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Full Transcript of Ryan Holmes Interview

Recorded via conference call in New York City and Vancouver
September 11, 2009
Jim Hopkinson, Wired’s Marketing Guy
Ryan Holmes, CEO, Invoke Media (Creator of Hootsuite Twitter Client)


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Hi, this is Jim Hopkinson, Wired’s Marketing Guy, bringing you the marketing trends that matter. Welcome.

The popularity of Twitter continues to grow, both on a personal and business level, and in this episode I interview Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Invoke Media, the creator of a Twitter dashboard client called, “HootSuite.”

Jim Hopkinson: Well, welcome everyone. I’m here today with Ryan Holmes who is the CEO of Invoke Media. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan Holmes: Thanks a lot, Jim.

JH: So, Ryan comes to us from Vancouver. Now, Ryan, I don’t know if you know about this, but, I’m getting huge in Canada with the Hopkinson Report. I’ve got you coming in from Vancouver, I interviewed Saul Colt and Sarah Prevette from Toronto, Mitch Joel from Montreal, and maybe I’ll expand into, like, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, or something next.

RH: That’s great to hear, I’m in good company there.

JH: So, tell me about what your major company, ‘Invoke Media’, is all about. How you founded that, and then we can get into the Twitter dashboard, ‘HootSuite’, after that.

RH: Sure, so, Invoke is a company I founded in 2000. We do client work, agency work, and a lot of development around applications in the social media space. We have a very successful contesting platform called, ‘Memelabs’, and it, basically helps companies take care of online contesting, so, video, imaging, and SA contesting. And, through our work with brands on Memelabs, we help do online promotion, help drive traffic to the contest, and we use Facebook and Twitter and a lot of social media properties. And, through our work with Facebook and Twitter, we found that there wasn’t a really good tool for pro and corporate Twittering, so we built out HootSuite, which is our Twitter client.

JH: So what that does is allow companies to kind of manage that data, and tell me how that evolved.

RH: Sure, so, our 1.0 version was fairly barebones that let us manage multiple accounts and multiple users. We launched that in December of 2008, and had a really great response. We’re sitting at about nine months later, and we just released our 2.0 version; at that point we had 100,000 users, right now, two months later we’re sitting at about 200,000 users, so the response has been really great on our 2.0 version.

JH: The evolution of this, so, everyone is like, “OK, what is Twitter?” They’re making their Twitter accounts, and then they’re finding they have multiple Twitter accounts, and then companies are like, “Hey, this is a great way to do branding and do marketing.” So, the companies are coming in there, and then it evolved almost faster than the companies could keep up with it, and so that’s why people need a dashboard to manage all these multiple accounts.

RH: Absolutely. And, so, the natural evolution of that for us was looking at team workflow within your Twitter environment, so having multiple editors working on a single account, and that’s more and more prevalent; and as well, we’ve got very deep analytics. So, we have a URL shortener called, ‘Ow.ly’, that’s built into HootSuite, and it’s the number three URL shortener in the market in just a few months. Effectively, that URL shortener allows us to draw out really great analytics for people so that they can see, when they send a Tweet out, how many people are clicking it, what Tweets are the most popular of the Tweets they send out, so they can kind of tailor their messages to what their followers are interested in – looking at time of day, A/B messaging and a lot of interesting stuff around analytics, and click tracking. So, our users are really excited about that part, as well.

JH: And, who would you say, right now, are your competitors, and how are you different from them?

RH: Well, on the corporate side, I would say that CoTweet is a competitor, their functionality, they’re effectively a support desk for Twitter, they have ticket assignment, but we have a load of other functionality built around CMS-type functionalities; scheduling of Tweets, RSS integration, and the analytics pieces I talked    about teamwork flow. The market’s really kind of spoken terms of preference there, I think our traffic, we’re often between the top three and top five clients for outbound messaging at this point. So, we had great traction there.

On the kind of power user side, so, our applications for pro and corporate usage, power user and corporate usage, on the power user side we have been called the ‘web-based Tweet deck’;’ Tweet Deck’ has been around for quite a while, and they have a legacy market share there. We see a lot of people coming over from Tweet Deck because they want to tease some of the analytic functionality we have, as well as the teamwork flow that we’ve got. Those are our two competitors, and how we’re different.

JH: It’s amazing for the people who are using Twitter; you’re in it every day and you know what’s going on, and you’re living this life, and then you meet someone that’s just getting started, and, they’re like, “What should I do next?”, like, what’s the next thing to do, and that’s how I kind of summarized. You introduced me to HootSuite a couple of months ago, and I’ve been using it, and I’ve really found a great value with it, and I was telling someone that they should be using it, and these are the five reasons I said that they should be using any kind of a dashboard like this, and see if I missed any, if you agree.

1)    So, number one is a URL shortener; so, like you said, you’re number three. A lot of people familiar originally with ‘Tiny URL’, but even just counting the number of extra characters you get by using Ow.ly, and having it built in, it is such an advantage.

2)    Number two, it allows you to manage multiple accounts because for me, myself, I’ve got my HopkinsonReport, I’ve got my JimHopkinson account, I’ve got a Wired account, and sometimes we have multiple Wired accounts, depending on an event; so, if someone has more that one account, they’re doing that. Have you seen that? People have multiple accounts, what would you say the average number of Twitter accounts that people have?

RH: I would say that probably 95% of our users have more than one account. It’s pretty amazing how many people, they either have a business and a personal account, or have a personal account and then a kind of interesting ghost account that they like to keep private, and send out funny messages on. There are all sorts of creative usages and why people want multiple accounts. But, I definitely see that clients for businesses, agencies managing multiple client accounts, or larger organizations that have a lot of different accounts that they need to do provisioning on, and management. One of our users has over 400 accounts, and they’re a large media company, and they need to manage all of their media properties, so they use us for that.

JH: Wow, it’s amazing.

3)    Number three would be the tracking of statistics, so you get to see exactly which one of your Tweets during the week got the most clicks, and things like that. Are you able to track re-Tweets in any way?

RH: So, we track clicks on re-Tweets so we can just get an aggregated view on clicks. Some of the upcoming functionality we’re looking at will be around discovery of who your big re-Tweeters are. So, if you send a message out and it gets 1000 clicks, what we’re going to be able to do is show within those 100 clicks, who the people are that re-Tweeted it, and drove the most traffic there, and so, that will be a really interesting piece that we’re going to expose for people.

JH: And do other companies track that, so if you don’t have that functionality right now, is there a website that you recommend that people can track retweets?

RH: There’s nothing that I’ve come across that gets into that piece, so I think it’ll be a greal piece for us to expose for everybody.


4)    OK. The fourth thing I recommend is you have the ability to schedule Tweets and Tweet later on. I read this on your website; you really have some great reasons, why would you use scheduled Tweets. And, some of the things you said were things that are time-sensitive, that controls the flow of content, what are some other reasons why someone would want to schedule a Tweet at a later time?

RH: Sure, those two are great ones in themselves. Scheduling a flow of content, we see a lot of people that get on Twitter in the morning and just bang out like a solid stream of 50 Tweets, and that just doesn’t work. It’s not good, people start un-following you, it doesn’t help anybody. On the flipside, scheduling them out so they’re a little less invasive for people is very useful – smaller bytes, and you turn people off less that way. The other thing, time-sensitive items, or, we see a lot of people that hop on an airplane and say something like, “I’m on a plane right now, but I thought you guys might be interested in this”; so, just kind of like playing around with your followers, and sending them funny notes and stuff is kind of an interesting usage of it.

JH: Yeah, when I jump on in the morning, it’s east coast time, it’s 9:00 o’clock, I’ve got some time before I start my day, I can see what are the three or four top stories on Wired; but, if I send them out all at once, number one, like the west coast people might not see them, and you don’t want them all going out all at once.

RH: Right. Yeah, that’s another thing, times own scheduling is very nice for that, so you can put it at a little bit more of a busier time, like you’re mentioning; you don’t want to definitely send it out at 8:00 AM New York time because everybody’s going to miss it on the west coast.

JH: Have you found any data on when is the best time to Tweet?

RH: That’s a good question, I don’t have anything concrete; so, just off the cuff I would say, looking at times like 10:00 o’clock, 10:00 o’clock Pacific where you catch the 1:00 o’clock crowd in New York, or just times that catch the bulk of people where people aren’t on lunch. We notice definite trends around weekends being low times; that being said, sometimes the off times and the low times are times when people really notice what you’re saying, and so, it’s a real crapshoot there. I don’t have anything specific.

JH: I’m guessing it does mirror like website traffic where you see that, where it’s 12:00 to 1:00 Eastern when people are at lunch, especially for something like Wired or Reddit, or Twitter or Facebook, it’s kind of content that people are using on their off time.

RH: I agree. I think it’s probably, and at this moment it’s still fairly early and a lot of those people being technical, I think it would definitely follow the readership trends of something like a Wired, or other tech publications.


5)    Then the fifth thing I had was the ability to organize your followers into groups. I know, personally, when Twitter first came on, it was like, “Alright, I gotta get as many followers as I can.” So, I started following all these people, and they kept following me back, and I turn around and I’ve got over a 1000 followers, but, then there’s like, “Wait a minute”, I never differentiated between a person I met in person at an event that I have a contact with versus someone random that I don’t even know, and someone I really want to follow. Now, with yours you can set it up in different columns, and have ‘these are people I know’, ‘these are website that I know’, and really be able to see what these people are saying.

RH: I agree, and I think that that comment that you have there is very important, and I think the market is definitely seeing the value of that, so, when you’re following 100 people it’s very easy to just kind of look at what they’re doing, and keep in touch with those people, but, as you get into thousands, and tens, and hundreds, and millions, it becomes less and less feasible for you to be able to manage what people are saying. And, so, the two features that we have that help with that, one is the grouping of people so you can create groups around your specific friends within your follower list, maybe make a group around ‘influencers’ and one a round ‘customer support’; you just kind of create a very organic setup.

The other thing that we have is ‘brand mentioned’, so you can create columns around brand mentioned so you can be monitoring what your customers are saying about you, or your followers are saying about you, or just anybody in the Twitter space is saying about you – very important. You can also set up competitor monitoring which is a very useful thing, just to see what your competitors are doing, and have an idea about what people are saying about them, as well. There are a lot of learnings that can happen there, and you can see areas that you can look at at moving in, or where’s there a need in the market, and I think that’s a very valuable thing.

JH: So, a lot of my listeners are online marketers and they’re being tasked with Twitter for their company, and setting up things like this. Are there any case studies or kind of lesson learned that you’ve seen that you can give us some examples?

RH: That’s a really timely question. We have a few blogposts that we’re going to be coming up with; we do have couple with regards to feature-specific items like RSS scheduling, Tweet scheduling, and why you should do those on our blog, which is blog.hootsuite.com. But, we are going to have some white papers coming up, as well, that will talk about some further features and how brands are using this, and businesses are using Twitter with regard to specific functionality, and, so, we’re going to tie that in there. I’ve looked at some drafts on these case studies, and they’re going to be very useful for small, medium businesses, and enterprise, to get a better idea of how they can kind of harness the power of Twitter.

JH: And, what do you think is next for Twitter, what trends are you seeing, what’s kind of the next thing that people should be looking at?

RH: Well, I think one of the biggest issues for Twitter is dealing with spam, and one of the most things for marketers is to look at clever ways of marketing products that aren’t conceived as being ‘spammy’ because it’s whole different way of marketing.  As opposed to banner advertising or Google AdSense advertising, you’re getting into conversations, you’re looking at engagement and creating relationships here. So, it’s definitely a different type of advertising or marketing.

The other piece, Twitter, in general, they want to become ubiquitous, they want to reach a billion users and they want to be absolutely everywhere in a main communication channel for the internet, in my opinion. So, more ubiquity there, I think it’s probably the thing that we’re going to see. There will probably be some movement towards providing businesses with accreditation; we’ve seen through the Seal of Authenticity that they’ve done for celebrities. I imagine that’s going to also be coming out for brands, and some functionality around that.

JH: Great, so tell people where they can lean more about it, and, you just have a new version with a couple of new features you just came out with this week, actually, right?

RH: Yeah, so, hootsuite.com. Our new release has two new features – one is, file upload, so you can upload images, you can upload documents, pdfs, Excel documents, etc., and Tweet them out. So, we’ve had a lot of usage on that, and in a couple of days we had a few thousand files uploaded – great response from our users. And the second piece is autocompletion of usernames; so, as you start typing, autocompletion of your follower names, so it just makes it a little bit quicker for getting a hold of people, and messaging to them.

JH: Well, great, I urge my audience out there, this is something that I’m using, and if you’re using Twitter, and you’re going from just a recreational use and to using it for business, and you have the need to have the URL shortener to track statistics, to manage multiple accounts, HootSuite is definitely one of the Twitter dashboard managers that I recommend.

So, thank you very much, Ryan, for joining me.

RH: Yes, thanks a lot, Jim, I really appreciate it.

[End of transcript]

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