Monday, 3 December 2012

Social Client Review: Sprout Social






If you’ve been researching social tools for yourself or your business, chances are that at some point you’ve come across Sprout Social.

Sprout Social is a social management and measurement tool that’s pitched at slightly higher-end companies.

Initially ran on a freemium model (it has now changed it’s pricing structure), I initially started using it for our social properties here at Real Radio and Smooth Radio.


Here’s the price rundown:




After testing it for a couple of months, I decided to recommend to the business that we upgrade our service with them to the deluxe package. It allows us to manage all of our Facebook, Twitter and (personal) LinkedIn accounts from the same place.

In addition to this, you can also measure referral traffic in Google Analytics if you plug your account into their platform.

It produces nice, clear and engaging reports, really breaking down the impact that your campaigns are having and presenting it in a view that everybody from your boss to the CEO can understand.

From a user-experience perspective, the platform looks pretty neat, with all of the features broken down into six buttons at the top of the page.




Home: Provides a general overview of your account activity and impact.

Messages: Allows you to see every message your accounts send and receive. This can be broken down to individual accounts, or used as a group view. It also allows you to assign certain tasks to team members, and check on the status.

Feeds: Is a place where you can view your Twitter and LinkedIn timelines and reply to them. It also allows you to connect your Google Reader to enable you to share your articles pretty quickly with your audience.

Scheduler: This is where you can check the scheduled messages you have going out, amend them where necessary and play around with a feature called Sprout Queue. It’s essentially a way of queueing content to it can go out at the most relevant time to your audience.  You can set this yourself - in fact, I’d recommend it, as it means you can actually know when your update is public, and be available to respond.

Discovery: This is where you can search for keywords, terms and content relating to your assets and campaigns. It’s great if you have a specific campaign that you want to track, or if you just want to follow and respond to customer queries/mentions of your brand across Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, the wider web and blogs.

You can also helps you to find influential users, and helps you to spring-clean who you are following, grouping together inactive/sporadic accounts where you can see them, and suggesting other people and brands that may be more beneficial to follow.

Measurement: This is where Sprout social really comes into it’s own.

Using Sprout’s measurement system, you can get a fully-consolidated report that encompasses Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter stats. You can also break these down for more detailed reports across the platforms.

In addition to this, it also allows you to run wicked Twitter comparisons, which allow you to compare how well you are engaging your fans compared with other accounts. 






All of these reports are downloadable in PDF or CSV format, which is great.

So, add this all together and you have a comprehensive social media management and measurement system - right?

Not quite - I think it could do better in the following fields:

Google+: There is currently no support for G+. Although I know that this is not unique in the social platform management eco-system thanks to G+’s API currently being closed, it would be great if a  few other paid platforms would have had this sorted by now, in the way that Hootsuite has. Having spoken to their CEO, Justyn Howard, I know that they are working on it - I just wish that they’d hurry up. But then I am impatient so.

Usability: Although the staggering amount of information available to you is mind-boggling at times, the user experience can be a bit slow and clunky at times. Compared to other social management platforms it's actually quite slow, although I would say that information is the focus of the product here, rather than speed.

Final thoughts:

Sprout Social is fantastic, but in a crowded market, it's not for everybody, and I'd only recommend it for large businesses and power users.

Why? I don’t think it would work as well for a small business as Hootsuite does. It’s more of a measurement and scheduling platform than a real-time engagement platform. I’d struggle to really justify spending a minimum of $39 (£24 GBP) per month for access to the information when you have so many other helpful suites, such as Hootsuite, which also offer integration with services such as Tumblr, Instagram and more (via it’s app platform). It’s just not comprehensive enough from the management side.

Analytically though, Sprout social is head and shoulders above Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, its closest competitors. It provides the most user-friendly analytics that I’ve seen in a social platform, and is clearly the focal point and centrepiece of the service. Adding Google analytics into the mix, along with the easy comparison tools, sets this quite a distance away from the rest of the pack.

So for that reason, Sprout gets a seven out of ten from me. Like most social management suites, it’s just not there yet, but I hope it does, as they are an incredibly likeable company.

7/10

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