Last month, our team attended the Ohio Growth Summit and a few of us sat in on a great breakout session by Matt Russo of Systems for Growth. After the session Matt and Kate chatted for awhile about systems they use to streamline their business, and Matt highly recommended Sprout Social for social monitoring. We had heard a lot of good things about this tool, so we decided to take the plunge and give the one-month free trial a spin.
Sprout Social is a comprehensive social media management tool that allows you to monitor activity across social accounts, publish posts, track brand mentions and measure engagement through analytics reporting. The lowest-tier plan is $59/month, with premium and team plans also available for bigger budgets.
The first step is to connect your social accounts. Sprout Social supports Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, and the Deluxe Plan (the most basic) allows you to connect up to 10 accounts. This is a major drawback if you are managing accounts for multiple clients, since you will likely hit that upper limit pretty quickly. If we decide to cancel our account after the free trial, this will be one of the main reasons.
Sprout Social: Review of Features
Our first impression of Sprout Social is that it has a beautiful user interface. The design is clean and the dashboard is easy to navigate. Even for people who don’t have a lot of experience with social media management platforms, I think it’s user-friendly and intuitive enough that just about anyone could use it. Let’s review some of Sprout Social’s main features.
Social Inbox – This is where you can monitor the activity of all of your connected accounts in a single stream. You can check or un-check individual social profiles on the right if you want to only see activity from certain accounts, or you can look at everything together. You also have the choice of which Message Types to view in your stream.
Brand Monitoring – In addition to monitoring the activity across all your accounts, you can also track mentions of your company or brand to see what people are saying about it, even when they don’t tag you or use an @ mention. Enter your brand name in the “Brand Keywords” section in your Social Inbox, and make sure the box is checked so that those results come up in your stream.
You can add other keywords too, such as the names of your products, variations of your brand name or a hashtag campaign. Here are more details on how to use the Brand Keywords feature effectively.
Publishing and Scheduling – I love Sprout Social’s message composer. Besides just looking great, it has all of the elements you want in a good social media scheduler – you can publish a post to multiple accounts, add images, and there is a built-in link shortener that uses bit.ly links.
Publishing options include sharing immediately, scheduling for a later date/time, saving the post as a draft, or adding to the Sprout Queue (more on that below).
Sprout Queue – If you’re familiar with Buffer (another great social media tool we reviewed recently), the Sprout Queue is a similar concept – you can set certain times of the day when you would like your content to be shared, add content to your Queue, and it will automatically be shared at those times. The sharing options aren’t as extensive as Buffer’s; you can’t set different times for different days, but you can choose to post up to 10 times per day, with the option of weekdays, weekends or both.
Note: If you upgrade to a Premium Account, you also have the option of the ViralPost feature, in which Sprout Social determines the optimal time to publish your post.
Social Listening – The Discovery tab on the dashboard has some great features, including suggestions of new users to follow on Twitter and a Cleanup function to help you locate and remove followers who are inactive or have unfollowed you.
Our favorite feature, however, is the Smart Search. Here, you can enter keywords to monitor in order to find conversations happening around certain topics on social media. Let’s say you own a wedding cake bakery in Austin, Texas. You could put in keywords like “wedding planning” or “best wedding cakes” and set your location to Austin (the geographic feature works for Twitter only). Then you can strategically join in on conversations or follow users who may potentially benefit from your products or services.
(For more on social listening, check out our recent post on 3 Tools for Tracking Social Mentions.)
Browser Extension – Sprout Social offers a bookmarklet so you can easily share content from anywhere on the web or add it to your Sprout Queue. (Just drag and drop the icon into your browser toolbar – how cool is that?!) They also have a mobile app for iOS and Android so you can easily monitor your social accounts from your phone.
Sprout Social Review: Is it Worth the Price?
We aren’t too far into our free trial yet, but so far, we are pretty excited about Sprout Social’s features and ease of use. The big question will be, do we like it enough to replace Hootsuite, which has been our main social media management tool for a long time? Will the inconvenience of being limited to 10 social accounts be a deal-breaker?
If you have used both tools, let us know which is your favorite and why. Maybe in a few weeks we’ll come back with a follow-up post to let you know what we decide!