HootSuite Kicks Off International Expansion, Swoops Into London, Looking To Hire 50 By 2013

Social media management services are big business at the moment, with Oracle and Salesforce snapping up a number of properties in the last couple of months. And now, in their wake, Hootsuite, one of the larger independent social media management companies, is expanding internationally. A new headquarters opening today in central London will be Hootsuite’s first office outside of its home base of North America — specifically Vancouver, Canada.

The news comes on the heels of HootSuite reportedly looking to raise $50 million at a $500 million valuation in May 2012, with the company more officially picking up $20 million at a $200 million valuation in April. Taken with Oracle’s acquisitions that included Vitrue for $300 million, and Salesforce’s buys that have included Buddy Media for $800 million, all this points to several players homing in on a business opportunity to meet the enterprise’s need to get a grip on social media.

First off in London, HootSuite will be hiring 24 people — sales and support staff — with plans to double that to about 50 by the end of 2013. The company says that it is currently growing at a rate of about 300 percent annually and is hiring at a rate of about six people per month. It currently has over 150 employees.

HootSuite made its name with software that enterprises use to monitor and engage on big social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But more recently it has been expanding the number of other social networks that it covers in its service. In June it added Instagram, content sharing network SlideShare, document-focused app edocr, and engagement app Zuum to its dashboard.

Because it offers a free version of its product as well as paid, premium versions, HootSuite has picked up a sizeable user base so far — some 3.5 million companies use its products, its CEO Ryan Holmes told me back in May. That includes small businesses of 1-2 people, but also McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Sony Music and more.

Part of its current expansion strategy will be to forge more links with agencies as well as brands, Holmes said today in a statement. This is where London, which is with New York a major center for digital advertising, fits in: “London’s agency culture is what attracted us to this market,” he said. “It has been a big advantage to moving here as it opens up access to a wide variety of people who have experience working in these closely networked business structures.” London is headquarters to 85 of the top 100 interactive agencies in the world.

The release put out today by UK Trade & Investment and the Mayor of London’s office name-drops the Olympics, now starting in less than two weeks, as part of the drive here, too: “During Games-time it is my mission to ensure that visiting business leaders recognise all world class credentials so even more companies decide London is the top choice for their investment,” said Mayor Boris Johnson in a statement. However, for HootSuite that would be more about potentially offering on the ground support to existing customers rather than using it as a vehicle to pick up more clients.

The tech-skills-hub startup General Assembly recently opened its London office — its first outside of the U.S. — as well, and it too had some support from government behind it. That wasn’t in the form of financial support but a strong endorsement that could open doors for GA as it grows its business. It may be a similar case with support for HootSuite, too, which officially has been “supported in their move to London” by the UKTI as well as London & Partners, which is funded by the Mayor’s office.