool to promote by tool but everything I’ve learned about this really we’ve learned decades ago way before I also saw the internet and it was through making little newsletters.
I started making newsletters that look oddly like a ball hog, but they’re made on a ditto machines back in the 70’s which dates me a little bit but it was about hockey and I still blog about hockey and I looked for these newsletters and it’s a three column layout with a header small thing they’re asking for user feedback it has this subscriber count on it and everything about it is the blog except for the delivery method, then from there it turned into punk rock fanzines and poetry chapbooks.
And we’re working with the record label and all these things are really things I say about making people feel included and acknowledged and letting the fans and the participants develop a culture beyond what you’re contributing…everything I learned that what I see now is really kind of came from those kinds of experiences and even like being on Grateful Dead too were after building that sense of community and currently given the keys to the audience a little bit and letting them run with it.
Same tactics but just the tools are different now.
Jim: Let me ask you a question about locational where stuff. It’s all the rage right now and I don’t really want to hear about how you’re integrating it into Hootsuite as much as I want to hear about how you as a community or social media manager are integrating location into the way you think about your community.
Dave: You know, it’s…and especially after South by where this Foursquare / Gowalla conversation kind of dominated it. I really think that there’s only value of you telling the story and it was kind of the third-place contestant in the location game at South by.
They were doing something I thought was really neat where you go in and you check in let’s say you’re visiting Seattle and you’re a fan of rock and roll, you can go around and check in to different places and they’ll tell you an anecdote about Jimi Hendrix or this is what the Crocodile Cafe with these bands play. It kind of gives you a little bit of context and the storytelling behind that and to me, that’s really more intuitive for building Community rather than just checking in places just to attract a crowd. And it seems like something’s are attracting a crowd just attract a crowd and to me that’s kind of a sugar-high of a community where I really think it’s more interesting that people can be contributing and adding value to different landmarks need places to hang out rather than just checking off a box saying that I’m here or I’ve been there.
Jim: That’s alright. I hadn’t heard that kind of concept but I agree with you. I think being able to weave some storytelling into the check-in process. That’s a neat way to think about it.
Dave: Yeah, and everyone had those secrets about their own hometown that…and it doesn’t take more than a decade for things to fade from recent memory. And when I do my lectures around conferences and stuff to talk about, you know, people get hung up because oh we don’t know much about the ancient Romans at the [inaudible 00:10:51]. Really, we don’t know much about what happened before 1995 when you know, that was sort of the *Tipping Point* for internet where I think that regular people start to get online.
So even just, you know, noteworthy world event. If you want to go back and check a [inaudible 00:11:03] a settle information before the web revolution there was just…there’s a few old outdated newspaper links and these things have changed their website so many times the links are broken.
You have to use Wayback machine and in our archive.org and you know Google cached versions but really things that happens before the last and not 10, 15 years are almost invisible, to contemporary information gathering so I’m a big fan of archiving this information but also doing it in such a way that can last off…last for decades rather than months.
And I think that’s a problem, but it’s definitely something that needs to be looked at and taking a little bit more seriously about the longevity of all this information that we’ve created. Creating, you know, we’re not carving into stone tablet anymore which is great because that looked like a lot of work. I’ve seen Hammurabi’s Code and that’s not a blog format I want to work with but you know a lot of this stuff are treated like ephemeral nonsense that doesn’t have this lasting impact and it’s also some a month old it must be stale and even you know, an example of this was you know, Yahoo has famously pulled the plug on a few services recently namely Jumpcut which is a great nonlinear video editing system that I use all the time and one day I got the note saying, “Oh we are shutting it down, move your stuff,” well there’s no way to move them that high, you know, it’s like I clear this thing and I trusted this platform, but then more noteworthy they pulled down Geocities and everyone kind of chuckled and said “Oh yeah, just full of animated under construction gifs” and stuff like that, but really in that period of time that was one of the first DIY publish-your-own website kind of tool and while maybe that’s not the home of academic discourse, it does definitely paint a picture of where our culture with that at that point in time.
So I think things like that. Are important and there’s plenty of hard drive space and bandwidth out there in the world but I think these things are worth preserving because 50 years from now when we’re…when we’re all cyborgs [living on operators?], we can look back and show the…show the kids how we were doing it back in the day.
Jim: So you talk about storytelling in there and can you just share a story that you think kind of exemplifies good community building?
Dave: When I was down in Seattle I had a chance to visit some pop records, and SubPop a big fan of SubPop before it was a label when it’s still just a newspaper column and through all my travels around the world, you know, I’ve always had this interaction seen SubPop bands around the world, but the thing that they did so brilliantly back in the early days was the single of the month club and where you would subscribe so rather than going to the record store and buying the single, you would…and it was great for them for the audience. They would do subscribe and every month you get a 7-inch single in the mail of whatever new brand that they sent out. Now, these things have become incredibly collectible and…but it was also a great example of how you can build stuff with the community like, you know, the people at the other end for paying the money through subscription.
They don’t know if they’re going to love or hate the next band that comes up because they’ve developed some affinity with SubPop. And they had a pretty good hunch that they were going to get into something honest and neat each month in the mail and I think that that builds this excitement, builds an immediacy and absolutely build this relationship between the brand. And in their case that became so successful that they started discontinued because it became a little bit more work but in visiting their office recently, it was great to see if they’ve taken those same kinds of ideas and so kind of continuing on this community building and now they’re using Hootsuite which is a lot fun for me but seeing how they’ve kind of come evolved with these different tools for doing the same thing, which is storytelling and building a brand culture.
Doug: And it seems that the SubPop example is also even though people are paying for the newsletter…was that if, I don’t remember if they were paying for the newsletter or not, but it was an idea of giving something away with the idea that it would come back to them. That people would be interested in the bands and go to the shows and buy the records and the shirts and everything else. So I guess…and that’s an older example because if we’re talking about SubPop, we’re talking about the late 70’s and early 80’s I think when they were getting their act together, right?
Dave: Yeah. It was early 90’s for the most part, yes.
Doug: Yeah. Yeah, exactly and but what I think we’re seeing and because you know, you talk about the mimeograph machines, the ditto machines and preserving even what was on the web in 1999 with Geocities and things like that, are you seeing that we’re learning the same lessons over and over here that we’re when we’re talking about Community it does, even though we have a lot of great new tools, it does come back to that there’s a definition of community that transcends these social media tools we keep talking about. We have to keep looking forward.
Dave: Absolutely. No, I think we’re…[??] right and so we’re sort of run around this and circled maybe get tighter each time you go around this merry-go-round, you know, so it’s a little bit more of a spiral but we definitely keep on going around and around learning these same lessons. But each time the tools get a little bit more refined the way to measure the success it’s a little bit more refined but the fundamental elements in them I don’t think really change very much and I think in five years from now when we actually, you know from having this conversation we’ll have whole different terminology around these same things. I’ve run these the tools but the tactics at the root of it will still really remain the same which is building culture through storytelling.
Doug: Well, thanks. Dave Olson, Community Wrangler for Hootsuite. Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Hey it’s my pleasure guys.
Doug: You’ve been listening to ‘Conversations with Community Managers’, a co-production of the Community Roundtable and Voce Communications. To comment on what you have heard, email doug (at) voceconnect.com or jim (at) community-roundtable.com You can comment on our blog post via vocenation.com or CCommunity-Roundtable.com/blog.. Subscribe to this series on iTunes or on either blog.