The world of social media marketing is always evolving, and so are the techniques and clients that we use to manage all of our social media accounts. For many business owners and marketing agencies, managing your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other accounts individually just isn’t an option, which is why services like HootSuite and Sprout Social are so incredibly helpful.
If you’ve landed on this site, you may or may not have seen the original social media client showdown TweetDeck vs HootSuite: The Showdown that was published in May of 2012. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that we determined (mostly from personal experience) that HootSuite was the most functional of the two platforms for small business use. SproutSocial has been leaving a mark on the social media management scene lately and is apparently being used by some major companies to manage their social media accounts, so without further adieu, I present:
HootSuite vs. Sprout Social: The Social Media Showdown Part Deux
The game is simple, Hootsuite vs Sprout Social, we will break down the two social media management clients based on a number of categories that are important specifically to entrepreneurs and small business owners. While these factors may be important to a large corporation, the focus of the scoring is based on the overall benefit to a small business.
Cost of Use
When it comes to marketing for an entrepreneur overall cost can make or break a decision, especially if you’re just starting out and have limited funding. As we all know, in most situations you have to spend a little money in order to make money.
HootSuite offers both a free and pro version of their software with various options depending on whether you want to pay or not. The paid version will cost you $8.99 (as of 5/8/13) per month and allows for management of unlimited profiles, advanced message scheduling, analytics reports and integration and unlimited RSS feeds as well as some additional premium options not available with their free version. This option works best if you are managing multiple accounts for multiple companies (ie social media marketers or marketing directors) and the free version would suffice very well for the small business owner simply looking to manage his business Facebook and Twitter pages in one place (HootSuite free allows up to 5 profiles). For much larger companies, there is an enterprise version (with no quoted price) that offers you to include up to 500,000 team members, advanced security, HootSuite University membership and many more enterprise level options.
SproutSocial offers three different paid packages and a 30 day free trial. Their standard package will run you $39 per month and allows you to manage up to 10 social profiles, publish and schedule messages, analytics reports, free mobile apps and customer engagement tools. The Deluxe and Premium packages will allow you to manage up to 20 and 50 social profiles and will cost you either $59 per month or $99 per month respectively.
The Winner: HootSuite comes out as the winner in the overall cost category based on its free lifetime membership alone. While SproutSocial offered a 30 day free trial, the long-term benefit to a small business owner or entrepreneur is extremely limited by the cost factor. By allowing users to upgrade to gain additional features, and for the significantly lower overall cost to receive full features, HootSuite runs away with the win in the cost category.
If you haven’t tried HootSuite or their Pro version, take a look at the free trial of Hootsuite Pro that they’re currently offering and see if it works for you. To try out SproutSocial, take a look at their site and Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Sprout Social.
From the moment you log in to SproutSocial you almost instantly feel like a Fortune 500 level marketing director or an investment banker as you are presented with a beautiful dashboard, filled to the brim with beautiful graphs and demographic data. The dashboard itself is well organzied, presenting everything right away without having to click-through to multiple screens. From the dashboard you will see the new fans or followers that have joined your pages, individual displays for each of the social profiles you’ve connected to your account, any new messages that you’ve received and a number of other widgets full of information. The interface combines all of your messages from all of your accounts into one page, and provides tabs for feeds, scheduling, discovery and reports. While the interface itself is very attractive, SproutSocial has done a good job of mixing a pleasant view with functionality. SproutSocial offers a 45 minute tutorial to help you become familiar with its system, and from a first glance, while everything looks nice and is organized, there is clearly a steep learning curve to figuring out their system.
HootSuite has a tendency to be a bit overwhelming when you first login. Once you get the system figured out however, it is actually fairly easy to use. If you’ve used TweetDeck before, you will find the interface fairly similar. You can organize your tabs in numerous ways, for a business owner, you can organize things by account, seperating your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts into tabs. Within each of these tabs you will see a number of columns showing your feed, recent messages, scheduled posts and recent posts. On the left hand side, you will see the menu bar that will guide you through everything from account settings, analytics and scheduling as well as RSS feeds and much more. The interface itself is very far behind asthetically when compared to SproutSocial, but it does not by any means lack in the functionality department. The only thing I would like to see personally added to HootSuite is a dashboard style interface where reports and demographic data are displayed in the “all in one” style that you’ll see when using SproutSocial.
The Winner: SproutSocial comes away with a win in this category. The win is by a very slim margin and is completely open to your interpretation as the system function very differently. If you are managing profiles for your business alone, the interface of SproutSocial may be much easier to work with for you. However, if you are managing a number of pages for a number of different companies, the ease of use of HootSuite and almost exponential expandability of their tab system makes organizing your various clients/accounts significantly easier. The dashboard account homepage is what pulled the win for SproutSocial as it presents some critical data in a very accesible way, and it really doesn’t hurt that SproutSocial is so pleasing to the eyes either.
Schedule Updates in Advance
HootSuite and SproutSocial offer nearly identical advanced schedule options, so identical in fact that both of them offer a button that can be added to your favorites bar that makes scheduling on the fly easier, but the actual advanced scheduling system looks nearly identical with regards to its interface.
The Winner: The winner in this category is 100% Hootsuite. This win is based solely on the bulk scheduling function that Hootsuite provides. With a simple CSV file, you can schedule up to 50 posts at a time, months in advance if need be. With their recent modifications for date formats, the format itself has improved quite a bit and is a HUGE time saver when your scheduling posts for clients or getting your posts ready for the coming months specials for your business.
Updating Multiple Social Networks
Both Hootsuite and SproutSocial allow you to update multiple social networks from one location, scheduling posts in advance and collecting data through one client rather than individual websites. SproutSocial, while impressive and functional, does not offer nearly half of the networks that HootSuite does, and the addition of apps on Hootsuite ensure the win without question. While most normal users won’t need much more functionality than Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, the addition of other networks is definitely a benefit to the end user.
The Winner: Hootsuite.
Multiple Accounts and Users
Both HootSuite and Sprout Social allow you to manage multiple accounts and both offer the option of adding team members and allow collaberation. HootSuite allows you to manage multiple accounts for free while Sprout Social requires a paid membership for any of their levels. With the paid HootSuite membership you can have unlimited profiles while Sprout Social limits you regardless of which package you pick.
The Winner: HootSuite comes away with this one for me. This category really comes down to preference between the two systems and what your overall needs are. Since I personally manage a significant number of clients, HootSuite provides a much larger benefit to me as I can have unlimited profiles for my membership price and don’t have to worry about upgrading if I get too many clients to handle. If free is your biggest concern, HootSuite will allow you to manage your profiles for free without sacrificing a ton of features in the process. On the other hand, if you requiring a team setup, SproutSocial is a much better pick, as even the HootSuite paid version only allows you 1 team member. So again, based on your needs this category is really a toss-up and had to be decided on preference.
Social Media Management Showdown Winner
In the end, as with the Tweetdeck vs Hootsuite battle it truly comes down to personal preference. The two systems are incredibly functional and can expand your social reach tremendously. Sprout Social offers a beautiful interface and their dashboard is without question superior based on the information it provides you right off-hand. Since Hootsuite offers a free version, relatively easy learning curve and allows significantly more profiles and functions with their paid version for such a low-cost, Hootsuite comes away with the win. If you don’t mind paying the fees for Sprout Social and you’re only looking to manage a few profiles for your company, Sprout Social is the definite winner as it provides very easy to understand insights which are especially valuable to someone without a lot of industry knowledge. Sadly, since there is no free version of Sprout Social (beyond the 30 day trial) the winner must go to HootSuite. When it comes down to it, money rules the game and what you offer for free is really the most valuable when it comes to a small business owner with a limited marketing budget.
Feel free to take either option for a spin with a free 30 day trial.