Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Will Hootsuite Spend its $165m War Chest? The Battle for Enterprise Social Media Management Software Part 3

Last year, Hootsuite raised a whopping $165 million.Well known for its free and inexpensive Pro offerings, Hootsuite has set its targets on winning the enterprise. I recently caught up with Dee Anna McPherson, VP Marketing and Susan Perry, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Enterprise, at Hootsuite to get an update on their progress and plans.

This article follows interviews with executives at two other major social media vendors targeting the enterprise: the VP of Marketing at Sprinklr and the CEO at Spredfast.

What is Hootsuite Enterprise?

Hootsuite’s enterprise offering is derived from its Pro edition and offers some enterprise oriented features, removes usage restrictions, and comes with more robust services.

There two primary enterprise features are 1) Collaboration support: when a message comes in through a company account monitored by one function that is pertinent to another department, the message can be assigned and routed via the Hootsuite dashboard; 2) Permissions management: Enterprise enables a read-only permission level where messages drafted by team members require approval before publishing.

Two primary usage restrictions are removed 1) Social media accounts: there are no restrictions in the number of social accounts managed whereas Pro is limited to 50. Hootsuite shared that the average enterprise has 178 social media accounts; 2) Analytics Reporting: Enterprise clients have unlimited analytics reporting whereas Pro clients are restricted to 10 reports.There are also exclusive analytics modules for Enterprise clients that are integrated with Hootsuite’s back-end infrastructure.

Each enterprise client has a dedicated Customer Success Manager, tasked to answer questions, provide new product demonstrations, assist with upgrades, ensure goals are met, share best practices, and provide training. Additionally, Hootsuite provides Enterprise clients assistance with the implementation and launch of their platform. Enterprise clients also receive priority service on support tickets submitted online and can access support through email. Enterprise clients also get free access to an education and training database and customized training, e.g. for social media policy, is also available.

Lastly, Enterprise clients have first access to new features and functionality, including API access to networks like Pinterest.

Enterprise Adoption

Hootsuite defines its enterprise client base as those who adopt more than 10 seats. Based upon this criteria, Hootsuite reports 1,300 enterprise customers. Approximately 40 percent of the Hootsuite Enterprise reviews on TrustRadius are by companies with more than 500 employees.

Describing enterprise customer adoption, DeAnna stated, “Typical deployments are in the dozens of seats. We are seeing customers in the thousands of seats. More customers are transitioning from the social profile being solely maintained by marketing to having social centers of excellence which support social adoption across the enterprise. Q1 was a really good quarter. We added 186 new enterprise customers.”
Dee Anna also shared that Hootsuite has 42 enterprise customers with over 100 seats. Examples include John Wiley & Sons (250 seats), Local World (300+ seats), Tangerine Canada, formerly known as ING Direct (100+ seats), a major global hotel chain (1,000 seats), and a branch of the U.S. Military (1,000 seats).

To illustrate how a large enterprise customer uses Hootsuite Dee Anna shared, “We have a government sector client, a military organization, that’s using us for recruiting. They use Hootsuite to engage with their audience through geo-targeted messaging. They have different employees located around the country, and are using Hootsuite to target based upon demographics and language. It’s a very wide scale deployment. They use Hootsuite to collaborate, to hit their specific targets in regions.” 

The reviews of Hootsuite Enterprise on TrustRadius currently describe implementations of fewer than 30 seats in PR and marketing, though some, like this one, do extol the importance of team workflow capabilities.

Enterprise Product Direction

As we reported in our Buyer’s Guide to Social Media Management Software, large enterprise deployments have significant requirements for team member collaboration. Hootsuite Enterprise enables collaboration in three principal ways:

1) Avoiding duplicate response to tweets – responses are very visible in the dashboard.
2) Triage where response is required – messages can be assigned for follow-up.
3) Permissions management for content approval before publishing.

However, embedded capabilities for digital asset sharing are currently limited, “We do have our own content library in beta. We also integrate with Box, Dropbox, Uberflip, Kapost. We don’t want to disrupt a customer’s workflow.”

Hootsuite is planning further investments in workflow for collaboration, security and analytics. “We have addressed analytics through our acquisition of UberVU and will continue to innovate on that platform. We are building out security natively but also have a partnership with NextGate”. NextGate provides the following capabilities as a service:

1) Social media asset audits. An average enterprise has 178 social profiles. An audit can help identify unauthorized profiles.
2) On-going monitoring. This is particularly important for regulated industries. Monitoring messaging, keywords, and content that cannot be shared by employees; and supporting pre-approved content moderation.

Ubervu Analytics Acquisition

As we cited in the Social Buyer’s Guide, analytics is an important requirement for the enterprise. In January, Hootsuite acquired a small social analytics company called uberVU.  Dee Anna stated, “We wanted to acquire a next generation analytics company. When you look at the first generation tools like Radian6 and Brandwatch, they were designed to be used by analysts and are too complex. The technology was developed at a time when capturing the data was challenging. Today, you can buy access to social data. That’s a commodity. The newer analytics tools are much more advanced in terms of usability.” Dee Anna added, “Another thing that’s very popular with uberVU is the pricing model. You are not charged for more mentions. We hear that a lot from Radian6 customers.”

Ubervu has approximately 200 customers and while it currently has just two reviews on TrustRadius, both are extremely positive. The reviews on TrustRadius affirm Dee Anna’s statement:

UberVU has been added to the Hootsuite app directory, which means that social interactions in Hootsuite can be accessed by uberVU for analysis. Susan Perry stated, “We have a really robust ecosystem with over 100 applications with which we have integration including Salesforce, Zendesk, and Marketo. UberVU is now one of the apps.” When asked about plans for tighter integration beyond the app directory, Susan shared, “It’s our #1 priority. We will it complete this year.”

Social for Customer Support 

The customer support function is becoming an increasingly important area for Hootsuite, and social media management adoption in general. As one Hootsuite customer shared in a review “Today, 10% of [our] customer care cases originate in social media.

Dee Anna stated, “We typically start in marketing organization and social organization, and then oftentimes the next department is customer support. It’s a very important area. Customers are wanting and expecting to have responses from companies. Typically the marketing department is the one that is monitoring chatter, but their metrics do not focus on response.” 

One client using Hootsuite for support in an enterprise context is Flightcenter, says Dee Anna. They have agents across the world and try to direct people to their social channel. “They are able to monitor all the conversations that are happening.  They can proactively identify those customers and respond to them.”

Social Selling

Using social to boost sales is also growing in significance. Dee Anna shared, “We’re seeing that it’s very important in B2B as there are longer sales cycles and you’re building that relationship.  Social can enable sales reps to build their reputation as an expert.”

Hootsuite is starting to see roll-outs to entire sales teams; however they are finding that training is key. Susan shared, “We will be launching a new service offering custom education for enterprise customers that have a social business strategy and want bespoke training.” 


When asked about competition, they cited the Marketing Cloud offerings from Salesforce (formerly Radian6 and BuddyMedia) and Adobe as primary competitors.

When prompted about whether they compete with enterprise focused social vendors like Sprinklr and Spredfast, they said sometimes. Based upon 19,282 comparisons run by social media software buyers on TrustRadius during Q1 2014, Hootsuite enterprise is compared most frequently to Sprout Social (19%), Radian6/Salesforce Marketing Cloud (9%), Sprinklr (7%), and Spredfast (7%). It is compared to Adobe Social just 3% of the time.

When asked about differentiation when compared to the large software company Marketing Clouds, Dee Anna responded, “We emphasize our social DNA. Social moves very quickly. Being a nimble, smaller organization allows us to change. On top of that, we emphasize our ease of use as an analytics product, and our level of support and service, as we live and breathe social”.

When asked how they differentiate themselves from pure-play enterprise social vendors like Sprinklr and Spredfast, Dee Anna expressed, “Look at the adoption of Hootsuite. We have 9 million users. That ability to scale gives customers great comfort. We have customers in highly regulated industries. We provide peace of mind about security and scale. We are also focused on education to ensure our customers are getting ROI – we have been able to educate 60,000 professionals.”


One of the areas they are spending their $165m is international expansion. “We’re very focused on being able to support global customers. Our dashboard is available in 16 languages, and we offer support in six. Our European headquarters is in London and we have a development center (through the acquisition of Ubervu) in Bucharest. We have 100 employees in Europe. We have launched in Asia Pacific. Our Singapore office is both for sales and support. We integrate with 25 social networks including Bebo and the major Chinese and Russian networks.

Closing Thoughts

Hootsuite has leveraged the freemium model very effectively to build a massive client base and significant brand recognition. That model has also allowed it to penetrate the enterprise rapidly, albeit mostly in small pockets or departmental implementations. However, to be a true enterprise contender, the platform will need to evolve significantly. The $165m in funding is a huge war chest to both fund organic development and further acquisitions. The company is also using its funds to add enterprise DNA. They hired a new CTO who was formerly VP Product & Technology at Groupon and VP Technology at Expedia. They also hired a VP of Community who was formerly Cisco’s Senior Director of Social and Digital Marketing.

If you're a Hootsuite Enterprise customer, please share your opinion by writing a review or adding your comment below.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

4 Reviews That Will Change The Way You Buy Software

Each month, we publish hundreds of business software reviews from real software users. Each review includes detailed insights about how reviewers are using the tool in the context of their work.

Unlike simple rating sites, our reviewers share the ins and outs of software features and functionality along with their personal experience with vendors.

This is what really matters to 85,000 software buyers who visit TrustRadius every month or, as one of our member told us best:

"TrustRadius provides a real time lifelike experience so buyers can be aware of what they are purchasing"

Our mission is to provide technology buyers access to authentic and actionable advice from peers, and we could not do it without the support of our reviewers, the true heroes of our community.

Here are 4 reviews that impressed us last month by the depth and quality of insights provided:

By Evan Trimble,  Lead Financial Systems Admin at Bazaarvoice

"A great tool for employee expense submission and is very easy for end-users to use and understand. It's also good for handling expense payment. They recently added an iPhone app which works very well" - read more

By Chris Grant, Director of Analytics, Enlighten

"Most configurations (reports, dimensions, filters, content groups etc) can be done in the admin UI, rather than in the tagging and site code. It allows re-analysis of past data as far back as 90 days" read more

Movable Type: Great for small sites on shared environments
By Dennis Dewey, Web Developer at Digital Design

"Movable Type is better than Wordpress because it generates static sites that cannot be broken by losing your database connection. Most of the templates in MT can be customized with greater control" - read more

By Dan Briscoe, VP Marketing at HCSS

"ClickTale provides additional heat map capabilities to Crazy Egg heat maps such as scroll reach, mouse movements, clicks and a summary report. The tool also makes it very easy to build and segment conversion funnels" - read more

As always, make sure to check our latest business software reviews or even better, share your own software expertise with your peers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Comparing Apples to Apples: How To Evaluate Free Online Survey Platforms

This is a guest post by TrustRadius member, Ausrine Pasakarnyte. Ausrine is a Senior Set Up and Data Quality Manager at WorldOne. She joined TrustRadius in March and wrote an in-depth review of Confirmit.  

Back in 2008, when I started volunteering as a UN online volunteer for an organization in Ghana, Young People We Care, they wanted ideas on how to make their annual youth migration studies more interactive. They had been using Microsoft Word to distribute their questionnaires. 

As a specialist in data collection, my goal was to find a free platform to present the survey, making it more engaging for people to participate and express their opinions. The organization had no funding and survey participation was voluntary and unpaid. Initially, I zeroed in on a new version of Google Docs with the new Forms feature. 

Now, many years later, I am once again hunting for a free online survey platform. And while I love Google Forms, it does not give me some of the newer question options like ranking, multi-choice grid, star rating, etc.

Today, I want to share some recent research on free online survey platforms that offer basic features at no cost for anyone who is lacking dedicated funds to run simple surveys, such as small businesses, nonprofits, and non-governmental agencies.


Monday, June 2, 2014

What Comes First: The Plan or the Platform?

This is a guest post by TrustRadius member, Eric Lehnen. Eric joined TrustRadius last November and wrote a review of Act-On software.  Eric is also the co-author of a new book Shout in the Right Direction.

Before selecting a marketing automation, CRM, or social media management platform, it is really important to establish a clear plan about how you will use it.

Having a plan in place before selecting a platform will speed up your implementation process and return on investment (ROI). It will also help you refine the capabilities you actually need in a tool.

Within a given software category, platforms often perform similarly. CRM tools like Salesforce.com or Highrise manage leads and customers, while social media management platforms such as Sprinklr and Hootsuite enable constituent engagement via social channels. There are, of course, material nuances. Vendors will emphasize their strengths, but you need to understand what’s important to you and then assess how well vendors support those requirements. 

For example, when I selected Act-On as our Marketing Automation software, it felt like it was the best choice for my organization. Act-On was competitively priced and they assured me that their functionality would meet our needs. For the most part, it did. Post-implementation, however, there was one critical area that fell short. 

My goal was to push webinar registrations from WebEx into Salesforce.com as activity history and then use Salesforce workflows to trigger follow-up by sales reps. While the building blocks were there, the effort required to link the webinars simply overshadowed the benefits. As a result, it was not a reliable solution. After stumping their support team a few times, I gave up. Act-On has since updated some of its functionality to address these problems.

So what’s the moral of this story? I didn’t have a clear plan of how to use the platform before I purchased it and only evaluated its high-level functionality. I did not evaluate the software’s support of specific use cases that were critical to me, such as:

  • How can I push webinar registrations automatically in the Activity History of Salesforce.com?
  • How can I make all contact website visits/downloads/email opens and clicks actionable in Salesforce.com?
  • How can I escalate contacts in Salesforce.com based on Act-On data?

My point isn’t to convince you that vendors are out to mislead you. They want to their solution to be the best fit for your needs. Instead, you must be very clear about your specific needs to find that best fit solution. 

For starters, you should press vendors for facts and demonstrations of specific use cases. Never accept hollow assurances, such as, "Yes, we support integration with XYZ platform.” It sounds weird, but to get a straight answer, you will need to ask about the negatives: “What doesn’t the integration with XYZ support?” or, “What do other customers do in this situation?”

User review sites like TrustRadius will assist you in identifying and vetting the pros and cons of a solution and developing better questions to ask of vendors. It also provides you a mechanism to connect with other users for off-line conversations. TrustRadius also provides a great high-level overview of all marketing automation platforms here. Had I known this before choosing Act-On, I could have developed better questions and saved a lot of time from the site’s authentic user reviews.

All of this should lead you to design a plan that mirrors your vision with the software you wish to choose. No, this isn’t a requirements list. The problem with requirement lists (not that they aren’t helpful) is that they are sometimes counter-productive. For example, if you ask the vendor if they support a specific integration, it only allows the vendor to answer “yes” or “no.” That isn’t helpful. If you rephrased with a page-long question, you will get a better answer. If you are a small/medium business, a massive requirements list can work against you.

The other problem with requirements lists is that the vendor will answer the requirements list. Now, you are probably thinking, “Well, duh!” When the vendor answers all the questions, it is completely biased. You cannot completely rely on a requirements list. Instead, you need a plan. 

The funny thing is building a plan is actually quite simple. 

My co-author and I wrote Shout in the Right Direction together. We interviewed many big businesses, such as the Mayo Clinic and Comcast, along with small businesses, such as Davis Law office and Laser Classroom. We found a common theme that simplicity is king. Besides talking about numerous digital marketing tools and developing creative ideas, we also talk about creating a plan sized correctly for your needs.

So what does all this mean?

  • Write out your vision with who, what, when, where, how, and why (literally!)
  • Define workflows
  • Talk with your team to create scenarios when sales/marketing will "hand off" contacts
  • Read reviews and connect to peers on TrustRadius
  • Ask vendors how they perform important tasks and ask them to demonstrate
  • Ask vendors about their weaknesses

Did this blog help you? Find out more about Shout in the Right Direction and check it out on Amazon.