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.