CEO of Hootsuite, Ryan Holmes, talks about the future of his product, mobile adoption in emerging markets, and the recent 7,000% increase of users in Egypt.
Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media dashboard with 1.3 million users, created by Invoke Media in 2008. He recently has stepped up to fully manage the product and met with PSFK to talk about Hootsuite’s future.
What have you been up to?
80% of my time is in Vancouver, 20% is traveling and meetings. I spend a lot of time with my marketing and product teams. I’m working on building the sales team and enterprise sales. We regularly meet with Twitter and Facebook, this fall we did an exclusive launch of promoted tweets with Twitter. We want to work with more social media properties, since we’ve built an API directory so people can build into our product.
We recently wrote about the dramatic increase of users in Egypt. How did Hootsuite respond internally to this?
Everyone on the team is excited about freedom of information and enabling democracy. Technically, how it worked is that the government took down Twitter and Facebook so we became a backdoor. We saw a 7,000% increase in our users, massive registration increase and output messaging. Then the government shut down the Internet entirely. It was great to see the hack that Google and Twitter put together with the voice-to-tweet. The Internet is now back up and users are continuing to use our dashboard. We’ve seen similar things in China, there is such an appetite for social media and human-to-human communication.
Tell us about your translation project?
Well, we crowdsourced our translations. This is something we launched this summer. We’ve seen a lot of development in emerging social media countries like Japan, Korea, and France and opened it to them to translate. Each language in or product has over 12,000 words, and some of our fans have so much passion for the brand that became huge contributions, almost single-handedly building translations. Dave Olson heads up Community Management and he does work to acknowledge the passion and hard work of our community.
How are you moving forward in the mobile space?
We have builds into our web product including iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, KeiTai , and Android. We’ve had great adoptions on all these platforms, and we’re constantly evolving them. We want to be that single point for mobile check-ins also, we’re looking at deeper aggregations in to places where people check-in, whether it’s Facebook Places, Foursquare, or otherwise.
Building the meme, really understanding what the key features are for users, and design usability for small form factor is usually pretty tough to crack, so we use a lot of user feedback and commonsense.
How do you guys prioritize the different features of these growing geo-social platforms?
There’s a couple forces at play. The first is product alignment where the goal is to keep a consistent experience that is device agnostic. With regards to specific features, we have feedback channels since we’re always looking for happy and unhappy users to loop back to us. People in the middle are content, but those on either extreme have a critical experience, so we always want to hear from them. Then we also want to improve upon things that will shift users from being content to loving us. 97% of our users are free users, the remaining 3% are enterprise users and their road maps are different.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
Personally, I do a lot of yoga. All sorts of yoga because it keeps me calm. I had a back injury some years ago and used yoga to get through it. In terms of web surfing, I get a lot of my content from Twitter and Facebook; I read Hacker News, start up blogs, and VC/Angel blogs.
What are some trends that make you optimistic about the future?
The decentralization of information is a great thing. I don’t think any one city is going to own information, so why shouldn’t the next innovations come from Africa or China? They will. I’m excited about the human condition rising as a whole. Mobile is going to be huge and we will see people skipping desktops directly to mobile phones, especially with emerging markets leapfrogging. The price points will keep dropping and it’s going to get better and better.
Photo credit to Kris Krug