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I may be a pain in the butt, but I'm the guy with the credit card
July 17, 2012
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CALGARY, AB, Jul 17, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Back in the day, I used to love trading software with other nerds, much like kids used to trade hockey cards. “Hey, I’ll swap you this game for that desktop publishing program!” At one point I even became a member of the Association of Shareware Professionals and distributed shareware on my bulletin board system. In other words, I like software, perhaps a little too much, which makes me both a boon and a burden for developers.
Nowadays, software as a service (SaaS) is all the rage. No more swapping or burning disks, you simply log in to web-based software and presto! instant functionality in a web browser. It’s a software nerd’s dream, giving me big business abilities for my small business.
I use SaaS for lots of social media stuff, basic office stuff, customer tracking, project management, accounting, reputation monitoring, image editing and more. Sometimes my relationship with these software providers is like a love-hate relationship. I have to imagine it’s the same for them.
For example, I use HootSuite as my social media dashboard, and it has amazing capabilities. Multiple social media accounts for multiple clients on multiple devices all synced up in one package for under $100 per month – amazing, right? Right, and wrong. HootSuite has two key gaps that just annoy the daylights out of me. Its ability to syndicate RSS feeds is rudimentary at best, far inferior to free solutions like dlvr.it. And the URL shortener in HootSuite (that makes it possible to shrink big unwieldy links into tiny ones that work well in tweets and email) is only available inside HootSuite – no integration with other solutions (called API access by programmers), no convenient shortening applet.
Now these may sound like minor annoyances to you, and they are. But for the work I do, it’s like a new ripped hangnail every single day. I publish a blog post and HootSuite only sends it to three of five destinations. Grrr. I want to publish something directly on Facebook without going through HootSuite to shorten the link and I can’t so I lose tracking on that link. Grrr.
To add insult to injury, their help desk is slow, curt, and generally closes tickets by saying “we don’t do that” or “that feature has been rejected.” Double grrr.
As a former product manager, I empathize with HootSuite and others like them. They need to keep Pepsi happy to stay alive, less so tiny little communicatto. They’re worried about McDonalds, not Lacombes. Why? Because they know where their revenue bread is buttered.
This is not to pick on HootSuite. They have an amazing product, it just doesn’t do a couple things I want it to do. And there’s the rub. When 10,000 chuckleheads like me are clamoring for this feature or that, how is a SaaS company supposed to choose? If I were them I’d choose by revenue potential – what keeps us alive as a startup? SaaS users are like necessary evils to developers, in a way.
Sometimes, though, you find a SaaS startup that is so early stage they are really willing to talk to you, bend over backwards to adjust their product or find a solution that suits your need. And admit in a friendly way that they just can’t build the fancy thing you need right now because there’s only one, or two, or six of them.
The fine folks at Sprout Social, a social media dashboard that competes with HootSuite, have given me three trials of their software, and have been incredibly cheery in answering my questions, helping me work through problems, and suggesting alternatives when their software doesn’t do something. The lean, mean team at awe.sm, a new link shortening and analytics service, have gone above and beyond in on-boarding me to their service, going so far as to modify their product based on one of my suggestions in the space of an afternoon. The developer of Mr. Reader, a fantastic RSS reader for the iPad, told me humbly and plainly he can’t work on an iPhone version right now because it’s only him, but he will. And I believe him.
Social business is changing everything, including the software business. Developers need little guys like me (metaphorically speaking) to spend our paltry $10/month to stay afloat. We need them to add the features we need to get through our day. It’s a natural tension that can’t always be perfectly resolved.
Like all relationships, a little humanity, humility, and honesty goes a long way to papering over such cracks. And yes, I’m aware I’m a complete pain in the butt. But I’m also the guy with the credit card. Deal with it.
Doug Lacombe is a social media speaker and strategist with social media agency communicatto. Find him on Twitter at @dblacombe.
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