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Updated by Nick Kellet on Nov 13, 2015
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Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
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7 Reasons NOT to use Sprout Social

Source: http://iag.me/socialmedia/reviews/7-reasons-not-to-use-sprout-social/#

Lack of Facebook and LinkedIn group publishing

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.

Expensive – especially for teams

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.Total UsersDescriptionHootsuite Cost/yr (If paying mthly)Sprout Social Deluxe Cost/yr (If paying mthly)Sprout Social Premium Cost/yr (If paying mthly)1Hootsuite free plan only includes up to 3 social profiles. Sprout Social Deluxe includes up to 10 and Premium up to 20.$0$708.00$1,188.002Hootsuite 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$2,376.003Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 extra user at $9.99/mth).$239.88$2,124.00$3,576.004Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 extra user at $9.99/mth + 1 user at $14.99/mth)$419.88$2,832.00$4,752.005Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +2 users at $14.99/mth)$599.88$3,540.00$5,940.006Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +3 users at $14.99/mth)$779.88$4,248.00$7,128.007Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +4 users at $15/mth)$959.88$4,956.00$8,316.008Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +5 users at $14.99/mth)$1139.88$5,664.00$9,504.009Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +6 users at $14.99/mth)$1319.88$6,372.00$10,692.0010Hootsuite Pro includes 2 team members (+1 at $9.99/mth +7 users at $14.99/mth)$1499.88$7,080.00$11,880.0011The 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.$17,988$7,788.00$13,068At 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.

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:

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. 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: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: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: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 MediaSo 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…

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.

Lack of Instagram, YouTube and other visual platforms

If you are wanting to monitor your Instagram or YouTube account, you will be disappointed with Sprout Social’s lack of integration. Sprout Social only supports Twitter, Facebook (profiles & pages), Google+ pages & LinkedIn (profiles & pages). Although Hootsuite doesn’t offer Instagram, 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 will soon integrate 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. I hope Sprout Social will be able to add Instagram to their line up in the not too distant future. Instagram is having a huge growth in numbers, and more and more businesses and brands are seeing the potential of using Instagram in their marketing strategy. The same is true of YouTube and Pinterest. 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.”That doesn’t really tell us very much, however I have heard unofficial rumours that Instagram integration may not be too far away! Stay tuned.

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?