Social media activity has become a must-have part of any marketing plan, but even the most well-developed marketing department struggles to keep up with their social media calendar. Enter the dashboards and apps that help direct traffic around the social networks.
Hootsuite has had a strong track record of adoption among both the general public and business, who use the dashboard to schedule, listen and analyze posts, mentions and interactions on various platforms. The platform reached 15 million users worldwide near the end of 2017 and launched Connect via Hootsuite, a free online social media conference open to the public that drew nearly 22,000 participants from 136 countries.
Shortly after, Velocitize spoke to CMO Penny Wilson about the state of social media, how to educate the public, and how openness and innovation help each other.
Velocitize: What’s the biggest marketing challenge you face: competition, monetization, or keeping up with consumers’ social media habits?
Wilson: I think our challenge is helping our customers mature in social (media) and recognize the broader impact that social can have across the organization. Often social is seen as a thing you had to do and you maybe brought in a small team of people to do it and now it’s grown at such a rapid pace, it’s a fundamental.
It really is something that has now become a lot more transformative in how customers want to experience your brand. So it’s really helping our customers get that level of social maturity.
Velocitize: You have invested in education and launched programs such as Podium and Hootsuite Academy. Does the public still need to be schooled in social media?
Wilson: People who were hired in the social team may have a certain level of maturity and skills, but as you broaden it out to your sales organization or your support organization — all of your employees — there are people who are still uncomfortable in that world.
What we did is we took all our online courseware and made it free. We opened it up, we put it on YouTube and made it free to the world to use. We have certifications, so you can start with just platform or you can be certified in social marketing or certified in social selling, or you can take an advance strategy program.
Yesterday I saw an email that went to Ryan (Holmes), the CEO, from a professor in one of the universities —because we also give that to universities free, for the students to use. He was saying “I’m 52 years old. I teach social media. It’s such an important skill, but I still can’t get the rest of my academic partners to understand the importance to learning.” All the students are doing it, so you can understand there is a generation gap for social media skills. I think it continues to be a very important factor for adoption.
Velocitize: Hootsuite has made its openness by letting users integrate other business applications with the Hootsuite dashboard. How important is having that openness and flexibility to innovation?
Wilson: I think our open ecosystem is our key differentiator in the market. It’s one of the keys to success in helping boost adoption of social across the organization. We already have 250 of the best in breed (apps), but it allows a company to integrate social across whatever to technology stack they are in today.
We’re not trying to be all things to everybody, but we’re trying to make sure we’re allowing to integrate with whatever they invested in. It’s a really important element particularly in enterprise, when there are so many applications that are used to communicate with the customer and social is almost like an overlay across all of them.
Velocitize: You have an entire library of apps for download that work with Hootsuite. Is that your way to open source your platform?
Wilson: You could look at it that way for sure. We’re creating more and more APIs all the time. It really allows us to innovate quickly, particularly as we get deeper into vertical markets.
Velocitize: Hootsuite claims it was built from the ground up based on customer feedback. Do you still use customers’ feedback to pick new features?
Wilson: I have always been a very customer-oriented executive. I prefer calling myself the Chief Customer Officer instead of the Chief Marketing Officer. So we absolutely do a lot of work to make sure that the voice of the customer is heard in everything we do. It’s in our products, our education, our support program and we really spend a great deal of time across the organization listening, gathering feedback, interacting with our customers.
We have that unique position of having 15 million customers and almost 3,000 enterprise customers, so we really have that depth across the entire organization. Certainly our acquisition of LiftMetrix will increase our ability to analyze our customer needs as well.
Velocitize: How do your new acquisitions of LiftMetrix and AdEspresso fit into your efforts?
Wilson: We recently acquired AdEspresso, a tool that allows marketers to manage Facebook and Instagram advertising and it allows to organizations to effectively engage with customers across that whole customer journey of paid, earned and owned social media.
As with any technology, when the adoption increases, it becomes more and more important for marketing to be able to deliver return on that investment. LiftMetrix is a leading social analytics solution that lets a customer understand the business impact of social. Both of them have a really important element to growing in that maturity of social media.
Marketers are pretty savvy at this point about the importance of social. The market challenge is to push it out to the rest of the organization — to get people to understand it’s not a single team that’s going to do social. It’s not just one place in the company, it’s really across the whole organization.
It’s no longer a marketing domain. It’s really an opportunity for everybody — the CEO to the support team — to touch the customer, to make a difference and create those memorable customer moment and listen and learn from them.
Marketing has changed so much. We’re no longer in “Send” mode in marketing. We’re in “Receive” mode and there is not so much value to being on Receive. We’re not trying to lead the customer somewhere, we’re watching them and letting them lead us.
It’s a paradigm shift from a marketing perspective but it’s one that — having been in marketing for almost four decades — is a great opportunity.