Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in touch via Twitter or Google+.
Social media management dashboard Hootsuite is fresh from its rebranding that ushered in a new logo and name stylization, but 2014 has been more than just that for the company in Asia-Pacific.
Ken Mandel, Hootsuite’s APAC managing director, told TNW in a recent interview that the company has started intensifying its efforts in the region, while a spokesperson revealed that Hootsuite has plans to “aggressively” ramp up its presence there. Mandel joined Hootsuite late last year, around November, and the company has been in set-up mode, hiring people and getting started. He said that the company just hit the ground running at the end of the first quarter of this year:
2014, for Hootsuite, is an entry year into Asia-Pacific. I don’t consider it as complete till the end of the year — you can’t just snap your fingers and have everything in place. We’re very fussy about who we hire and it takes time. We’ll wait for good people. That slows down hiring a bit, but make sure that when we do get people they’re the right fit.
I wanted to create a strong culture for Hootsuite in APAC and the only way to do that is to build a hub. Asia is such a fragmented region with 14 different markets, different timezones, different languages, different cultures… So the best opportunity we had to kind of drive our culture was to create a strong hub in Singapore, make sure that all our departmental heads were based here, and then once we’ve created our structure we then start looking into new markets.
To date, Hootsuite has 61 Enterprise customers in the APAC region, including airline Jetstar and the bank OCBC. Its dashboard services are also used by Virgin, PepsiCo, Sony Music, FOX, and 744 of the Fortune 1000 companies.
Mandel revealed that Hootsuite has its eye set on setting up offices in Australia and Japan next — the former because it is showing strong growth and the company is keen to ride on that momentum, while the latter because it is so culturally distinct that “it’s not an easy market to penetrate.”
Persuading Asian brands to use Hootsuite
Mandel revealed that of all Hootsuite’s use-cases, its role as a tool to aggregate all of a company’s social media presences is particularly important, given that many brands in the region are still using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn natively, for example.
Other than the fact that this means it would take marketers a much longer time to do their job, Mandel noted that this implied the lack of security too, because logging in natively to social networks requires the sharing of a single password. Hootsuite, on the other hand, gives authenticated access to social networks that employees are able to see.
“So we’re really trying to get companies and brands to see that running social media natively without a social media tool is not best practice and actually puts your business at risk — and also makes you more inefficient,” Mandel said.
Building up a demand for Hootsuite’s services first and foremost is therefore a key priority for the company. This is where Hootsuite University comes in to help educate brands with a social media curriculum for their employees. “I think that positions us well for Asia, because I think in Asia, education is really held in high regard,” Mandel said.
He revealed that being a freemium product also benefits Hootsuite in the region, because in Asia there are several companies just dipping their toes into social, and are unwilling to immediately spend a couple of hundred thousand on a 12-month license. Instead, Hootsuite is present every step in the value chain — from freemium to pro and then from pro to enterprise.
Hootsuite is also localized in six Asian languages — simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Bahasa Indonesia.
“So that also allows us to absolutely have a wider net — we have education, we have languages, we have various price points that allow a customer to grow with us. So as they grow in their social confidence along that social media maturity curve, they can get deeper into the Hootsuite stack,” Mandel said.
Most importantly though, Hootsuite has an app directory that helps to bring in some very specific apps to Asia, such as the Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo analytics apps — introduced in December and March respectively. These two Chinese Twitter-like microblogging services have also been integrated into Hootsuite since October 2012 and April 2013 respectively, and subsequently in March this year, the company relaunched their apps to add more functionality and features.
Integrating messaging apps
In Asia, messaging apps have also been thrust into the limelight as a marketing channel for brands — in particular Chinese messaging app WeChat and Japanese chat platform Line. Both services have verified ‘Official Accounts’ that users can subscribe to in order to receive updates — and marketers are starting to realize the power of mobile messaging as a way to reach customers.
Recently, Line even teamed up with Salesforce to help companies connect with users of its platform — more specifically, the partnership will see new mobile marketing ways created on Salesforce’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud that are catered to Line.
Mandel revealed that there are a couple of messaging apps in the region that Hoosuite is eyeing. It already has a relationship with Tencent, which owns WeChat, and he teased a “Japanese one” — a fairly obvious reference to Line.
“Hootsuite is the Switzerland of social media, we bring everyone together, and those are absolutely high on the list in terms of integration,” he told TNW.
Mandel said that although messaging apps are a different kind of social network, given that there are a lot more private conversations taking place, it is probably not all that different in terms of publishing and engagement. After all, brands will still be looking to schedule a message or maybe add a sticker to the message, or place a link that drives e-commerce.
Yet even so, integrating messaging apps will be a huge step forward in localizing even further for Asian firms. With Hootsuite’s emphasis on creating demand in the region for its social media management services, being attuned to regional demands could make all the difference — and Mandel is going all out to make that happen for the company.
Now it just needs to step up the pace of its efforts, and we could probably see a whole lot more Asian enterprise customers on board Hootsuite sooner rather than later.
Image Credit: HootSuite/Flickr
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.