As the first of my forthcoming series on social monitoring tools, I want to preface this Sprout Social review with a background on how I heard about the social media management tool . As a digital marketing agency, DragonSearch has used a plethora of paid and free services to monitor the social presences of our clients. However, the one thing we were missing was a social media management tool that did everything and could be implemented ubiquitously across our client base. The word “everything” was later broken down into a spreadsheet consisting of 30 desirable features that an agency like our own would desire in a comprehensive tool.

My investigation of Sprout Social and foray into the wide world of social monitoring tools began when I proposed the need for an agency-wide tool to Ric Dragon. With support from Etela Ivkovic, I began my hunt to find the appropriate tool to meet the needs of our growing company and varied client base. Ric and Eta asked me to investigate the Sprout Social tools as it had come highly recommended by peers within our industry.

The Benefits of Sprout Social as a Social Media Management Tool

Sprout Social Review & Social Monitoring Mobile App

Image via Sprout Social

I must first congratulate Sprout Social, Inc. for their Foursquare integration. What I loved most about the Sprout Social tool is the ability to link unlimited Foursquare locations with client profiles, making for effortless location based monitoring. Sprout Social allows users to Tweet (when allowed) to individuals who have checked in at their designated locations and even receive mobile alerts for new check-ins.

When it comes to mobile support, Sprout Social won me over as well. From all of the tools researched, Sprout Social was the only one that offered a mobile application for social monitoring. Users can sync client Facebook fan pages and Twitter profiles with their accounts, making it easy to respond to social mentions on the go.

Outside of location based services and Foursquare marketing, Sprout Social also works well for light reputation management. The tool monitors identified search queries, which can include brand mentions across the web and targeted industry search terminology. Under one account, numerous users are allowed and admins can assign follow-ups to different team members. This workflow feature is an added benefit to the Sprout Social dashboard. Another added perk: Google Analytics is integrated to monitor how much traffic social drives to your site.

Sprout Social: Great for Social Media Monitoring, Not Reporting

The main reason why we did not choose Sprout Social as the go-to tool for DragonSearch is that it lacked a reporting aspect would suit the needs of our clients. While the Sprout Social dashboard does include graphs addressing user demographics, recent mentions and follower growth, not all data is exportable. In addition, any tracked social mentions or web searches cannot be backed by the tool. Moreover, it is difficult to track individual campaigns on behalf of clients using Sprout Social.

When it comes to social monitoring, Sprout Social lacks another integral feature: sentiment. In other words, users must manually determine if mentions of their brand are positive or negative without the capability of tracking the emotion of posts.

The Sprout Social dashboard—albeit aesthetically appealing and complete with useful data—is not customizable based on individual client focuses. Also, Sprout Social lacks a comprehensive spam filter that would be useful when monitoring the social presences of larger clients.

Sprout Social Review Wrap-Up: Who Should Use It & Why

Sprout Social is the perfect social monitoring tool for small-to-medium sized franchises, local businesses with a handful of locations and smaller companies on a limited budget. I can imagine restaurants monitoring their reviews and tips on Foursquare using Sprout Social. The integration of Klout scores of authors also helps brands to identify influential mentions. I highly recommend Sprout Social for business owners as opposed to agencies due to its simple interface and workflow features. This is the D.I.Y. answer for businesses that lack a specialized social media marketing employee and cannot afford to outsource their social to agency services. For more advanced agency reporting, Sprout Social is not the go-to tool.

A Small (Literally) Price to Pay for Intuitive Foursquare Marketing

As I mentioned, Sprout Social’s price point is ideal for smaller business owners. For $39/month, users can monitor up to 20 social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare locations). For only $59, the number of profiles allowed is bumped up to 40. Both entry level packages include a charge for additional users. The premium package—which is recommended for agencies and franchises—is $899/month and covers unlimited profiles with up to ten user logins.

If you are interested in this nifty social monitoring tool, all packages are offered with a free 30-day trial and there is no contract required. During my test drive, Senior Product Specialist Joshua Sigler was extremely helpful in guiding me through the features of Sprout Social.  You can contact Joshua at [email protected] or on Twitter as @Social_Joshua.