Sprout Social, First Impressions

SproutSocial LogoI am experimenting with SproutSocial this week, and my overall reaction has been “wow, this is powerful.” It has great analytics capabilities, extensive monitoring tools, and the ability to schedule or queue posts. That last one, the Sprout Queue is pretty cool…it is built on the concepts started by BufferApp, and is a direct competitor to the new AutoSchedule from Hootsuite.

The reports and graphs are easy to read and digest, and scheduling these to email your manager at regular intervals will make you look like an awesome employee. 😉

Graphs and Analytics

One of the best features of Sprout is its ability to manage accounts as a team, assign tasks to team members, and add notes/contact info for your customers. A common problem I have experienced when using a shared password for a social account is that more than one person will respond to the same posts, or schedule a message for the same time as someone else. This platform smooths out the team workflow.

Another insanely cool feature is the ability to link to your Google Analytics account for your website. You can quickly see the impact of your social campaigns on your website traffic. Awesome!

Google Analytics + Social Graph

Pricing is amazingly affordable compared to other platforms I’ve seen quotes on, like Radian6 and Vocus, though I would still struggle to justify this cost for my personal brand and side business with so many good free tools out there. For a social media consultant, or small/medium/large business, I would definitely recommend this platform as a way to monitor your brand and engage your audience.

SproutSocial Pricing

There are also lots of free platforms for social media monitoring and management. How do you manage social media for your personal brand? As a team?

Monitoring your brand online

Stethoscope

“If you care about your customers, your product, or your reputation, you must monitor your brand online.” – Me, 2012

If you are responsible for a brand of any size, people are talking about their experience with you, your products, or your services. These conversations aren’t all public, but many of them are and you need to be aware of them. At a minimum. Facebook wall posts, blog comments, tweets, and LinkedIn Questions can give you great insight into what your customers’ (or potential customers’) wants and needs.

Where should I look?

Your home turf

It is always disheartening as a customer to post a comment on a business blog or fill out a contact form, and have it be ignored. This happens far too often, and is such an easy way to alienate current and potential customers. Engage your customers – they took time to come to your site and interact with you!

Social networks

Twitter is especially easy to monitor, but you should have a pulse on any network where your fans/followers/customers are conversing. I strongly believe ALL direct messages, mentions, and wall posts should be responded to, unless the person posting clearly does not need a response. Dead air is a negative brand impression!

Blogs, forums, groups

There are many places for conversations to happen, and you’ll need robust tools to find them because not everyone will mention your Twitter handle or write their comment on your page. You know your audience best, so be active on technical forums or industry sites that contain conversations that you or your company care about. Be a subject-matter expert in your field. Provide value – and do it for free.

How do I find conversations/posts?

If you had 143 hours per day, you still couldn’t visit each site you could be mentioned on and interact meaningfully. Machines can’t handle the interaction, so let them do what they are good at: searching for content! I use the following tools to keep a pulse on the digital world (a lot of the same ones from my Find interesting content on Twitter post):

  1. Google Alerts – get an email instantly or daily/weekly when someone posts about your saved search
    Google Alerts
  2. Twitter Searches – search for realtime posts about your topic/brand, and save these searches for re-use
    Twitter Search
  3. Track topics/keywords on blogs, social networks, and more with SocialMention.com (IceRocket.com is similar, but not as powerful, IMO)
    Social Mention
  4. Follow topics on Quora – you’ll find a surprising depth of knowledge shared here by experts…shouldn’t you be the expert in your field? Answer some questions!
    Quora

What do I need to pay attention to?

This is a tougher question, and will vary by industry/company/cause. At a bare minimum you should search for your brand name, and probably key product names as well. After a while, you can get more sophisticated and search for problems your product or service solves (e.g. a search for “back pain Atlanta” may turn up new customers for your chiropractic office who don’t even know they need you…yet!).

Pro tip: With most search engines, including Google Alerts and Twitter Search, you can create advanced queries like “back pain” OR “best chiropractor” OR “need an adjustment” AND Atlanta that will search for any one of those three phrases plus the word “Atlanta.”

Have any experience doing this for your company or your own name? I would also love to hear from users of power tools like Radian6, Wildfire, or Vocus.

 

Photo by Benjamin Golub

Find interesting content on Twitter

Twitter LogoWhen you register for Twitter (a big assumption that you have – if not, get on that!), you are encouraged to find friends and topics that interest you and follow them. That is a good place to start, and you can read your stream/feed to see what those folks are saying. However, you will fairly quickly realize that:

  • You are following people, not topics. Those same people that tweet about one topic that you care about may also tweet about ten topics that you don’t.
  • You can’t “keep up” with your home feed. There’s a lot to be said, and not all of it is worth reading.

So how do you find interesting information to read/interact with on Twitter? That could mean people talking about innovation within 15 miles of me, mentions of my brand/service/product, or all tweets about an event. Here are 4 ways I find good content:

  1. Twitter searches

    These work. I have sold actual products, gotten billable freelance work, learned from and interacted with people I never would have met without Twitter’s powerful real-time search engine. The easiest way to use this is to head to search.twitter.com and type in something you care about.

    In the example above, you can also go to Advanced Search to find people talking about innovation within 15 miles of your location. Pretty cool!

    Innovation Search on Twitter

    Pro tip: Just click the gear icon in the top-right corner and click “Save Search.” Now when you click in the search bar at the top of the screen, you can see the latest posts that match your saved search.

    Twitter Save Search Command

  2. Hashtags

    An easy way to group conversations by “tagging” them with a keyword. You may have seen these tags before with the “#” symbol in front of a word. The most common and useful example of this is a conference such as South by Southwest, where you can watch the conversation about the event by clicking the hashtag #sxsw. Another cool example is a hosted Twitter chat about digital and email marketing on Thursday mornings at 11am EST, hashtag #NexusChat.

  3. Google Alerts

    This isn’t strictly for Twitter content, and I will cover this tool and the others below in more detail in a later post about monitoring your brand, product, or reputation. Simply go to Google Alerts, type in search terms to monitor, and all the power of Google will be delivered to your inbox when a new match is found.

    Pro tip: If you want to limit the content to Twitter (or any other site for that matter), just include “site:twitter.com” after your search terms.
  4. SocialMention.com

    This site is awesome, and for more than just Twitter. It allows you to search blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc in real-time to help you monitor your brand/keywords. It can also create email alerts (similar to Google above) for social content. Best of all? It’s free!

Honorable mentions

  1. IceRocket.com

    Another free site that searches across multiple social channels for your terms.
  2. The #Discover tab

    Twitter’s attempt at curating content you care about and show trending topics. The signal-to-noise isn’t very good though.

What ways have I missed? How do you find content you care about?

Platform – Get Noticed in a Noisy World

Platform Book CoverI recently finished the audio version of Michael Hyatt’s new book, Platform – Get Noticed in a Noisy World, and I loved it! I’ve spent some time building up a social media platform, but he made a really good point about building a “home base” (a website/blog) where I own the message and the branding. I’ve had lukerumley.com in my Google Apps/GoDaddy shopping cart so many times over the past 5+ years, yet chickened out each time. This book inspired me to buy it, and to commit to building a blog and writing on it.

Another point Michael made was to build the platform before you need it, and that was driven home in an informal interview where I was asked to provide some examples of my writing. I didn’t have anything longer than a tweet! Talk about embarrassing…

I hope to share things I learn in the business world, in social media, in building web sites, in my Christian walk, and in leading my family. I hope some of this helps you in your journey as well!

Now on to figure out what the “wow” product is that Michael says to start with…other than my own ego. 🙂