Social media master

Social media master

Companies across the world use Hootsuite to manage their social accounts. Now meet the man behind the platform.

Now that social media is everywhere, it’s easy to forget that it was only a few years ago that Facebook took off. Ryan Holmes, though, knew in 2008 that social networking was the future. When Holmes, a Vancouver-based entrepreneur, was working at a digital marketing agency he also founded, he built a prototype for a product that would help companies better engage with customers over social media. He launched Hootsuite in December 2009 and it immediately took off. Today, the social media platform has over 12 million users in over 175 countries, and offices in Canada, the United States, Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.

Vitals
HOOTSUITE MEDIA INC.Toronto


Founded in:

2008


approaching 1000

full-time employees


12 million

users

Ryan’s Tips
  • We have a culture where we want people to have the power to make mistakes, but it’s not okay to make a mistake and not learn from it. If you’re making the same mistake over and over again, you’ve got a problem.
  • Name and branding are critical, especially at an early stage. You need to be memorable.
  • Listen to people. We listen to our customers and other stakeholders, like our team and product people. From there, we condense and consolidate a product vision.

I’m a long-time entrepreneur. I started my first business, a paintball company, in high school, and I dropped out of university to start a restaurant, which I ran for a number of years.

In 1999, the Internet was booming, so I sold my restaurant and holed up in an apartment in Vancouver. I taught myself HTML and CSS to learn how to build things for the Internet. I got a job at a dot-com, which went really well for about six months, until the bottom fell out of the market.

I had a big belief that the Internet wasn’t going anywhere. I founded an agency that did service work for clients and also incubated new products. As the company grew and we started doing more work with clients in the social media realm, we realized that there weren’t any good tools to manage social media. So that was the “aha” moment for Hootsuite: we take the complexity of managing multiple social networks with multiple team members and make it easier for companies to manage their social media.

Today, we have five different products. We have a publishing product that helps people build and schedule content that they put out on social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more than 100 other social networks. We have an engagement product, which helps companies listen to what people are saying on social media and respond to it. We also have analytics, advertising and campaigning products.

With the advent of cloud computing, the cost of building these products has been reduced significantly. You don’t need to build your own data centre; you can simply spin one up on Amazon or whatever other cloud service that you want. We’re sending more than 5 million messages every day around the world, and our customers rely on us for consistent, reliable uptime on our products. We’re able to do that through a cloud grid.

The “freemium” model has been a big part of our story, too. We give away our basic product for free. As you get more advanced in your usage, you run into paywalls, and at that point customers upgrade to our Pro or Enterprise products.

When you have one person on social, it’s pretty simple. But when you have tens of thousands of people trying to work effectively, it becomes very difficult and challenging. We try to make that task simpler for brands around the world.

We’ve made a few targeted acquisitions, but we’re wary of being overly acquisitive. We feel it’s important to be the best at what we do. We don’t want to build a product that’s a mile wide and an inch deep.

A lot of people ask if we’re going public. I think public companies have best practices in place, and we’re building those. If the timing is right, we’ll look toward an IPO, but we’re not in any rush. We’ll just see what the right thing is for the company.

It’s been a pretty amazing process, going from three people at the beginning to almost 1,000 employees now. If we look back to eight years ago, everyone was talking about whether social media was relevant and if it was here to stay. We now know that it is relevant and it is here to stay. We know that there’s an absolute shift in how companies are communicating with their customers, and we’re pretty blessed to be sitting in the middle of that.

- Claire Gagné / Photograph Courtesy of: Hootsuite