7 Killer Features of Sprout Social Premium

Sprout Social is one of the premiere social media management tools on the market today. They offer a standard and a premium version. In this article I’ll look briefly at Sprout’s fundamentals, and some more recent features like viewing and filtering of scheduled messages. I’ll spend most of the article reviewing the features of Sprout’s Premium edition including, keyword trend and engagement reporting, Viralpost optimization, helpdesk integration, and Google Analytics integration. During this trial I used sprout as my primary publishing tool, and for an unexpected amount of research, analysis and discovery.

Queues and Views

As do many social media management tools, Sprout supports queueing. Queuing is isn’t a premium feature, it’s available for all Sprout subscriptions but Sprout has recently made some changes to its worth a look. It’s easy to connect profiles, and set posting times for one, or multiple queues. You can configure different posting times on different days for different social media connections. Once your queue is configured, you can simply add content from the Compose button or Sprout’s browser extension. The extension is solid, looking and operating almost identically to the Compose options in the tool. You can quickly select profiles to publish to, and send, schedule, or queue a post. The extension isn’t quite as robust as Buffer’s which allows you to buffer quotes and images from on the page as well.

One of Sprout’s great new features are enhanced options for viewing and filtering scheduled posts. These are posts waiting to be published in your queue. You can view them in a list, where you will see posts separated by days, or use a calendar view. Scheduled messages are now visible across different groups. This is big if you have multiple groups scheduling content to a profile. This is common for many companies. For example, teams in different locations, or different departments like marketing and customer service may monitor and post to the same profiles. This will help provide a comprehensive view to everyone, and help prevent duplication of posts, or publishing posts too closely together. These visibility features should give social media managers confidence to grant more team members access to publish to profiles. 

Sprout also has good filtering capabilities for scheduled messages. When viewing the schedule, you view all connected social media profiles, or filter out some profiles by simply unchecking a box. This makes it easy to focus on only those profiles you’re interested in. You can further filter by day to see messages schedule for that day. You can also drill into specific messages to see future delivery dates, edit or delete the message, or send the message immediately.

Premium Feature: Built-in Optimization with ViralPost

Beyond providing queuing, Sprout premium also supports post optimization through their own proprietary technology ViralPost. See a good article on ViralPost by Michael Carney here. The analysis and optimization Sprout claims are compelling. Quoting Michael’s post:

As with all of these types of claims, mileage undoubtedly varies. We didn’t actively use the Sprout trial long enough to verify these types of results. However, if you’re not doing post time optimization, this alone could be a reason to check out Sprout premium. Current Sprout users should reach out to Sprout. In all my interactions with Sprout, their team has been helpful and responsive. They might be willing to give current customers a free trial of premium.

Configuring ViralPost is simple. Edit your queue setting time then select ViralPost send time optimization. ViralPost prompts you to specify the number of messages to send each day, and the start and end times for posts each day.

From that point on, ViralPost takes over. ViralPost is constantly optimizing send times, and you can view scheduled times for posts in the queue. You can configure ViralPost to handle all of your profiles, or continue to manually configure profiles you select.

Per Post Analytics

All Sprout versions offer very good per-post analytics for Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. This is great, but they need to add the same capability for LinkedIn. You can access these analytics on the Reports page, under Sent Messages.

Here you can filter the dates you’re viewing, and set any per-platform filters (such as including or excluding direct messages for Twitter). The report shows and lets you sort by relevant platform events per platform including clicks, responses, and reach. You can export the analytics to a .csv file as well.

Premium Reports: Google Analytics

As you likely know, Sprout offers gorgeous reports that are interactive and easy to use. Sprout premium offers some new reports that allow you to do more in-depth analysis. The first benefit of premium is that it allows you to integrate with your Google Analytics account. This creates Website vs. Social report for each Google Analytics profile you have.

The report compares traffic on your website and charts Twitter mentions as well as activity from articles and blogs. It also calls out your social traffic sources from Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, YouTube, QA Sites (like Quora) and Blogs. This is very good, however, LinkedIn should be added for B2B businesses.
The really nice thing about this report is that it puts all this data together for you to show you the relationships. This report should allow you to see more clearly how social media and content activities are contributing to traffic on your website. This goes beyond the social media traffic sources you can see in Google Analytics by itself, and the website data goes beyond what Sprout can show unless Google Analytics integration is enabled.
Premium Reports: Trends
Another nice premium report is the trends report. This reports show your hottest trending topics and hashtags. You can select a topic or hashtag to see word combinations that frequently appear with your hashtags and topics. You can see the frequency plotted by day. You can also see the brands and people that are mentioning you most often, and which brands and people are being mentioned with you most often.  

The ability to analyze topics and tags with frequently associated words, and see daily hits allows you to monitor how campaign content is doing. Assuming you’re publishing on a set number of topics and with defined hashtags, you can verify which hashtags are resonating. The daily plot can also give you insights about which content pieces are resonating the most. Identifying people and brands who are mentioning you the most can help you identify prospects to engage with, or brand advocate relationships to foster. Seeing who’s mentioned with you can give you insights into community perceptions about your brand and products.

Impressive Profile Analysis and Social Search Features

If you read my articles, keep up with my blog, and follow me you know I’m a big advocate of measurement and analysis. You can’t have success unless you have goals, measure results, and refine your approach. Sprout’s discovery page lets you view your followers, conversations, and mentions. Like many other social media management tools you can follow back, reply, mention, and direct message people right from the Sprout interface.

What sets Sprout apart is the profile analysis (which is available on all subscription levels). From any message you can view the full profile for the sender. You can see their profile information, view any message history between your profile and theirs, as well as their tweets, mentions, followers, and who they’re following. This lets you see who and what they are talking about, whose talking about them, who follows them (meaning who they influence) and who they follow (who influences them). You can message at this point, or add them to a list. Sprout also lets you create new Twitter lists from a dropdown in their interface. You can see the other social networks they are on which may provide additional opportunities for engagement.  

The Discovery page also lets you perform social searches through Sprout’s Smart Search. You can search for keywords and hashtags or people. You can also save searches. This lets you research and monitor keywords and hashtags as part of campaigns or reputation management. Sprout displays results from Twitter (Facebook is also currently supported but won’t be as of April 30 2015 due to Facebook retiring its content search API). It’s not as robust in terms of analysis or qualification as reputation management applications like Trackur or Mention, and you can’t configure alerts, but it’s very good for research, and review. 

We use a combination of SocialBro to optimize our Twitter account, and Twitonomy for profile analysis, keyword, and hashtag research (as well as Trackur).  Sprout doesn’t go as deep as those tools do in their respective areas, but, we’re consultants. I, and the people I train to grow and manage their accounts, spend a lot of time doing profile analysis to identify influencers, prospects, partners, and competitors. I could easily do that, as well as fundamental keyword research and monitoring from Sprout.  Sprout’s features in this area are better than what’s available in Rignite, and on par with Hootsuite’s excellent profile analysis and search features.

Premium Feature: Helpdesk Integration

One of Sprout’s nicest features in all editions from Deluxe (entry level) and up is the ability for team members to easily work with each other. On the Feeds page you can click the thumbtack icon at the bottom right corner of any message to create a task. From there you can add a comment, designate the task as a general task, a sales lead, or a customer service issue and assign it. The team functionality is built-in, simple, and easy. It lets your organization take advantage of all the eyes that you have on the community. Similar functionality is found in Hootsuite and Rignite, but it’s very polished in Sprout.

Sprout premium offers further helpdesk software integration for organizations using Zendesk or UserVoice. This integration allows your team to turn any social media message into a helpdesk ticket, receive updates and a resolution from your helpdesk software, and respond to customers from within Sprout. For a more detailed look at helpdesk integration, see Sprout’s article here.

I get asked, “If you can assign tasks in Sprout already, what’s the difference?” The difference is, tasks assigned in Sprout normally show up in the assignee’s task list in Sprout. You have to look at that task list and take action from there. If you’re a sales person that can mean entering a lead in your CRM software, or if you’re a customer service rep that usually means creating a case in your helpdesk software. For social service team members in organizations that use ZenDesk and UserVoice, this integration can save that step by allowing creation of a helpdesk ticket from a message in Sprout. Not only that, it decreases the chance that a task will be missed, and a case not created due to human error. The basic idea is to make things faster and more efficient by allowing your social media customer service team to easily document and track cases from the tools they live in, Sprout and the Helpdesk software. The extra cost for premium may well be worth it for the time saved, and easier tracking social customer service issues.

Premium Report: Engagement

While we’re talking about customer support, there is one more report available with Sprout premium that I need to mention, the engagement report.

Simply put this report shows metrics related to responses from the profiles in your group. It shows the replies sent, the response rate, and the average response time. Obviously, you need data captured over a longer period than my trial to get an accurate sense of response time, but you see the goal. This report is simple and can give community managers, and social customer services managers some real insights. First it can tell you if you are or are not being responsive to your community. It can also show any problem times or gaps in coverage. Maybe responses are great during the day, but poor at night. I think this report would be an essential tool for those managers to help them smooth out response times, and ensure their communities feel well loved.

Conclusion

Sprout Social’s features, publishing, discovery tools, intuitive design, and rich reporting make it one of the premiere social media management tools available. I personally would like to see more data collected and reported from LinkedIn. But if Twitter and Facebook are where your community lives, Sprout is definitely worth considering. Like I said, many community managers can do most of the research they need with the discovery tools built into Sprout. If you’re looking to push your content publishing to the next level, Sprout premium might be worth considering. ViralPost might be able to improve your engagement significantly. If your social customer service team uses ZenDesk or UserVoice, Sprout Premium might be a time and money saver that helps smooth out the rough patches between social interaction helpdesk tracking. If you use Sprout or other solutions I’ve mentioned or haven’t mentioned, and have experiences you’d like to share, please leave a comment.

For more information, and a look at other Sprout reports see our companion SlideShare: