Social Media Management Tool: A Review of Sprout Social in 2013

JohnDSaunders
John D Saunders Digital Marketing Strategist, 5Four Digital Marketing

Posted on March 23rd 2013

Social Media Management Tool: A Review of Sprout Social in 2013

Digital marketers harness the power of brands and local businesses by giving a “voice” to their online presence through the avenue of social media. By doing so, they provide insight into the company philosophy, deliver direct feedback to consumers and create an online conversation that can result in direct engagement and ROI.  However, questions still remain.  With the emergence of social media…

  • How are marketers measuring influence?
  • How are marketers managing your social media presence?

There are countless tools available for those looking to dive into marketing their business, but how can YOU decipher which ones are truly worth the time invested? Coming from a marketer who’s delved head first into dozens of management systems, this Sprout Social review should be a pivotal weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Sprout Social Wings and Fly 

Sprout Social is an integral social media management tool that combines the power of

  • Analytics – reports combine engagement, impressions, shares and the demographics of your fans, followers and influencers.  Now, you can gauge which posts are the most influential, tailor your message to your most prominent demographic and know where to pick up ad spend on social media platforms that aren’t warranting the engagement you’re looking to achieve.
  • Social Feed Aggregation – the ability to see your Facebook newsfeed, Twitter feed and RSS feed reader integration on one scrolling screen.  This simplifies your efforts by having all of your social media updates fed into one location.  Say goodbye to switching tabs in your browser.
  • Social Media Publishing – post directly on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles from the Sprout Social dashboard.
  • Team Management – manage team members and review posts before they’re pushed to sites. 

Using Sprout Social – “Intuitive” is My Middle Name

 Sprout Social Dashboard

Sprout Social offers a FREE 30-day trial for skeptics, which I used to my full advantage to immerse myself into the system. (You can sign up here.) When you sign in for the first time, Sprout Social will walk you through a series of steps to add in your social media accounts. Once that is completed, Sprout Social takes some time to analyze your online situation and populate your Dashboard accordingly.

social influenceAfter a few minutes, you’ll be able to see, in real-time, the influence of your social media properties. The dashboard main page pulls up a summary of your presence at the top left, providing a screenshot of what you’ve been up to online. It’s a great way to see the landscape before you decide to make any posts. From this location, you can visit your available tabs (located at the top navigation) or, scroll down to see quick snapshots of your connected accounts. Sprout Social provides a quick score (for Twitter and Facebook) that indicates how well you’re communicating with your audience. The higher your score number, the more valuable your audience to your business.

Know Your Surroundings

The Messages tab does a great job of aggregating recent messages you’ve posted, comments by others and interactions from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on one feed. Here, you can assign tasks to other interaction members, see your sent messages from today, yesterday, or by week and month in one easy tab. The Messages tab does a superb job of making recent post interactions visible on multiple platforms.

dashboard tools

As with other social media management tools like Hootsuite and Wildfire, Sprout Social allows its users to publish their posts via the social media dashboard. This eliminates visiting individual social media platforms and posting directly. Now, you can:

  • Schedule posts for the future
  • Send a quick post to Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn platforms
  • Quickly add content while browsing the web by installing the Google Chrome Extension
  • Utilize a built-in RSS Reader to easily find content to share

However, be forewarned, using a third party application to update your Facebook Page may be convenient, but Facebook is minimizing its impact in your fans’ news feed. Your messaging isn’t factored into Facebook’s Edgerank. ALWAYS post directly to Facebook -- you can learn how to schedule Facebook messages on Facebook’s HELP pages.

Discover Who Your Influencers Are

The Discovery tab on the Dashboard provides an overview of individual Twitter accounts. Visit your recent suggestions of whom to follow, clean up Twitter spammers who have little to no activity online, or perform a smart search based on keyword terms around your business to find advocates of your brand. The Discovery tab makes it easy to increase your Twitter presence with just a few tabs.

networking

Report Your Social Media & Prove ROI

For online marketers looking to justify their social media marketing efforts, the Reports tab is an important tool in your arsenal.  This is where Sprout Social outshines the competition.  As a user who has generated reports from other competitors, Sprout has the most in-depth comparisons.

community engagement

You can combine accounts to see group stats of clients you’re managing in an easy printable PDF/CSV format that reveals:

  • Group Stats – includes incoming message stats and more
  • Engagement Report – provides metrics based on replies sent from profiles within the group you specify
  • Twitter Stats – demographics of your followers, new followers in a time period, and your daily engagement
  • Facebook Stats – see your new fans, page impressions and the demographics of your current followers

This report is customizable by specific date ranges and can be saved in a PDF and .CSV format for clients.

For more in-depth reports, Sprout Social provides:

Facebook Pages Reports

Facebook report

The Facebook Pages Report has all of the pivotal information marketers need to prove ROI. Stats include: impressions, check-ins, demographics, fan locations, shared messages, popular post days, and a content breakdown of the most popular posts. This report is a thorough culmination of your Facebook marketing message and should provide an integral view into what’s working on your page.

Are you not receiving enough engagement on your posts? Look at the content breakdown for messages that ARE working and emulate the formula in future posts.

Is a day of the week getting little to no engagement? Increase your messaging and target your users with more content during a popular time on that day.

With the Facebook Reports as a guide, Sprout Social helps users create marketing efforts around their findings.

Twitter Reports (w/comparison to ANY Twitter account)

sprout social twitter 

With Twitter reporting, measure your key indicators of engagement and influence with your audience, create your marketing and messaging around the demographics of your followers and see what messages you’re sending are receiving the most mentions and retweets. Also, compare your Twitter profiles to competitors. See what they’re doing better and what’s NOT working to better conducting your marketing efforts.

The intuitive use of Sprout Social sets it apart from the competition. It’s a simple, effective way to manage your social media efforts.  However, every product is never without its short-comings. Google integration and publishing is NOT available on Sprout Social. So, posting to Google+ takes additional effort on the marketer’s part to increase their social media gamut. Sprout Social is not a be-all, end-all social media management system, but it is mant to conduct a good percentage of your efforts. With the reporting, messages, and publishing efforts of the platform, it’s a great tool for social media ROI and engagement.

Add me to your Circles on Google+!

JohnDSaunders

John D Saunders

Digital Marketing Strategist, 5Four Digital Marketing

John is the Founder and Lead Digital Strategist at 5Four Digital Marketing.  As a tech geek and advocate of digital marketing, John's passion stems from the use of his skills in social media marketing, Google Analytics, web design, SEO and copywriting to create and promote clients online.  John provides Digital Marketing Consulting Miami. For more Social tips, visit 5Four Digital and add John to your Circles on Google+.  

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Comments

Nice Job here...it looks like it's worth giving it a try.

Definitely worth checking out! Thanks for taking the time to comment, Dimitris!

Nice write-up, John! I'm a big fan of Sprout Social.

thanka for reading, Steven!

I use Sprout Social and am a big fan. Thanks for spreading their word, John. I also am excited about their new engagement reports. 

thanks for reading, Chris! i think it's an awesome tool for marketers and crucial to helping proce social ROI. 

Thank you John and our wonderful customers who've commented. Anyone who has used Sprout for a while knows we never sit still. We're relentless about making the most powerful social engagement platform even better. Along those lines - we have several large new features coming out this Spring that we're excited to share with everyone soon.

Thank you John and enjoy the weekend,

@Justyn
CEO
Sprout Social, Inc.

Justyn, your tool is great for marketers and business owners alike. The proof is in the pudding and you've proven that this tool is a necessity for social ROI. Thanks for leaving a comment, I feel honored!

Nice post, John. I've been using SproutSocial for about a year and a half now and really like it. It is truly intuitive and I and my clients like the easy to understand reporting features. SproutSocial's tech/customer support is the best I've ever encountered. Truly amazing! Open a support ticket or tweet them and the bug fix or enhancement materializes in record time.

That being said, I can think of a few enhancements that would make the product better:

1. Better Google Analytics reporting. It's too basice right now.
2. Push notifications for their mobile app.
3. Google+ scheduling (Hootsuite does it, why not SproutSocial?)

Sharing this post. Thanks!

Thanks, Mike! I agree with Google+ integration. It would be great to push content directly from the dashboard. I covered some of my concerns toward the end of the piece and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Thanks!

Hi John:

Great article! I liked how you made each feature an important highlight. I just started using this software and I love it! I was using Hootsuite, and found this to be much better to see the different pages. I would like to see Google+ options as well. Thanks for sharing this...I shared myself on my profiles.

Cora Dugan

Happy to hear you're loving Sprout, Cora! We definitely understand the desire for Google+ integrations and are currently looking into it.

Brit Thompson, Social Marketing Manager at Sprout Social

Thanks for your prompt resonse, Brit! Can't wait!

Thanks for reading, Cora! Same here, I started with Hootsuite and moved into using both, leaning more on Sprout Social for reporting and Twitter comparisons.  The tool is AWESOME.  Can't wait to see Google+ posting capabilites, as well!

We use Engage121 for many of the same functions that have been outlined in this article... but it looks like Sprout's interface is better by far. I'm going to get a trial subscription and see what the fuss is all about.

Looking forward to it!

Patrick, I'm glad I could get your digital marketing curiousities piqued!  Check it out and let me know what you think! 

Thanks for posting a great article. You have provided a really good overview.

I have been trying Social Sprout and like it overall, however, there is a glaring gap in functionality. We see a huge amount of traffic from our BLOG posts and consider blogging a key part of our social media efforts. Unfortunately, Sprout Social does not provide any blog posting capabilities. We are looking for a single tool to manage all of our social media channels and this is a very large component that is missing. We can get that capability with similar tools, e.g. Hootsuite, Sendible, SocialOomph, etc., however, Sprout has a much nicer User Interface/User Experience.

Does anyone else here use blogs as part of their social media strategy? If yes, how are you managing them? Would you like to have an all in one tool as well?

For us, fix this glaring omission and it will be a near perfect tool for social media management.

Great review - I just reviewed Sprout Social on my blog crmbrief.com.  Thanks for the tip regarding posting directly to facebook, I wasn't aware of the external post penality.

You missed one very important shorcoming of Sprout Social's analytics: It can't displayt any historical data beyond the point at which you signed up, whereas tools like Crowdbooster can.

For example, I just signed up to produce my monthly analytics reports for clients. My reports details analytics for the previous month, but Sprout won't show anything before yesterday. 

Since I signed up in the middle of April, I won't be able to use it for a full April report, either. That means the first time I'll be able to use it to produce reports is at the beginning of June! In the meantime, I will have paid $60 (half of April and all of May) for nothing.

This is not mentioned on their website.

Hey... looks like Sprout Social added Google+ posting!  Yeah!  http://sproutsocial.com/features/social-media-publishing