Shinto wedding vow, Read by Dave and Ryoko in Unison at Munetade Jinjya (shrine), April 20, 2019
Phoneticized from Japanese by Ryoko (Fujita) Olson Note: copy provided for shrine for convenience of any future non-Japanese literate marriage candidates.
An article by Ryan Holmes talking about the tactics and methods Hootsuite used to build with small budgets and big fun including Hootups, community activities like translation project, creative swag and more…
Ryan Holmes | April 10, 2015 1:04 PM ET
Ryan Holmes: With literally millions of apps competing for attention, startups are finding themselves forced to pour ever greater sums into marketing efforts. But money isn’t always the answer…
But more money isn’t always the answer. In Hootsuite’s first three years, we grew our user base from zero to five million people. During that time, our marketing budget was pretty much non-existent. We turned instead to a pair of complementary, low-cost approaches to find and keep customers. It may well have made all the difference.
Freemium economics One fundamental decision made shortly after launching in 2009 was to make our social media tool a freemium service. The majority of our users — and we very quickly reached the million mark — paid nothing. They could (and still can) log in for free to view their social media accounts from one dashboard, schedule messages and see analytics. Companies that wanted beefed up functionality and extra support, paid a monthly fee, ranging from as little as $9 to $1,000 and up for large enterprises with lots of employees.
Why invest so many resources and so much bandwidth catering to millions of free users who would never account for a cent of revenue? For starters, freemium dramatically reduces the need for traditional marketing and sales efforts. Our free users — in steady, predictable numbers — became paid users. Instead of having to sell them on the merits of our product with expensive ads, we let them see for themselves. Our product became our best marketing tool and salesperson. On average more than half our paying customers, including large clients, start out as free users.
Meanwhile, our free user base fulfilled another key function: It kept us honest. Free users are fickle; they’re not locked in by a contract or any other obligations. They can, at any moment, pick up and take their “business” elsewhere. So to maintain and grow our free user base, we had to continually update our product, rolling out new features to stay ahead of the pack.
These same features helped us win and keep paying customers. While other corporate tools were years behind the social media curve, our efforts to satisfy free users meant we could offer big enterprise customers the latest technology.
Seeing value in community But the freemium approach wouldn’t have been as effective were it not for another equally important strategy: investing in a fully functional community department. 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 time pitching products and fielding help calls.
Our community department, by contrast, didn’t have direct sales or support responsibilities. Their primary mandate was to help people who already knew our product connect with one another. In the early days, they set up social media accounts in a half-dozen key languages, sharing updates with users around the world.
At the same time, they led a crowdsourced translation effort that saw our tool translated into more than a dozen local languages, 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 product tips. Ultimately, a network of hundreds of volunteer “ambassadors” around the world took shape, enthusiastic users who agreed to spread the word in their countries. Many of these ambassadors were bloggers, consultants and marketers whose own agenda of developing a large online following aligned well with ours.
Cumulatively, these projects gave us entree into new markets, initiating the viral chain of adoption in other countries and spreading our product beyond its original North American user base.
|Common Sense Advisory Blogs|
|Crowdsourced Translation Fuels HootSuite’s International Expansion
Globally speaking, HootSuite is on the move. We previously profiled its crowdsourced translation environment – along with 103 others – in a report on how organizations are harnessing the talent of linguistically diverse online communities. The company is making several announcements this week about enhanced access for users who speak different languages and reside in different parts of the planet. We spoke with HootSuite’s Marketing Director, Dave Olson (@daveohoots) to learn more.
Yesterday, HootSuite heralded the arrival of the Spanish version of its web dashboard with a bilingual blog post. The company also released an infographic depicting usage in numerous parts of the Spanish-speaking world.
Source: HootSuite (Click here to see the full infographic)
Why did HootSuite choose crowdsourcing over conventional translation methods? “We did try them,” Olson explains, “but HootSuite includes a lot of specialized social media-specific vocabulary which our users understand best since they use and talk about the tool with their local friends and colleagues. We think this real-world knowledge provides the best translations.”
According to Olson, the crowdsourced translation project was launched in August 2010, and the company quickly saw traction in Spanish for localization of the mobile platforms. However, major movement did not begin with the Spanish version of their web platform until they hired a Spanish-speaking employee to rally the troops and ensure progress. Our report discussed the fact that HootSuite is doing some unique things with crowdsourced translation – for example, they allow users not only to suggest languages for crowdsourcing, but to actually vote on which languages to do next.
HootSuite’s crowdsourced translation work also has broader social importance. As Olson points out: “Before we had the translation tool built, our iPhone developer (@richerd) noticed that someone wanted an Arabic version and offered to translate it. Richerd programmed the right-to-left display and worked around some unique pluralization conventions and we released the first localized dashboard for Arabic. Months later, when the crisis in Egypt erupted, our tool was a huge help to people on the ground.” As we noted in a previous post, crowdsourced translation is what enabled social media to play such an important role in Egypt.
Olson shared another compelling example. Shortly after HootSuite released the translation tool, the company was contacted by a group in Wales that wanted to work on the translation as part of a special day to preserve the Welsh language. “They didn’t make too much progress, but the idea of combining this traditional language with modern technology was inspiring to us,” he said, adding that the long Welsh words were tough on the product layout.
The power of technology to breathe new life into endangered languages is a phenomenon we’ve been writing about for years, most recently in our discussions with Google and Microsoft in the run-up to International Mother Language Day and in a longer interview with David Harrison.
HootSuite’s announcement shows that high-tech giants aren’t the only ones making a significant difference in the lives of underserved linguistic communities.