Managing your social presence is important whether you're a big business, a small one, or an individual trying to promote your own brand. Yet it's still hard to find a social dashboard that's useful, efficient, and easy to use and understand. Fighting the typical clutter and confusion of social management tools is SproutSocial ($39/user/month for Standard account), a clean and simple online dashboard that nonetheless answers most social-management needs.
The thing that makes SproutSocial stand out is the clarity of its interface and its general simplicity. Feature-wise, it's just as useful as Nimble, and even better than MultiMi or HootSuite, but unlike these well-known services, SproutSocial has almost no learning curve, and is a joy to use from the second you open an account to the minute you finish working for the day.
SproutSocial is a one-stop shop for your Facebook, Google+ (Pages only), LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts, with a strong emphasis on Twitter. A Twitter account is also the only mandatory one during the sign-up process. In my hands-on, I looked at the browser-based version, but apps for Android, iPad, and iPhone are available as well.
In addition, SproutSocial can connect to Feedly for quick sharing of any article off your RSS feeds. It provides some useful usage reports about your social accounts, helps you discover new people to follow or unfollow, and offers several ways to schedule updates in advance.
SproutSocial's Feedly integration is a bonus feature, turning it into a convenient Google Reader replacement.
The SproutSocial dashboard is built around six tabs: Home, Messages, Feeds, Publishing, Discovery, and Reports—all very self-explanatory. The Home tab gives you a quick summary of some trends and numbers, your audience's demographics, and account stats, as well as provides quick links to your inbox, tasks list, profiles, and team members. The Messages tab is where you can keep track of comments, mentions, and other notifications from your social profiles, but also with your sent updates, including click counts for bit.ly links, and with your internal SproutSocial tasks.
The Messages tab is one of SproutSocial's strongest suits, solving a common problem elegantly and without unnecessary clutter. Using toggles, you can specify what items you'd like to see in the inbox, so there are no confusing columns or tabs. Simply check the items you'd like to review and skim through them to make sure you're not missing mentions, retweets, new comments or posts. Aside from the usual actions such as reply, retweet, and email, you can also translate or archive messages, and turn them into tasks (for instance, assigning your customer service rep to follow up on a question).
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