Ben Watson of Hootsuite: Managing Twitter Chatter

Tweet, Tweet. Who’s there? Millions of people. The power of social media is helping small businesses make great strides getting the word out about their business, products and services. But one area where it’s specifically making it’s mark is in better customer relations and service. The amount of information flowing in and out can be overwhelming. But there are organizational tools to help and today, Ben Watson, Vice President of Customer Marketing for Hootsuite, joins Brent Leary to share a solution.

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Ben Watson, VP of Customer Marketing for HootsuiteSmall Business Trends: Can you tell me a little bit about what you are doing with customer marketing at Hootsuite?

Ben Watson: Customer marketing takes us down a step and says, “Who are our customers? What is the ultimate value driver for them? What is causing the turn? What is causing the update? What’s different by the different verticals we work with, and even break down the functional role?”

So in a nutshell, my team looks at the unique needs of different customer segments, identifies them, and then insures that we are creating a marketing plan to speak effectively to those people and help them to understand the messages we are putting out there.

Small Business Trends: Can you give us a little insight into how things have changed over the years?

Ben Watson: Yeah, we are bumping up to 4 million users right now.  Growth continues to explode. I think what is interesting about the Hootsuite story is that, while there is a significant difference in how the enterprise, or small business, or agency would manage their social media, there’s even more difference in terms of an individual who just wants to manage profiles across multiple networks and take advantage of some basic features.

What we see at Hootsuite, when we take it up to the enterprise side, is massive growth in terms of the number of members on teams that are managing social media.  Also, growth in the different organizations within the enterprise that are managing social media as well.

At the same time, we have a massive base of individual users, small agencies, and small businesses.  We need to continue to focus on their needs as well. There we see, “I want to know what people are saying about me. I want an effective way to manage my inbox, and to use social media as the messaging communications platform.  Also, to have an effective way of listening to the things that I am interested in.  Being able to create filters based on topical areas that I am interested in, or geographical area where I am located in.  Because I want to know what is the difference in the conversation locally vs. the conversation that is happening around the world.”

The bottom line is there’s a lot of consistency in terms of how people are using social media and the things they want to do. But, on an individual basis, we see a lot of different types of views.  A lot of different frequency of views and a lot of different needs in terms of governance, security, and team work flow, and depth of analytics that is required to cross these different segments.

Small Business Trends: You recently came out with Hootsuite Team.  Can you talk about how that addresses the need for businesses to be more strategic and more collaborative with their social engagements?

Ben Watson: One of the first things that people need to do is get organized around social media. Looking at the different functions within the teams and looking at the work flows that are going to be different by departments.  Also, looking at the hand off. If something comes in from a marketing perspective and really belongs in customer support, or if somebody reaches out to express their interest in an employment opportunity, how do you insure that it is routed into human resources effectively?

Hootsuite Team was really meant to help with the first critical step that many enterprises and businesses are facing today, which is mapping my organization involved with social media into a common tool bringing everybody together in one place.  Then giving them appropriate levels of control over the different social accounts, over social networks and profiles that they ultimately need to manage.

It is both an organization tool, in terms of getting my people together in one place, and it is a collaboration of work flow tool in terms of having appropriate checks and balances in place for the messages that are going to push out across us over the network.  Then it is to bill shared understanding in knowledge around the impact of our works.

Small Business Trends: How difficult a challenge is that today as compared to maybe a year or to ago?

Ben Watson: The types of networks are changing.  The number of networks is changing.  Some real centers are forming around some of the social networks that are more established in the same place for a long time. We see first the increase in the number of people within the enterprise that focus on managing those.  We also see a significant increase in terms of the number of accounts that people are actually managing. Some of our enterprise accounts are literally managing hundreds of social profiles across a myriad of networks.  That added to the complexity.

I think it is more complex.  At the same time, ourselves and other folks in the industry are working to make this easier.  To get organized thoughout and easier to understand what the ROI looks like.

Small Business Trends: What impact do these kinds of tools have on the actual customer experience?

Ben Watson: The result on the customer experience is better interaction, better personalization.  The person that I am speaking with truly understands my problems.  I am, hopefully, being interactive in a more timely fashion so that my issues are resolved.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more?

Ben Watson: A great place to start is or follow us on Twitter @Hootsuite.

This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.