Rod Favaron is the CEO of Spredfast.
The news that social media management company Hootsuite just raised a $165 million funding round should come as no surprise to anyone following this space.
Social media has become essential to both consumers and companies, and Hootsuite is a leader in serving individuals and small teams. Its user numbers are impressive, and clearly a good number of people are now paying for their premium tools.
But while this funding gives the company a big war chest to firm up their position as the leading social dashboard for the consumer and small business markets, it’s going to take a lot more than money to transform a historically small and medium-size business-focused software product into something that will fit the needs of the enterprise.
Creating an integrated social platform that fits into enterprise environments and processes is not a trivial exercise. Large companies need a platform that is optimized for the complexity of enabling hundreds or thousands of users on a single software platform — something that is quite different than software that serves the needs of individuals or a small team.
There’s also a difference between serving enterprise customers (companies that require scale as well as integration with other business technologies) and customers who work within an enterprise (essentially, individuals and small groups).
Here are some of the key things Hootsuite should consider as it continues to evolve its social platform:
Enterprise software must fit how an enterprise organizes and manages its work. Multiple levels of hierarchy, complex structures and advanced administrative capabilities are just the starting point. We’re also talking about intuitive classification and multi-level approval paths. It’s not only complex but also ever-changing.
Enterprise software must focus on collaboration within and across teams. Imagine for a moment starting off collaborating with five users in a software platform and then needing to expand collaboration across 50 (or 500) employees. How will users across different teams and geographies work in harmony? Or more importantly, how will notifications, workflows and security aid in the goal of building relationships across social channels without paralyzing the productivity of the workforce? The best enterprise social software providers wake up every morning with the goal of building and expanding this type of infrastructure.
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Enterprise software must serve as the system of record for the social relationship. As enterprise companies deliver on the promise of becoming social businesses, all teams, departments, and geographies will need to operate from a central location. Software will need to house terabytes of data. This data and information will also need to integrate with other big systems used throughout the enterprise. Additionally, total security of the software environment is essential.
Enterprise software must provide high-touch customer service. Scale and success is not just slick sales and marketing; it is embracing the enterprise in its complexity and helping make things work. True, enterprise software should be useable by the entire workforce, but having the expertise and support from your social software vendor is essential. Dedicated support, account management, in-depth training, custom configuration, and personalized software roll-out planning are critical to success.
Enterprise software must have enterprise DNA. All of the above challenges and solutions come with after one essential characteristic: a team whose DNA ensures they wake up each morning obsessed with solving the big, hairy issues specific to that of only the enterprise. It may sound like arguing semantics, but it’s a unique mindset that separates companies that talk about serving the biggest organizations from those that actually deliver Enterprise-level solutions.
(By the way, throwing money at acquisitions and trying to cobble together disparate systems isn’t easy either. Just look at Salesforce.com. They spent $1 billion over the last couple years to build their marketing cloud by gobbling up multiple social software companies but to date have not been able to provide an integrated solution for big brands).
Congrats to Ryan Holmes and the Hootsuite team. I’ll expect the Hootsuite Bus to have an upgraded interior (and maybe some sweet new rims) at SXSW next year. Only time will tell what $165 million will change for their current business offering and community.