100 Brains: HootSuite's Ryan Holmes and his solution for addressing social media ROI

How is HootSuite addressing social media other than providing apps? Founder Ryan Holmes talks about the company's growth and solution for socmed ROI.

Earlier this year I published a side-by-side comparison of HootSuite and CoTweet as social business applications. HootSuite won, at least in this blogger's opinion, due to its rich feature sets and its broad product offering. This week, the company announced that it is taking that offering even further. For one, it added an iPad application, which was a very smart move. Second, it made its very popular mobile applications free. That's right, they are no longer charging for iPhone, BlackBerry or Android apps. So, what is the future for HootSuite? And how is it addressing social media other than just giving us superb apps for content management? In this latest installment of 100 Brains, I spoke with founder Ryan Holmes about what's shaping his business.

Q. HootSuite has been on fire with its innovation and product announcements this year. Without getting into proprietary information, will you tell me a little bit about what is driving all of these new products?

A. Thank you. I am very proud of what the team has accomplished in the past year. The product development features come from several sources specifically our users (feedback.hootsuite.com), and our team.

Q. HootSuite now has different versions of its products -- consumer, enterprise, mobile. Which one is being adopted the most quickly and what are some of the drivers for that adoption?

A. We have had great adoption on mobile with iPhone, Android, and soon, BlackBerry. That being said, the web client is 1.5 years old and is our most popular product. We have over 800K users and 1.7 million social networks under management.

Q. Do you believe that there is a need for tools somewhere between consumer and enterprise so that small businesses can also scale, but keep these social tools within their budgets?

A. Absolutely, this is a large focus of our paid offering which...at $5.99 per month and includes rich analytics, three team members and unlimited social networks.

Q. HootSuite's free edition brings with it some basic, though insightful, analytics especially with the newer URL shortener. Why launch a separate analytics product?

A. We felt from early on that we wanted to own the analytical data so that we knew that our users would be ensured maximum uptime/reliability and that we would have the ability to expose all of the data that is available.

Q. Given all of the tools that your company has developed, what do you feel about the claim that ROI is hard to measure or quantify in social media?

A. I am very proud to announce that we have solved this claim. With our latest Google Analytics integration we are able to draw direct correlation between a link you share via social networks and web site activities like lead generation/ecommerce purchases.

Q. Late last year I asked a lot of social brains what they thought would happen in social in 2010. The most predominant answer was "ubiquity." Do you believe that has been reached?

A. Ubiquitiy is getting closer, but we still have a ways to go. Wait a year ;)

Q. When you read about social media there are all sorts of opinions. Some of them give big thoughts and a 1,000-foot view and others are practical examples. Which do you think are more impactful and helpful on business?

A. It really depends on the business. A mom-pops is going to be looking for hard ROI actions out of the efforts they put in, while large brands are much more happy investing in improving a fuzzy brand image.

Q. Finally, what's one thing you want to make sure readers know about the web, social, etc.?

A. I invite them to dive into social. For those sitting on the sidelines, it's not as scary as they think, and there isn't much that they can do wrong. Play, make mistakes and learn. If they are scared, find someone who gets it and buy them lunch to work them through it. If they are too busy find someone to help them here. Ryan Holmes photo taken by Kris Krug.

Social Business "100 Brains" is a series of 100 interviews with some of social media's most compelling "thinkers" and "tinkerers." Each interview aims to showcase each subject's most unique perspectives and talents. Interviews will run until December 31, 2010. Know a top "thinker" or "tinkerer"? Send an email using the form below.