Tuesday, April 27, 2010

4 Things Business Owners Should Learn from Hootsuite's ow.ly Journey

Today's news from Hootsuite to remove their ow.ly bar-frame has been mostly met with cheers by Hootsuite users and non-users alike. What's this enthusiasm for? Let's just say that the ow.ly links by Hootsuite's URL-shortener had known shortcomings, that have finally been addressed.

I've been using twitter for just over a year now, and my first introduction to Hootsuite was through the "ow.ly" links I saw in my twitter timeline early on.

My association to these links was not positive, actually I was almost disturbed by them. One shortcoming was that the ow.ly bar on top of the browser window hid the actual URL of the page; so the original link could not be seen.

Also a detractor, when I would land on a page shortened by ow.ly, and then click on a link within that page to move on to other pages; problems would ensue. An interesting article or blog post I wanted to share would become additional work. Even when I would attempt to remove the ow.ly bar to see what the address was, I would be taken away from the page I was then on, and left all the way back on the original page.

It became such a nuisance, I even stopped clicking on ow.ly links for a while, no matter how much respect I had for the person sending out the link, or how interesting the tweet sounded.

Early on, when I discovered that these ow.ly links were being produced by Hootsuite, I believe I mentally blacklisted Hootsuite as a twitter productivity tool. Instead, I used Tweetdeck at that time.

As time went on and my needs changed, and I became more tolerant on twitter (weighing nuisances and good stuff), I actually checked out Hoootsuite, and started using it. I discovered that Hootsuite is a great application. Because of my earlier experience and sensitivity to ow.ly links, I continued to use bit.ly instead for the most part, even though it obviously was not convenient for me to go elsewhere to shorten the URLs I wanted to share with others.

Over the past year, I've come across many people who were outspoken about their dislike for the shortcomings of the ow.ly links. Despite all the feedback, it took Hootsuite quite some time to deal with the shortcomings of their URL-shortener. At one point, a few months back, I noticed Hootsuite gave the option to the reader to permanently disable the ow.ly bar from their browser, but that wasn't what people wanted.

It took about year, and many upset twitterers for Hootsuite to get to today's move. I was very pleased when Hootsuite announced that they are permanently removing the ow.ly bar from the shortened links...

Hoootsuite is a terrific application. Folks behind the product are obviously savvy, innovative designers and technologists. I don't think Hootsuite's resistance to deal with the ow.ly bar issue was technical, hence I have to conclude complacency.

If you search the twitter for "ow.ly bar" you will see the kind of positive reaction from thousands of tweeters today:

Now you will ask "well, all is fine and dandy, but what has this got anything to do with your title, What Business Owners Should Learn from the Hootsuite's ow.ly?"

Okay... Here's what any business owner should learn from Hootsuite's ow.ly journey:

1) Listen, Monitor, Analyze
Being in "twitter and the social media business" it's hard for me to believe that Hootsuite was not listening to what people were saying. But waiting as long as they did to make a change to their URL shortener, maybe they weren't listening hard enough. As a business owner you must listen and monitor what people say about your company, brand, product or industry. With today's platforms and tools, listening and monitoring is actually not even a burdensome task. Once you have heard enough symptoms of a (possible) problem, then you have to put that issue under the microscope and start the problem solving.

2) Acknowledge Feedback
I have not seen Hootsuite acknowledge any issue with the ow.ly until today when the change was made... When people have anything to say about your company, brand, product or service, it's a good idea to acknowledge what they are saying. Saying nothing doesn't make feedback and complaints go away. If you own the kind of business where you cannot acknowledge each and every client's feedback, it may be a good idea to send a broadcast email to your clients, or to do a blog post to acknowledge that the feedback is heard.

3) Announce Plans
Hootsuite did not announce any upcoming changes to their clients or to the technology world. The changes were made and released as a surprise. Isn't it a good idea as a business owner to communicate with your clients that their feedback has been heard and you are working on making changes (or improvements) to your product and service?

...and, last but not the least:

4) Don't Let Success Get in the way of Excellence
Again, Hootsuite is a great app, and plenty of folks (including myself) used it despite the ow.ly shortcomings. I'm sure Hootsuite's overall success as a product may have gotten in the way of recognizing the shortcoming of the URL shortener. As a business owner you have to serve your customers' needs; nobody cares about how brilliant or successful you are, if your clients are not satisfied and you are not giving them the best possible products and services.

A Bill Gates quote comes to mind:
" Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."
So, as a business owner, don't let your success get in the way of continuing to aim for excellence.

* * *

Back to the ow.ly changes: Thanks to the recent changes to Hootsuite's URL shortener, I can conveniently shorten my links right from Hootsuite without having to worry about the user experience of people both in and outside of the online communities I live and work in every day...

Ky Ekinci : Co-Founder Office Divvyposted by Ky Ekinci
Co-Founder, Office Divvy
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Connect? Ky on Twitter | Office Divvy on Twitter | On Facebook


  1. I am so glad that HootSuite decided to change! But I question if ow.ly's bad reputation can be rebuilt, since they chose to create a new shortener, not to be bar-free, but to have the bar. I think it will just confuse people.

    It's because of this that I created my http://bit.ly/forhootsuite Greasemonkey script for Firefox. It automatically shortens URLs using bit.ly (with support for personal APIs and even bit.ly Pro). I'd love to get your feedback on it!

  2. I like Hootsuite a lot. And I agree with you about the Ow.ly part getting better. Seems like they needed to compete with bit.ly, which is what I use and like.

    Thanks for the post!