Sprout Social

Services Offered: AnalyticsAutomated PublishingContact ManagementContent ManagementConversion TrackingCustomer TargetingKeyword FilteringMulti-Account ManagementPost SchedulingBrand TrackingReporting/AnalyticsSocial Media Monitoring

Channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest

Sprout Social is one of the more professional social media management platforms, and it lacks the free or cheap plan that most of the other platform reviews have. It clearly targets larger organizations with more heavy-duty needs.

As with all these apps, you begin by attaching all your social accounts. Sprout Social makes this much simpler than much of the competition.

It has a clear and intuitive interface and is logically laid out. It places much emphasis on its Smart Inbox which collects all your social messages. You can opt to combine all your inboxes into one or keep them separate. Indeed, you can combine any set of social inboxes, which will be particularly useful to agencies, as they can group inbox messages by client. You can also select the types of messages you want to show here (with the options varying for each social network). You can even create tags so you can categorize messages based on campaigns or events.

The next tab appears to be unique to Sprout Social. This collects all your social tasks together – categorized as General, Leads, and Support. When you see messages that need attention, click on the pushpin icon (in the Messages section) to assign tasks to the appropriate member of your team.

The Feeds tab shows all your Twitter feeds, Instagram hashtags you wish to monitor, LinkedIn feeds, and any RSS feeds you have subscribed to. This provides you with a huge quantity of content that you may choose to share via your social feeds.

Of course, Sprout Social would be useless as a social media manager if you couldn’t create and schedule your own posts. You can easily create content for all your social accounts, adding graphics, links and other material as needed. The calendar shows all your social posts (both the ones you have already made, and the new ones you schedule). Again, you can show these for any combination of your social accounts.

If you work with a team (as most people who use Sprout Social will) you can set up the entire approval process, making team management a seamless process.

One of the less common features of Sprout Social is its social listening module. You select relevant topics to enable you to uncover trends, analyze sentiment and extract actionable insights from social conversations to better inform your marketing strategy. You are shown a huge variety of data about your selected topics, including an analysis of the sentiment of the messages analyzed.

Of course, if you use social media management software, you’re going to want to know how your posts and social accounts are performing. Depending on the plan you have chosen, Sprout Social provides an extraordinary range of reports – everything from cross-network paid performance, to comparing your Twitter profiles with your competitors to see how you stand up, to analysis of your Pinterest performance.

Finally, unique to Sprout Social, you can create a chatbot to help automate repetitive conversational tasks, resolve customer issues faster, and create unique marketing experiences.


Summary: Quick Jump Menu


Pricing

As a SaSS platform, access to Sprout Social is sold on a monthly basis. Sprout Social offers three paid plans after a 30-day trial. All paid plans can be paid on a monthly basis. Prepayment options are available and allow your account to be debited monthly according to your plan and number of users. You can purchase additional profiles for a monthly charge of $25 per profile.

  • Standard, $99/user/mo – 5 social profiles, all-in-one social inbox, publishing tools to schedule, draft and queue posts, social content calendar, profiles, keywords and locations monitoring, tasking, and social CRM tools, group, profile and post-level reporting.
  • Professional, $149/user/mo – 10 social profiles, all-in-one social inbox, publishing tools to schedule, draft and queue posts, social content calendar, profiles, keywords and locations monitoring, tasking and social CRM tools, group, profile and post-level reporting, competitive reports for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, incoming and outgoing message content tagging, scheduling for optimal send times, paid reporting for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Advanced, $249/user/mo – 10 social profiles, all-in-one social inbox, publishing tools to schedule, draft and queue posts, social content calendar, profiles, keywords and locations monitoring, tasking and social CRM tools, group, profile and post-level reporting, competitive reports for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, incoming and outgoing message content tagging, scheduling for optimal send times, paid reporting for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, custom report builder and scheduled delivery, Spike Alerts for specific mentions or keywords, digital asset and content library, chatbots with automation tools, and more

The Details

Sprout Social is at the more professional end of these social media management apps. Even the Standard plan offers more than most casual social users will need and the Advanced Plan can add up to a serious outlay if you have multiple members of your social team.

It describes itself as a “social media management and optimization platform for brands and agencies”, and the optimization part is Sprout Social’s point of difference. It even allows you to maintain CRM via your social media.

Of course, you can’t just jump into this without setting up. Sprout Social is one of the easier social media management apps to set up. It walks you through the process step by step.

Once you have signed up to Sprout Social (either immediately selecting your plan or taking up the offer of a 30-day free trial, you will want to connect all your social networks. Sprout Social makes this effortless, even for the usually complicated Instagram (although like with all these apps, you will first need to ensure that you have an Instagram Business Profile attached to a Facebook Business Page before you try to use it here.)

If you intend to work with a team you would invite the rest of your team at this point. Sprout Social includes tools that allow all your team to collaborate. You can easily allocate tasks to each member of your team. It offers complete task workflow visibility. You can even integrate Sprout Social with Zendesk, HubSpot and UserVoice to create, track, manage and resolve issues without leaving the respective dashboards.

Every time you enter Sprout Social you are presented with a Dashboard. This offer suggestions of what you should do next – both while you’re still setting, up and later when you’re using the app daily.

One of the best features of Sprout Social I found was that it places social engagement at its core. I found myself beginning each session by going through Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox. Although the inbox starts empty, it doesn’t take long for it to fill up with all your messages, particularly if you have multiple social accounts.

I found the Social Inbox handy because it meant that I rarely had to open the social apps themselves. You can reply to your messages, retweet/repost or repin content, like items, etc., all from within Sprout Social. You can also select the way you look at your social accounts. You can opt to look at the messages from each account separately, all of them combined, or in groups of social accounts that you set up. If you’re an agency, for instance, you could group all the accounts belonging to one client together and go through all their messages in one burst in Sprout Social.

You can also filter your inbox multiple ways including by keywords and hashtags. You can categorize incoming messages with different tags and then allocate team members to handle messages, depending on the tag. For instance, you could have one person handle all messages of complaint, or somebody in charge of requests for assistance. You can even select the specific social accounts with which you want to engage with a particular message.

Sprout Social’s Listening module works in a similar way. You can track mentions of your brand, your competitors, or selected keywords. It allows you to build complex queries, using Boolean phrases. You do this in their Query Builder which helps make your query more visual and obvious.

Of course, Sprout Social wouldn’t be a social management system if you couldn’t create and schedule social posts. It has one of the most comprehensive and intuitive systems to create posts.

If you want to start a post from scratch, you can create it in Sprout Social’s clear and easy to use Create Post screen.

If you enter a link Sprout Social will find a recommended image for you to use. You can customize your post to meet the best practices of the different social networks. You can set your post for multiple time frames (allowing for some limitations caused by the networks themselves).

You can even use Sprout Social if you prefer a more graphical approach to post creation, uploading images to an Asset Library, which you can return to whenever you want to reuse images or videos in the future.

If you have multiple team members you can easily set up a message approval workflow, ensuring that the correct person gives approval for every post before it goes live.

You may prefer to work from a publishing calendar. This lets you set up slots for posts to each of your social accounts. You can filter what the calendar displays however you choose. You can queue content for effortless publishing.

Of course, you won’t want to create every post from scratch. This is an area where Sprout Social excels. You can access content from many sources, which you can import and then reschedule and/or add to your queue. This includes RSS feeds of your favorite blogs.

Sprout Social was the only social media management app, apart from Hootsuite, where I was able to bring in a Twitter feed, and then schedule retweets later. It was confusing, however, and I never knew how the tweet would look. It was also difficult to alter a tweet for retweeting later (as distinct from a retweet now).

Sprout Social also offers a strong analytics/reporting module. The level of detail you can access does depend on the plan you’ve chosen. The Standard Plan only offers post-level reporting. The higher plans go into much more depth in their reporting, including group, profile and post-level reporting.


Conclusion

Sprout Social is a heavy-duty platform for organizations serious about their social accounts, as well as influencers. It isn’t cheap, so is probably beyond the reach of most small businesses (despite describing the Standard plan as being an essential tool for professionals).

However, you get more for your money here than with most of the other social media management platforms. This is because Sprout Social aims to be a complete management platform for all your social media needs. The CRM features may make it worthwhile for smaller business looking at a way to record information about their leads.

The social listening capabilities also put Sprout Social at a level above much of the competition. If you can refine your searches to ensuring that most of the mentions are truly about your firm, this might be another reason to try the product.

Sprout Social clearly thinks in terms of the purchasing funnel. It has tools to help you work with people at all stages of your funnel.

Services Offered: AnalyticsAutomated PublishingContact ManagementContent ManagementConversion TrackingCustomer TargetingKeyword FilteringMulti-Account ManagementPost SchedulingBrand TrackingReporting/AnalyticsSocial Media Monitoring

Channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest

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