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Back in February my partner Raj and I visited the headquarters of Sprout Social, creator of the popular and growing social media management tool of the same. Sprout is based in downtown Chicago, and it was an awesome experience to go in and meet some of the people working behind the scenes.

Like many digital and social media marketers, we are always on the lookout for ways to help streamline and improve the efficiency of how we use social media. I started using TweetDeck a long time ago to help with Twitter. But, as anyone familiar with Tweetdeck knows, it’s not good for much beyond scheduling Tweets ahead of time and running multiple accounts. Its functions are focused on Twitter management, not comprehensive social media management.

I have been using Hootsuite on and off for a year and have generally been satisfied with it. I watched Sprout Social with great interest when it first started getting popular. One of the things that always attracted me to it beyond the actual platform was that it was a local company still in the start-up stage. I am a big proponent of supporting and working with local and growing companies. The fact that Sprout was local meant that digital marketers in the area could develop first-hand connections and personal relationships with the minds behind the product.

After taking the tour of the facility and getting a nice run-through / demo of the software, I signed up for a 1-month free trial. My trial just concluded the other day and I wanted to share my thoughts on this platform and it how it compares to Hootsuite.

(This review contains no affiliate links to either Hootsuite or Sprout Social and is not intended to promote either product for the purpose of making profit. It compares these two applications because they are comparable in scope as social media management applications.)

Sprout Social vs. Hootsuite – A Digitalry Review

This review will focus on the following areas:

  1. Management Capabilities
  2. Flexibility / Ease of Use
  3. Analytics / Reports
  4. Development Pace
  5. Support
  6. Options / Pricing

Management Capabilities

When looking at capabilities of social media management tools there are two things I focus on:

  1. Its ability to connect and manage multiple profiles and networks easily from a single interface
  2. Its value-add options: what the tool can do that the native social network cannot (for example, scheduling messages in advance)

In terms of these capabilities, both Sprout Social and Hootsuite provide excellent options. You can easily schedule posts on multiple networks, which is one of the most useful features as it allows brands to prepare content in advance and spread it out at optimal times over a given period. More time on social media can then be spent on engagement. Both platforms offer rich media integration in their posting, allowing you to designate the images, choose time / day to post, and select the specific and number of social accounts to post from at once.

At first notice, Sprout’s interface is substantially more attractive. The home page dashboard is one of the most useful and visually striking aspects of the entire application. It provides a fantastic snapshot of all connected accounts, as well as aggregate trends of these profiles. Upon first loading the application you are given a good sense of where all of your accounts stand. They also provide “Influence” and “Engagement” metrics which are useful for helping you gauge your overall social media presence.

Screenshot of the Dashboard, Smart Inbox, and Scheduler in Sprout Social

If you are partial to a particular type of URL shortener, Sprout uses bit.ly while Hootsuite uses ow.ly. Both are reliable and fast shorteners, but it is important to note that ow.ly is Hootsuite’s proprietary shortener, so you cannot really use or track it anywhere other than Hootsuite. Bit.ly is Twitter’s default shortener, as well as being open to using without an account, so it has some more flexibility. Both Sprout Social and Hootsuite offer vanity URL options, though this would require additional investment with their respective URL shortening services, including a custom domain.

Sprout has superior capabilities for narrowing and targeting specific audiences. It also has better search and discovery options, with location filters that allow you to narrow your searches down by area. Also, while both function as management tools, Sprout integrates many more aspects of a “Social CRM,” with the ability to customize contact details (adding profile information to help you remember specific things about them), a better history record of interaction with contacts, and better cleanup / contact book management. It also has stronger collaboration features at a cheaper price (as Hootsuite’s true collaboration tools don’t enter the game until you drop over a grand on an enterprise plan).

One of the nicest things about Sprout Social is that you can integrate your Google RSS feed, making reading and sharing stories very easy. This is absent from Hootsuite. As of the end of April 2012 Hootsuite has added RSS feed capabilities, a welcome addition to its list of features.

Screenshot of the RSS Reader Integration in Sprout Social

Sprout Social also has the capability for rebranded Facebook posts (if you want to customize the “via Sprout Social” when sharing to FB). This is only available for premium users at additional cost.

Despite many of these advanced features, Sprout Social lacks some basic functions that Hootsuite possesses. Two specific features are:

  1. The ability to “Favorite a Tweet” (even Tweetdeck has this)As of October 2012 the “Favorite a Tweet” features is now available within Sprout Social!
  2. The ability to “Like” a Facebook post from the interface (you can reply, but not Like within Sprout Social)

These issues are not what I would call major. However, the fact that such basic features are not a part of it surprises me. All basic functions should be included; the user should have the freedom to choose whether or not to use them.

It surprises me more that they chose not to include these functions because they are also very useful. To not be able to “Like” something from Sprout is quite strange. As far as “Favoriting” some people have said that it isn’t a high-demand feature, but I do not see any basis for such a statement. “Favoriting” serves a different purpose than retweeting, replying, or direct messaging. Along with the FB Like, it represents the “Seal of Approval.” Moreover, from a practical point of view, “Favorites” are a good way to be able to save Tweets you like or want to reference at a later point without needing to retweet them yourself, and thus have them appear on your main stream. And again, returning to the principle, users should be given the full range of options so that they may decide for themselves whether or not to use them.

However, there is a much bigger issue that exists with Sprout Social: there is no ability to save drafts. I will go into this issue more in the next section.

Winner – Sprout Social, though they should include basic features to bring it in line with other comparable tools

Flexibility / Ease of Use

The differences between Sprout and Hootsuite in this respect largely come from different design philosophies. Hootsuite uses a more common multi-column layout in which each column displays a certain kind of information. Columns can be grouped by tabs. On the other hand, Sprout Social went in a different direction with a single-column layout and different pages / menus that load different information.

Multi-Column vs Single-Column Layouts

As I mentioned above the design of Sprout Social is very attractive. You can easily tell that user experience is a big consideration for them. Even subtle elements (such as their icons and hover actions) are exceptionally well done.

Their choice of design comes with an inherent quality which some may feel is a drawback. Their single-column layout makes it less flexible and customizable than Hootsuite’s multi-column layout. In Hootsuite, I can create columns that show very different pieces of information side by side for an easy comparison based on what I deem is most relevant. I understand the rationale for moving away from the multi-column layout. A big critique of that design is that when you have too many columns you must scroll horizontally to see everything. Hootsuite alleviates that problem to a degree by providing a “zoom” feature so the screen will fit increasingly more columns, but this is only useful up to a certain point. Moreover, having too many columns can also lead to information overload.

That said, the way Sprout is right now, users have less control over how to group information than with Hootsuite. For some that might not be an issue. For myself, I prefer having flexibility to organize my data but have been able to get used to Sprout Social not having this ability.

Unfortunately, there is one issue which I have with Sprout Social that is almost a dealbreaker. As mentioned above, Sprout does not currently have the ability to save drafts. This is especially problematic in light of the way it is designed: you cannot execute searches after you have started to write a message without abandoning that message. This is an issue that very much needs to be fixed, either by allowing the message to be preserved when it loads new pages in the back end or by including an save / auto-save function.

I have been told that the save feature is under development, which is the reason it has not stopped me from continuing to use it. The video below goes into more detail on this issue.

MAJOR UPDATE: 12/13/2012: Although it has taken much longer than I expected, Sprout Social has finally added the ability to save drafts, closing a major feature gap that previously existed between it and Hootsuite. The video below will remain up for archival purposes, and for everyone to see what Sprout was like before you could save your posts :)

Video of Missing Feature in Sprout Social

Overall, I prefer Sprout Social’s design and UI. But without the ability to save drafts, message creation and editing can become a pain, especially when you are juggling a variety of responsibilities and tasks and need this process to be as quick and painless as possible.

Winner – Hootsuite

Analytics / Reports

Sprout Social comes out ahead by a clear margin here. Sprout’s reports are very detailed and thorough, providing fantastic metrics across all connected social networks. Hootsuite has its own set of analytics, but unfortunately their preconfigured reports are very weak. They do have a number of “Custom Reports” that you can build, but this can become time-consuming and their more advanced reports have to be “purchased” with points. With Sprout, there is no fuss when it comes to reports. The reports tab instantly loads an excellent range of information – from new followers and fans to audience demographics and the reach of your posts. Their excellent design is perfectly suited to their analytics. Even outside of the reports tab, each page is geared towards presenting the information in a concise, effective, and visually appealing format, which is very helpful when wanting to see quick stats of your sent Tweets or responses from your existing contacts.

Screenshot of the Reports in Sprout Social

Some might argue that Hootsuite has greater customization features in their advanced reports, but when it comes to social media simple and streamlined always wins. The goal of analytics is to provide useful and actionable metrics, not to overwhelm users with tons of data and too many options for reading that data. And since some of Hootsuite’s advanced reports are not free, utilizing their analytics is significantly more cumbersome.

Winner – Sprout Social

Development Pace

This is something that perhaps cannot be attributed to the companies themselves but may simply be a result of the length of time each has existed. Hootsuite tends to be further along in development, likely because it has been in business longer. While Sprout Social is planning to release integration of LinkedIn groups, Hootsuite already has that function built in. Hootsuite also has a Google+ beta for their enterprise customers, which means they will probably make that public for the rest of their customer base before Sprout can. From the conversations that I have had, it sounds like Google+ will not come to Sprout Social until late this year (though this is in part because Google has not made its API freely available to everyone.)

Despite the fact that Hootsuite seems to be “ahead of the curve” in development, Sprout’s team is incredibly responsive and actively bringing new features to the platform on a continual basis. I frequently see updates at the top of the screen notifying me of a new feature. This means that Sprout has the potential to outpace Hootsuite in the future.

It’s important to remember that Sprout has features Hootsuite doesn’t (such as RSS reader integration.) The true test of development progress is how responsive and stable the platform is. In this, Hootsuite is ahead of Sprout as the latter seems to be more unstable and buggy. I have never had Hootsuite crash or lag seriously. With Sprout there are times when it is running very slowly. Sometimes I cannot load certain pages / menus without needing to refersh the page. It does not always respond with the right account when clicking on a mention or a reply, forcing me to change it manually. One day there was an issue with the scheduler where it was displaying past times for future messages. Though most messages still were sent out at the right times, one or two of mine were dropped and I had to go back and recreate them.

Screenshot of a Bug / Problem in the Sprout Social Scheduler

Winner – Hootsuite

Support

Sprout Social is the clear winner here. Their customer and technical support is exceptional across all channels: Twitter, email, phone, etc. Their welcome emails are personalized with the information of a particular team member, and their staff responds to inquires directly.

In contrast, I have not heard anything from anyone working at Hootsuite. All their emails are automated (“faceless”).

Hootsuite has a “University” where you can go and learn. Sprout actively puts on webinars and training sessions where you can interact with people live.

In short, Sprout Social has a clear human face behind the company. Granted they are a smaller operation, so the challenge is whether or not they can scale to the size of Hootsuite (and beyond) while maintaining that level of personal touch.

Screenshot of Fantastic and Responsive Support from Sprout Social

Sprout Social’s Personal Touch on Twitter (for privacy reasons, the name and handle of the other party have been removed)

Winner – Sprout Social

Options / Pricing

Hootsuite Pro now costs more than Sprout’s basic plan. While Sprout still goes for $9 flat per month, Hootsuite’s pro plan is now $9.99 per month. That said, with Sprout’s basic plan you can only connect up to 10 different accounts, and you cannot create more than one group outside of your “personal” group which can have three additional accounts (in effect giving you a maximum of 13 accounts). Hootsuite still provides unlimited accounts in its pro plan, as well as up to 5 profiles in its free version.

Does that mean that Hootsuite is the better value? The answer is yes and no… it depends on what you are using it for.

Even in Sprout’s basic plan, users receive excellent features, such as their analytics / reporting. Some features such as location-based functions, syncing Foursquare accounts, connecting Google Analytics, etc. are only available for higher premium plans. However, once you start needing these more advanced functions, Sprout Social is much cheaper than Hootsuite. Many of the collaboration features in their deluxe plan ($59/month) cannot be found in Hootsuite unless you choose an enterprise option, which can easily cost you over $1,000 per month. Even Sprout’s most expensive enterprise plan can be bought for under $1,000 per month.

Sprout also has an advantage in that it treats additional users by the user rather than by the profile the user is attached to. This means that you can purchase an additional seat for a user for an added fee per month but then add them to as many profiles as you want. With Hootsuite you will pay an additional fee for each instance in which a user is added to a social profile. For example, if you have one user connected to a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account you will have to pay for three additional seats as opposed to one.

When it comes to pricing, Hootsuite is better suited if you are an individual, or maybe a 2-3 person team that does not need extensive collaboration tools. The big advantage is that you can connect as many accounts as you want. Sprout Social becomes a better option when you want the more advanced features for less cost. It is ideally suited for larger groups and businesses.

MAJOR UPDATE, 10/1/2012: Sprout Social’s cheapest option is now the Standard pacakge at $39/month

I was just notified that Sprout Social has gotten rid of its Pro plan for all new customers. Existing customers on the Pro plan will continue at this level and existing customers at higher levels can downgrade to Pro plan for $9.99 per month. However, new customers can no longer sign up for this plan. The explanation I was given was that the majority of their clients that they support are using one of the higher plans (they frequently cite the Deluxe plan as being the most used) so they shifted their resources to be more focused in supporting that base.

Unfortunately, this is a rather big mistake on Sprout’s part because it alienates a large segment of users who would like to use Sprout Social but can’t justify the $39/month for social media management. For myself, the Pro plan is perfect because it helped me to do things in a streamlined way. I would never pay $39/month for what I use it for… the need simply does not match that price. While I can understand why they would shift their support focus, I don’t understand abolishing the plan altogether. Especially since it seems that the Standard plan is the same as the Pro plan (only 10 profiles) yet is $30 more per month. I haven’t gotten any details as to the difference between Standard and the old Pro yet so their might be more to it than what I’m aware of.

Nevertheless, this significant increase in price squarely puts Hootsuite in the lead for many individuals and small teams that can do pretty much everything they would need to do for much less.

Winner – Hootsuite

The Knockout Punch?

SOCIAL SMACKDOWN RESULTS Winner
Management Capabilities Sprout Social
Flexibility / Ease of Use Hootsuite
Analytics / Reports Sprout Social
Development Pace Hootsuite
Support Sprout Social
Options / Pricing Hootsuite

The definitive champion of the Social Smackdown? It depends… The real answer is that your needs dictate which platform you should choose. For myself and Digitalry, we have chosen to stay with Sprout Social, though there are some things I would like to see from them in the near future:

  • Push notifications for mobile (as well as the ability to customize the settings)
  • More stability / less bugs in the platform
  • Ability to “Like” FB post from Sprout
  • Ability to organize contacts page by different critiera (e.g. by follow date so you can see your newest or oldest followers, by user name not just by handle, etc.)
  • Ability to search contacts by hashtag or description keywords in their bio
  • Google+ integration as soon as the API is available to them (in my opinion this much more important than LinkedIn companies or groups)

You might wonder why I was harsher on Sprout than Hootsuite. It is precisely because we are using it! Sprout has become an incredible force in the social media world in a short amount of time, and it has the potential to grow far beyond what it currently is.  Hopefully the critique and suggestions in this article will help them to continually improve and become the undisputed champion of the social media management world.

Take a Tour of Sprout Social!

Special thanks to Brittany Morse and Angus Gorberg for giving us the office tour and product demo, as well as Josh Galecki and Carolyn Breit for sharing their time and knowledge in answering questions and listening to our feedback as we tested the product.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Sprout Social, Colin. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the management capabilities, reports, and support!

    We’re constantly working to add new features, improve current ones, and provide the best social media management tool for businesses and brands. As you mentioned, the ability to save drafts is currently in production and coming soon as are mobile push notifications, Google+, and LinkedIn Groups/Company Pages.

    Also, to clarify, we do not charge users to attach a custom URL shortener to their Sprout Social account. However, in order to have a custom URL, users do need to purchase the actual domain name from their domain provider or through Bit.ly.

    More amazing things to come from Sprout Social! Stay tuned!

    Brittany Morse
    Social Marketing Manager, Sprout Social

    • Colin Cronin Apr 2, 2012 Reply

      Brittany,

      Thanks for replying. Sorry for the confusion. I didn’t mean to suggest that the additional cost would be to Sprout but rather in using their respective URL shorteners with the custom domain. I’ve revised that line to avoid that confusion.

      Looking forward to all of the great to come from Sprout!

      Best,
      Colin

  • Caroline May 13, 2012 Reply

    FYI:
    Hootsuite is NOT $6.00 a month, it’s $9.99 month now.

    http://signup.hootsuite.com/plans/

    http://sproutsocial.com/pricing

    • Colin Cronin May 14, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Caroline for the update! Noted and updated above

  • Jon Freizen May 21, 2012 Reply

    Fairly well written for the most part, but with a few errors I feel are due to not using HootSuite. I am an avid user and consider both of these products to be leaders. I’d tend to give HootSuite the edge. I am just looking at the options/pricing and all you did was mention 1 of the 3 HootSuite products. There is a free, pro, and Enterprise. It appears you just analyzed Pro. Does Sprout Social have a free product? Also, HootSuite does have an RSS reader option. Just wanted to give a users perspective.

    • Colin Cronin May 22, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for your comment Jon. Actually I did use Hootsuite quite extensively when I was testing it out. The reason why I was focused on comparing Hootsuite Pro to Sprout Basic is because they are the most comparable in terms of cost, so it made sense to compare them in terms of features. Sprout does not offer a free version, and Hootsuite’s free version is limited to only 5 social profiles and very narrow set of features to go with it. This is fine for an individual who wants to manage their own personal accounts but not a feasible option for small businesses or consultants, which this review is geared towards. I apologize if that was not made clear. Similarly, enterprise plans for both are made for much larger scale organizations and Hootsuite doesn’t provide an exact figure on the cost of their enterprise plans (though from what I’ve heard they are significantly more expensive than Sprout’s) since they are based on seats I believe.

      Thank you for pointing out the RSS reader option. That is actually a new feature added in April. At the time of writing in March Hootsuite did not yet include this feature. I’ve updated the article to reflect that.

  • [...] Read the Review [...]

  • Eric May 31, 2012 Reply

    This is an awesome review, Colin! Love the detail and very informative for those that don’t know the specifics (like me). I’ve always used HootSuite for personal accounts mainly for the URL shortener/tracker and I’ve loved it.

    But now I’m looking to manage a single company’s social media efforts and understand, that in terms of pricing/perks that these are geared more towards social media agencies with multiple clients. That being said, any tips on the best platform to use for all-encompassing analytics and functionality if you really just need it for 1 account across different social networks?

    • Colin Cronin Jun 12, 2012 Reply

      Hi Eric. Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’ve actually been doing a little bit of research and thinking about whether or not there are any solutions that might fit your need. Unfortunately, most of the cost-effective and “reasonable” solutions typically scale features only with cost. Your preference of managing a single company’s social media in great detail is something that more solution providers need to integrate into their packages. I am making this recommendation to both Sprout and Hootsuite, as well as some others.

      Honestly, at this point, the best thing that I would suggest is to choose one of the above in terms of what you like from the social media management perspective, and then couple that with the traffic and behavioral data provided by applications such as Google Analytics and a server-side application like AWStats if you have it installed on your server. There won’t be an integration at the scale, but even Google now is beginning to incorporate more social data into its native interface.

      In the meantime, I will continue my lookout for something such as this and continue to make suggestions to some of the companies I’m aware of in this space.

    • Colin Cronin Jun 19, 2012 Reply

      Hey Eric,

      Just wanted to reach out with an update. I talked to one of the senior product specialists over at Sprout and he actually recommended the Deluxe or Small Business plan even for one business. He said that many of the people he talks to who are using those plans are actually managing just 1 business (vs. an agency with many clients) because of the enhanced functionality such as Google Analytics, assigning tasks to yourself, escalating messages to support through Zendesk integration. It’s currently $59 / $39 per month depending on which you go with. Obviously much more expensive than free or the basic plan. However, if you have a need for those features it doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable price to pay given such alternatives as Radian6.

  • Richard Uridge Jun 13, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for this well written and comprehensive comparison. I’ve linked to it for my social media training clients in the UK.

    • Colin Cronin Jun 13, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Richard! They are much appreciated, and I’m glad that you found the review helpful.

  • Jessica Jun 20, 2012 Reply

    Love! Very balanced analysis of two powerhouse social management tools. Thank you for sharing!

  • Natchi Jun 26, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for this review. Very useful. A well balanced approach with analysis from different user perspectives. Thanks again!

  • eTail Alliance Jul 13, 2012 Reply

    A really useful review, I also have been testing both, whilst I love the Sprout social interface and the analytics (I am a bit of an analytics junkie), I am leaning towards Hoot suite, even though I find the overall interface not that friendly, their inclusion of Linkedin groups and the column layout just make it easier to manage on a day to day basis.

    Overall – I WANT to use sprout social, but I NEED to use hoot suite.

    • Colin Cronin Jul 13, 2012 Reply

      That’s a great point you’ve made about WANT v. NEED. Just out of curiosity though, is it primarily the LinkedIn groups integration that is steering you towards HootSuite? Sprout is working on building that in so keep that in mind. I personally do not like using LinkedIn groups within a social media management platform as it ends up being more difficult. Usually the features are somewhat restricted and can even be a little buggy. Moreover, if I’m interacting on LinkedIn groups, I usually also want to access other parts of a LinkedIn account outside of groups, which I’ve never seen accessible within management platforms. So I just end up using it all within the native LinkedIn interface anyways.

      As for the multi-column layout, if you prefer that then Hootsuite will likely be a better option for you, as Sprout’s design is very much a fundamental and conscious choice which I don’t expect to change.

      • eTail Alliance Jul 16, 2012 Reply

        Hi Colin – thanks for your comment.

        With regards to linkedin groups I find they are full of spam and self promotion, so it is handy to have a tool to sift through the noise and find the nuggets that are worth connecting with, plus there are lots of groups in the space in which I operate.

        With regards to the multi column layout, maybe I am missing something. It seems to me that the layout in Sprout Social is pretty much the same as I would get on Twitter itself (i.e. one long feed) – so how is it enhancing the way I can use Twitter?

        • Colin Cronin Jul 16, 2012 Reply

          Sprout’s layout is designed to much more streamlined, with an emphasis on user-friendliness. Some criticize the multi-column layout because of its “busy-ness,” though it’s different for each person and depends on what you prefer. What I like about the multi-column layout is the ability to place multiple feeds that are very different from one another next to each other. Sprout favors a less cluttered interface to make it easier to navigate, and in their eyes more pleasant to look at.

          That said, Sprout has a number of features above the regular Twitter – as I outline in my review. Obviously, you cannot connect multiple accounts via a standard Twitter (nor can you connect other social profiles like Facebook). You can schedule posts in Sprout and have access to much more robust contact management options (view history with a user, see what profiles they follow, add custom notes / info for users, cleanup). Even though it is one long feed, you can easily switch accounts to see different Twitter feeds. This plus the analytics, task management, reports, RSS reader integration, etc. give you plenty of additional features even in the base plan.

          Don’t misunderstand. Sprout might have a similar layout to Twitter, but it’s far superior in what it can do. The difference of the multi-column layout v. single-column layout has less to do with what features are available and more to do with how you prefer your information presented.

  • Daron Jul 21, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the details in this article. Great stuff for a small business owner managing this on his own for startup.

    • Colin Cronin Jul 21, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for the comment Daron. It’s much appreciated. Nice website you have there as well. Have a great weekend!

  • Great review Colin! I switched from Hootsuite to Sprout Social about 9 months ago – I love the reporting and RSS options on Sprout Social. With Hootsuite offering the Google+ pages option now though I am reconsidering my options……

    • Colin Cronin Aug 9, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for the comments Stacey! They are much appreciated.

      I can understand where you are coming from with Google+, but remember that this is in the works for Sprout as well, so it isn’t a fundamental feature that can’t be incorporated into Sprout (as opposed to the design / layout for people who prefer the multi-column layout).

      You could always create a free Hootsuite account for the express purpose of syncing Google+. It might be kind of annoying to have two accounts, but at least you could take advantage of additional features such as saving drafts, scheduling posts, etc.

      Or, you could suspend your Sprout account and get another one when they integrate Google+, though you will lose historical data. I would lean towards the first option if you prefer Sprout as a whole and see that being your long-term solution.

      On a side-note, how has your experience been with Google+? Everyone seems to have a different opinion, and I’m always curious to hear about other people’s perspectives.

      • I get a lot of mixed feedback on google+ also. I haven’t seen a huge ROI, many of my clients want Google+ pages as part of the social strategy but I have yet to appreciate it at a resource. In saying this, I have not invested as much time in learning the platform as I have for some other social sites – mostly due to sprout social not enabling scheduled messages.
        Google+ do give follow links to your site – which is almost worth setting up a profile for but I certainly favour Twitter over all other social networks.

        • Jeff Belonger Oct 6, 2012 Reply

          Stacy, as much as I don’t care for Google +… mostly because most of my friends aren’t on it, so I can’t talk to them or see their posts like on FB… it’s great for everything else and I believe that it should be used daily just like FB and Twitter… it’s a great place to meet new people and engage with them, mostly innovators surrounding marketing and social media… but time permitting.. but lastly, Google gives your posts with links to your articles better juice when placing them on G+ and it helps more for those that are connected with you when it comes to social influence and how your posts appear quicker and closer to the top when people google search. Just food for thought.. because I have always leaned being against G+, but still use it because I see many advantages..

          • Colin Cronin Oct 8, 2012

            Some very worthwhile thoughts Jeff. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jamison Bell Sep 5, 2012 Reply

    Great article, love it and shared it! I use both simultaneously which might sound weird to some, but it allows me to customize my dashboards much easier.

    It is like a non-stop perpetual A/B test of what is working for a campaign, etc. as what is not. Better yet, what is working better on any given day or even when they work together to create the perfect storm of need-now information, reporting, and options for clients who thrive with a couple Sprout features and some HootSuite to wash it down.

    Thanks, and please update this article regularly and share with the masses.

    • Colin Cronin Sep 5, 2012 Reply

      Not at all. When I was testing them I used both simultaneously quite frequently as it allowed me to do different things I couldn’t with just one. Thanks for the comments and glad you found it helpful!

  • Pam Ahern Sep 9, 2012 Reply

    This was super helpful. I had asked Michelle Shaeffer which platform she thought was better (I use Sprout Social) and she connected me with your article. Since I am just getting the ball rolling with digital pushing/sharing I wasn’t clear which one I should use. I chose Sprout primarily because the interface was appealing and easy to use. After reading this post, I am aware of other features to use with it (like the rss option). Thanks for the very detailed comparison.

    • Colin Cronin Sep 10, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Pam. I’m happy to hear that Michelle recommended the piece to you and that you found this helpful in choosing a solution. I hope your experience goes well using Sprout!

  • As somebody who is currently investigating the best platform for creating regular reports and scheduling posts for 3 different clients I found this comparison very helpful. I just signed up for the free trial period on Sprout Social and I like what I see. The google reader integration is brilliant, and the scheduling functionality is far better than what’s native to facebook.

    I prefer simplicity and I think that’s the edge that Sprout Social has over Hootsuite for me for now, though I must admit the multi-column layout of Hootsuite is also useful at times (I’m still using Tweet Deck to view my twitter feeds).

    The lack of a save function on SS is definitely a pain but I think I can deal with it until the functionality is added in a future release.

    Thanks Colin, and great site!

    • Colin Cronin Oct 1, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Anfernee. I appreciate the kind words. I hope to see a save feature in an upcoming release. Several people there have told me that it is in the works. When it arrives I will definitely update the video.

  • [...] platform for creating regular reports and scheduling posts for 3 different clients I found this comparison by Colin Cronin on Digitalry very helpful. I just signed up for the free 30-day trial period on Sprout Social and I like what I [...]

  • JN Oct 2, 2012 Reply

    Sprout Social has gone up significantly in price since this article was written. I think you might want to note that. It is no longer $9/month, but $39/month for the lowest priced plan. That’s a lot of money for some users. Hootsuite has stayed at the $9.99 level, which could be a game changer for some. $120 a year vs. $480 a year is quite a difference.

    Perhaps you’d consider noting that in the original article where you talk about price? I noticed you made other updates previously.

    • Colin Cronin Oct 4, 2012 Reply

      Hi Julie. Thanks for your comment and I apologize for the delay. I was traveling for the last few days and didn’t get a chance to reply. I’ve updated the pricing section to reflect the new cost. I’m not too happy about this recent change by Sprout.

      Everyone please be aware that the new basic pricing level for Sprout Social is now $39/month NOT $9.99/month.

  • Jeff Belonger Oct 29, 2012 Reply

    Hi Colin… I like the fact that you keep coming back… question, you had stated this in the article..

    Despite many of these advanced features, Sprout Social lacks some basic functions that Hootsuite possesses. Two specific features are:

    The ability to “Favorite a Tweet” (even Tweetdeck has this)
    The ability to “Like” a Facebook post from the interface (you can reply, but not Like within Sprout Social)

    Someone said that you can now favor a Tweet in Sprout Social?

    Thanks, Jeff

    • Colin Cronin Oct 29, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Jeff. I just noticed that today. Thanks for pointing it out. It just suddenly appeared which is humorous as just last month Sprout had said this was a feature that they weren’t considering at the time. I’ve updated the article.

  • Modeira Nov 6, 2012 Reply

    This is a great article! I noticed one pastor that has over 500K followers on twitter uses Sprout Social for posting to Facebook. I did some searching on SS and I like the features. Most notably, when I looked at the price I was a bit discouraged. Even moreso, I look ed at your article afterwards and saw that at one time it was only $9.99/mo. Perhaps SS may want to reconsider the price hike. If it’s all about support, then SS should offer the $9.99 package with limited support for those that don’t use it for all of the features offered. I will sign up for my 30 day trial of SS today and also test Hoot Suite alongside. Thanks for your post!

    • Colin Cronin Nov 12, 2012 Reply

      Hi Moderia. Thanks for your comments on this article. Sorry for the delay in response. I’ve been preoccupied with many things and haven’t found the time to check up on this regularly.

      Yes I agree with you that Sprout should not have gotten rid of their Basic level plan. I’ve talked to several of the people over there about this and the answer I seem to get is that the majority of their users are with the higher level plans so the management made the decision to focus all of their support efforts on that type of clientele. Certainly there is logic in that and I can understand where they are coming from. However, I also think that even if they are branding themselves as a social media solution for small business agencies and whatnot, that they should have preserved the option for Basic. I can understand not wanting to put resources towards ongoing support, but I can’t imagine it would have taken much effort simply to leave the Basic level as an option for those who want to sign up for it.

      Alas, it doesn’t seem like they are going to bring it back. If you feel strongly about this I encourage you to write to them. If we get enough people who want the Basic plan they might bring it back.

  • Christian Rygh Nov 7, 2012 Reply

    Hi there Colin! Great and informative article! I’m in the middle of deciding which one to use, so this was really “smack-down! :-D One thing:
    I got a comment that Sprout handles inbound messages from FB and Hoot doesn’t. Any comment on this?

    Thanks
    Christian

    • Colin Cronin Nov 12, 2012 Reply

      Hi Christian. Thanks for your message and the compliment. As far as handling inbound messages can you be a little more specific what you mean? As far as I’ve seen Sprout Social notifies you when when your Facebook page gets a wall post or comment. However, I haven’t seen any notification for Facebook messages, or for other things like new fans. As I remember, Hootsuite also notifies you in the column view if you get a wall post / comment.

  • Francisco Meza Nov 10, 2012 Reply

    Colin, I just waned to reach out and say thanks for this post. I have narrowed my search to HootSuite and SproutSocial. I read every sentence and watch you video. The $39/mo isn’t that big of a deal for me. I just don’t want to start on a platform that I’m stuck with later on. I guess I’m trying to say something like… if a company sells online and makes a WordPress site, it’s okay. But if they grow and start selling more & more every month, then a Magento Commerce platform would have been better from the beginning.

    I wouldn’t want to lose all the contact information going from one Hootsuite to SproutSocial.

    Again, thanks for the post.

    • Colin Cronin Nov 12, 2012 Reply

      Really appreciate all your kind words Francisco. I can understand your point about scalability. I think Sprout Social is definitely a scalable solution. In fact, I think the real value to Sprout over Hootsuite comes at the higher pricing levels which give you more professional capabilities but not pushing you up to the pricing of Hootsuite’s enterprise level plans.

      That said, I’ve seen a lot of pretty serious e-commerce sites that have used WordPress very effectively, and personally I have some issues with Magento that cause me to question whether it is a good solution to warrant the extra investments in time and money in many cases. So it comes down to how you utilize that platform.

      Regarding losing contact info, I’m quite sure what you mean by that. Since all you are doing is syncing your social media accounts through these platforms, you wouldn’t “lose” any contact information. All your Facebook fans, Twitter followers, messages, etc. would still be available in their respective services. You would lose things like notes and assignments which exist only within a particular platform though. But each service has its own features that one or the other may lack so there isn’t really a way to cleanly export and import between them.

  • Christian Rygh Nov 28, 2012 Reply

    Update: As of 28th of Nov., Hootsuite includes Streams for Private (Facebook) Messages among other fine additions.

  • Scott G Dec 10, 2012 Reply

    Hi – love the comparison. Unfortunately, i’m running an integrated suite of tools in a W-P back-end and it appears that Sprout doesn’t plug in to W-P nor does it offer an API etc. Any word on this function being added somewhere down the track?

  • Mike H May 6, 2013 Reply

    Great article, I appreciate the time and effort you put it into.

    I too would like to use Sprout Social but there are two major things holding me back.

    1. We post to a lot of blogs and Sprout Social currently has no support for posting to blogs (preference is for WordPress).

    2. The much higher price compared to capabilities. HootSuite provides all the same capabilities as Sprout, including the ability to post to blogs.

    I do like the user experience and dashboards/reporting from Sprout better, but, just cannot justify the much higher price and the lack of blog support. Hopefully they will address both of the issues (or at least the blog posting, which is the major deal breaker).

  • Michael Dunham May 7, 2013 Reply

    I have been using both. The deal breaker is that Hootsuite offers bulk uploads, Sprout does not. I like to plan my tweets a week out, and doing them one at a time is just a pain. After almost a year, I’m switching back to Hootsuite.

  • Ivan May 19, 2013 Reply

    Hello Colin,

    Just wanted to take a quick moment and say thanks for supplying such a great overview of both products. I enjoyed reading your comparison between the two and look forward to reading future blogs. I am preparing to launch a new product and social media awareness is absolutely crucial for the growth of my company. Due to your analysis, this has certainly steered me in the right direction. Thank you my friend and keep up the great work.

    Best Wishes,

    Ivan

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  • [...] Social Smackdown! Sprout Social vs. Hootsuite, a Critical Look [...]

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  • Martin Dean Jul 1, 2013 Reply

    Hi Scott,

    I have been reading this with interest, from a work context I am used to Hootsuite, Buddy, Radian and others. I now find myself with a conundrum from a less commercial perspective. I run a gaming guild (non profit / non commercial) looking to get more professional with their social media interactions.

    As such I need to give around 5 people access to multiple social entities (FB, G+, Twitter etc) for the one profile – Enigma.

    I am yet to find any offering with the features we need (multiple users / one account) not targeted at the enterprise. Clearly paying $$$$ is not going to be viable for a self funded, non commercial hobby project!

    What would you suggest to a non commercial entity trying to give 5 people access to, and one view, of all things social for an entity ? (in our case the guild), whilst retaining account security ? I am currently going around in circles, becoming surprised that I cant find anything!

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