While exploring social monitoring software last week, I ran across Sprout Social – a ‘new’ entrant (at least to me) in this fast-and-everchanging space. Since Sprout Social has a free 30-day (no credit card required) trial, I decided to give it a go. I have been a user of Hootsuite personal and corporate accounts over the past several years, and I will use that as my competitive benchmark.
Listening is key to social media — Since listening is the first step in any social media strategy, finding a tool that you like (and can afford) is critical to be efficient in this process.
Sprout Social pricing — Sprout offers two plans – Pro and Business. The Pro plan costs $9 per month and includes the ability to track 5 identities (Twitter, Facebook Personal, Facebook Fan, Google Analytics and LinkedIn accounts). The Business plan costs $49 per month and lets users monitor 10 identities and adds support for location based social media leaders Foursquare and Gowalla.
Other Sprout Social features — in addition to the listening and analytics feature, Sprout Social also helps users manage the interactions with their followers and has some neat features to find new followers. The Business version lets users follow a team-based approach to managing social media interactions. Like Hootsuite, there is also a feature to schedule tweets and other interactions. Lastly, there is a Social CRM feature that will let you track all communications with customers who you set up as contacts in Sprout Social.
What I like about Sprout Social — There are many things to like about Sprout Social:
- Visually appealing — the software is visually appealing and intuitive to use (see the screenshot below)
- High level metrics — the high level metrics and graphs provide instant feedback to key measures and a weekly snapshot
- Engagement and Influence measures — I like the engagement and influence measures, but I still need to understand more about how these measures are developed
- Training and help — Sprout Social works hard to make sure that new users get training and assistance; I have been getting near daily emails with tips and tricks for using Sprout Social (although I have been mostly ignoring them)
Where I think Sprout Social falls short — There are several areas where Sprout Social falls short:
- No permanent free option — unlike Hootsuite, there is no permanent free option so I will unlikely stop using it when my free trial is over; while $9 per month won’t break my bank, I am not convinced yet that I need to incur that monthly fee
- No URL shortener and tracking — I am a big fan of the Hootsuite Ow.ly URL shortener and find that it is a great way to add links to my tweets; while clicked tweets are tracked, I didn’t see a way to track my URLs in Sprout Social
- No Yelp support — if I were a small business, service or restaurant, I would want to be able to track Yelp in the same monitoring tool; I didn’t try the Foursquare or Gowalla features, so I cannot really judge if Sprout Social simplifies management of these social media services
- Keyword search — I had trouble getting the keyword search to work – Sprout seemed to get stuck in a “no results yet, but we’re working on it” loop
There was an interesting article in Gigaom two weeks ago titled “Can Sprout Social Win the Social Media Monitoring War?” First, this article intrigued me because they used WAR in the title as that assumes that this solution space will be hotly contested over the next year or two. And as noted in the article, social media is a “very difficult space to get right”. According to the Gigaom article, Sprout Social is “aimed squarely at small businesses, with a paid service that provides a single dashboard for managing your company’s social media presence.”
Finally, here are some links for Sprout Social:
- Sprout Social website
- Sprout Social blog
- Sprout Social Twitter 101 for Business
- Sprout Social on Twitter
While I am not recommending Sprout Social (yet), I do recommend giving it a try and seeing what it will do for you or your business.