Inside Hootsuite’s rebrand and refocus
The Vancouver tech OG wants you to know they do more than just schedule tweets.
Ryan Holmes needed to think of a name. In 2008, his digital agency, Invoke, had spun out a social media management tool. Holmes and co turned to crowdsourcing, with Hootsuite crowned the winning moniker. Then, as the story goes, the team adorned its new name on the door using duct tape. As I toured the now-juggernaut’s Mount Pleasant HQ, I disappointingly did not see a single roll of tape. Yet, what I did witness was Hootsuite ushering in a new era.
Today, Hootsuite unveiled a new brand and vision for the company. Just like it did in 2008, Hootsuite sought to ensure that the new design reflected the crowd’s tastes. The company built its rebrand activation in-house, leveraging the expertise of its creative, social, and functional teams, but it also collected and incorporated feedback from its customers and a diverse array of stakeholders. According to CMO Maggie Lower, these included consulting firm Prophet, social media influencers, and members of the Hootsuite team.
Through this rebrand, the company wants to remind us how social we all can be, and the power that holds. More specifically, Hootsuite wants to highlight that the company is a key part of the creator economy, not just a tool used to schedule tweets. As the pioneer in the space, the company has always strived to be at the forefront of social innovation. Today’s rebrand, Hootsuite says, is a signal to encourage other brands to stand out and join the social conversation authentically, while providing the necessary guidance on how to do so.
As well as a pioneering presence in the social media industry, Hootsuite is a modern success story and carries clout locally. Dare I say it’s a Vancouver tech OG. Hootsuite saw soaring, billion dollar valuations in the mid-2010s, far before it became truly en vogue for B.C.-based companies to reach unicorn status last year. Locally, CEO Tom Keiser noted its place as a feeder, evidenced by the many Hootsuite alumni at other Vancouver tech companies. Nationally and internationally Keiser is recognized for his work with Hootsuite. He recalls that at the recent Collision Conference in Toronto, he was constantly stopped while navigating the floor by attendees sharing their civic or patriotic pride in the work Hootsuite is doing.
Keiser does share, though, that innovation needs to be a factor to maintain its status as a Canadian standout. “I think we're still the OG,” he tells me. “But we've got some work to do. You know, we're almost 14 years old. So, technology's changed a lot. This brand relaunch is part of this. There's a reinvigoration and reinvention in our space. We want to maintain that OG status in Vancouver and in Canada.”
Speaking of that office space, the Mount Pleasant HQ had its most recent reinvention last fall. I was curious if there was always a push to keep the building near 5th and Main. Keiser says that the pandemic made Hootsuite do what a lot of other companies did: resize. This coincided with a change in hiring practices.He noted that the company virtualized where they were hiring. Keiser lives in San Francisco while Lower is Chicago-based, for example.
“We used to really just hire around our offices,” Keiser says of the Hootsuite hiring status quo. “And we took that away as we were going and searching for talent. But we found that people do want to gather at some frequencies, sometimes a couple of times a week, once a month, once a quarter. We haven't figured out what that right size is, but I think we'll always have offices and gathering places.” Hootsuite’s offices now number 15, ranging from that Vancouver hub to a space in a WeWork for sales teams to occasionally meet.
The new future of Hootsuite definitely includes more connection to the social media titans and influencers they empower, though. The company has worked with Blair St. Clair of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame. It also tapped a leading photographer to work with actual social media influencers, not actors of models. For Lower, this is a way to walk the talk of the bigger picture of this rebrand.
“We’re going to actually invest in having human beings at the center, because social is a human-first platform, right?” Lower says. “So, I think for us, hopefully, what you're gonna experience is this idea of ‘humanity amplified.’ People, when they're on social – it's kind of an amplified version of themselves. And so that's what we wanted our creative direction to reflect.”
On the business side of things, Keiser notes that the company’s most recent acquisitions are currently being offered as standalone products. Most recently, Hootsuite acquired Heyday, a conversational AI platform that helps brands engage online shoppers through one-to-one messaging, in August 2021. It was the company's second acquisition that year and the 14th since 2010; the number of its acquisitions now matching the number of years since the company’s inception. Keiser says the team is working to rapidly integrate those into Hootsuite’s offerings. Again, it ties back into that rebrand and refocus: Hootsuite as a key driver of the creator economy.
“[We’re] changing the makeup of our products from just that core marketing set of capabilities to a more holistic set of social capabilities,” Keiser describes. “[We’re] tying them to more social platforms and trying to modernize our approach and how we're reaching out to help solve their problem. I think the branding helps us bring together more of that story.”
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