Sprout Social – For When You Need More Than “Just” a Dashboard

http://nzeft.org/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://nzeft.org/therapist/annie-rogers/ Continuing the series on incredibly helpful social media tools, we move to my other absolute favorite paid tool, Sprout Social.  Now, this one is by no means cheap compared to other methods.  It is honestly the most expensive tool I pay for, but I feel it’s worth it for the amount of time I save.  That is, ultimately, the best way to decide whether or not a specific tool is appropriate in your situation – is it saving you enough to pay for itself?  If you’re self-employed, like myself, actually assign your time a monetary value.  If you don’t think your time has a monetary value, you’re mistaken, and probably selling yourself short (more on this in a later blog post).

mail order Proscalpin Moving on to Sprout Social – this has replaced Buffer for me, but I also manage many accounts.   It offers a single dashboard for you to view Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Instagram, although you can’t reply or see comments on Linkedin and Google Plus.  You can’t schedule posts for Instagram, and due to a change in the way Facebook pages work, the ability to schedule from a feed directly to a Facebook page is offline as of this writing.  You can still post links to curated content, you just can’t directly post from your news feed, which is slightly less convenient than before.

enter However, now that we’ve looked at what you can’t do, let’s look at all it can.

The smart inbox is one of the best features – everything for all channels in one place.  If you have multiple clients, like I do, you can sort them into groups and just see the messages that need responding for a single client at a time.  You could never leave the smart inbox and still have the bare minimum of necessary engagement covered.  You can leave notes as you respond to specific messages, or if you’re large enough to have a team, you can assign tasks to team members and leave notes on specific people you reply to.  I use it to keep notes on specific people that I respond to on behalf of clients, or to note where a client wants to personally communicate with certain accounts.  It can function similarly to a CRM, but since the search function doesn’t include your personal notes, there’s no real ability to tag specific users.  You can tag prospects as sales leads, though, which is useful as you go through Twitter prospecting.

The tasks bar allows you to assign tasks for responding, sales leads, or customer support, depending on your needs.  You can use it as an extension of your own CRM, using it for reminders to touch with specific prospects every so often.  You can include names, addresses, the company someone works for, phone numbers, and Sprout Social will often pull all the social networks that particular person has linked up.   In a single place, you can see all the information you’ve added about specific accounts, as well as previous conversations you’ve had on each channel that is synced with that user.  This gets useful as you start juggling hundreds of accounts and trying to remember what you said to who, and when.

The next tab is the feeds tab, which is my best friend for curating content as well as interacting with Twitter feeds. I have Feedly hooked up to Sprout Social, allowing me to see RSS feeds of relevant blogs and sites that I’ve collected together based on topic.  I will also often create collections specific to clients, so that each client has a steady source of curated content I can always draw from.  I check this daily for new or breaking content.

You can also view twitter feeds, letting you see what your stream is currently tweeting about and checking if you can respond.  Your LinkedIn profile can also be hooked up here, letting you view recent posts to LinkedIn, although you can’t reply.

There’s the publishing tab, which lets you see what you currently have queued up, as well as let you change the order of your content and change the viralpost settings.  Viralpost is one of my favorite tools ever – you set the frequency per day of how often you want content out, and Sprout Social takes care of the rest.  It balances when the highest number of your followers are not only online, but most likely to engage with your content, too, making it the flat out easiest way to schedule everything.  Just add content to the queue, and Sprout Social does the rest.  You can see all the scheduled content across all channels in one place, something I find extremely helpful as I can check that I’m following themes or order to the posts as needed.

The discovery tab is yet another great tool – search topics, keywords, and save smart searches in Twitter (prospecting, anyone?).  You can also see various groupings of followers: those who are following you, but you’re not following back, those who’ve mentioned you, those you’ve talked to recently.  You can also do cleanup, which is extremely helpful for myself and every single one of my clients.  Silent accounts, those who don’t follow you back, those who don’t post often.  Since I review new followers each day, I have a general idea of the new followers, and can see which accounts followed a client and then rapidly unfollowed them.  This can sometimes indicate that the brand isn’t attracting the followers that align with the brand message, but more often, it’s a sign of lazy twittering – following large numbers of accounts to get a courtesy follow back, then unfollowing most of the batch and repeating it with a new set of accounts.  I feel this is bad manners and shows lack of interest in the community you build, and will leave a note on the accounts doing this so they do not get a courtesy follow back when they inevitably add the client’s account again (unless it’s a vitally important or influential account, but frankly, that’s never happened).

Sprout Social

Finally, for my fellow social media managers or those who need something to show the boss – the reports tab.  This is your cheat sheet for impressing everyone you work for, along with the fancy PDFs you can generate with Socialbro.  You can print out multiple categories of reports as documentation of your efforts, either as an excel file or a PDF document.  If you’re just showing your boss your progress, PDFs look significantly nicer than the excel tables, but to keep track of data over the long haul, keeping track of data with excel is a must.

Sprout Social also recently overhauled their Twitter profiles reports, creating beautiful reports that give Socialbro a real run for the money for nice documents to show your clients or boss.  If your primary use with Socialbro is a single place to keep track of demographic data and make reports, you could probably scrap it in favor of utilizing Sprout Social’s reports instead.  They also integrate with Google Analytics, letting you compare your social media efforts against actual traffic on the website.  It gives just enough data to let your social media manager get an understanding of how their efforts are working, but if you’re concerned with them knowing too much or being too involved (or if they’re not that familiar with Google Analytics in the first place), it won’t flood them with too much data.  It tends to be too limited for me to do much in the way of analyzing performance (I like to dive deeper into the data to see what’s happening), but for a quick glance at how well things are working, it’s good enough.

I could talk for ages on Sprout Social – this was purely an overview of what it does, which should give you an excellent idea of just how much you stand to gain from it.  For my level of use, it’s $99 a month, which is the lowest tier that allows you to take advantage of Viralpost, keyword trend reporting, and google analytics integration.  For basic, it’s $59 a month, which covers most of your basic needs.  There is also a referral program for current users that they recently rolled out – so if you do opt to go with Sprout Social, check among your friends or colleagues to see if they are already users (or click one of my links!).  It doesn’t change anything in how you get Sprout Social, but it does give them a $50 credit toward their next bill – so pass along the good karma, if you can.

The next few posts will be moving back into a few of my favorite free tools, which have limited use compared to a powerful all-in-one dashboard like Sprout Social, but nonetheless can give you a better picture of your online marketing efforts.

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