Sprout Social's New Engagement Tools Are Like a Magic 8-Ball for Enterprise Social Media Publishing

By Michael Carney , written on July 31, 2012

From The News Desk

With the largest brands and publishers managing sometimes hundreds of social media accounts and millions of fan relationships, the requirement for enterprise social media management platforms has reached a fever pitch. Sprout Social, which is already a leader in the space, unveiled two new tools today designed to boost audience engagement and increase overall efficiency for those tasked with managing these enormous networks.

Sprout Social’s newly announced Sprout Queue and ViralPost are reported to be capable of increasing audience engagement with social media content by as much as 30 percent or more. Sprout Queue, as its name explains, allows users place pre-created content into a publishing queue for automated future delivery.

ViralPost on the other hand offers a bit more wizardry. The tool which is designed to analyze a user’s audience to determine the optimal time to deliver content based on usage and engagement patterns, content velocity, and other factors. According to Sprout Social CEO Justyn Howard, the newly released timing models have been shown to improve engagement by 30% on average and as much as 300% in some cases.

“We tested several methods for send-time optimization, including those most commonly used by other tools and we saw only minor improvements,” says the CEO. “ViralPost is a significant leap forward.”

As Howard pointed out himself, VIralPost is not the first time tools of this type have been introduced to the marketplace. If it produces the results the company claims, however, that would notable in a sea of underperformers.

Scheduling content for future publication is not without its potential issues in a world that can change rapidly. As demonstrated by the NRA immediately following the horrific Aurora shootings last week, what is a perfectly harmless tweet one minute could turn out to be a sensitivity disaster the next. Users of the Scout Queue can choose among three publishing methods: scheduled, which may be ideal for promotions and marketing messages; real time, which will apply when interacting directly with customers; and queue, which is like short term memory for other branded content.

Sprout Social currently manages accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, although the company is actively watching Google+ to see if brand traction increases. Howard says that demand for Pinterest integration was higher two months ago than it has been recently and that his team is still looking to identify what value it could add to users of the platform.

While 80 percent of the company’s current clients would be considered small or medium sized businesses, Sprout Social is used by premium clients such as McDonalds, Nike, Microsoft, Yahoo, Groupon, and Yammer. The social media management platform accels in cases of the largest and most distributed teams where it can facilitate collaboration, according to Howard. The Sprout tools are available via web, mobile, and browser extension applications.

The company is not without competitors including well known platforms HootSuite, Radian6, Sprinklr, and CommerceSocial, each of which have various degrees of traction in the space. Sprout Social is known as for offering the simplest interface among the bunch, according to its CEO, with all content appearing in a single stream that behaves like an inbox, rather than via a column approach popularized by TweetDeck and HootSuite. A “smart inbox” can be configured to direct various segments of the message flow to different members of a team such that, for example, one user handles interacting with new followers, one user manages Facebook wall comments, and another deals with promoting and managing specific campaign.

Chicago-based Sprout Social was founded in 2009 and has raised a total of $11 million over two rounds from in town firms Lightbank and NEA. The company sells its platform on a SaaS model and will offer its premium publishing tools exclusively to its preferred (larger) customers at first.

The goal for any brand or publisher is to maximize reach and engagement. Sprout Social’s updated toolset allows users to focus on creating and publishing great content while significantly reducing the need to worry less about timing and engagement.

With its newly released premium publishing tools, Sprout Social appears, at least for the moment, to be have added “most full featured” to simplest in its list of acolades -- a tough double threat to pull off. With the promise of a number of additional feature releases coming in the next three to four months as well, the company will be looking to further distance itself from the crowd.