Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

HootSuite Adds Industrial-Strength Social Media for Corporate Teams

Time was that when companies first got serious about managing their brands on social media — Twitter, Facebook and the like — the social media “department” was one person. Now that big companies have figured out that there are big opportunities to drive incremental sales, put out customer relations fires before they start and generally help drive the conversation that surrounds their brands, social media departments at big consumer companies have swelled to dozens of employees.

That brings with it one big challenge: Collaboration. Managing accounts in such a way that many people can work on them easily and all stay on the same page. HootSuite, the cloud-based social media management service that has styled itself as the client of choice of businesses, today announced a new version, called HootSuite Teams.

The intent here is to do social media on an industrial scale. Social media teams at consumer-facing companies can easily comprise a few dozen people. Until now, companies have had to manage each account as best they can, which has led to some embarrassing gaffes. HootSuite Teams starts by enabling teams of 10 people or more, and then grows from there.

I talked with CEO Ryan Holmes last week. He said the use cases for the new version are many: Agencies that have multiple brands for clients, or big consumer companies like a Procter & Gamble, which have literally hundreds of brands, each with their own campaign. “The average big company has 25 brands that it is managing, and that gets complicated fast,” Holmes said. Add in multiple networks — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google+ — and the complexity increases.

HootSuite is certainly a busy tool. Holmes told me its four-million-odd users are sending 1.5 million messages to social networks every day, which are in turn seen by 1.7 billion eyeballs. Its customers include McDonalds, Pepsi, the New York Times and clothing retailer Free People.

It has also been growing at a healthy clip. Holmes told me it took HootSuite two years to get to its first million users, another eight months to make it to two million, six months to make three million and right now it’s hitting the four-million mark. At that rate, it will hit six million by the end of the year.

No wonder, then, that there are reports that HootSuite is in the middle of raising capital. At the end of March, it raised $20 million from Canada’s OMERS Fund (the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System). Holmes told me that the company is not seeking to raise any capital right now. “I’m always talking with VCs. It’s not impossible that we won’t raise in the next little while, but we’re not in the process of raising right now,” he told me.

OMERS bought its stake through secondary markets. Before that, HootSuite raised $3 million in debt financing, on top of $1.9 million from investors including Blumberg Capital, Hearst Interactive Media, Social Concepts, Millennium Technology Ventures and angel investor Geoff Entress.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald