Sprout Social, a CRM for the Connected Company
Posted on April 6, 2013
Ask any good social media marketer what the three most important pieces to their job are. Most likely, they’ll talk about some combination of delivering excellent customer service, providing great content, and brand monitoring and listening. The trouble is, SMBs typically don’t have the personnel budget to hire a digital analyst to track social and web programs and campaigns, then report on their progress, a customer service agent that can intelligently use social tools to enhance the customer experience, a brand manager that has the ability to track conversations and convert new customers, and a content specialist that can deliver unique, relevant posts at the drop of a hat. For SMBs, all of these responsibilities frequently lie under a single employee, perhaps two, if they’re lucky. Let’s not forget about the small business owner that may not even have the resources to hire a digital program or brand manager and has to take on these tasks herself.
Luckily, a tool exists that allows marketers to become superheroes by enabling us to accomplish all of the above tasks in one easy to-use-piece of software.
Sprout Social, CRM for the Connected Company
Sprout puts all the latest social CRM tech in your hands for a very reasonable price. As marketers, we all know how incredibly important it is to balance listening to our customers, maintaining a relationship with them and delivering great content to their feeds. Sprout Social helps you accomplish all three with discovery (outreach), publishing (content), reporting (measuring) and brand monitoring.
Above, you can see just how easy it is to manage individual relationships within the dashboard. You can fill in contact information, add notes to their account for future reference, see your history of interactions, and see their other social network profiles and Klout scores. You can also conduct all basic Twitter functions right from the dashboard.
These are the kinds of tools that make it easy to surprise customers with how much you know about them and keep opportunities to delight people highly visible to you and your team. But please, remember to not cross the line into stalking or creeping out your customers. That’s just…no. Don’t.
Below, you can see how Sprout Social makes consistent engagement a breeze by allowing you to view conversation history and general profile information within a single pop up screen.
The Discovery panel (below) shows you new followers, mentions, and profiles of people you’ve recently interacted with. Additionally, you can identify accounts that have gone silent (inactive), have irregular activity (perhaps potential spam accounts?) or accounts that do not follow you back. You can take several actions from this panel, such as unfollow someone or view a specific profile.
The Smart Search feature allows you to target specific keywords to identify potential new customers. For example, if you’re managing social media for a bank, you may want to be on the lookout for individuals in your area that are not satisfied with their current bank. Using keywords or phrases that contain a competing brand name and “_____ bank sucks” or “i hate _____ bank” may lead you to an opportunity if you acknowledge their frustration, and approach them neutrally and empathetically. This is my favorite feature because when it is used correctly, it allows you to easily solve people’s problems. Isn’t that what we aim to do in the first place as marketers?
Sprout Social allows you to save as many keywords or keyphrases that relate to your brand as you need. You can choose what types of messages you want to monitor, so you could select messages types that only pertain to Facebook if you don’t have a Twitter account.
If you have a team of digital specialists, you can even assign tasks to other team members. Or, if you need to keep yourself in check, assign tasks to yourself.
As I mentioned above, this is one of my favorite features, so I’ll show you how easy it is for businesses, especially small businesses to see relevant conversations by adding a radius around their targeted locations of interest.
Sprout Social makes proactive outreach easy as pie. Simply plug in your keywords to find conversations about topics relevant to your brand. If your business only serves a specific area or city, you’ll be able to filter your searches for local conversations only.
Example: I work for a large credit union in Birmingham, Alabama. We only serve specific areas in Alabama and have no need to know what people are saying about their financial institutions outside of our state border. We add a 25 or 50 mile radius around our cities of interest so we can filter out the conversations that we don’t have to participate in and focus on the ones that matter.
I’ve never been a fan of scheduling posts. With all the drama we see in social media, the last thing I want to do is forget about a post I scheduled only to have it suddenly coincide with a tragedy or unfortunate event. Another turn off for me is that the native Facebook scheduler doesn’t allow you to edit a post once you’ve scheduled it.
Sprout Social, on the other hand, allows you to preview the post, delete and edit a post after you’ve scheduled it. You can post to just one of all of your connected channels, add images and links, save to drafts and add to a queue. If you’re a fan of scheduling, this feature is simply perfect.
Social Program Measurement and Reporting
Sprout Social boasts some serious reporting capabilities, allowing you to view quick snapshots of your program’s analytics or dive deep into the metrics. On the Home screen pictured above, you’re given demographic information, your recent followers, quick analytics of your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (personal profiles only) pages, plus aggregate data from all your connected accounts from the past week or month.
Above, you can see the engagement metrics that Sprout Social offers. You can view your data from a specific day, week, month or a custom date length. This helps you identify topics and types of content that your fans found interesting and engaging. This data can also be exported which is great news for businesses that are in highly regulated industries like insurance and banking.
While you shouldn’t be comparing your brand to competitors in terms of likes and followers, it is fun to see Sprout’s engagement and influence metrics at work. You can identify spikes in chatter around a competing brand and then research what actually occurred to spark those conversations. (Yes, I compared my wife’s Twitter presence to my own. Is that bad? Like, really bad? Apparently she’s kicking my ass in mentions and engagement.)
Basic metrics like impressions, new followers, retweets, link clicks, and demographics are also presented in both grouped (all connected accounts) and individual social reporting panels that are very friendly on the eyes. This is great for reporting your monthly data and program or campaign progress to your managers or CEO.
They also have a free mobile app that functions very similarly to the web version and allows you to monitor your brand on-the-go.
I love Sprout Social simply because it’s the perfect tool for SMBs that can’t afford all the bells and whistles like sentiment tracking and custom metrics. They do introduce new features often, so perhaps these types of features will be included in a premium price point in the future. Sprout Social is basically a very enhanced version of the free monitoring platform Hootsuite. Sprout generously offers a free 30 day trial (no credit card required) for any of their plans, and set up is a breeze. In less than 5 minutes you’ll be monitoring your brand like a boss.
It’s a very intuitive interface that feels very familiar, even the not-so-digital-savvy marketer or business owner will find a minimal learning curve. As you’ll see below, there isn’t a differentiating feature that stands out between the packages. If you’re a bigger organization that has several brand channels or on-site chat integration, perhaps you’ll want to splurge for the Deluxe plan. The Deluxe plan also includes Google Analytics integration which is nice for side-by-side data, but not entirely necessary if you’re familiar and comfortable with GA. The Premium plan offers an extremely desirable reporting metric that measures your response rate and response time, then compares your activity against other Sprout Social customers. While very handy, not every business can dish out the extra $60 for a few extra features, though. The Premium plan appears to cater to businesses that have several brands that need separate profile groups.
Have a question? These guys are on it. Tweet @SproutSocial or @SproutSupport and you’ll have a response in minutes. In addition, they offer live chat, several weekly webinars and demos, a plethora of FAQs in their Knowledge Base and Quick Guide support center, support by email, and a blog.
The software itself is incredibly easy to navigate, so unless you have specific questions or just want to chat with their awesome and incredibly helpful employees, it’s nice to know you’re covered on several bases.
There isn’t much to dislike about Sprout Social. The only issue I’ve had is that my company is based in Birmingham, Alabama and quite often I’ll have conversations pop up from our friends in Birmingham across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an annoyance, but nothing more.
My recommendation would be to ignore everything I’ve already said. It sounds crazy, but your brand does not have the same needs that my employer has. Generally speaking, Sprout Social is great for SMBs, especially at the basic price point of $39/month. However, if you need to focus more on sentiment or conversion tracking, Sprout Social will be a complete waste of money for you. When shopping around for the best CRM for your brand, it’s important to know your social media strategy inside and out. Have an idea of what your brand requires in terms of dashboard features that will help you accomplish your short and long term goals. Your best bet is to try every free trial you can get your hands on and see what feels comfortable.
That being said, I highly recommend you take Sprout Social for a test drive of your own. If your brand truly values its customers, you may find that Sprout Social is the best way to interact with them and measure your social media programs and campaigns.Sprout Social, a CRM for the Connected Company by Zack Sylvan