Product Review: Sprout Social

Here at NxtGen, we are always looking for affordable, yet effective, social media solutions that the everyday small business owner can use.  For the past several months, we have been testing out a few different Social Media Management tools.  Today I am going to share my thoughts with you on one of those tools: Sprout Social.

Review: Sprout Social is a social media management tool that allows businesses to efficiently and effectively manage & grow their social presence across multiple channels and turn social connections into loyal customers.  Overall, I really like this tool.  You can easily connect your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Gowalla accounts and manage them all from one convenient location.  They even recently added the ability to connect your Google Analytics account, which is a really nice feature.  For business owners that don’t have the time to waste checking and updating several different social media sites, and don’t have the budget to pay a high priced consultant or service, this is a great tool.  You can easily update all your social networks in one place, find new customers with their advanced search technology, monitor conversations taking place across the web either about your brand or your industry, and easily organize all your social media connections in one place, complete with history, notes and more, using the address book feature.  They also provide really great analytics that give you detailed information on followers, influence, engagement, clicks and more – all in colorful, intuitive charts & graphs.  You can review the data right from your browser, or you can create branded PDF reports with the click of a button (data can also be downloaded in CSV form).  But even better is the price!  For the average small business owner out there, who only needs to manage one account (one account handles up to 5 identities), the Pro Plan is only $9/month!  And for those businesses who need to manage multiple accounts, or are looking for a little more in depth analysis, their Business Plan is still an affordable $49/month. Both plans come with a 30-day free trial.  See graphics below for more detailed information on what is included in each package.

Another great part about this tool is the customer service.  Every time I have had a question or needed some help, whether I reached out via email or twitter, I have always gotten a prompt and friendly response.  Including follow-ups to make sure I was completely satisfied with the help I was provided.  This is a big plus, especially for those business owners who are not exactly “tech savy”, and may need some help every now and then.  Below I go into more detail about some of my favorite features, and some things I think they can improve on.  But overall, I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for an effective, and affordable, social media management solution.

Highlights

Discovery:  The Discovery feature is one of my favorites.  There are 3 types of searches you can perform in this section of the application.  Keyword searches, People searches and Business searches.  They keyword search allows you to enter different keywords or phrases around your business to search either Twitter or the web to help find new people to connect with, conversations to participate in or content to share with your community.  You can choose to either search globally or locally.  Below is an example of a Keyword search I set up, and the results, where I chose to have it search Twitter for the keywords “social media”, “marketing” and Facebook” within 5 miles of my zip code.

If I had chose to search the web, instead of Twitter, it would have pulled links to any articles across the web that have the keywords I chose to search for.  This is a great way to find relevant content to share with your followers.

The People search is very similar.  You enter some keywords that you want to look for in people’s Twitter profiles and choose whether you want to search globally or locally.  The search results will show you all the relevant profiles and you can go through and follow people right from the search results.

The Business search is a little different and is a great way to measure yourself against your competition.  Enter in a competitors Twitter handle, and it shows you how you stack up against them in engagement, influence, followers, mentions and demographics.  It also lets you look at their Twitter feed so you can see what they are doing that you aren’t.

Schedule: Another feature I really like is the scheduling feature.  Not only can you send out one-time, immediate, messages through the platform, but you can also schedule repeat messages.  You can choose what day of the week and time you want your message to be sent, and how long you want to to run for (a specific end date or until you manually edit it to stop sending).  It even has a link shortner, which you can link to your bitly account, so you can maximize your message and keep track of your links.  This is a great for restaurants or other types of businesses that have the same daily specials each week.  To make it even better, they even give you suggested times of when you should send your messages based on consumer usage data which determines when your messages are most likely to be seen.

Room to Improve

Single User Log-on: The biggest issue I have so far with this tool is that you can only have one user logged in at a time.  My partner and I both use the service to manage our social media, as well as several clients.  We work in separate cities, so when I am in the system and he goes to log on, it kicks me off.  I emailed Sprout Social support to see if they allowed multiple users to login at once, and unfortunately I was informed that they do not have that functionality yet.  They are working on releasing a “Team Edition” that will allow this, but as of now, it is not available.

Engagement and Influence Scores: Another issue I have is with their engagement and influence scores.  I am not quite sure how these scores are determined.  There have been times where the more I engaged with people on Twitter, the lower my score would go.  It just didn’t make sense.  Also, while it does explain what the scores mean and how you compare to the average user (which is nice), what I would like to see are some suggestions of what you can do to improve your scores in these categories.  None of the services I have used offer these type of suggestions, and I think this would be a great value add for their users and a really nice way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

So what do you think?  Have you tried Sprout Social yet? What are your thoughts on it?  Are there other Social Media Management platforms you have used that you like?

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