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Hootsuite’s new CEO has some thoughts about Facebook’s advertiser rebellion

June 29, 2020, 4:45 PM UTC

Hootsuite, a tool that helps companies manage their social media accounts, has tapped a top executive from Zendesk as its CEO.

Tom Keiser, formerly chief operating officer at customer service software maker Zendesk, will take the top position at Hootsuite on July 6. His appointment comes after Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes announced plans late last year to step down. Holmes, who led the company for 12 years, will remain as chairman.

In an interview with Fortune, Keiser said because of the global pandemic, he’s unable to visit Hootsuite’s Vancouver headquarters. But he said that its business is strong because more companies are trying to reach their customers at home through social media and need tools like Hootsuite to do it well.

“If you look at the space Hootsuite is in, social media and businesses trying to communicate to consumers on digital platforms, the growth is significant,” he said.

Keiser explained his vision for the company and addressed the current hot-button issues facing social media. His responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Fortune: Tell us about your vision for Hootsuite.

Tom Keiser: The company has really good solid history. It’s a $200 million business and has a really nice growth arch. There’s a lot more growth in this space as social media and social commerce has moved into the mainstream for businesses. There’s tremendous opportunity. My focus will be on making sure a foundation is in place to be able to run down different growth paths. If we can focus on growth and build a great company, it’ll become clear if there is a trajectory to an IPO or if there is another path. But we’re in no rush. It’ll become clear as we get into the next 12 to 18 months. 

Facebook tightened its policies on hate speech and ads on Friday to quell a growing boycott by advertisers. What’s your opinion about Facebook’s response to the pressure?

I think of it very positively. What we’re going through right now is a compounding set of events, but it’s causing all companies to step back and take a firmer stand on what they believe in and get past sloganeering. Employees and customers are pushing companies. It’s super healthy that it’s happening. There’s change coming to social platforms from the regulatory side, but better changes will come from rising expectations from people on those platforms. 

Why do you think companies are joining the boycott?

Companies want to communicate in a way that’s authentic and trust that their communications are reaching their targeted audiences. They want to trust that that’s happening in an environment that’s safe for their brand and customers. The expectation is these platforms become more than just a big snowball fight—a place where things are happening, and people can trust the communications on them.

Is this boycott really going to change anything meaningful at Facebook?

Facebook’s getting hit in the pocketbook. They’re being shamed in some cases by some competitors, and they’re getting pushed by advertisers to make changes. So if they’re not listening they’re going to be in trouble. They have to be listening. The question is, Are they going take a more aggressive set of actions or just react to the pressure points? What happens at the end of this boycott? Every company is going to have to make a decision. We’re in a super interesting time. It will lead to clear positions from companies on who they are, who they want to do business with, and how they’re doing business. 

What would you do if you were Mark Zuckerberg?

He has tremendous talent around him, and he’s going to have to leverage that talent. They have been very non-positional, but they’re going to have to take positions or they’re going to feel the wrath. The government is coming, and it’s going to be messy and expensive, so they’re going to have to take some positions to get in front of that. The next five months are going to be a zoo on these platforms. We’re at that white-hot moment. 

Has Twitter done a better job in handling hate speech and misinformation?

They’ve taken some stands and are putting some policies in place trying to take a stronger position. I don’t know if it’s better, but they’ve had the courage to take the first steps. 

What needs to happen on Facebook and Twitter?

I think it’s having standards and enforcing them. And just making sure they’re super clear for individuals and for businesses. Think about who’s actually on your platform and have a little more control of that as well. These platforms are overrun with bots that aren’t contributing too much other than discord. 

What’s your expectation for the regulation of social media?

We’re in for such an unpredictable next six months to a year on all things government that it’s going to be hard to get much done, quite frankly. Then a lot potentially will get done. I don’t think anything will happen until after the presidential race.