Social media has a central role in the marketing strategies of every political campaign, advocacy initiative, and a nonprofit group. As the medium grows, utilizing social media dashboards and management tools to automate and streamline posting actions, content creation, and peer-to-peer engagement could greatly benefit any organization. At Telegraph, we understand these needs, and that’s why we reviewed two of the industry-leading social media management tools (SMMTs or dashboards): Hootsuite and Sprout Social.
Throughout this analysis, we will compare Hootsuite and Sprout Social based on four factors: cost, user interface (UI), effectiveness, and differentiation. These factors also make up the criteria our reviewers use to rate platforms on our scale of a “hodgepodge” rated app to an app that we are just “over the moon” for. All reviews are tallied out of an overall score of 100 as each factor is rated out of 25.
Let’s start with something simple: cost. The first question a customer of software should be asking is: “What is the return on investment of this tool, and how much am I able and willing to spend?” This is the first decision a customer would make when in the market for any software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. Virtually all social media management tools and dashboards are sold as SaaS platforms with prices ranging from open source (free) access to several hundreds of dollars per month. In the case of both Hootsuite and Sprout Social, the majority of the users for these dashboards enjoy free plans with limited functionality to “essentials” plans that are sold as bargain subscriptions that feature the basics of social media management (e.g., dry analytics, streams, content calendar, etc.).
On the cost front, Hootsuite is cheaper than Sprout Social. For example, Hootsuite’s basic “Professional” plan is $29 per month for one user license. Sprout Social is $99 per month for the “Premium” plan. Both platforms offer 30-day free trial periods.
Telegraph Recommendation: Hootsuite is the best solution for cost-effectiveness.
Hootsuite and Sprout Social both have similar ratings on the customer review website G2 Crowd. It is also true that both platforms have the same purpose and use capability. Functionally, a case can be made that both of these social media dashboards are built on the same fundamental design. For example, Hootsuite and Sprout Social both utilize stream formats allowing users to manage and engage with followers directly and monitor multiple social media accounts on one dashboard.
The actual user interfaces for both platforms do have distinctive traits. Hootsuite’s stream is built on columns that emulate TweetDeck’s format for tracking followers, hashtags, and news feeds. The columns are dedicated to a social media account or specific activity that a user wishes to monitor. Sprout Social’s stream populates posts, user interactions, and activity from multiple social media accounts and places it into one feed. Despite some critical differences in user experience (UX) design and aesthetics, the base features of both platforms are also very similar.
Telegraph Recommendation: Hootsuite does have a slightly “easier-to-navigate” dashboard experience for its users, but Hootsuite and Sprout Social are virtually the same software with different skins.
In the realm of effectiveness, a social media management tool needs to include collaboration and pipeline tools for content creation. Both Hootsuite and Sprout Social are identical when it comes to effectivity and content development. For example, both apps have editorial calendar features for scheduling and planning social media posts. As mentioned in previous sections of this analysis, Hootsuite and Sprout Social are built on the same marketing focus and technical functionality.
But the real answer for which platform is the most effective is answered by comparing collaborative features. Sprout Social’s “Inbox” feature serves as a team-shared stream of interactions from multiple networks. Teams can select which communication they wish to address while the system tracks progress with open tickets who on the replied or interacted with the inbox item. The Inbox feature is one of only a few collaborative features available to base users of the Sprout Social platform. Sprout Social has a user management capability with a collaborative functionality built into the editorial calendar and content creation features.
On the other hand, Hootsuite has a deeper collaborative ecosystem that includes departmental and team-oriented dashboards. Both Hootsuite and Sprout Social are easy to integrate into existing task management platforms and other productivity apps. But Hootsuite is the only app between the two that integrates with Slack, Trello, and Asana. Sprout Social can be used with most major social networks like Hootsuite, but only integrates with a handful of apps including Zendesk and Google Analytics. In fact, Sprout Social has very few integrations while Hootsuite integrates with all of Sprout Social’s integration partners and dozens more.
Telegraph Recommendation: Hootsuite maintains the more robust collaboration capability between it and Sprout Social. Hootsuite’s generous lineup of external integrations provides customers with more room to augment their user experience.
Since Hootsuite came to market in 2008, the platform has served as the industry standard for related platforms. Though we fully recognize that legacy doesn’t indicate “good” technology, Hootsuite has taken steps to remain competitive during its decade of business. These steps included the implementation of content management features and collaboration tools to further Hootsuite’s reputation as a social media marketing solution anyone could use. Sprout Social came to the party a little later in 2010 and, in our opinion, has not innovated beyond Hootsuite’s capabilities.
Once differentiation in Sprout Social’s favor is the customer support regime. Sprout Social has a track record of industry-leading customer support. Trello, an integration partner with Hootsuite, utilizes Sprout Social for their social media management needs for these very reasons. “Great support really makes a difference,” Trello’s head of marketing Stella Garber wrote in a case study from 2014. Hootsuite, by comparison, has a customer support network built on user-to-user interaction and DIY troubleshooting. While Hootsuite’s approach isn’t necessarily a bad one, Sprout Social’s emphasis on customer satisfaction sets it apart from the competitors.
Telegraph Recommendation: Hootsuite has the legacy, the platform, and the market share. Sprout Social, though, can emphasize customer satisfaction and retainment by offering leading support. Especially for those new to social media management, this can prove invaluable.
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