smtoolbox

Social media increasingly embraces all aspects of a company’s relationship with customers from marketing and sales to support queries and complaints. Sprout Social has developed a social media management platform that aims to make it easier for teams to work across multiple social networks and to manage these complex relationships with customers. We take a look in this week's SMToolbox.

Sprout Social is a commercial platform with prices starting at $39 per person per month. However, you can get a 30-day free trial if you like what you see below. Setting up your account is straightforward and the platform is very intuitive and easy to use. What strikes you immediately is the well designed interface and great art direction. 

Sprout Social enables companies to manage three key activities:

  • Engagement
  • Publishing
  • Reporting & Analytics

Engagement

Sprout Social allows you to manage engagement in a variety of ways once you have set up and connected your various social media accounts.

The platform provides you with standard views of feeds such as a Twitter list or an account but the real power is in its smart inbox or messages function. This provides a single feed of messages which you can filter in various ways to provide you with a tailored view of your engagement.

In the image below you can see the single feed with my filtering options on the right hand side. Thus I can filter messages for:

  • specific profile accounts
  • specific types of messages such as replies, mentions or retweets
  • specific brand keywords

sprout social messages

This filtering allows you to create tailored feeds such as messages that mention you in connection with a specific keyword or product. Each user in your team can have their own tailored view.

The messages function doesn’t currently support Linkedin Groups, but I understand this is in progress.

Engaging with people

You can engage with messages directly from within Sprout Social such as replying or retweeting. In Facebook you can 'Like' or comment. The system helpfully shows a green highlight when messages have been replied to by yourself or other team members. There is also a ‘collision detection’ system which alerts you someone else is already in the process of replying to a message

You can click on the person a message is from and see their description and details. What is also nice is that it shows you all of the conversation history you have had with the person, and which team member engaged with them. See image below.

sprout social follower analysis

You can also add notes, contact information, or add them to a twitter list.

Assigning tasks

You can also assign tasks in Sprout Social by clicking the pin icon next the message. This brings up the task screen below and allows you to assign the task to a member of the team with a private comment. 

sprout social task

The task can be a general task asking someone to say reply to the message or you can assign a message as a sales lead or a support issue.

Support message handling

In the premium verision you can integrate Sprout Social with your helpdesk system such as ZenDesk or UserVoice. This is a really nice feature and recognizes the reality that customers are increasingly raising support issues via social media. With Sprout Social you can raise a support ticket based on the message directly from within the platform. You can also see progress on the support ticket within the platform and reply to the customer. 

You can see all your assigned tasks in the tasks tab, and if you are a manager you can see all tasks across your team.

Publishing

In the publishing tab you can see all scheduled posts, for example for today, tomorrow etc.

sprout social scheduled posts

You can edit or delete any scheduled messages. 

Composing messages

You can click compose to create a message, which will bring up the compose screen below.

sprout social compose messages

You can compose your message and choose multiple profiles to post from. You can attach photos to your post. Sprout Social has integration with bit.ly which will give you link analytics and you can connect your own bit.ly account. With Facebook posts the platform brings in the meta data from a link, that you can control and edit.

You can target your posts for example:

  • with Twitter you can target followers by country
  • with Facebook you can go down to city level
  • with Google+ you can publish to specific circles

When you are happy with your post you can send your post immediately or schedule your message. Sprout Social has useful functionality that stops you sending conflicting messages

You can also post automatically from an rss feed and you can connect your Feedly account to share directly.

Sprout Queue or Buffer

One nice feature is the Sprout Queue, which I like a lot. This allows to pre-set the time of posts in a queue which will then be sent in sequence. This will be familiar to those of you that use Buffer as it is the same concept. In essence you just add posts to the queue and they will be sent at the scheduled times.

In the premium plan there is a ‘viral post’ function, where Sprout Social will decide the best times to send your messages. The times are based on an algorithm that assesses when your most influential audiences are most engaged.

Browser plugin

I really like browser plugins that allow me to easily share content when I am browsing the web. With Sprout Social I use the Chrome plugin. When you come across something you want to share you just click the icon and it brings up the compose screen below. You can then choose which profile to send from, schedule or queue the message.

sprout social plugin


Reports and Analytics

Sprout Social has a wide range of useful reports from engagement reports to reports on tasks and activities.

You can creat custom reports for example by choosing the date range, account profiles etc. You can analyze post by post to see engagement and activity performance. The reports vary by social network such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. With Twitter you can see reach, responses and interactions. With Google+ you can see comments and reshares.

You can export custom reports from Sprout Social as PDFs and add client branding such as logos, which is great for agencies that provide regular reports to clients.

Below is a sample Twitter report.

sprout social twitter report

The well designed report provides information on:

  • Twitter activity numbers
  • Level of engagement
  • Influence level
  • Follower details such as age and gender

You can also compare your Twitter account to a competitor account to see how you compare on engagement, influence, followers, etc.

With the premium plan you can connect your Google analytics account. This will allow you to see which social sites are sending traffic to your site, the number of links to your site, and allow you to see where these can from in terms of users and posts.

Also with the premium plan you get an engagement report with enhanced features such as flagging messages that appear to warrant a reply, calculating average response times etc. These are good additions, however, the standard reports cover most bases.

Summary

Sprout Social is a sophisticated social media management platform which has some nice features such as the single-stream Smart Inbox and task management across teams. I particularly like features such as Sprout Queue, the integrated support desk functions and the great looking reports. It will benefit from further LinkedIn integration, but it delivers on its promise of making it easier for companies to manage social customer relationships across multiple teams and multiple social networks. It is easy to see why Sprout Social is a popular option for companies looking to improve their social media management.

Do you use Sprout Social? I would love to get your views and feedback.

If you want to try it out you can get a free 30 day trial at www.sproutsocial.com.

Column logo by Marie Otskua