Sprout Social Review
With more and more businesses seeing the power of social media to market themselves, social media management tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social* are being seen as vital.
A Social Media Management Tool (SMMT) or Social Media Management System (SMMS) allows you to manage multiple social networks from one dashboard and potentially share and delegate tasks amongst a team. Of course the word “management” is perhaps a little vague and can mean different things depending on the tool you use. All social media management tools allow you to publish to at least one social network and hopefully allow you to do many other things such as montitor, schedule, analyse, produce reports and more.
Hootsuite is no doubt the most popular of Social Media Management Tools. They were one of the first, have done a great job at marketing their tool and have a reasonably full featured free version. However it’s far from the only social media management tool out there. There are literally dozens and dozens of them (and I’ll introduce you to quite a few at the end of this article). One of the most famous (other than Hootsuite) is Sprout Social. It’s a premium tool- aimed at small to large businesses as well as the enterprise sector and it’s got a loyal following of super fans. With such a provocative blog title, I’m actually quite afraid of these superfans- so if you are one, please be kind to me- I aim to be as balanced as possible in my approach!
The History of the Sprout
Director of Web & Mobile
Sprout Social had its beginnings in 2009 when the current CEO Justyn Howard was frustrated by the lack of social tools that allowed him to connect with customers- particularly tools that were focussed towards businesses and brands. The following year Justyn and current CTO Aaron Rankin founded Sprout Social together with Gilbert Lara (Creative Director) and Peter Soung (director of web/mobile). They’re a privately held company and had over $11 million in investment since their founding. They are based in Chicago in the US. You can read more about how Sprout Social came to be in this interview with Sprout Social, Justyn Howard.
Sprout Social Pros
There are so many great features about Sprout Social, and I’ll be going into these in more detail in a forthcoming article. For the time being, I’d like to highlight the following “pros”:
- Has an in built Customer Relationship Management system (CRM)
- Monitoring (although not quite as comprehensive as Mention or the likes of Brandwatch)
- Support for teams (drafts, calendar, tasks etc)
- Support for multiple profiles, departments, and companies
- Security and ability to set specific permission levels and roles
- Analytics & Reports
- Helpdesk facility (on Premium and above plans) to use social media for customer support
- Mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android
- Integrates with Feedly (for your RSS feeds)
What is this article about?
A few years back I wrote an article called “7 Reasons NOT to use Hootsuite” which has become an incredibly popular article. That article came from my frustrations from using Hootsuite and to point out some of the downsides and potential deal killers in using Hootsuite as your social media management tool. I wrote a follow up article on the reasons why you might want to use Hootsuite to try and be as balanced as possible.
This article is slightly different because I’ve never been a long time Sprout Social user and when I have used it, I haven’t found myself becoming frustrated in the same way as I did with Hootsuite. I really like Sprout Social and I do think it will be the right fit for many people. Having said that, there are frustrations, and I wanted to share these with you.
There is a lot of love from Sprout Social users and with good reason. Sprout Social is an impressively robust social media management tool and a joy to use. It’s actually very hard to find reviews on the web that mention anything bad about Sprout Social except for the odd niggle.
However, the quite a bit of the love comes from long standing customers who are paying a substantially lower rate ($39/user/mth, $29/user/mth or even $9/user/mth). The entry price (now the Deluxe plan) is $59/user/month, and that is going to be quite a leap for individuals and small businesses. However, I am getting ahead of myself, I’ll cover the pricing further down in this article.
Sprout Social will be the right tool for some businesses, and perhaps even you. My aim is to give you enough information to help you make the right choice. If, after looking through the potential downsides in this article you’re still impressed with Sprout Social – then it’s obviously the right tool for you. I also know that Sprout Social are continuously evolving and adding new features. Fairly recently they added the ability to publish to LinkedIn company pages and I know they are looking at adding new features over the coming year. It’s my hope that Sprout Social will look at my article and as a result make their tool even better than it is today.
So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the cons in using Sprout Social
Sprout Social Cons
#1 Lack of YouTube and other visual platforms
Update June 2015 – Sprout Social have, as expected, added Instagram integration! I’ve updated the article accordingly.
If you are wanting to monitor your Pinterest or YouTube account, you will be disappointed with Sprout Social’s lack of integration. Sprout Social only supports Twitter, Facebook (profiles & pages), Google+ pages, Instagram & LinkedIn (profiles & pages). Although Hootsuite doesn’t offer Pinterest, or YouTube out of the box, you can add them via their comprehensive app directory. This allows you to add visual networks such as Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and many others. There are a few other social media management tools that have Instagram integration, but there are certainly fewer of them. Examples that integrate with Instagram and YouTube include Jollor and Sendible, and AgoraPulse integrates with Instagram.
It is important to note that no social media management tool can post directly to Instagram via the official Instagram API. Instagram only allow 3rd party tools to allow liking and commenting of posts and be able to search. There are tools that effectively allow posting to Instagram, but they quite often get round the system by using multiple smartphones connected to servers. There have been reports of Instagram suspending accounts that have used such tools. The only way to post to an Instagram account is via the official Instagram account. If you are interested in scheduling your Instagram posts, then consider a mobile app such as Latergramme which won’t actually post your photos, but will handle them and alert you when the next one should be posted.
However, although you may not be able to post to Instagram using a social media management tool, being able to monitor your stream, likes, comments as well as your followers, friends and competitors posts is very powerful. Being able to monitor and analyse your Pinterest boards and YouTube channel would be incredibly powerful from your social media dashboard.
When I reached out to Sprout Social to ask them of their plans here, their official reply was:
“We’re always keeping our eyes on social networks that are widely used by our users and evaluating both how they can be integrated into our platform and what we can add to the existing network (whether it is enhanced engagement, streamlined management or advanced analytics) through that integration.”
#2 Lack of Facebook and LinkedIn group publishing
Update June 2015 – Things have been a bit mad in the 3rd party apps world over the past few months. LinkedIn decided to ban posting to groups via 3rd party apps. It looked like Facebook were going to do the same thing, but they now allow 3rd party apps to post to groups where you are the administrator. So Sprout Social will never be able to post to LinkedIn groups. As for Facebook groups, SproutSocial added a feature where you can see Facebook group posts in your timeline. However, you can’t post to Facebook groups from SproutSocial
Sprout Social does integrate with both Facebook and LinkedIn, but so far they are yet to support posting or monitoring groups. I do know they are looking at the possibility of adding these in the future, so there is hope. They finally added support for LinkedIn company pages in December 2014, it is good to see they are looking to move the tool forwards.
Although I am not a fan of LinkedIn groups from a design and user interface perspective, they are a powerful networking and relationship area. Being able to post to and monitor LinkedIn groups would be really helpful- particularly for businesses in the B2B sector (business to business). And then there are Facebook groups- for many years ignored by businesses and brands, but are having a recent surge in popularity. Facebook groups don’t suffer from the design or user interface problems of LinkedIn groups. They are a joy to use (and easy to use) and are great in building a community. Sprout Social need to support posting to and monitoring Facebook and LinkedIn groups. My favourite social media scheduling tool, Buffer, has supported them for a long while and Hootsuite has too. Oktopost does a fantastic job of posting and scheduling to LinkedIn groups and would be my social media management tool of choice if LinkedIn groups are a must for your business.
I asked Sprout Social if they had plans to add LinkedIn and Facebook group integration. They responded…
“We’re always evaluating different social networks to integrate with as well as expanding on the ones we currently support. Unfortunately, we don’t have any specifics to share, but we can say we are exploring the social options that are currently available.”
Again, not very helpful and quite general, but not an unexpected answer. I think the truth is that Sprout Social are looking at all the options, but how high groups are on their agenda, I have no idea. We’ll have to wait and see.
#3 Unified Inbox & No side by side streams
Where would we be without our social streams? Whether it be your Twitter home stream, a Twitter list, a keyword search, your LinkedIn connection updates, Facebook page updates or more, social streams allow us to monitor what is happening across our social media empire and our competitors’.
Sprout Social offer two types of social streams- “feeds” and “discovery”. The feeds are a list of posts from the connections you follow or the posts from accounts on your Twitter lists. Discovery allows you to set up a stream of updates for a search term. Sprout Social made the decision to display only one stream at a time. On the streams section, you have to toggle between different social accounts (Twitter, Facebook etc), and you have to toggle between different Twitter lists. If you want to view a search stream for a particular hashtag or key phrase, you need to click the discovery tab and view it there.
Users familiar with Hootsuite and TweetDeck will be used to the way you can add many columns of streams so that you can monitor multiple streams and profiles on one page. On TweetDeck I can easily see mentions and replies to my 3 main Twitter accounts, as well as my main Twitter list and a Twitter search term- all one view. Hootsuite allows you to do that for all your social networks (such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+).
Sprout Social fans will already be shouting “but what about Smart Inbox”? Yes, of course. I love Smart Inbox too and this gives you more functionality than I was mentioning above. Smart Inbox displays all the updates that Sprout Social thinks are important in one stream or a unified stream. I’ll go into more detail in my next point, but again, Smart Inbox only displays one stream at a time on the page.
The lack of ability of displaying streams will no doubt divide many opinions. Some won’t mind and some will find it frustrating. Sprout Social’s decision not to offer multiple streams per page is deliberate, and this was confirmed by the CEO, Justyn Howard in a reply to a tweet of mine whilst I was writing this article:
@iagdotme We're big fans of a single column. It may not be for everyone, but we believe it's a lot cleaner and streamlines workflow!
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) February 16, 2015
— Justyn Howard (@Justyn) February 16, 2015
I can see their thinking, and a single column view might well increase productivity for businesses and brands. It will also come down to getting used to a different way of working. For me, I find it frustrating, and I’m not alone. Friend, digital marketer and Sprout Social user, Liz Jostes from Eli Rose Social Media feels similarly:
@iagdotme I feel like it would be a big improvement for SS. Just having all the feeds for 1 account on 1 page would be HUGE.
— Liz Jostes (@LizJostes) February 16, 2015
Marketing Director, Joe Morris feels the same:
It’s not a case of multiple columns being difficult to implement as Justun Howard clarified, he feels a single and combined view is more powerful:
— Justyn Howard (@Justyn) February 16, 2015
He is obviously not alone in thinking that (there are plenty of happy Sprout Social Users) and obviously the team at Sprout Social do. A friend, digital marketer, speaker and Sprout Social user, Brooke Ballard also likes the single stream view and had this to say:
I prefer one stream on one page — it helps with SMM ADHD! Plus, with the Smart Inbox you can see a little green light when another stream (brand/client) has an incoming message, AND you can even check that message from a preview screen before clicking over to respond. Example: Sometimes it’s just a follower notification of a “you’re welcome” that doesn’t need an immediate response — great for time management.
Brooke Ballard, B Squared Online Media
So perhaps the jury is out on this one. In addition, Sprout Social is not the only social media management tool that prefer the single stream view. Sendible, MavSocial and AgoraPulse all adopt the single stream view and it is fair to say that Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are the most famous examples which allow you to view multiple streams on one page. I am open to being convinced that single view is better- and maybe I could get used to only viewing one stream at a time. However, I would like to have a more advanced way of filtering the results, which brings me on to…
#4 Limited filtering
Smart Inbox does a really good job at displaying the most relevant updates and you can easily reply and follow as well as create a task (for example delegate to another team member) or complete.
There are also some helpful filters to allow you to zoom in to the posts you really want to see. For example you filter the smart inbox to show only mentions, direct messages, retweets or new followers. You can also filter by brand keywords and you can use Twitter’s advanced search operators. This allows you to search for tweets mentioning a keyword, filter by location, filter out tweets with images and more.
That’s all great, but it doesn’t give you quite the same control as tools such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite and doesn’t allow you to filter your Twitter list streams. For example, if I wanted to display tweets from a Twitter list and then filter out tweets with no images or links, I am stuck.
Although using Twitter’s advanced search operators are great, they’re not going to be apparent to less technical users and it would be great if Sprout Social added a few more filters and options to help dig a little deeper into the streams.
I have to say, Sprout Social support were very quick to get back to me when asking them on this subject:
#5 You can’t assign a different bitly account per profile
I admit this is unlikely to be a big issue for many, however I wanted to highlight it since it affects me.
One of Sprout Social’s helpful features is the way you can group social channels. These groups could be for different departments within a bigger company or organisation or even different companies all together (for example if you are an agency managing multiple brands). This is particularly useful if you have different teams of people managing different groups of social channels. You can assign a different bit.ly account to shorten your links for each group- something that is really helpful.
With Hootsuite you can’t use bitly at all- you’re forced into using the Hootsuite url shortener ow.ly. If you use another social tool in addition to Hootsuite, your social analytics will be fragmented since Hootsuite can only track clicks through their ow.ly url. If you want to use a custom short domain (for example I use to.iag.me and select.social) you will have to pay over $588 per year for this feature with Hootsuite- and you can only use it within Hootsuite. The url shortener bit.ly allows you to set up a free custom short domain and works with many social tools such as Buffer, Friends+Me and SproutSocial.
I have two short urls with bit.ly. I use to.iag.me to shorten links on my Seriously Social profiles and I use select.social for my Select Performers accounts. In Sprout Social I could put my Seriously Social profiles in one group and my Select Performers in another, but this completely separates them- effectively treating them as separate companies. It also means I can’t cross post two accounts in separate groups. With Buffer, I can assign a different bit.ly account for each social profile. This means I can cross post and share content across my profiles easily and the correct url shortener will be used.
Sprout Social don’t seem to have any plans to change this in their response to me, although perhaps they were trying to tantalise me with their use of the word “currently”!
“We currently allow customers to connect a separate bit.ly for each group that they have.”
As I said, this won’t be an issue for many, but I hope Sprout Social allow us to assign a different bit.ly account per profile in the future.
#6 Expensive – especially for teams
This is the biggie and the one that Sprout Social gets the most criticism for…
It takes a huge amount of investment to build a tool as comprehensive as Sprout Social. They will have large monthly server costs, salaries to pay for a large team, development costs and a big marketing budget. As consumers we have become used to low costs on the internet and find it easy to forget the true cost of building something great.
It’s a difficult job for tool vendors to work out pricing, and I have no doubt Sprout Social have spent a huge amount of time and research into their pricing structure. But for many, Sprout Social will just be too expensive.
As I write this article, prices start at $59 per user per month for the Deluxe plan. This plan is aimed at small businesses and allows you to manage up to 10 social profiles.
The next plan (Premium) costs $99 per user per month and gives you “send-time optimization” (allows you to post at the time more people are likely to see your content), advanced reporting and a help desk feature. It also integrates with up to 20 social profiles.
The team plan which will suit bigger agencies as well as bigger brands and businesses costs $500 per month and includes 3 users. Sprout Social isn’t really aiming at the casual blogger or the individual, it grew out of wanting to cater for businesses and brands- and that has a higher price tag.
Over the years, the prices have increased as you would expect. And Sprout Social have been supportive of their long standing customers by keeping the prices the same. However, the prices have significantly increased over the years. Back in 2012, it cost $9/mth for a Pro account and $49/mth for a business account. Back in 2014 the entry cost was $39/user/month. And now it is $59/user/month- a significant increase.
It’s particularly expensive for teams. Social media management tools are particularly important for teams- not just for delegating tasks and managing updates. It’s also important from a security standpoint. If you are managing social media accounts amongst a team, you should NOT be sharing social networking passwords. What would happen if one of your team moves jobs or is sacked or if they’re a victim of a phishing attack? There are too many horror stories of businesses’ and brands’ social accounts being hijacked by rogue employees or hackers. Sprout Social , Hootsuite and other social media management tools allow you to manage your social networks without sharing the passwords. Each team member can have their own sub-account with its own username and password. An administrator can choose which accounts they have access to and remove them if they no longer work at the company. In my view, it is perfectly acceptable for there to be a cost involved on a per user basis. However when the cost per user is already quite high, this is going to make it difficult for a small business to afford. It will cost a business $2,832 per year for a small team of 4 to use Sprout Social’s entry plan. If they were to be on the Premium plan, this would cost $4,752 per year.
(If paying mthly)
(If paying mthly)
(If paying mthly)
|1||Hootsuite free plan only includes up to 3 social profiles. Sprout Social Deluxe includes up to 10 and Premium up to 20.||$0||$708.00||$1,188.00|
|2||Hootsuite Pro plan includes up to 2 members (including yourself) and includes up to 50 social profiles. Sprout Social includes up to 10 and Premium up to 20.||$119.88||$1,416.00||$2,376.00|
|3||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 extra user at $9.99/mth).||$239.88||$2,124.00||$3,576.00|
|4||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 extra user at $9.99/mth + 1 user at $14.99/mth)||$419.88||$2,832.00||$4,752.00|
|5||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +2 users at $14.99/mth)||$599.88||$3,540.00||$5,940.00|
|6||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +3 users at $14.99/mth)||$779.88||$4,248.00||$7,128.00|
|7||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +4 users at $15/mth)||$959.88||$4,956.00||$8,316.00|
|8||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +5 users at $14.99/mth)||$1139.88||$5,664.00||$9,504.00|
|9||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +6 users at $14.99/mth)||$1319.88||$6,372.00||$10,692.00|
|10||Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +7 users at $14.99/mth)||$1499.88||$7,080.00||$11,880.00|
|11||The maximum number of users in Hoostuite Pro is 10, to add more users you will need a Hootsuite Enterprise account.
Hootsuite don’t publish the prices for Enterprises, so this is the last known price. Hopefully it should be cheaper than this.
At least Sprout Social’s pricing system is transparent and simple to understand. You can see from the above table how complicated Hootsuite’s are! With Sprout Social there are no hidden prices as far as I can tell. You know how many social profiles are included in your plan and you know how much extra it will cost for an extra team member. You get full reports included in all the plans (although you get more snazzy ones in the Premium and above plans). That’s very different with Hootsuite which have a strange pricing tier for team members and require you to upgrade to the Enterprise plan (for which they don’t publish prices for, but is likely to be well over the $20,000 per year mark).If you are wanting more flexibility of team members and only need to manage Twitter and Facebook (and soon, Instagram) then consider AgoraPulse which give you unlimited team members on all their plans. Jollor, although more expensive than Sprout Social do allow unlimited team members on all their plans, and they support Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and YouTube.
#7 Scheduler only allows different times for weekdays and weekends
Many of you will have heard of the social scheduling tool, Buffer. When Buffer was created, it was set to do only one thing- schedule social media posts throughout the week. It allows you to set a schedule for each day of the week for when your social media updates are posted. You can set a different schedule for each network. Hootsuite and Sprout Social followed with their own versions some time later- with Sprout Social calling theirs Sprout Queue. It’s a very helpful feature, and if you’re on the Premium or above plan it becomes more powerful with Sprout’s ViralPost feature.ViralPost works out the best times to post your content- so that the most people will see it. You can set the specific time frames to post for weekdays and weekends:
Unfortunately, you can only set schedules for weekdays and weekends- not a different schedule for each day (and the maximum number of posts per day is 10):
This is not going to affect everyone, but I prefer to set a different schedule each day. I may want to post a few on a Saturday and I usually don’t schedule anything on a Sunday. Unfortunately you can’t currently do that with Sprout Social. With Buffer I can set a different schedule each day and I can set more than 10 posts per day if I wanted to. Whilst I love the sound of ViralPost, it doesn’t give me the flexability I would like, particularly as I am used to Buffer. Maybe this is something they can improve over time?
Were 7 Reasons not enough for you? Here are some more!
#8 No Multiple image Support
You can only add one image per post (multiple images aren’t supported). Hootsuite allows you to post multiple images (although it will take the visitor to a Hootsuite branded page if they click on them) and TweetDeck supports multiple images for Twitter (but won’t allow you to schedule the post if it contains more than one image)
#9 Reports Great but not the Best
I really do like the reports in Sprout Social- they are very engaging and easy to understand. It’s been one of the many reasons why I’ve recommended Sprout Social to friends and clients over the years – particularly over Hootsuite’s offerings.
Sprout Social give you a group report, engagement report, team report, Twitter profiles report, trends report, Twitter comparison and sent messages. As you can see in the following screenshot, the reports are very pleasing to the eye and easy to understand. You can also export as a pdf or a csv file.
However, there are many tools out there that do as good a job or better job in my opinion. For example the reports generated by Klear are more comprehensive, look great and give you the ability to filter the data on a finer level. It allows you to compare with your competitors and integrates with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
AgoraPulse’s reports also are really well designed and visually engaging as well as powerful. It allows you to export as a PowerPoint presentation
If reports and analytics are important to you, there are better tools out there. However, you could use a reporting tool as well as using Sprout Social. Unlike Hootsuite, SproutSocial make it very easy to use other tools in addition. Hootsuite lock you into their ecosystem due to the compulsory owly url shortener. That means many of the Hootsuite reports only show you data from the times you have used Hootsuite. SproutSocial allow you to use bitly, which is a much more portable url shortener- supported by many other tools.
There are many users who love Sprout Social’s reports, and if you do, please let me know in the comments. For example Brooke Ballard definitely loves them! –
Thus far I have yet to find a dashboard or management tool that has better reports than that of Sprout Social. They are also nice and “pretty” — which the client always appreciates. We send raw data reports in Excel and 9 times out of 10 they prefer the “pretty” ones.
#10 Difficult to See which Mentions & Comments You’ve Already Replied To
For me, this is a big issue for almost all social media management tools out there. If you have a lot of mentions, replies and comments to respond to each day it can become difficult to know which ones you’ve responded to already. That might not be such an issue if you reply all in one go, but if you reply in batches or work within a team it can get difficult. It’s a particular issue for Hootsuite, but Sprout Social isn’t much better. I particularly like one alternative tool, AgoraPulse which treats your social mentions and comments like a kind of social inbox. As soon as you reply, they disappear from view so you know you’ve responded to them. The same is true when team members respond. You’ll never get the situation where you reply once or more than one team member responds to the same message.
Sprout Social Alternatives
If you’ve read the above, and know that Sprout isn’t going to work for you, then the good news is that there some great alternatives. Here are a selection for different priorities…
For Social Media Teams
AgoraPulse* (Free Trial, then from $29/mth)
A powerful social media management tool which currently integrates with Twitter, Facebook pages and Instagram. It aims to offer enterprise level features at a much lower cost. It synchronises Facebook page roles and you can even add custom roles to give custom rights to each team member. There are different plans, but this is based on the number of social networks you want to manage. The $29/mth plan allows you to manage 1 profile (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) where as the $49/mth plan allows you to manage up to 3 profiles. Agora Pulse was recently rated top Social Media Management Tool of 2015.
Jollor (Free trial, then from $5 per month
Jollor isn’t as well known as the likes of Hootsuite and SproutSocial, but it’s a really good looking social media management tool that integrates with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube as well as the Russian networks VK and Odnoklassniki. They don’t integrate yet with bit.ly, but they have some enterprise features such as team and role management and delegation. Analytics are currently in beta but look very impressive. There is a mobile app coming, but the website is fully responsive and can be used well on a mobile or tablet. They have a very transparent pricing scheme starting from $5. It basically costs $5 per network, and you can add extra team members for $5 per month as well as other features.
For more information, visit Jollor.
Latergramme (free and from $19/mth)
Sprout Social does now integrate with Instagram, but only in monitoring. I mentioned above, the only way to publish Instagram posts whilst not going against Instagram’s terms and conditions is via the mobile app (for iOS or Android). There are various tools out there that offer posting and scheduling via another app or through a web app, but they rely on storing your Instagram’s username and password- something that is a big no-no! Latergramme has a different approach. It allows you to upload images via the Latergramme website and it manages your images and captions and allows you to set up a schedule. Instead of posting your Instagram images itself, it alerts you at the time your next image should be posted. You then click on the alert on your smartphone and Latergramme inserts the correct image and caption into the Instragram app. It’s very easy to use and it’s a huge time saver. The premium version allows you to manage 2 Instragram accounts, offers a built in search facility, allows you to post up to 250 images per month and some other features too!
Jollor (Free trial, then from $5 per month)
For further information, see above. As well as offering unlimited team members for their higher plans, Jollor is one of a relatively small number of social media management tools that offers Instragram integration.
Hootsuite* with add on (Free plan and from $9.99/mth)
Hootsuite doesn’t offer Instagram integration out of the box, which in my view is a little bizzare. However, one big advantage with Hootsuite is the Hootsuite app directory which allows 3rd party developers to add extra features and networks to the core features offered by Hootsuite. There are a few Instragram apps which allow you to manage your Instagram account. One of those is free and is ok, but in my view not as good as Picdeck (see above). There are paid versions which may be worth trying, especially if you want to use Hootsuite and require Instragram management.
Tailwind* (from $9.99/mth if you pay annually)
Technically Pinterest is more of a content network and less of a social network, although there is definitely a social aspect to it. Pinterest is a powerful network for retailers and for businesses with strong visuals. Despite Pinterest having an API that allows 3rd party tools to build apps, so far Pinterest has only given access to 2 or 3. One of those tools with official access is Tailwind. Tailwind gives you the ability to schedule your pins and measure your success with powerful analytics. Their enterprise plan gives businesses and agencies unlimited scheduling, full brand monitoring and the ability to share access amongst a team (with team roles and permissions).
For more social network integration
Sendible* (from $9.99/mth)
Sendible integrates with a huge number of networks (far more than any other social media tool I’ve come across). Your plan is dependent on how many services you want to add. However a posting to Twitter and monitoring a Twitter stream are treated as different services, and so the costs can mount up if you need to add all your social networks.
MavSocial (Free Plan & from $30/mth)
As well as offering the standard social networks (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), MavSocial also allows you to publish to and monitor YouTube and Tumblr. MavSocial works with international characters and is one of the only social media management tools to integrate with the Chinese networks RenRen and YouKu.
Hootsuite (Free plan and from $9.99/mth)
Hootsuite integrates with Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages and groups), Google+ pages, LinkedIn (profiles, pages and groups), Foursquare, WordPress and mixi- all in its core offerings. As well as that, you have can select from dozens and dozens of other apps from their app directory. Making managing your Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest accounts a possibility.
Jollor (Free trial, then from $5 per month)
Jollor integrates with the usual Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but it also gives you YouTube and Instagram, with Russian network VKontakte being added soon.
Multiple Streams on one Page
One of the first social media management tools- originally as a downloadable desktop app, TweetDeck has allowed you to add mutiple streams from the start. It’s a shame that Twitter (who bought the TweetDeck back in 2011) have removed LinkedIn and Facebook integration, but it’s still a powerful tool for Twitter power users, allowing you to add multiple Twitter accounts and being able to view multiple streams with powerful filters.
Hootsuite* (Free plan and from $9.99/mth)
Not everyone is a fan of Hootsuite’s UI, despite the recent refresh. However, I do like the way you can add multiple streams on one page. You can save these and toggle between different groups. That’s useful if you want to view all your Twitter streams on one page, and all your Facebook ones on another.
Jollor (Free trial, then from $5 per month)
Jollor doesn’t offer side by side streams in the same way that TweetDeck of Hootsuite do. However you can view separate streams of your incoming and outgoing posts and quickly filter by network. You can also group your social networks by project.
Buffer App (free or $9.99/mth)
Scheduling tool, Buffer integrates with a large number of social networks including Facebook (profiles, pages and groups), Twitter, LinkedIn (profiles, pages and groups), Google+ pages and App.net. You can cross post to multiple networks and decide whether you want to post straight away, add your post queue or schedule at a later date.
Hootsuite allows you to post to a large number of social networks (especially if you take into account their app directory). they offer integration with LinkedIn and Facebook groups as part of their core offering.
Sendible* (from $9.99/mth)
Sendible allows you to post to and monitor LinkedIn and Facebook groups and to cross post to multiple networks at the same time.
More Flexible Scheduling Options
Buffer App (free or $9.99/mth)
AgoraPulse* (Free Trial, then from $29/mth)
See above. AgoraPulse offers some powerful scheduling features although not a queuing system in the same why that Buffer does.
Latergramme (free and from $19/mth)
See above (Instagram only)
More Robust Reporting
Klear* (Free and from $49/mth)
Klear integrates with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (with more to follow). As well as helping to find influencers in your area, the paid for version gives you some powerful reports on your social accounts and allows you to compare with your competitors.
AgoraPulse* (Free Trial, then from $29/mth)
See above. AgoraPulse offers some really beautiful reports and allows you to export as a Powerpoint presentation.
Oktopost* (from $49/mth)
Oktopost gives you some beautiful and powerful reports. However, the reports only show you data from campaigns created from within Oktopost. This is fine if Oktopost is your main publishing tool, but if you use other tools, you will only see part of the picture.
If you need to get started with SproutSocial and ask them some questions, then there are many articles out there to help. Also, Sprout Social are fantastic at engaging with you. They’re fairly quick at getting back to you and they’ve done a great job at building up a community of superfans (something other social media management tools could do with learning from).
Here are some other articles that you might find helpful:
- Throw Out Hootsuite and Use Sprout Social? (Ian Cleary, RazorSocial)
- My Honest and Unbiased Review of Sprout Social (Aaron Lee, written in 2012)
- Social Media Management Tool: A Review of Sprout Social in 2013 (John D Saunders, Social Media Today)
So there are 7 reasons why you might not want to opt for Sprout Social as your social media management tool. However, it might be after reading this that you’ve decided that Sprout Social is the perfect tool for you. If so, great! However, maybe you agree with some of my points. Either way, please do give me your thoughts in the comments below!
Let me help Choose the best tools for you!
I hope this article has helped you, but perhaps you feel you need some expert help. As well as asking a question in the comments below, you might benefit from a one to one service. I offer a social media consultation service in which I can help find the best selection of tools and solutions for you or your business. If you are interested, get in touch!