HootSuites EasyAnderson.comThis is the third interview that I have had with Dave Olson of HootSuite. HootSuite happens to be the largest and fastest growing Social Media integrator and management software around.  It is the one I use for myself and for my clients as well.

We talk about what it is like to be doing what they are doing, how they got there, and where they are going.

If you are not using it, I suggest you go sign up for it right now. They have a Free version that is great, plus several other paid versions and stupidly low prices. Click here or on the graphic below to get a free 30 day trial on all of their services.  As a client, it is the best Social Media tool that I know of by far.
HootSuite - Social Media Dashboard

As I found out, they just blew through 3 million users. Holy Smokes batman!

Here is the audio and the rest of the interview and if you have heard my interview style before, then you know all about the Umms.  Dave O rips it up in this one!

Click here to download interview as an mp3.

Enjoy!
Easy Anderson

PS Transcription provided by YakWrite.com Transcription services (great prices on interview transcriptions).

Easy Anderson: So, so anyway, this is Andrew Anderson here and I have DaveO from HootSuite. This is, I think, our third conversation that we had, Dave? …

Dave Olson Yeah. And I think so. I think so. I think so. We’ve got a running chronology of our growth here going with you.

Easy Anderson: Yeah. I think the first time we had the – I don’t know. You were – were maybe a hundred thousand or so and what do you, guys, up to? What do you, guys, up to now?

Dave Olson As of Monday, we – we hit the three million sign-up threshold.

Easy Anderson: No way. You, guys, just blew through a million last time we spoke.

Dave Olson It is – it is pretty remarkable. Our growth curb keeps on going more and more vertical. The first million took us about 18 months, the second about eight and the third about six.

Easy Anderson: Holy cow.

Dave Olson And we’re – you know, with that, we’ve seen a lot of, you know a little bit of a changing growth patterns as well. You know, we see …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … almost 60% of our growth coming outside the North America now.

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson A lot more mobile signups. You know, mobile are definitely big driver for us. You know, obviously, we’re on the iPhone as well as android and blackberry as well as the Japanese feature phones.

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson So that definitely helps but yeah, we – we keep on growing, keep on adding and the future is ours.

Easy Anderson: Okay. I want to back up for the readers, the listeners that – that don’t know HootSuite is. Can you give us a 30-second rundown on what you, guys, are doing and what you – what you – are into now and who you are?

Dave Olson Well, we make a Social Media Management or Dashboard, if you will, that allows users to bring in all their different Social Media profiles into one centralized web-based location to then broadcast message whether that’s scheduling or real-time monitor conversations for any of their profiles, hash tags, lists, whatever you got, as well as track all those results and success to your campaign through analytic reports and so on ’cause you know, it is no longer enough to just say, “Oh, we’re building both for Social Media.” You know, you really have to show what the success isn’t and allows folks who are Social Media managers, community managers, marketing folks to really do some experiments and see what works out there in the social world.

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson We’re based in Vancouver, BC but like I mentioned, we’re – we’re all over the world and find ourselves in all kinds of unique situations around the world because of this large customer-based and you know in the greater scheme of things, three million is tiny compared to some of the behemoth out there but our users tend to be folks who have multiple accounts, in some cases, hundreds, a lot of corporate and enterprise accounts, TV networks, publishing, publication companies where they’re broadcasting messages that grant all across all sorts of properties. So, you know, really from power users to small-medium businesses to government agencies, they’re really all than our mix.

Easy Anderson: Right. Yeah. And I know you, guys, get some big names. Can you recall four or five of the big ones up there?

Dave Olson To me, I love all three million equally so for me, we got and feel a little bit lame but the …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … the thing that I have the most funniest is when there is a product, a TV program, a service that I particularly really love …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … and you know what I noticed the other day, the daily show using HootSuite.

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson To me, that is like – you know, that is really break at home ’cause that is a program I watch and it is about you, Americans and your politics are so funny talking.

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson Or what I saw the clash when the grace rock and roll bands of all time using – using HootSuite to update her Facebook page.

Easy Anderson: Why?

Dave Olson That is – that is a real treat but without there is hundreds of other people, if you were to elect to your client list, they’ll be different ones that would pop up on your radar but you know, any, everything from the UK foreign service is one that I think it is pretty neat experiment because UK has embassies and consulates which literally everywhere.

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson So that is – that is a really interesting youth case but at the same time, I just love seeing people who are really using our tool to build up their small home-operated business and all of the sudden, we’re helping them gain a sense of independence, financial freedom, helping them fulfill their dreams by making – by making these tools.

Easy Anderson: Got you. And then you know I know you talked about the – the Social Media managers and everyone else. I mean, I personally, as I have a lot of my clients using it that are small business down their that actually want to be able to qualify with they are doing on Social Media because you know there’s still a lot them that – that know about it but do not really use it and I know the reports that I get from you, guys, because I am a plain customer, too, just for – for full discovery group.

Dave Olson I love you more, slightly more than – than most then.

Easy Anderson: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. You – you get my, I don’t know, with a lapping what – 599/month or something 99/month that are …

Dave Olson Yeah.

Easy Anderson: It’s – it’s ridiculously …

Dave Olson Yeah.

Easy Anderson: … very low but I mean I get the – you, guys, send me the report of how many retweets, et cetera, that are going out there and I mean, that’s just – you know you can actually see a Return on your investment as from Social Media which I – I just think it is amazing and so that about – that part of it is good. I know …

Dave Olson Can I chat – can I chat on that real quick …

Easy Anderson: Sure, you would.

Dave Olson … to talk a little bit our line? I’m not someone who obsesses on that that too much but obviously it is a really important part of it and with our recording tools and what you are talking about there, the Summary Report that we send out, that tell us kind of the basics but within our analytics modules this is probably three-dozen different modules now that you can create and build your own custom reports to measure exactly what it is that you are trying to figure out. You know, I like to think of Social Medial as a collection of tools and tactics to help solve problems rather than this big amorphous blob of conversation, right?

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson And so if you are trying to improve this sentiment or the feeling about your brand that is one thing you can track. If you want volume, how many tweets, you can track that and you can also see exactly which tweets, which times of day, and so on, are really getting results, what they are, the week and so on so you can start to tailor your messaging based on that and then if you are really obsessive about it, you can start using custom url parameters and really track that back through Google analytics to know exactly which tweet that you sent out resulted and how many signups, how many list subscriptions, how many purchases, how many increases, how many resumes, whatever you are trying to solve. So you can get that under granular level exactly how many.

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson We have some case studies about this. One in particular a hotel and casino down in Nevada. I did a great experiment where they were tracking hotel room rentals exactly based which tweet, which Facebook post, what G+ post, whatever, that room booking came from and that is incredibly powerful that billboards, radio, TV, and those other traditional forms of magazines, advertising and so on can’t really deliver on.

Easy Anderson: Right. And I mean, it brings back into play, you know, scientific advertising that it is not corrupt you, you know, you know, upon a table with the casinos. They – and really it does allow you to figure out where you are making your money from, which is what, I think every business is line for it’s great that you can communicate with the customers and everything else but I mean, from the small business standpoint, even in the business standpoint, you can directly see what is bringing you in the money and you know the other thing that I use it for, I – I think the – the best thing that I think of is that of ease of use to be able to track conversations within HootSuite, personally, because I can get in touch with customers. I could follow conversations I – I do not get – you know I don’t know what I have, 50 – 60,000 followers on one, just one of my Twitter accounts and people get lost there but you know I’ve got the ability to – to pull up those conversations and I can track customers and give them the attention that you know, that I feel that they need so that’s – that’s a huge plus. I mean, I’m just a community guy who free plug there so …

Dave Olson We appreciate that.

Easy Anderson: Yeah. What are the things I wanted to talk to you about because I’m – I’m dealing more and more with a tons of startups these days and you know one of the easiest ways for them to grow fast is exactly what you, guys, have done, and can you talk to me a little bit the experiment because you are one of more explosively, explosive growth companies that’s out there that I know of as far as number of users and everything. Can you – can you give me a little bit of history about how you, guys, get started, if you can, and you know, what was involved, did you, guys, break the piggy banks to fund yourself? Can you give me a little bit of a background on that?

Dave Olson Sure. And it is worth noting that all this information I’ll tell us is all publicly available on whether you go to our crunch-based profile …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … or on the – on the blog, but HootSuite was born from within an agency called “Invoke” that with the digital agency doing all sorts of different services for clients including building out some products including what they called “Memelabs” which is a video-contesting platform, simple simple CMS editor at this time and so HootSuite originally was born to take care of some internal conundrums of how to manage multiple Twitter accounts from multiple clients without having to log in and out of Twitter which – everyone has tried to do that as real dragon as just going to be right with mistakes.

So that was the first problem that we would set out to solve. That was – the first version was built kind of almost tons of a side of a desk project as a little experiment and released in a very short period of time to see what the public thought of it. From there, there was a very quick immediate growth. Then we realized that there was something – something there so the team began adding some more features that move towards having multi account – multi, multiple editors editing those multiple accounts. I started working towards analytics and so on and so very quickly integrated based on market reactions. So that is I think one of the key things of why we grew so fast.

Now, when we got to the point where there was enough users to really say, “Well, we can make something out of this,” HootSuite spun off from the agency after raising $1.95 million from a consortium of venture partners and from there, we’ve kept at kind of an underdog, scrappy, hardworking kind of attitude where over the last two years we average a new significant software release every two weeks and we just added features responding very directly to the request that we hear from the feedback channel where folks can go and submit and ID and voted up and voted down and so on. I’m really looking and talking to a lot of community managers and marketing types and saying, “What problems, what situations do you have that we can help you solve?” Now, keep in mind that three years ago Social Media wasn’t near what it is now and has been explosive growth all through out the industry but also three years ago, two, three years ago, there was a whole bucketful of folks that were – would be considered competitors to HootSuite. Managers have been acquired now, a few have gone by the wayside and a few of them have pivoted and now we see a whole new batch of one that have served, taken what we’ve done and try to modify it and tune it, customize it a little bit to their thing so, it is definitely a ground swell within the industry for these tools as Social Medial has become a thing for business but we’ve always kept a lean, non-fancy kind of attitude where boots – you know, where boots on the ground and fingers on keyboards and head down making stuff happen and I have kind of a unique role in that. I use a Social Media tool to promote a Social Medial tool to other Social Media practitioners so it is a little bit matter recursive but you know over the years I’ve helped dozens and dozens of small businesses kind of get going with internet stuff and we’ve kind of kept that attitude of being helpful as we’ve grown and got a little bit more up market with the enterprise customers.

We’ve grown from – I was number 9 and we’re up in around to hundred employees now. We’ve probably be 200 by at the end of the year and we do not have a – you know, we do not spend money on the – like our offices look like a Facebook office and the social network movies, just to say that.

Easy Anderson: Well, you, guys, still in a big, one big room? So …

Dave Olson Yeah. We’ve taken over more of the space in that same building so we’re sort of …

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson … split in to three rooms but it is – it is a, you know it is more like a bunker clubhouse where you come in and there is people sit down and get right to work. He is not allowed to – we still keep a real sense of urgency and entrepreneurial spirit about us in everything that we do.

Easy Anderson: Right. Well, that is cool. And then you know not giving away the – anything else here. Have you, guys, I know you were – you were free at first, right? You weren’t charging anything for the service, correct?

Dave Olson Yeah. For sure and still 95, 96% of our users use the free product.

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson And really within a premium business model, you know, meaning that most folks are going to use the free one and folks who need a little bit more, we certainly have those things start at $5.99/month like you mentioned earlier but then from that, we’ve added a few more add ons to that including a HootSuite University Program which is a subscription-based program that folks can earn a certification so they can have a basically they were student in a HootSuite authorized consultants directory and have a badge and put that on their link down and really can participate in on-going training with industry leaders to connect in webinars, updated courseware and so on, so it is a really powerful thing.

I know we’ve added on adult things for folks like you that additional analytics points. We just added an archiving tool where now you can archive so if you have a hash check conversation you run every week, you can archive all those which is – which is pretty interesting. And you know, and then from there you can add more team members to your account so if you’re a virtual assistant or you have a team built out, you can build up that team incrementally as you need and not kind of an ala cart basis and then finally, for the big players, we have …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … whole enterprise business department now where we have the full-featured tool that includes a lot of things that just regular users would not really have a tremendous need for us. There is some advance security features to prevent mistweets that you heard about on the news every few months and …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm. You know …

Dave Olson … and you know more team members are little bit more account provision in and hand holding an account management to get customers initially set up but – but you are right, it is a – it started as a free product and still has a free component and was just expected all his will and you know like I said, I love all our users equally and seeing folks sign on from far-flung countries is as exciting for me as seeing the largest companies in the world sign on and with our enterprise package although my bank account like the second category better.

Easy Anderson: Yeah. Well, but one for the first category, the second guy who will be probably around now, do you know?

Dave Olson Yup.

Easy Anderson: So, as far as founding guys, you said you, guys, got 1.2 mil, is that Canadian or US?

Dave Olson There was 1.95 million and that was in December of 2009 and that was US dollars.

Easy Anderson: Okay. Cool. So that is like …

Dave Olson Yeah. And then more …

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson More recently we – we did a small raise but it wasn’t – it was – but you can see the details if you are really fascinated by that kind of stuff but it wasn’t …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … when these big raises that you hear banded around in the industry these days.

Easy Anderson: Right. So, well, without – without – what are your future plans with that without – I know you probably can’t say anything but I mean, do you, guys, just plan on getting grow as fast as you can here and then you know I – I – what’s the – what is the over archiving long term five-year plan or even you, guys, haven’t thought that for?

Dave Olson Well, five years is long time in our industry, but I see the shorter term thing and that …

Easy Anderson: I see.

Dave Olson … was really, for us, is all about scaling down, scaling our team, scaling our infrastructure …

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson … as well as keeping up the technical phase that our customers and fans have really come to expect from us but like I mentioned we’ve grown the team significantly. We brought in some people from some really interesting companies like adobe and cons and contact that have a little bit more experience in that enterprise realm …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … and at some point, we’re going to need to band a little bit physical office space but really we’re in a scaling mode and really working on that international expansion as well, do you know, where – you know, there are top 10 countries that changed a little bit over the last couple of years but you see countries like Brazil and Indonesia, Germany, really started to get on that Social Media bandwagon.

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson And so that’s definitely some, you’ll see, you’ll see more languages coming out, more localizations as well as continue to have more tools both for the free users and for the business customers.

Easy Anderson: Right. Are you, guys, – do you – can you know at the top of your head if you, guys, are very big in the Africa yet or is that starting to catch up?

Dave Olson Well, we did find ourselves in a – we have a lot of attendees in Egyptian uprising.

Easy Anderson: Right.

Dave Olson Last – last January, just about a year ago now, we had overnight, we had 7,000 percent growth from Egypt which is a little bit of a surprise and what has happened is when the government shut down, block Twitter and Facebook there, it did not block HootSuite so the word quickly spread around all the activists and so on HootSuite and protesters, government, tights, journalists, whatever. They could still get message through HootSuite so for 36 hours or so, and basically, any social mention that came out of Egypt came through HootSuite.

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson And so we saw that exponential growth in a very short period of time there. I made an info graphic about our unique perspective on it and shared that with National Geographic, the US State Department and it was an interesting experiment to be feel so close to the situation those folks were going that through on underground and also same journalist, Christiane Amanpour of the live Twitting her interview with Mubarak using HootSuite and a little bit of a surprise for us ’cause again that wasn’t really in the original scope by the product like, “Oh, we’re going to make a tool that will help facilitate political revolution.”

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson So in that sense, yeah, we saw quite a bit of use in Egypt but – and South Africa but for the most part, Africa is not a fast grower where we’ve seen a lot of growth is South America …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … watching – watching you’re up and South East Asia …

Easy Anderson: Wow. Cool.

Dave Olson … which is come to – Japan solidly our #2 market right now …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … but like I mentioned, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, these countries are also growing quickly and do not forget about those Australians. The Australians are so Social Media maniacs down there. For a small country, very significant user-based and then the Netherlands would be another one, I would main check as fast-grower for us. You know we have bought us many users in Netherlands as we do in Germany and France, combined, which is …

Easy Anderson: Wow.

Dave Olson … remarkable considering the sizes varied either.

Easy Anderson: Yeah. I know. Well, cool. It sounds like you, guys, are tearing it up and still faster than ever and you know, I just – you know, just before I, originally, I like interviewing you, guys, ’cause I use your product, the drink a cool aide and that is I haven’t – that the other tools that I used to use other than embody with anymore because you, guys, have just, you know, blown everybody else away and from you know, have responsibility to my customers and myself. I just can’t use anything that is not, you know, not up that the par form and then I think even the small business people that really haven’t gotten Social Media. I mean, your tool is so intuitively easy to use. You know, you can really help from kind of wade through it because there’s no people out there – I have planned there that they had never had done a Twit or fan Facebook or anything. It is got a crazy and there are fairly, you know, there are multi-million dollar companies kind of – kind of well, so …

Dave Olson Yeah. Yeah. You never quite know what to expect in – and you know we have, from one end to the other, people who just barely put and keep in their toe while under water all the way people who, you know, the day Google+ would announce to few months back here like they were uphold and shocked that we did not yet have it integrated so there is – and obviously there is a lot of considerations there with APIs and business relationships and so on but …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … we bring them all and then we listen to everything. I monitor every mention of HootSuite anywhere on the social web and tried to always keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going up there and what our customers are thinking about and what they care about and so on.

Easy Anderson: Right. Is there anyone, of all the ones out there, which – were – were you, guys, see a lot of growth coming in. I mean, Google+ is – is quite a stop for early new. Is that growing as fast as you thought it would or any surprises out there?

Dave Olson Well, Google+ is a little bit of an anomaly because Google has had a – you know, their strategy for kind of ruling that access to third party platforms like us. They’d been taken a very slow and careful with that gauge reactions so …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm. Right.

Dave Olson … there is no API rewrite API for personal profiles …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … but there is for pages and we were unofficial launch part for the Google+ business page launch a few months back …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … and – but we were allocated a limited number of seats and we ruled those out so it is hard to judge that one just certainly been huge demand for it is by far and …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … #1 requested feature in the feedback channel but of course we have to defer to Google’s plans on that and – and …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … it is their pipe and it is their data. You know the Facebook features, a little while ago, we ruled out a whole new comprehensive set of tools for Facebook where now you can search all the pros Facebook we have – I think we have better Facebook Search and better Facebook Analytics within HootSuite than you do on Facebook web …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … where our – the Facebook Insights Analytics look fantastic and that you could – you had to create custom reports like I mentioned with and send them out through pedia but since then we’ve seen huge growth in the amount of Facebook pages …

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson … and we have some customers, you know, TV networks and so on, that will have hundreds of Facebook pages that they’re managing. We’ve also added link-in company pages which have been a little bit of a slow, slower grower as folks are still figuring out it is something that they really need and then more or recently, we’ve seen a lot of growth with their apps. Now, you know, it obviously takes a lot of developer resources to build something into our tool so we’ve – now, working with the third-party developers to allow them to build in to our tool to through an SD chaos upward development kit. So, over the last few months, we’ve ruled out apps for flicker which I love, that one in particular. It allows you to monitor and upload comment, all the key features, did it with YouTube. Again, it is fantastically useful thing and not just for uploading videos but again, for monitoring ’cause lots of people who send up HootSuite fan videos, special videos. It allows me to surface that stuff without having to skip yet another tab.

 

Easy Anderson: Right.

 

Dave Olson Cons and Contact gets satisfaction, tumbler, and all those and in there so – those are a lot of fun because whatever that has happened to a unique community and really bridge that – that in – well, it is really an invisible cousin between social and content.

Easy Anderson: Uh-hmm.

Dave Olson You know they really are the same thing …

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson … but we love opening up new tools those new audiences and have people waking up like it is Christmas morning to see what is it that we’ve released and are re-dashed but …

Easy Anderson: Right. Why, of all those, I would say the one that I am most impressed with that I think that has the most potential as far as putting in and actually bringing the customers and the word adding on the bottom line, it is got to be the YouTube when just – just for my own use because you know almost all the squeezed pages and everything else that – that we’re suggesting people use – use a video because just text does not cut in anymore. I mean, you know, we customer out there, you know, you get 500% better increases or 800% better response rates with videos and if you are using YouTube it’s a way to do it so …

Dave Olson Yup.

Easy Anderson: Yeah.

Dave Olson And got to go to where the eyeballs are at.

Easy Anderson: Yup. Sure do. So cool. I’m done. Again, I’m flabbergasted, you know, congratulations on the growth. You, guys, are doing a great job and a great product and you know, all people out there that are aspiring to, you know build their own business that you can take to do like you do very well by just, you know, watching what you, guys, doing, how while you take care of your customers and how responsive you are. Anything you want to add or give you the last word here, Dave?

Dave Olson If anything, your listeners are going to be at South by South West and also in Texas coming up here in March, it’s like Holy Week for our industry. I will be there with the AOL listen great HootSuite’s way including some new AOL stickers. I know these are very high demand because we do limited run to each AOL and then that AOL design is done so if you’re lucky enough to get one of those, I think you have really enjoyed but I also have a speaking slot on Saturday, March 10th at 12:30. I’ll be speaking about the Crowd sourcing Community Projects, The Tom Sawyer Way, and I’ll be talking a lot about how we’d done our Crowdsource translation project and how to kind of invigorate the community to participate in gaining some objective done so I would love to meet any people who are listening and come up and say, “Hello,” and – and I’m reasonably friendly but a little bit clumsy.

Easy Anderson: Of course, yeah. All right, Dave, we’ll listen. Thank you very much this will end the official interview here and you know continued success on everything you get going there.

Dave Olson Thanks so much and thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

Easy Anderson: All right. Great. Thanks a lot.
HootSuite - Social Media Dashboard