Sprout Social Review: Pro Tools for Ambitious Bloggers
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If you are looking to manage your social media presence like the professionals, Sprout Social offers an in-depth range of tools aimed at enterprises and digital agencies.
A word of warning for bloggers – Sprout Social’s suite of social marketing tools come at a premium. Its plans are not priced for the hobbyist or start-up blogger. But if you are serious about running your blog as part of a viable business, and want to master promotion through social media, Sprout Social may represent a sound investment.
Sprout Social provides the standard functions most social media marketing suites offer, such as multiple profile management, bulk posting across accounts and post scheduling. But its focus is more on tools which help with advanced strategic planning and campaign management, such as powerful analytics, customer relationship management and automation.
You can, for example, build your own chat bots which will take care of responding to comments and engaging with followers.
Sprout Social is compatible with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram – not the greatest range of platforms, but these certainly represent the behemoths. Also consider: Instagram is often not included in other rival social media tools. You can also only link a maximum of 20 profiles for free, although an unlimited number can be added if you pay for them.
Publishing across social media platforms
The main features bloggers look for from social media marketing tools are publishing and scheduling options. Instead of having to post links to a new blog article several times over, Sprout Social allows you to create a single post which publishes across all social media accounts simultaneously.
The publishing and scheduling window is clear and straightforward to use. As well as a text box for typing your message, you can add links, photos and other media. You then simply click on the social profiles you want to add the post to.
Impact: Sprout Social has over 19,000 corporate clients including Vice, Soul Cycle, Dropbox, and Carvel.
Click on the scheduling icon, and a calendar appears with time slots underneath the composition window. You can queue up as many posts as you like to be published as far in advance as you like. There is an approvals queue to help teams manage scheduling from different people, with a visual team calendar so you can easily see what is lined up.
Sprout Social includes a tool for determining the best times to publish for different audiences, as well as organic targeting features for reaching the right people. You can add tags at the composition stage to help with tracking and reporting.
One big plus of Sprout Social is that it includes an asset library for storing images and videos. Once uploaded, they can be quickly assigned to posts, and there is a built-in image editor for cropping and adjusting the appearance.
Engagement through Sprout Social
A big focus of Sprout Social is helping users to track conversations across accounts and build better relationships with followers. It provides a central inbox where messages, comments, likes and re-posts appear from all of your accounts, and where you can reply and interact all from one place.
One of the coolest features of Sprout Social is the ability to create your own chatbots to engage with readers.
Sprout Social also includes enterprise-class customer relationship management (CRM) tools. These build interactions with followers and contacts on social media into individual profiles about each person, providing historical context for each conversation. Again, this is most useful when you have a team of people running your social media accounts. It is also widely used by businesses which provide customer service via social media, for example if customers raise issues or complaints through a comment on your Facebook page.
Social media works best when it is a dialogue, and building an audience requires engaging directly with people who follow you and respond to your content. This can be very time consuming across multiple accounts. Sprout Social lets you build chat bots for each platform which automate responses to comments and IMs.
If you want to get the complete picture of how much traffic your social media accounts generate for your blog, who your followers are and which types of content work best, Sprout Social’s analytics tools are as powerful as you will get.
Sprout Social analytics work in three ways:
- Keyword monitoring: Filter messages in your combined account inbox to sort out the conversations by topic. This can help you build a picture of who is engaging with each type of content you post, which topics are creating the most buzz, and who are the key influencers by subject.
- Listening: Social media listening involves tracking topics, keywords, tags and hashtags in live news feeds. Sprout Social allows you to track topics across multiple platforms and deliver a picture of the most talked about trends with volume data and sentiment analysis.
- Reporting: All data monitored and analyzed through Sprout Social can be compiled into predefined or customized reports. This includes data visualization to make it as easy as possible to see what the numbers are saying. Reports can be used to track campaigns, compare performance across profiles, analyse customer sentiment and feedback, rank keyword performance and gain intelligence on competitors.
Sprout Social plans and payment
Sprout Social offers four subscription tiers, none of which would be considered affordable for your average individual blogger or start-up online business.
At the lowest end, Sprout Social offers a plan it says is intended for people just starting out in social media management. It gives you access to the combined inbox, posting and scheduling across multiple accounts, and pre-set reporting. Even this plan will cost you several times more than your web hosting, if you use a standard shared hosting platform.
Sprout Social does offer a generous 30-day free trial, which you can use to test drive the complete suite of tools with no obligation to buy. At the end of the 30 day period, should you want to continue, you will be asked to choose the subscription tier you would like. Only then will you be asked to enter payment information.
Payment is taken online by credit card, debit card or via PayPal. There are no long-term contracts, billing is taken monthly as standard although Sprout Social does offer a 10 per cent discount for annual payment up front. You can cancel your account any time, and you subscription will finish at the end of the current month.
Is Sprout Social right for me?
Sprout Social’s subscription prices are beyond what most home bloggers will look to pay for social media management tools As a platform very much aimed at corporate and enterprise users, including professional marketing agencies, you would have to be sure that you would get value from them. This will only happen if your blog is already monetized and creating a decent income, and you are serious about using social media to promote your brand.
If you blog as part of a wider business, and especially if you work with several other people on the same platform, Sprout Social is worth a look. It is one of the more powerful services available for professional social media marketing, strategy and audience engagement. If you are only looking for a means to speed up posting and scheduling across several accounts, there are cheaper options out there.